Priyanka Mehandiratta is a multi-talented woman with a unique award under her belt as “The 10 Most Influential Women in Technology 2020”—recognized by Analytics Insight.
She is a Certified Trainer, Certified Executive Coach, and an MBA Graduate. She has received numerous Super Achiever awards and has also been accredited by former colleagues as ‘the go-to person for coaching and learning. Her experience has granted her solid trust from her clients.
After building her career of 16 years in talent management and running global projects for big banks and consulting, she successfully transitioned into the world of leadership development. By 2018 she solidified DX Learning Canada as a start-up in the space of accelerated Leadership Development.
Priyanka recently founded “Unmute”. Unmute is a women leadership company aimed at creating the workforce of the future. The programs are designed to help women find their voice and develop the skills to become stronger leaders. Unmute works with all allies in mind because everyone is part of the solution.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Priyanka Mehandiratta: I was born and raised in India. Being the firstborn in my big family, I had to be the role model for her siblings and dozens of first cousins. Speaking up or going against the rules wasn’t an option. When I came to Canada, I brought the same conditioned values. This hindered my growth opportunities in my career. My silence was often misunderstood.
Now, fast forward a few years.
I believe that women have the power to shake the world. But before they can do that, it is imperative to shake the myths that hold them back from making change. If there is one thing that I have learned in my life, it’s the power to use my voice. It changed my life and career trajectory.
My passion for women empowerment and leadership has led me to pursue opportunities that align with those values. I’ve taken those learnings and beliefs and founded Unmute. It was a solution to turn my pain into my passion.
For some reason, our culture influences us to stay silent. However, in today’s time, we need no silence. This is no longer a gender issue; it’s a business issue. I wanted to build something that I wished I had in the early years of my career. It took me 16 years to find my voice. When I finally did – it changed my career significantly and I found personal success. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait this long to speak up or to find your voice
Unmute creates a unique and nurturing ecosystem for women and allies to find space to use their voice and share their thoughts without fear of being judged through personalized learning experiences. The only way we get ahead is to unmute yourselves.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Priyanka Mehandiratta: More and more when I single out the person who inspired me the most, I go back to my grandfather. Giving everyone equal opportunities is a cause close to my heart. This is something I learned from my grandfather.
He was very progressive for his time. Nothing brought him down – or shook his faith in himself. He taught me to make noise through my work. He always reminded me that if you work hard you’ll find a way, no matter what.
I attribute many of my successes to the support of my husband and son. They have always pushed me forward.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Priyanka Mehandiratta: Deciding to start your own business is an exciting endeavour that comes with a ton of flexibility, which is amazing. But it also requires a lot of responsibility and that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Some of the most common mistakes one can make as an entrepreneur — and how to avoid them?
- Believing that you have to go at it alone
We’ve all heard the narrative of the guy in a basement wearing jeans and flip flops starting a business — and we’ve also heard the stories of burnout, exhaustion, and health challenges that a culture of 24/7 hustling can create. A lot rests on the shoulders of entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t need to be that way.
There are many organizations out there whose sole mission is to support and connect entrepreneurs to make the path less lonely and less overwhelming.
I recommend reaching out to them, which in turn, could help you become a lot more successful. For resources on starting a business, check out your local small Businesses forums and you can find a ton of advice.
- Thinking you have all the answers
It’s important to remember that, as an entrepreneur, you are one person. Part of the entrepreneurial journey is knowing that you will have to figure things out as they come at you.
There is simply no way you could already have all the answers, but do what you can to be thoughtful and prepare. Business plans are great as they encourage you to consider all facets of the business.
After you have a business plan, your next job will be to assemble the right team (including your actual team of employees, your board of advisors, and mentors) to support you in navigating the challenges and opportunities you will face.
- Underfunding your business
This is especially true for women entrepreneurs. We are guilty of asking 60% to 70% of what we need for funding.
On one hand, that’s great as it shows we are fiscally responsible and is one of the factors in yielding higher returns. However, the flip-side is that it will limit the growth we want to achieve.
Understanding the difference between all of our options (debt vs equity being crucial) and talking to an advisor will help entrepreneurs to know when to access the right funds. It’s also a good idea to build relationships with potential funders early, such as your local credit union, financial institution, and early-stage investors, as well as organizations that can help you in your path to capital.
- Forgetting to take care of yourself
In the business world, your journey is a marathon, not a sprint. This is something that one can easily forget when we are juggling all of our day-to-day tasks.
Our business and our life will thrive when we can have a holistic approach to our work, life, and everything in between. However, the pandemic only blurred the lines.
Being an entrepreneur allows us to structure life on our terms, so make sure you don’t lose sight of that amongst the madness. After all, taking care of ourselves and our health needs to be our number one priority.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Priyanka Mehandiratta: The word for 2021 is “resilience”. It’s how you think and act when your back is against the wall. Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Being resilient does not mean that people don’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering.
For me, being resilient is your ability to withstand adversity, bounce back, and grow life’s downturns with humility and grace. It is not a trampoline where you’re down one moment and up the next. It’s more like climbing a mountain without a map. It takes time, strength, and help from people around you. You’ll likely experience setbacks along the way but eventually, you reach the top and look back at how far you’ve come. It’s a muscle you have to build slowly, yet consistently.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision or values?
Priyanka Mehandiratta: I strongly believe that an organization’s mission, vision, and values have to work hand in hand. They are all equally important.
They are important tools to lay a strong foundation as you scale. One should never lose sight of it but must be willing to stop and revisit if need be.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Priyanka Mehandiratta: I believe that my self-confidence, drive, and persistence have been instrumental to my success.
Ideas become reality by putting them into action, and our actions are driven by our ability to set goals where self-confidence plays a huge role. Goals define the success of the startup. Your ability, not only to set them but to actually work towards turning them into reality is what will increase the chances of success. Be prepared to work hard on your goals to achieve them. This is where your drive and persistence come in.
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Priyanka Mehandiratta: Yes, for sure. Unmute, as a brand, is an extension of my values and personality. The business website, solutions we offer, communications, are an extension of my beliefs.
I believe the team I hired mirrors those values, and all collectively hold close to their hearts.
At Unmute here are some of the values we stick by at all times:
Trust & Empathy
Conscious & Supportive
How would you define “leadership”?
Priyanka Mehandiratta: Leadership is a mindset and changing your mindset often requires learning, unlearning, and relearning.
To me, having a leadership mindset means seeing problems as opportunities and recognizing that every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow.
A true leader can keep their team focused on outcomes and prevent them from getting bogged down in difficulties.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Priyanka Mehandiratta: I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t do it because you want to make money.
Money isn’t what drives your business. It’s a by-product. What problems would you like to solve and what impact can you make?
My advice is that the impact should be at the core of your business.
You should never have to wait to make an impact. Clearly define the impacts you want to make with a business from the beginning, and you’re more likely to achieve your goals. If you’re thinking of starting a business, stop and ask yourself: What is your true passion? What makes you the most excited about what you are doing? The difference between those who push through difficult times and those who quit is passion. Passion and impact have to work in unison for a company to be successful.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
“The motivation you are looking for outside is inside of you. Nothing works unless you do.”
“When things go south, I don’t blame others. I take responsibility for my actions and find ways to get ahead instead. Failure is a part of success. This approach has worked for me at all times,”
Esther Pinky Kiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Priyanka for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Priyanka or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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