During a 25-year-long career in the IT industry, Bengaluru-based Daisy Chittilapilly has had a front row view of how technology can bring about change in key sectors such as healthcare and education. What excites her most about it is that the industry has still just scratched the surface of what digitisation can do for India’s people and businesses. This has driven her since she took over as president at Cisco India in 2021. And she’s realised the importance of managing a team to achieve her goal.
“Over the course of my career, one of the most important learnings has been to treat empathy and respect as the most effective tools of productivity, engagement and success. I believe that it’s only when we put people first and work together that great things happen,” the 51-year-old says.
As AI is likely to automate mundane tasks and create new jobs, Chittilapilly believes it is important for workers to focus on continuous learning. This in turn will empower them with new skillsets to take on specialised jobs. “I believe AI will create the largest shift in mindset around the role people serve in organisations. Human-centric skills like empathy, creativity, critical thinking, leadership and emotional intelligence will not only remain valuable, but could become even more essential,” she says.
Chittilapilly talks to Lounge about the importance of prioritising and delegating tasks, and why she’s made a connection with some ingenious comic strips.
I am the product of generous mentors and sponsors, so I firmly believe it is my responsibility to pay it forward. I have always been passionate about empowering more people to grow and realise their goals. Many of the people I have worked with, mentored or trained have taken up senior leadership roles and started or expanded their own businesses within and outside Cisco.
I am also an active member of “Women of Impact,” which aims to create, foster, and develop a pipeline of women leaders within Cisco, and JUMP - a program that brings high-potential women employees together to focus on strategic leadership thinking.
I firmly believe in the power of delegation. If a task doesn’t require your direct involvement, consider passing it on to someone who’s enthusiastic about taking it on. This approach not only frees up valuable time but also empowers others. Also, in the age of information overload, prioritisation is key. Lastly, dealing with ambiguity is essential. Circumstances can change unexpectedly, disrupting your plans. Surrounding yourself with a supportive circle that’s comfortable with ambiguity and encourages open communication aids faster and more effective decision-making.
I’ve consciously stepped away from work when the day ends. In my mind, I have a defined ‘leaving work’ time. While there may be calls and emails, I’ve established a mental ‘exit path’ beyond which I limit my engagement in work-related tasks. This demarcation has been essential in ensuring that work doesn’t extend indefinitely into my personal time. I believe it’s crucial to allow time to recharge and return with a fresh perspective.
My mornings usually begin with a walk near the lake close to my house. Also, I like to start my day with a bit of a laugh with the cartoons section in the newspaper. There’s something about humour that lends a brighter start to the day and I’m an avid fan of Calvin and Hobbes. Even after reading the same strip multiple times, it never fails to make me laugh.
I’m always looking for lessons in the unlikeliest of places and the Peanuts comic has always been a source of education and levity. There’s something so relatable about seeing Charles M. Schulz’s characters Charlie Brown, Snoopy and others navigate challenges and life in general: from growing up, planning, building confidence, working together, managing change and pivoting. And do it in a way that never fails to bring a smile to your face!
Similarly, the TV show The Wonder Years also offers profound growth mindset lessons. The show delves into stories of personal growth and development, shaped by various life experiences.
Dragonflies Everywhere focuses on a primary intervention of training individuals who run NGOs. My involvement stems from a personal connection and a desire to make a meaningful impact. Drawing from my experience of managing a large organisation, I was invited to join as a trustee and offer insights based on my experience. This collaboration is immensely valuable for me, as it offers a unique opportunity to share my insights and contribute to the growth and success of Dragonflies Everywhere.
Monday Motivation is a series in which business leaders and creative individuals discuss their mentors and their work ethics
Shail Desai is a Mumbai-based freelance writer.