Dr. Deepa Desai
HBA Chapter: HBA India
Current role with the HBA: Senior Global Director, HBA Ambassador Program
In this new era of leadership, volunteering with the HBA is especially important because it provides a 360-degree exposure to different known and unknown opportunities and allows me to deal with them whilst being true to my authentic self and not feeling judged.
Volunteering with the HBA has impacted my career by helping me discover different aspects of myself and has provided an invaluable opportunity to connect and make a difference in my own unique way which differentiates me from my colleagues. The last two years of volunteering have successfully helped me with my vision to bring the HBA to this part of the world. I played a pivotal role in launching the HBA Ambassador Program in India and thus setting up the first HBA communities which is now playing a key role in the HBA in India. I also got the opportunity to be a mentor in various programs like the HBA Europe mentoring program and the Honoring Opportunities for Partnerships & Equity (HOPE) leadership program, which gave wings to my vision of equal opportunities to all voices. All of these gave me a platform and visibility which led to me being named as one of the 100 inspiring leaders in the healthcare industry as part of PharmaVOICE100.
My favorite HBA event I ever attended was the 2019 HBA Woman of the Year. It shall always be special since it was my first in-person interaction with the HBA. It was love at first sight. I was named as one of the HBA Luminaries that year and so I was in NYC amidst all the magic and action. This one shall always be etched in my memory as the one that gave me the honor to be amongst accomplished women who had “giving” at their core and the strength to make a difference. Also, it marked the beginning of my journey to stand up for things that I believed such as an equal opportunity for all voices, a deserving seat at any table/in any room…and thus started the long-lasting relationship with the HBA.
Volunteering has expanded my network by meeting amazing volunteers who are impactful and unique in their own way. It gave me an opportunity to see so many possibilities and the courage to spread my wings since I knew they had my back.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from a fellow volunteer is the importance of being aware of your purpose. This has now brought passion into everything that I am doing. When passion and purpose align, the sky is the (un)limit.
What skills have you acquired or fine-tuned during your time as an HBA volunteer that you feel will help you in this new era of leadership? There are many but just to highlight a few:
- It's okay to ask for help
- Strength to further be authentic – these got brushed on me as I interacted with so many talented men and women, learned from their experiences as I got exposed to so many different individuals and thus experiences and perspectives
- Challenge self. Challenge status quo
- Increased net worth by expanding your network
- Public speaking and self-confidence
- To be out of my own cocoon and yet be comfortable
- Understood the meaning of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I mean I had heard a lot about these words but could experience the meaning only after interacting with this powerful community. It has helped me to play my role to influence women in healthcare and increase my own visibility.
- A sense of security and belonging
My favorite part of volunteering for the HBA is brainstorming ideas, this selfless, fantastic network of accomplished and giving people and so many lifelong friends.
I applied for my current role with the HBA because the Ambassador Program is one of the flagship programs offered by the HBA. This was the first program that got launched in India where I was involved as an advocate and got firsthand experience. The program being self-directive impacts the participants in their long-term goals in transformation, and purposeful leadership. It helps the organization to further enhance its brand, retains talent via involvement in visible, diverse initiatives. Thus, I had to be a part of it.
Additionally, my inclination toward process efficiency and organization effectiveness motivated me to work with Bonnie Lappin to streamline the program to ensure scalability and global deployment. Working closely with Sahana Nayak, Global Ambassador at Johnson & Johnson for the Ambassador Program, I have had an opportunity to be instrumental in standardization of program deployment across >10 cohorts across all continents. I now can impact the careers and development of hundreds of program participants and play a responsible role to influence the way our industry thinks and functions. The Ambassador Program also gave me an opportunity to be on the steering committee of the Advocates Council, a community designed for the advocates.
My role also helps me to represent a voice from this part of the world where it’s not about white or black women but about brown. It is an opportunity to bring the perspective, views, and cultural nuances from the eastern world to mingle with the western as we work together to be A United Force for Change.
I first learned about the HBA in my early days of my career, I had no idea what the HBA was and for almost a couple of years, I believed it to be a Harvard Business Academy extension! But in 2012 when I came to know more about it, I realized that its presence was only in the West. Thus, when I received the Luminary award in 2019, I was determined to bring the HBA to this part of the world and extend the benefits to the women here too!
I volunteer for the United Force for Change because it gives an equal opportunity to the “brown women” to dare to make a difference. It helps me to create a platform of empowerment to help women and men amplify their voices, be braver, take risks, and become thought leaders for a more diverse culture. It helps me to share tools for a diversely unified tomorrow.
What would be your advice to someone thinking about joining or getting more involved with the HBA? If you want to be a leader for “NOW”, then come join us! The HBA community helps you bring about that change in your mindset to think and act like a global leader. The HBA is a platform that widens your horizon via global exposure, gives you the comfort to share/discuss your ideas without hesitation or fear of being judged, helps you to grow by learning, expands your network, and provides an opportunity to support and showcase your sisterhood.
Follow me as I take over the HBA social media accounts on 17 April.
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