Anu Kohli (MBA ’09) has spent more than 14 years in the technology sector working for companies like Microsoft, Dell and Intel. Kohli, a senior manager of product marketing at Microsoft, shared her tips for career success with students at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s 2016 MBA Leadership Day.
Change happens when you least expect it. Upon starting my first job, I thought that I had my whole life planned out. Throughout my career, I have worked in financial planning and analysis and mergers and acquisitions – two positions I never originally imagined myself in. If I had not had these positions, I probably would not be where I am today. Change is always present, and the only way to work around it is to embrace it and dive in.
Cast a wide net.
Sometimes opportunities come from very unexpected sources. Networking is important, and opportunities can come from connections that you did not think about. Cast your net wide and talk to as many people as you can.
Find the right fit.
When you’re looking at jobs, opportunities and teams, fit is very important. Sometimes, you get into what looks like a really great, lucrative opportunity – but if the fit isn’t right, you’re not going to be happy. In the past, I’ve worked under people that did not bring out the best in me, and I started to underperform. I have learned is that if the position is not a fit, there’s no shame in walking away.
Build diverse teams.
As a leader, I’ve learned that it’s critical to be able to build diverse teams and work with a lot of different people. In today’s workforce, you’re going to work with people from across the world. I’ve worked on a number of teams with different backgrounds and skill sets. The biggest differentiator of top leadership is the ability to work with a wide variety of individuals to get specific results.
Adapt your leadership style for each group.
My leadership style has evolved based on the roles that I have held. Your leadership style should be shaped on the culture of the people you’re working with. The leadership necessary for your sales team might vary greatly from the leadership needs of your customer-facing group. Being able to easily adapt from a hands-on style to a more hands-off style will allow you adapt to different team needs.
Engage everyone in the group.
It’s important to really pay attention to what people are saying. As a leader, I make sure to really listen to everyone in the group and engage the quieter people on the team by asking what they’re thinking.
In my career, there have been times where I have burnt myself out, which affects productivity and career success. I now set boundaries for times that I do not work, allowing me to take important time for myself. I firmly believe that everybody should have something that they do outside of work that helps them decompress. For me, that is painting – but it could be anything.