Shahrazad Zaid is senior director for global learning experience, the learning arm of Blue Yonder, and is based in Bangalore, India. She is a big believer in being authentic for herself and for leaders of the future. She shares that working hard, having an enterprise mindset, and resilience is the way to get ahead in the business world.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in the Calcutta, India, known as the City of Joy. I spent about eight years in Bahrain studying, returning to Bangalore, India, where I completed my post-graduate degree. Bangalore continues to be my city of residence where I live with my 12-year-old daughter and parents. I am a queen of the concrete jungle, and the hustle, bustle of city life resonates with me.
What was your dream job as a kid and why?
In India, many women in my generation are nurtured to think family first and job as a secondary part of our journey. If I had the chance, I would have loved to have been a detective as I always had a flare for investigation. The idea of trying to understand why people do what they do and learning forensic studies to help with criminal investigations excites me.
What was your first job after college?
I landed a job as a customer support executive with Deutsche Bank. It was a customer-facing role focused on operations working six days a week. Those years, it was difficult to find placements with an international organization, and I would only just say it was a stroke of luck!
What path did you take to get to where you are today?
After my time at the bank, I moved to southern India for 2.5 years living on a coffee plantation with my then husband. I decided it was time for me to continue my career, so I applied with multiple international companies in the banking and IT sector. As luck would have it, I landed a job at Intel. I worked there for 5.5 years; I started as a contractor then moved into a full-time role. The position was in human resources and that’s where I was introduced to learning and development. I aspired to get my post-graduate degree in Human Resources and Intel funded my education. I went to university after work every evening. I still have etched memories of my manager telling me to sit in a conference room and study for my exams. This gave my career a jump start.
I then went to work for Applied Materials, initially as the head of talent development for India. I saw expansion and significant growth in my 8.5-year career there where I lead integrated talent management for India, Japan and Singapore and headed leadership development for all of APAC.
How did you end up at Blue Yonder?
I received a call from a former colleague at Intel who had joined Blue Yonder and was heading up, the then, JDA University. The position was to support building the techno-functional learning strategy and execution for Blue Yonder globally.
What is the best and worst decision you’ve ever made?
The best would be to continue my professional journey in the IT sector. I have never seen decisions as being bad but always managed to convert them into a positive and view that as a learning opportunity.
What leadership skills do you think female leaders need to succeed?
I’m not a big believer that women should be treated differently. I believe that you need a balance of both genders in the workplace to create a conducive environment. The leadership traits I admire are:
- Having a vision and purpose. Specifically, how they balance strategy with execution.
- Passion, resilience and charisma.
- Authenticity. This trait requires a certain measure of vulnerability, transparency and integrity. So, a leader who is very principled in his/her values and has a stable identity. Your identity stems from your principles and values.
What advice do you have for someone taking on a leadership role for the first time?
I would tell people to keep focus, work hard and be authentic, which means navigating through situations while standing up for your values. Don’t be a utilitarian. Today’s world certainly can do with more authenticity!
My favorite quote is from Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian lyricist and novelist: “What is success? It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace knowing you did your best.” To me, that’s what’s important – that you tried.
How do you keep your skills sharp?
I read a lot of articles, specifically one on thought leadership, HR acumen, strategic acumen, and world news/current events. I learn more through reading people’s perspectives in social media, which helps shape my thinking – and my insights are drawn through that. The last book I read was “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.”
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am extremely passionate about my work and balancing it with roaring, fun times. I invest in being a world traveler and foodie; through these experiential learning journeys, I have cultivated interests in culture and history not just for myself but for my daughter too. My daughter and I have traveled across many countries, the most recent being the Maldives and Egypt. Outside of this, I enjoy cooking, dancing, getting a weekend spa treat, and a good laugh with friends.
My name shows up in the book “The Arabian Nights.” A famous Indian journalist and politician once signed off by saying, “Shahrazad, to a life that matches ‘The Arabian Nights,’” and I decided to live to that!