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ZINNOV PODCAST   |   Business Resilience

Woman In The Mirror | Retail Edition

with Jennifer Goschke, VP & Country Leader, 7-Eleven Global Solution Center – India; Prashanti Bodugum, Vice President – Engineering, U.S. Omni Platforms, and Tech, Walmart Global Tech; and Monica Pirgal, Managing Director, Neiman Marcus India

Behind every successful business is a leader with a story. But how often do we get to hear it? The latest episode of “Women in the Mirror” offers a rare glimpse into the lives of three inspirational women leaders shaping the Retail GCC landscape.

Join Zinnov’s CMO Nitika Goel as she sits down with Jennifer Goschke of 7-Eleven, Prashanti Bodugum of Walmart, and Monica Pirgal from Neiman Marcus to uncover how they’ve climbed the ranks at these retail giants.

In this candid conversation, our guests peel back the layers of their success, revealing pivotal moments that defined their careers, strategies for tackling self-doubt, secrets to balancing ambition with personal life, and insights on driving innovation in retail.

This isn’t just another business talk. It’s an intimate look at the human side of leadership – the challenges, triumphs, and everything in between. Whether you’re a seasoned executive or just starting your career journey, these stories offer invaluable insights into leading with authenticity and vision.

Tune in now to discover how these women aren’t just adapting to change – they’re actively shaping the future of retail and business leadership.


Timestamps

00:00Intro
09:15Navigating Career Transitions and Challenges
16:24The Importance of Mentorship and Support Systems
18:27Breaking the Glass Ceiling and Building Confidence
25:02Balancing Work and Motherhood
32:01Reflections and Advice for Past, Present, and Future Selves

PODCAST SUMMARY

Nitika: Welcome to Women in the Mirror, a podcast exploring the journeys of exceptional women leaders. I’m Nitika Goel, CMO of Zinnov, and in this series, we’ll delve into the hard-earned wisdom of accomplished women. Join me for inspiring conversations as we explore the stories of women balancing work, family, and personal ambitions.

In this edition, we focus on the competitive retail sector. I’m excited to welcome three outstanding leaders: Jennifer Gorshke from 7-11, Prashanthi Bodugum from Walmart, and Monica Pirgal from Neiman Marcus. These trailblazers are transforming the customer value chain across various retail segments.

We’ll discuss pivotal career moments, overcoming self-doubt, and balancing work-life demands. First, we have Monica, Managing Director and Site Head at Neiman Marcus Group India Center. With a 20-year career spanning leadership roles in major GCCs like Lowe’s and Goldman Sachs, as well as experience in consulting and corporate law, Monica brings diverse expertise to the table.

Monica is also a dedicated mentor and advocate for safe, inclusive workspaces. We’ll explore her career-defining moments, her transition between fields, her drive, and how she’s built a strong support system along the way.

Monica: I can’t take full credit for my success. I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors and supporters who recognized my talent and offered me opportunities. In my previous role as general counsel at Lowe’s, I started branching out into other areas like HR, finance, and sourcing. I realized I enjoyed this variety and had a knack for it. When a former colleague at Neiman Marcus suggested I take on this new role, I had some self-doubts. But she encouraged me, offering her support. I took the chance and have no regrets. It’s been two years at Neiman, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d love to mentor others in similar situations, telling them “go girl, you can do it!”

Nitika: Monica’s perspective on a portfolio career and being open to change is fascinating. It makes you rethink the obsession with stability. This brings us to Jennifer, VP and country leader at 7-Eleven Global Solutions Center in India. Jennifer embodies the ability to adapt and push past limitations. With her Army background, her career has been one of constant change. Let’s hear from Jennifer.

Jennifer: Thank you for having me. Growing up in a military family, we moved every three years. You can respond to that lifestyle in different ways – either be upset by the disruption or view it as an adventure, which I did. Every move meant learning about a new city, making new friends, and discovering new experiences. This upbringing made me a resilient and independent woman.

Nitika: Jennifer’s story shows how embracing change shaped her into the powerhouse she is today. Those constant adjustments bred flexibility and resilience. Similarly, our next guest, Prashanthi, vice president of engineering at Walmart Global Tech, has navigated her own portfolio career. Starting in e-commerce, she pivoted to healthcare before returning to retail tech. It’s fascinating to learn how Prashanthi approached these industry shifts while balancing her role as a mother and spouse. Let’s hear how she managed this balance.

Prashanti: I began my career over 25 years ago as a developer in e-commerce during the dot-com boom. After about 10 years in the U.S., including an expat role in Bangalore, we decided to return to India – specifically Hyderabad, due to a family decision. I pivoted to financial services, focusing on solving business problems through IT. After a decade with GE, my first major career, I moved into financial services fully. Later, healthcare invited me, and I spent seven years there. When considering my next move, I chose to stay in India, which led me to Walmart. Throughout these shifts – from financial services to healthcare to retail – the constant has been solving business problems and focusing on customer delight. I’m glad to be part of this journey, regardless of the industry.

Nitika: Prashanti’s career choices highlight the role of serendipity and tough decisions. Her decision to stay in India eventually led to her role at Walmart. Throughout her career changes, her focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences remained constant, helping her navigate new sectors and challenges. Let’s hear from Jennifer about her perspective on navigating the unknown.

Jennifer: There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. In new situations, you have to be vulnerable. I can’t fake knowing the culture and norms here because I’ve never experienced it. Looking back at my career transitions, success came not from confidence, but from curiosity and a desire to learn and grow.

Nitika: Jennifer’s journey led her to realize that accepting what you know and don’t know is crucial for growth. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Prashanti has experienced the power of seeking guidance firsthand.

Prashanti: I’ve always been very self-aware, sometimes more than necessary. I was fortunate to have a solid ecosystem around me, a sounding board I could trust. It was eye-opening to get different perspectives, especially from male colleagues. Their responses were often very different from mine, which made me think, “Wow, let me try this.”

Nitika: Instead of being overwhelmed by complex roles, Prashanti built a trusted peer support network, enriching her leadership approach. Great things are done by bringing together small things. Those with a growth mindset see challenges as opportunities to learn. Let’s hear Jennifer and Monica’s views on whether a growth mindset is innate or can be cultivated.

Jennifer: I’m a perfectionist, battling with that daily. But you reach a point where you recognize that while perfection is noble, it doesn’t ensure success. As you strive for excellence, you’re learning and shaping. The valuable part is applying these lessons so you don’t repeat mistakes.

Monica: A growth mindset didn’t come naturally to me as a lawyer. We’re trained to be cautious and risk-averse. But a mentor in my previous role as general counsel encouraged me to find business-legal solutions, not just legal ones. This shift in mindset prepared me for my current role at Neiman.

Nitika: Growth often requires guidance – the right brain to pick, ear to listen, and a gentle nudge. But no single mentor can provide everything. Our guests recommend cultivating diverse mentors.

Jennifer: We all need help from others. It’s important to find several mentors, not just one. These can be people of any age or experience level, even reverse mentorship. Identify what each person is good at and learn from them. Sometimes, you’re even learning what not to do.

Nitika: Building this support network is an ongoing process. When choosing mentors, does gender matter?

Monica: Finding mentors isn’t easy. I constantly look for strengths in people I admire. Gender isn’t irrelevant because nature has made us different. Women, especially in India, often face unique challenges. Female mentors can offer insights on these specific issues. However, for general professional advice, gender doesn’t really matter.

Nitika: Monica raised interesting points about gender and mentorship. Prashanti has firsthand experience with this. Let’s hear her perspective.

Prashanti: Many young women I mentor ask why their hard work isn’t recognized. I advise them to speak up about their achievements. My guidance is based on my experience, and I’ve seen women change when they try this approach. It’s about reorienting and rewiring yourself.

Nitika: The glass ceiling often comes up in conversations with women leaders. It’s frustrating, but we need to find ways to break through it. I asked our leaders how they overcame this challenge.

Prashanti: There’s no secret sauce. If you want to be part of the “club,” you have to invest time, which means compromising on something at home. Reset expectations with your family and don’t feel guilty. Build relationships that will help you at work.

Jennifer: We need to build confidence in women in our organizations. I tell women who feel out of place in male-dominated meetings that they were invited for a reason. Research shows diverse perspectives lead to more successful companies. We need female voices to solution for female customers.

Monica: Self-doubt is a major friction point, especially in new roles. But realizing I had other women leaders to support me helped reduce this friction over time.

Jennifer: A small trick is to have a supportive colleague in meetings who can give you an encouraging smile when you make eye contact. It seems small, but it’s huge in the moment.

Nitika: Support from fellow women can be crucial when facing career challenges like the glass ceiling. Another common issue is taking feedback personally. Let’s hear how our speakers handle this.

Monica: I once felt upset when the business wasn’t taking my legal advice. My manager pointed out that if everyone liked my advice, he’d doubt if I was doing my job properly. This helped me see feedback from a role perspective, not a personal one.

Prashanti: Women often have different internal narratives than men about feedback. When younger, I’d get emotional about it. Now, I take time to process it before moving on.

Jennifer: This affects women across all levels. There’s a concept that boys are raised to be brave, while girls are raised to be perfect. Women tend to worry more about how things look, often assuming feedback is personal when it’s not. We need to avoid attaching negative connotations to every interaction.

Nitika: Women often struggle with confidence, which can be developed over time. Let’s discuss balancing a career with motherhood, a unique challenge for women. Prashanti, can you share your insights?

Prashanti: I was fortunate to have managers who provided an equitable environment. Building networks with peers was crucial – they provide a reality check that your team might not.

Nitika: This is a call to action for working mothers struggling to find balance. You don’t have to do it alone. The challenge is finding people to lean on for support. Perhaps it’s our collective responsibility to help share the load.

Prashanti: There were times I thought I could do it all, but interventions were necessary. We had to make choices and listen to our support system – my husband, in-laws, parents. Sometimes I’d miss checking my kid’s homework, but my husband or mom could help. The key is to ask for help.

Monica: I can’t take full credit for my success. It’s practically impossible without 50% support from others – my parents, in-laws, and especially my spouse. Having cheerleaders is crucial, but you need to invest in those relationships. It’s a give and take. I’ve educated my daughter about my work over the years, so she understands and is proud of what I do.

Nitika: Both Prashanti and Monica highlight the importance of open communication with family to help them understand their motivations and experiences. These women’s journeys show how grit and an opportunity mindset can turn challenges into strengths. Now, let’s move to our rapid-fire round.

Jennifer: My mom was my biggest inspiration growing up. She was hardworking, creative, and talented in many ways. Seeing her do all these things made me believe I could too.
Monica: A fun fact about me is that before becoming a lawyer, I participated in TV shows like “Kaun Banega Crorepati” with Amitabh Bachchan and “Close Up Antakshari”.

Nitika: Prashanti, you’ve chosen to stand out by dressing nicely and owning your Indian roots. How do you manage to stand out in a crowd when it can be challenging?

Prashanti: After living in the US for over 10 years, I found the colors in India refreshing. I chose Indian dressing because it made me comfortable in male-dominated settings, allowing me to focus on business rather than appearance.

Nitika: What advice would you give to your past, present, and future selves?

Jennifer: I’d tell my younger self that relationships are key. Very little can be accomplished alone, so invest time in building connections.

Prashanti: I’d advise managing aggressive expectations.

Monica: I should have started networking earlier, stepping out of my comfort zone to have more conversations.

Nitika: What advice would you give yourself today?

Prashanti: Seize the moment and give yourself grace.

Monica: You don’t have to answer every question. Choose your battles wisely.

Nitika: What would you tell your future self, 10 years from now?

Prashanti: I’m almost there. Go with the flow and enjoy the world’s beauty.

Jennifer: Be more assertive and spend more time with family.

Nitika: These leaders have shared valuable insights on workplace challenges, emphasizing authenticity, having the right support system, and using self-doubt as a growth tool. We thank them for their candid stories. Stay tuned for more episodes of Woman in the Mirror, featuring exceptional leaders who inspire us daily.

I’m Nitika Goel, CMO of Zinnov, encouraging you to embrace your journey, lead authentically, and live life queen-size.

 

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