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Glimpse of Lean In Leader’s Conference 2017

Lean In Leaders with Sheryl Sandberg ( PC: AnnaMarksPhotography)

Lean In Leaders Conference 2017

I’m proud to have represented Lean In Bangalore at the third Lean In Regional Leaders Conference as one of 75 leaders from across the globe. At this conference, I was stroked and was delighted to meet my role model Sheryl Sandberg. Yes, the Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and Option B as well as COO of Facebook. I will cherish my memories of this meeting and the great conference for a long time to come.

With Sheryl Sandberg ( PC: AnnaMarksPhotography)

When I got the invitation, I contemplated if I could make it work. Two people encouraged me to be there. One was my coach Sridhar Laxman who said that I would be the only Woman in Tech from Bangalore and able to tell the Lean In Bangalore’s story. The other and the important person who encouraged me was my husband who said — “Take the flight and leave, you’ve got to be there.” I knew deep down I had to be there so I could tell the amazing story of what the Bangalore team have created. Thus, I was there and now I’m proud that I was. I want to send a big thank you to my Lean In Bangalore team. Together we have done excellent work and were duly recognized at the Regional Leaders conference.

“Take the flight and leave, you’ve got to be there.”

My Insights from the conference

Lean In Leaders Conference 2017 ( PC: AnnaMarksPhotography)

This conference, arranged by LeanIn.Org, not only helped me to build a more secure and reliable network, but also propelled my ambitions to create more social and economic equality and equity in our communities. The conference included regional Lean In leaders from Malaysia, China, Pakistan, Israel, Japan, Italy, UK, El Salvador, Poland, France, Canada as well as community and workplace chapters in the U.S. It was truly inspiring to hear about the progress of Lean In leaders empowering their members.

Some of the main conference sessions

1. Keynote and the conference kickoff — Rachel Schall Thomas, Co-Founder, and President of the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation

2. “Knowing your Value” — Dr. Jen Welter ,First Female to Coach in the NFL, Football Analyst, & Ph.D. Psychology

3. “Design your Life” — Dave Evans , Co-Founder, Stanford Life Design Lab , Co-Author of Designing Your Life & Exec Coach

4. “Act with Power” — Deb Gruenfeld, Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business

5. Craft your Story” — Megan Rooney, the first female speechwriter in the Obama White House

6. “Being a connector is powerful,” — Says Jacqueline Jones, Strategic Partnerships , Diversity and Inclusion at LinkedIn

Rachel Thomas ( PC: AnnaMarksPhotography)

The conference was kicked off with Rachel Schall Thomas’s fantastic story of what Lean In means to her.The LeanIn.Org team has done an incredible work getting with all the leaders from across the world to connect them and build a stronger community. It’s amazing to see so many women and men working to empower others in addition to their day jobs.

Dr. Jen Welter is the first female NFL player and first woman NFL coach. She shared her journey coaching football. Many found her talk inspiring.

Dr. Jen Welter ( PC: AnnaMarksPhotography)

Some of the quotes which stayed with me include:

“ Celebrate yourself .”

“Be authentic and be yourself. You have to be the same person to everybody.”

“To be a leader, you don’t have to be a man. Grab your unique voice.”

“Be the person who is contagious, and the heartbeat which is contagious.”

In the session on “Design your life” by Dave Evans, Evans walked through applying the design thinking principles to a personal life. The workshop encouraged participants to identify top three versions of their life. I often dream about different versions of my own life and choose not to share them thinking it’s childish. Turns out it’s not. Instead applying engineering principles to one’s life allows one to uncover the best version of oneself in a different situation . What delights me even more, is that in the early days of Lean In Bangalore, we came up with the theme for the meetup as “You 2.0” which is quite popular and aligns closely with Dave Evan’s thinking.

Lean In Bangalore

The“Design thinking principles” secret sauce which we can be applied to life:

1. Engineering thinking: — Solve your way forward with the data available and class of problems

2. Business thinking:- Optimize your forward movement with customers and partners

3. Research thinking:- Analyze your way forward

Whenever I’ve listened to Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton speak, I always felt empowered and motivated and wondered about their speech writers. Thus, I was thrilled to meet Megan Rooney who has written speeches for both of these leaders. Her talk on “Tell your Story” was great .

Workshop on Eye Contact ( PC: AnnaMarksPhotography)

Dr. Deborah Gruenfeld, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, conducted a workshop on the “Effective use of Power.” Gruenfeld holds the belief that it’s important to understand the way body language conveys power or lack thereof. The workshop elaborated on a video on playing high and low which is available on the Lean In Website. The overall message I took from the talk was ultimately, women can learn to use our authority and power. We can make a difference for a social cause and to lead in a way that creates a bigger circle of influence and of trust.

The conference extension

In addition to the official two-day conference, Lean In members self-organized a conference extension to add three more days of connecting and learning together. The conference extension was planned by various volunteer leaders, including myself, with Linda Brandt from Minnesota as the overall organizer. The extension provided further opportunities to get to know each other . During these extra days, we not only shared but also listened to each other’s different experiences running Lean In chapters. In particular, I shared the vision and story of Lean In Bangalore’s Successful journey. I was happy to share 4 A’s (Avoid — Alter — Adapt & Accept) and the concepts of “Why What and How” as applied to running Lean In chapters at various stages.

Background on Lean In and Lean In Bangalore

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is a 2013 book written by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook. LeanIn.Org (also known as Lean In Foundation) was founded by Sandberg in 2013 and is dedicated “to offering women the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals.” The organization helps people through three main structures: community building, education, and supporting small, coordinated peer group circles that meet to share their experiences and learn together. Lean In Bangalore chapter currently has 700 members and meets monthly to provide encouragement to “Sit at the table” where decisions are being made firmly believe in diversity and Inclusion beyond gender as well.

Lean In Bangalore’s Meet-up

The Lean In Bangalore Chapter is a volunteer-run team whose passion and leadership empowers members in every life stage. This team has grown the Lean In Bangalore community quickly and had a significant impact on members’ lives. I’m proud of our team and also proud of how we contribute to the larger Lean In movement . Our team was recently featured on Women Day’s. More than years into our successful journey, we have accomplished a lot and also have a long way to go.

Closing note from my favorite movie quote from Star Trek –“Someone told me time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because they’ll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important how we lived.”