Interview with Priya Patra conducted by Aneta Wereszczak

Priya, at PMI Mumbai Chapter, you perform a role of the Vice President – Outreach. Please tell us more about that role.

Thank you for the question. I lead the Outreach portfolio within the PMI Mumbai Chapter. We a group of 20 volunteers are engaged in reaching out to Corporates, Non-Profits and Youth to evangelize Project Management.

You are the Founder of Women PowerUP Network, a global network of 500 women across the globe. Can you share with us what are the major challenges that women face in the working environment?

For me the challenge comes from within. We women believe we can do better and wait for perfection, sometimes we don’t step up to showcase our capabilities enough in the workplace, thereby losing out on opportunities. I believe the barrier lies within.

How, in your opinion, can we support women who are working in a man’s world?

We women can come together and bring out the best in each of us. I truly believe Being Good enough is amazing and when such ‘good enough‘ people come together, we can power each other up!

Fot. Priya's archive Regional SCRUM gathering Dhaka

You are also the Creator of the G.R.O.W. program – a unique youth support system. How do you support youth in getting ready to enter the industry?

The G.R.O.W. program model indicates following factors: G – Guide, R – Raise Visibility, O – Provide Options, W – Way Forward. We support the youth of today through mentoring, helping them with resume and social media profile enhancement and connecting them to industry experts for opening up opportunities for way forward.

You started the #PMIChapterXchange program – virtual collaboration platform for PMI Chapter leaders and PMI members to connect. Can you share with us what was the trigger to build this community?

It was the pandemic that triggered this initiative. Like they say “Every cloud has a silver lining” for us the PMI ChapterXchange was that silver lining in the pandemic. As the entire world went into lockdown, by imposing restrictions on borders, a group of chapter leaders came together to build a community, a community without borders across continents, cultures, and countries. PMI Chapter Xchange was incepted. PMI Chapter Xchange initiative is about collaboration – a virtual collaboration platform for chapter leaders and members to connect, collaborate and co-create. Co-creating events to bring diverse perspectives to our chapter members, spurring networking and collaboration opportunities. A silver lining on the pandemic cloud.

Fot. Priya's archive PMI Mumbai chapter’s PM Conclave 2020

What are the major challenges when building a global platform?

Maintaining engagement is something that I feel is a major challenge in building a global platform. Engagement comes in from the value that the platform offers to the members in terms of learning new skills, cultural intelligence or maybe networking. So in short it is all about engagement which stems from value creation.

What would be your advice to project managers who manage multicultural teams?

Build cultural awareness: read about different cultures, accept an international assignment or join a global community like PMI ChapterXchange. Identify your core and flex values. Core values are those a person never compromises with. Flex are those values which a person is willing to adapt based on the context. Once we identify our core and flex, it becomes much easier to adapt. Fit in without giving in: be authentic when you adapt, try to fit in without giving up your authenticity, because authenticity always wins.

Fot. Priya's archive Priya and her Capgemini team

How have you reached your goal of becoming a leader? Can you tell us more about your ‘journey’?

I believe I have just started. I started my journey like many of us in the IT industry as a software developer and slowly and steadily I moved up the ladder from project lead to a project manager. With projects that I managed, I learnt something new, be it managing difficult stakeholders, new technology, or learning a new way of working. Then came my entry to the field of volunteering, this was totally different than managing projects within your organization, here you have a team of volunteers, whom you have to constantly keep engaged for outcomes. It has been a journey of constant learning, unlearning and relearning to become a leader and constantly improving myself.

Whilst acting as a leader you probably have been facing some difficult situations. How do you cope with them?

When I encounter a difficult situation, I try to keep calm at that point of time. I may take time off from my workstation to go for a quick walk in the nearby garden, to clear my mind off. Nature always helps me to come up with a solution to the most sticky problems.

Fot. Priya's archive Agile Mumbai 2019

In your role you work with people from different cultures. What are your key success factors in cross-cultural cooperation?

The key success factor is embracing the differences. In addition to that we need to build on the collective strength. The cohesion of these spaces ensures us achieving success in any part of our life’s journey.

How do you think leadership will evolve in the near future? Do you have any predictions for the further centuries as well?

Leadership will be all about inspiring people and helping them to find their purpose. In the future, it will be all about “Being Human in a Hybrid World”.