From Apps, Chores to Flexi Work: How Equity Benefits Everyone

From Apps, Chores to Flexi Work: How Equity Benefits Everyone

Lakshmi Rajagopalan, VP of Network Commercialization at Thunes, embodies a well-balanced, symbiotic outlook on life reflected in her relationships with herself, her family and her colleagues. 

In the third segment of Women of Thunes, we are excited to speak to a leader whose insights and clarity of purpose leave us much to learn from. Discover Lakshmi’s approach to work-life balance and why leaving some decisions to a coin toss may be the secret to a harmonious relationship.

What skills and qualities do you believe women bring to the tech industry that are often overlooked or undervalued?

Women bring a different perspective to the table, which can help the team look at the product from another vantage point and remove blindspots. 

For instance, “share my ride” and “safety button” features on the Grab ride-hailing app address passenger safety and security that may be more top of mind for women but benefits everyone – men and women, riders and drivers alike. 

It is the right sentiment that if you meet a woman’s needs, you will exceed everyone else’s expectations.

In an increasingly AI-driven world, it is critical that we include women in developing the framework and methodologies to eliminate bias and discrimination. What inspired you to pursue a career in Fintech? Who helped you the most along the way?

While my first job in payments was a matter of serendipity, I quickly realised the potential of digital payments to open doors and expand opportunities for people from all walks of life, all across the globe. The world of payments is constantly innovating to remove certain barriers of entry for new businesses, allow easier expansions to new markets, make bill payments seamless and provide access to savings. These features ultimately save people time and give them the tools to better manage their money, improving their quality of life and that of their loved ones.

It’s been a privilege to work with excellent managers and mentors throughout my career. If I had to pick a name, it would have to be Edwin Aoki, CTO of PayPal’s Blockchain, Crypto, and Digital Currencies. He has the innate ability to inspire people to be the best version of themselves and at the same time, bring their attention to potential blindspots and biases.

What advice would you give to young women who aspire to become leaders in their field?

People often think that strengths are what they are good at. However, I firmly believe that your strength is what you like doing, what gives you satisfaction, and what you wake up excited to do every day.  

Once a month or so, take a pause and assess what energises you about your work and invest in that area. 

Secondly, seek out mentors; be specific in what you are trying to learn and identify leaders who are a couple of steps ahead of you to learn from their experiences. Last but never least, build relationships. I believe women have a natural tendency for this but shy away from networking, which is often a symbiotic relationship.

How do you balance your professional and personal life, and what strategies have worked best for you?

By embracing equity on the personal side and maintaining transparency and communication on the professional front. 

My partner and I have different strengths, and we lean on that. I handle the meal planning for the week, and he does the weekend breakfasts. I manage the monthly bill payments, and he tackles the kids’ homework. We don’t aspire for an equal distribution of the chores but an equitable one that plays to our strengths. We toss a coin when it is an activity we both aren’t fond of. 

On the professional side, I have been working in a global role for the better part of a decade. By definition, it means working across time zones and being available beyond the standard 9 to 6 working hours. 

I prioritise my family dinners and kids’ bedtime and try not to do any work during the evening hours. But I am happy to be back online after 9pm to collaborate with my colleagues in another time zone, while having the flexibility to attend a parent-teacher conference for an hour in the middle of a work day. I have had this alignment with my manager as well as my key stakeholders, and this has never been a source of concern for anyone.

If you could have an hour of their time and have coffee with anyone, who would you pick and why?

I would like to meet Angela Merkel, a politician and scientist. Named the world’s most powerful woman a record 14 times by Forbes, she rose to the top in what is still a male-dominated institution. 

I would love to pick her brain about her career spanning quantum chemistry research to becoming what the media coined “leader of the free world”.

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