I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In some time last year and thought it was a great guide and eye-opener on how to manage your career and achieve your dreams. However, I didn’t implement it until a good 8–10 months after reading it. What was my call to action?
I work in People Operations at a startup called Headout. My team and I were pulling up metrics around our headcount (I was one of the first few employees at Headout and saw it grow from a 10 member team to a 100 member team in a little over a year) and realized that of 100 employees, only 20 are women!
Now this was astonishing!
We often talk about diversity and inclusion but didn’t realize when our gender ratio came tumbling down. We requested our tech recruiting partner to send more women candidates our way since our Engineering team has the same number of women as the number that was invented in my country — Zero.
What’s even more surprising? They had never received a request like this from any startup before!
We are certainly not the sole bearers of this problem, but this issue isn’t receiving its due. So we decided to take this upon ourselves! Lightbulb moment: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I immediately pitched the idea to Connie Liu (our head of People Operations from NYC and also the best manager I’ve had the pleasure of working with) who was very enthusiastic about it. We took the conversation forward to our Founders, and here’s the thing about our Founders — Varun, Suren and Vikram — they are extremely supportive of new initiatives that one believes in and feels passionately about (reminds me of Jobs’ note on crash and burn — if you overcome the fear of rejection and try something that you believe in, you will almost always succeed).
As a company, we regard experimentation highly. I initially joined Headout in the Operations team and as is the case with any early stage startup, we didn’t have a well defined People Operations department. I then expressed my interest in taking up recruiting as a side project and within a month’s time, I moved to a full-time People Operations role. I owe the Founders of Headout my deepest gratitude to have believed in me one year ago. Fast forward to this year, they were immensely encouraging once again.
I got in touch with a few women entrepreneurs and startup employees who were genuinely interested in the idea and thought it a refreshing cause to associate with. The response I received from men and women alike was overwhelming! I tried to make sure that the invitee list was kept under 20 so we start off as an intimate group of women who feel free to share with each other.
An hour into the event, I knew there was a real need for this initiative.
Everyone expressed with vigor that they would love to be a part of the next circle and insisted we do this as regularly as once a month. We ended the circle having discussed our shared goals and individual goals along-with a follow up plan to make sure we keep ourselves accountable. We agreed it’s imperative to overcome our internal barriers in order to thrive in today’s world!
I was tremendously pleased with the turnout and am truly eager to be a part of the next one. Also, one of my individual goals was to rekindle the habit of writing. This is my first step towards the goal, and I am radiating at this moment! Stepping up, leaning in and reaching beyond.