I'm Beyond excited for you to get to know the Silicon Valley tech dynamo that is Shaloo Garg! Shaloo is currently the Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups, where she is responsible for startup business strategy and growth in the global mecca of innovation! Having previously been at Oracle where she led the Global Customer Connect at Global Oracle Innovation, Shaloo has spent almost two decades in the high-tech industry in various roles: corporate development, startups, enterprise Go to Market, strategic partnerships, and has navigated and negotiated within the ranks of the major tech giants of the world. She has also led Go-to-Market for Oracle’s cloud business and was part of the Mergers & Acquisitions team that acquired Peoplesoft, Siebel, Retek, and others.
She keeps regular open office hours to coach and mentor young women and speaks on panels such as Girl Geek X Microsoft Reactor Lightning Talks. UN Women is an organization we both champion, which is how our paths crossed. As a “Champion of Innovation” at UN Women, Shaloo is spinning up virtual technology innovation labs with universities to encourage digital literacy in developing countries for young girls who do not have access to education. She is a firm believer in using the power of disruptive technology to solve pressing issues in the world like hunger, poverty, education, clean water, air, energy etc. She has her MBA in Innovation and Design Thinking from Stanford d. School.
Shaloo embodies the Lift & Be Uplifted philosophy because of her high visibility and accessibility to young women. When we spoke on the phone for the first time, I was in awe that a mogul such as herself took the time to take my call when I inquired about her journey! What actually happened, was she was more interested in learning about what I was doing, and what my goals were, and gave me encouragement. I can see why she is so successful, because instantly I just wanted to be in her circle; her energy is completely magnetic!
Connect with her on LinkedIn HERE!
1. Rarely is someone's journey linear. Can you explain what you wanted to be when you grew up, and how your career landed where you are right now? How has this shaped the way you view human connection and the way you lead others?
I agree, rarely is anyone’s journey liner. My dad was an aeronautical engineer and I traveled extensively growing up. That required quite a few school transfers. There was an upside to all the awesome travel, I had the opportunity to get exposure to various cultures, religion, people, languages etc. In retrospect, the person I am today has been mainly shaped by those early life experiences.
I have worked in top tech tech companies through out my career, thanks to the wide perspective I gained as a girl. I was exposed to diverse ways of living and thinking, which was instrumental in how I approach problems, people and solutions. I’m grateful for that now. Growing up, I wanted to be an Air Hostess ( yes, I had caught the travel bug😊), but it was while I was doing my MBA, that I realized my passion and gift for Technology. I had an Elective in Technology & Coding and was conducting research for a Technology for Community project, when I went deeper and deeper into my research and discovered the many ways technology can help drive change in our society, community and economy. Technology was nascent at that time, but I was inspired by it's potential to change the world. THAT was the when I resolved to build my career in Technology. While professionally, I was working in big tech companies, I continued to feed my hunger for purpose -using technology for good.
In one of my projects partnering with UN Women, I realized the enormous potential for young girls in developing economies, who do not have access to education, that could be educated sitting in their homes- just by properly utilizing advances and connectivity of technology! As this idea grew and developed over years , I took responsibility for driving this core initiative in conjunction with UN Women.
s2. Which single word do you most identify with?
Courage- and it’s hard to be courageous. It’s not an innate quality. One becomes courageous as they face life experiences of overcoming setbacks and trials and learns lessons from them. With courage also comes responsibility. Being intentional yet bold is what it takes to drive positive impact. It’s the most important thing I have learned in life and business and something that I personify on daily basis.
I recall an analogy that one of mentors shared with me: "Imagine that you are getting ready to bungee jump. You buckle up, you pull all the straps tight and you prepare to jump. All bets are off at that time." The focus here is all the time you have spent intentionally "buckling and strapping up well". You have done your due diligence, weighed out the pros and cons, now don't just stand there- use that courage and boldness and jump in!
3. What moment/experience in your life was the most formative in your development as a leader?
A couple of experiences are still fresh in my mind that have been points for reflection in my career.
I was in Mergers & Acquisitions at Oracle, on the team that acquired PeopleSoft. My first week on the job, I was pretty certain that I was not a good fit there. Yet my boss pushed me really hard, believing in me, giving me confidence that I was capable. I doubted myself, was almost ready to walk out, but paused and thought through what I had to loose if I failed by giving up vs. what it could mean to my career and my company if I succeeded. This experience taught me how to weigh the pros and cons cautiously and thoughtfully in any career/business situation. The result of my persevering in this situation, and the resulting win, propelled my career forward.
Then when I was at Microsoft. I was 5 weeks into my job here, when we were faced with a wide gap in the market where competition was dormant. We had no play where the market segment was expanding. I did creative thinking with my full due diligence and took a high risk idea to management. Fortunately, I got a go ahead. While I was excited with a go ahead, I was nervous too! 😊 Just a month and a half into the company, I was still building social capital and relationships. THAT was a big, bold, career move for me, where I had to risk everything – building credibility, trust, AND selling my idea, gave me immense strength and courage to lead with confidence. Sometimes when nothing is moving, you must be not just innovative, but bold and courageous as a leader!
Another experience is more personal. When I was at the peak of my career, with bold ambition in the Cloud business, I lost my father and then lost my mom a few years later. Both these life changing events were jolting. While I was able to recover from my father’s death, it took me few years to recover from the loss of my mom. I fought with and questioned myself that I'd lost my courage. One fine day, I decided to completely change the line of business I was in [Go to Market] and enter the Startup space. I had no experience in this arena but I just needed to start again to challenge myself in new ways.
This experience fundamentally shifted my way of thinking which is: no matter what life presents to you or high the stakes are, there is no substitute for hard work. Period.
4. As a woman working in a male-dominated field, what is the biggest barrier you have faced in your career? How did you overcome that?
Without a doubt, Tech is a male dominated field and there are fewer opportunities for women. A great example is the status quo in numbers of women in CEO and Board positions. Why is this number not sky rocketing? It’s not because there isn’t talent in the market, but the opportunities for women to advance are limited.
One of the biggest barriers I faced was just getting a seat at the table to begin with. Initially, I thought I did not have the caliber or the chops. Later, I understood that gender inequity is prevalent no matter where we are and at which level. Regardless, I still believe that rarely do opportunities present themselves on a golden platter. One has to be aware and savvy to identify gaps, tie the opportunity to the gaps- and get that seat at the table. Once you know your stuff well and lead with confidence, there is nothing holding you back.
5. You serve as a mentor for so many young women. Based on your conversations through mentorship, what message do you believe is most important for young women to hear?
Three key things:
6. Tell us more about your "Work Philosophy".
Trust me, in the early years of my career, I was trying to find out for myself who I was and what I believe in. It’s tough because one is busy learning, exploring and beating the odds. One of my mentors once told me: "Be known for what you value."
Be humble. No matter how high or low you are, always, always be humble. Be open to learning , ask questions and accept both success and failure with grace.
Challenge the status quo. I love this one and relate very closely with this. I love chaos, ambiguity in a business situation because it gives me an opportunity to drive clarity, bring structure and challenge the status quo.
Always be the hardest worker in the room. There is really no proxy for hard work and effort. There are no short cut to success.
7. What has been the most rewarding experience you've had working with UN Women?
Being able impact millions of lives of young girls without ever even meeting them, seeing them or hearing them - all through the power of technology! How awesome is that! Love it!
8. Your word of advice to young women struggling in their careers?
Understand your strengths and weaknesses really well. Self reflect - constantly. That’s super critical. Once you know the areas you can ace, use that ‘creatively’ to your advantage. No situation will ever present itself in a perfect format.
On the flip side, be curious, ask questions in areas where you can do better. Do not give up on them (yet). Tap into mentors and coaches around you who can guide you. And always, always give back. Never forget the young woman you were when you started your career on Day 1.