Rohini Kaul | Entrepreneur | Part 1
After stepping away from the corporate world where she dabbled in communication and change management. Rohini Kaul recently delved into two new ventures, one related to communications and the second which connects her to her roots in Kashmir – the food of Kashmir.
In a candid conversation with Rajesh Prothi, Managing Partner of Absolute Factor and Founder of www.thecherrytree.in, Rohini reflects upon her journey with the corporate landscape. Over the course of over two-decade career, she made significant contributions and garnered valuable experience working with renowned multinational corporations, including Fidelity International, NEC Corporation, Sopra Steria, American Express, HSBC and Genpact.
Can you share some key milestones in your career journey that have contributed significantly to your professional growth?
My journey in the realm of communication has been defined by several significant milestones. After completing my master’s degree in mass communication, I was eager to enter the world of communication. However, opportunities in this domain were scarce at the time. Consequently, I embarked on a different path, commencing my corporate career with a five-year stint in operations.
Over these five years, I meticulously refined my skills and accumulated valuable experience in operations. However, I always knew that my true passion resided in communication. In the absence of immediate opportunities, I took the initiative to craft communication materials for my business. I also built a compelling case for the introduction of a communication role within the business function, focusing initially on internal communications and employee engagement initiatives.
As I delved deeper into the field, I progressively broadened my expertise. I willingly embraced the challenge of acquiring knowledge in areas such as marketing, public relations, employer branding, and change communication. These experiences not only expanded my skill set but also helped me overcome any initial reservations I had.
A pivotal juncture in my career arrived when I was given the chance to establish a communication function from the ground up. This experience was transformative, allowing me not only to explore uncharted territories within the field of communication but also to tailor and define the function in accordance with the specific needs of the organization.
Throughout my journey, I have been exceptionally fortunate to receive exceptional mentors’ guidance and unwavering support. These mentors, with whom I maintain close contact, have played an instrumental role in my professional growth. I continue to turn to them for their wisdom, advice, and steadfast support.
In retrospect, my career in communications has been characterized by unwavering perseverance, a commitment to continuous learning, and the invaluable mentorship I have received. I truly believe that determination enables one to overcome obstacles and carve out a rewarding career in a field they are passionate about.
You have been head of the Communication Department of various organizations, what strategies or approaches have you adopted to create the most effective communication?
I’ve had the privilege of leading the Communication Department for prestigious organizations within India. A robust Communication team serves as the cornerstone of any thriving organization, acting as the adhesive that binds its various facets.
Effective communication teams must be well-versed in the organizational context, and equipped with the appropriate tools to consistently deliver high-quality results that align with stakeholder expectations. In the context of multinational corporations, the role of culture cannot be underestimated; it plays an integral part in determining the effectiveness of communication strategies.
In the role of Head of Communications, operating in isolation is not an option. It necessitates traversing the organizational landscape while developing a profound grasp of business strategies, objectives, and challenges. Armed with this insight, one can offer guidance to senior management and cultivate a culture of robust communication flowing both from the top down and the bottom up.
In your experience, what are some of the unique challenges and opportunities that women in leadership roles, particularly in the field of communication, face within Multinational corporations?
In the corporate sphere, women encounter a blend of challenges and opportunities. Challenges encompass gender bias and stereotypes, persistent gender pay gaps, underrepresentation in leadership roles, the struggle to balance high-powered careers with family responsibilities, implicit biases affecting career progression, limited access to mentorship, and the persistence of workplace harassment and discrimination. However, there are also opportunities emerging, including diversity and inclusion initiatives, women-focused leadership development programs, flexible work arrangements, supportive networks and affinity groups, equal pay initiatives, growing recognition of female leadership qualities, and evolving cultural norms around gender roles. These opportunities signify a positive shift toward a more inclusive and equitable corporate landscape, offering women the chance to excel and contribute to their fullest potential.
How do you stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in communication and ensure you are always equipped to adapt to evolving industry standards?
Staying informed about the ever-evolving communication trends in today’s fast-paced digital landscape is essential. To achieve this, I employ a multifaceted approach. I attend industry-specific conferences, seminars, and trade shows where experts delve into emerging technologies. Networking with peers through social media platforms and engaging in discussions with thought leaders on LinkedIn, Twitter, and specialized forums helps me access valuable insights. Additionally, I invest in online courses and webinars from platforms like Coursera, Udemy, edX, and LinkedIn Learning, focusing on communication trends. I also subscribe to podcasts and
YouTube channels dedicated to technology and communication. Accessing research reports and whitepapers from market research firms and experimenting with emerging technologies first-hand further enrich my knowledge. Engaging with thought leaders on social media and regularly checking academic journals for scholarly insights, along with monitoring social media trends and participating in industry surveys, all contribute to my well-rounded approach to staying updated. Collaborating and sharing knowledge within my professional network is another valuable strategy. These practices collectively ensure that I remain well-informed and adaptable in my field of interest.
As you have worked for a multinational, how did you manage communication across different cultures and regions?
Effectively communicating across cultures within a multinational organization involves several key considerations. First and foremost, it’s crucial to cultivate cultural awareness by understanding the values, customs, traditions, and communication styles of the culture you’re engaging with. Avoid relying on stereotypes, and recognizing the diversity of perspectives within a culture. Respect for hierarchy and formalities should be observed when necessary, as some cultures emphasize authority. Be attentive to non-verbal cues like body language and gestures, which can vary widely and affect interpretation. When language differences exist, consider professional translation services to ensure accuracy and avoid complex language.
Adapt your communication style to the preference for direct or indirect communication in different cultures and practice active listening without interrupting. Be sensitive to personal space and touch preferences, respect cultural norms around timing and punctuality, and avoid sensitive topics. When delivering feedback or criticism, employ a constructive and diplomatic approach, and be adaptable to accommodate cultural norms.
Research the cultural norms and expectations of the individuals you’re communicating with, encourage open feedback, exercise patience and empathy, and invest in relationship-building efforts. Ultimately, cross-cultural communication is a skill that can be honed over time through open-mindedness, respect, and a willingness to learn.
What role has mentorship played in your career, and have you had any particularly Influential mentors who have helped shape your path world of corporate Communication?
Throughout my personal and professional journey, I have been exceptionally fortunate to have the unwavering guidance and support of remarkable mentors. These individuals, with whom I maintain a strong connection, have played a pivotal role in my personal and professional development. I continue to seek their invaluable wisdom, rely on their sage advice, and lean on their unwavering support, which remains an enduring source of inspiration and encouragement on my path to growth and achievement.