Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Alumni in Spotlight - Debjani Ghosh

“Where do you see yourself 20 years down the line?”

The year was 1996, and Debjani Ghosh was being interviewed for Intel.

“In India, running the business,” she replied matter-of-factly.

It has been just over 17 years to that day, but for Debjani Ghosh, that goal hasn’t changed. As Intel India’s first woman Managing Director, Sales and Marketing, Debjani is among a number of women from SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR) who are leading MNCs and corporate behemoths across the globe.

“It is very important to keep asking yourself, “Where do I see myself in the future?”, till you have a vision that you strongly believe in and that challenges you to be your best. Once you know what you want, own it and hold yourself accountable for the goal. Don’t be apologetic for having a big dream. The biggest mistake is in believing that the management is responsible for our development. They are not. We are responsible for our development and getting ourselves ready for the job we want.”

Debjani’s career path at Intel has been a classic zigzag. She has moved across a variety of roles, gaining first-hand experience in marketing, retail, sales, PR, account management even education. Obviously, the adrenalin rush of breaking the mould every now and then kept things interesting!

“One of the values I learnt at SPJIMR was to always be on the lookout for new opportunities and when you find one that you like, grab it with both hands and give it your best. SPJIMR also teaches us the importance of risk-taking taking the leap of faith when you feel strongly about something. Those values have served me very well and have shaped my career and how I work.”

There is no “typical day” for Debjani, which is why her job is so much fun. An early riser, Debjani starts her day with a morning walk that helps “clear the mind”, and follows it up with one hour of catching up with news and what is happening in the industry. She likes to spend time in the field - travelling to different cities and markets, meeting customers and partners, chatting up the local employees, and visiting IT retail to understand trends and consumer behavior.

“Thanks to the SPJIMR culture, the ability to think differently and take risks is incredibly important to me; and today, it is critical for success, given the business environment. The group learning and peer learning culture in SPJIMR also made me a huge fan of collaboration, yet another quality that is a must for success in today’s world. Last but not the least, SPJIMR taught me to value people, and as a leader, my biggest priority is to ensure I have the best people on the team and I do what it takes to ensure they work in an environment where they are motivated to be their best.”

Twenty years in the corporate world has hardly dimmed Debjani’s memory of her SPJIMR days. She recalls her batch as extremely diverse, with very rich experience, and an extremely fun group of people. She remembers campus life as “one big family with a very special bonding”. She remembers being stuck in hostel during the infamous Mumbai riots in late 1992. But there’s one memory of SPJIMR that clearly stands out for her – the convocation day.

“Since my parents were abroad, I didn’t have any family for my convocation day. But I had my SPJIMR family to cheer me on. and make it a very special day. I strongly believe that the philosophy behind SPJIMR’s programmes and culture comes from the vision and values of our dean, Dr. M. L. Shrikant.

He strongly believes in an education system that encourages and opens minds to new possibilities. From day one, he and the staff at SPJIMR have focused on developing leaders with character, integrity and empathy who believe in adding value through innovation, risk taking and collaboration. The vision has played a very important role in shaping my leadership values and behaviour.”

It is at this juncture that Debjani informs you – with almost student-like excitement – of the SPJIMR Mega Reunion, a few weeks away in December. While she is already in touch with nearly half of her batch-mates on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, she is looking forward to catching up with the rest. “We don’t get a lot of time to meet and chat. But I know that with the kind of relationship we had in SPJIMR, it will be very easy to pick up where we left off 20 years back!”

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