Hema Cola Yadavanarayanan, Process Manager for Data Quality, speaks about the flexible leadership pathways available at Shell.
Meet Hema. #EmpoweredtoLead
I started my professional career in the energy sector as a Management Graduate trainee in Research & Development, and over time my role began to specialise towards Contracting & Procurement.
So, when I joined Shell in November 2009, it was as a Team Manager for Contracting and Procurement Data. The centre had only recently been formed; it was 9 months old at the time I joined, and I was managing a relatively small team of 10-12 people. It was the right time to land into Shell and to start developing something new with a budding team. It soon became a much bigger job though – by the time I left the team for a new role in 2014, it had grown four-fold.
This new role is my current one: Process Manager for Data Quality, in which I work across Finance and Data Operations – Data (FO Data). It has a wider remit and has given me the opportunity to broaden my skills across data processes (like Finance, Order to Cash, and Retail in addition to the Contracting & Procurement side that I was used to).
I would describe my leadership style as a mix of collaborative, democratic and visionary. The latter is important when you need to set one vision for the whole team and drive them towards a common goal.
I also learned a lot about the importance of empathy from one of my previous line managers. She had an incredible ability not only to build empathy with the team around her, but also to harness that empathy to drive impact for the organization.
She also taught me the importance of being democratic. It was never “please do this”, but instead, “what do you think if we do this?”. I’ve tried to take this into my own management style as it’s the kind of leader I would like to be.
A Proud Transition
One of my proudest moments was working on transitioning to a new data quality tool for FO Data. The tool that we had been using was coming to the end of its technical support life, so we had to move to a new one. Here, I was actually working as an individual contributor across FO Data processes. The task was to align them all around the use of this tool and get them to adopt it in a way that brought dollar benefits, as well as business continuity.
How do you get multiple users on-board with a new tool and equip them to deliver effectively and efficiently? Well, instead of on-boarding everyone, we trained our own trainers. We chose key resources who were efficient at describing best practices and then disseminated that knowledge to the whole team through them.
The challenge with this approach is that when you transfer your knowledge over to someone verbally, usually only 60% of it is picked up. So, to overcome this transmission problem, we ran bi-weekly practice sessions where we brought everyone together and shared best practices and new learnings around the tool. We made sure to record and circulate them so that everyone could keep up to date, even if they didn’t attend.
In the end, we were able to go live on the exact date we had planned, which was a big success in my eyes.
Flexible Ways Forward
Shell has given me the unique opportunity to mould my career to my own strengths, moving from Contracting and Procurement, to Project Management, to Functional Excellence which is really quite a niche category.
It’s made possible not just by the structure of the organization, but also through the leaders; the fact that they are very open to having discussions around your role. They won’t tell you that you don’t have the right skillset for the role. Instead they look at you as an individual and work out ways that you can bring value to the role based on your experience. Because of this, I’ve always felt motivated to explore new areas.
So, I’d say if you’re looking to join Shell, so long as you have the core technical knowledge, don’t worry if you don’t fit the exact job description. It may be that you only match 30% of specification – but given the right on-boarding and continuous learning opportunities, pretty much anything is possible.
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