Dr. Ankita Singh, Senior Vice President & Global Head HR, IT, Admin, and Travel, CIGNEX & Founder, HR Association of India

Dr. Ankita has over 22 years of progressive experience in managing and leading various aspects of Human Resources spanning across high paced business domains of ITES. In addition to all functions of HR, Ankita overseas other enabling functions like Administration, Travel, Resource Management, QEG, Practices, Organizational Development, and RMG. She has excelled in establishing innovative and competitive initiatives and institutionalizing a strong performance driven culture at CIGNEX which has resulted in the company being certified as a “Great Place to Work 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20 & 2020- 21”. 

Dr. Ankita has been awarded by Forbes India and Great Manager Institute as Top 100 People Manager in India for last 3 consecutive years 2019,2020 & 2021.  Her expertise includes transformational change management and M&A initiatives. She has extensively worked in all facets of HR with special interest in the field of leadership Development, Organizational Behavior, Culture Building and Employee Engagement.

In an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Dr. Ankita Singh reveals the key strategies that can help women achieve success at their workplaces, her professional and personal background, source of inspiration, secret sauce behind her success, and a lot more. Following are the excerpts from the interview.

According to Namely’s HR Career Report, 71% of HR professionals are female. Why do you think is the HR profession dominated by women?

Several factors may contribute to the HR profession being dominated by women.

Historically, women have been more likely to be employed in administrative and support roles, often the entry points to HR positions. This scenario may have led to a concentration of women in HR over time.

Secondly, HR is often associated with stereotypically seen as more feminine skills, such as communication, empathy, and nurturing. These skills may be valued and sought after in HR roles, leading to a higher proportion of women in the profession.

Thirdly, there may be societal expectations and gender norms that influence career choices. Women may be encouraged or expected to pursue careers that are seen as more people-oriented, while men may be steered towards more technical or analytical professions.

Lastly, there may be biases and discrimination in the hiring process that affect the gender balance of HR. For example, unconscious bias may lead hiring managers to prefer candidates who fit certain gender stereotypes, or women may face barriers to advancement in male-dominated industries.

Overall, the dominance of women in the HR profession is likely influenced by a combination of these factors and may reflect broader societal patterns of gendered occupational segregation.

In your opinion, what are some key strategies that can help women achieve the success they want in their workplaces, especially in male-dominated roles or industries?

Women can take several key strategies to succeed in their workplaces, particularly in male-dominated roles or industries. Firstly, building a support network of mentors, sponsors, and peers can provide guidance and encouragement, making navigating the challenges of a male-dominated workplace easier. Secondly, developing a robust skill set and deep expertise in their field can help women earn respect and credibility, particularly when facing scrutiny or bias. Thirdly, learning to speak up confidently and effectively can help women make their voices heard and advocate for their needs and goals. Fourthly, women can seek leadership opportunities that require them to lead and influence others to break through barriers and demonstrate their leadership potential. Finally, by challenging gender stereotypes and biases, women can help shift workplace culture toward a more inclusive and diverse environment. In conclusion, with the right strategies and support, women can overcome barriers and succeed in male-dominated workplaces.

Dr. Ankita, please tell us about your professional and personal background.

Life has been truly magical on both personal and professional fronts. I have an amazing 3-year-old daughter and wonderful parents who strive to make life beautiful. While I love traveling, balancing it with my work and parenting responsibilities can be challenging. However, I am grateful to have a supportive team that includes my colleagues and family members, who encourage me to pursue my dreams and make the most of life’s opportunities.

I have been fortunate to receive the trust and support of many individuals in my professional life who have granted me opportunities for growth, mentorship, and a clear path to success. My work has been gratifying, providing both challenges and a platform for development. My journey started in Employee Relations HR and has led me to become a Global Head of multiple functions, and the experience has been truly enchanting. I am constantly learning and growing in my career, always striving to reach new heights.

What is your most favorite part and least favorite part about your role as the Senior Vice President; Global Head (HR, Admin, IT, Travel) at CIGNEX? And why?

As a Senior Vice President of HR, my role is rewarding because I am responsible for shaping the organization’s culture, driving talent management initiatives, and developing HR strategies that align with business goals. I enjoy working collaboratively with other leaders to make a positive impact on the organization and its employees.

However, I also acknowledge that the high level of responsibility and decision-making pressure can be challenging. It is often difficult to balance employee needs with business objectives, handle conflicts or sensitive issues, and manage a large team while contributing to the organization’s success. These challenges can be stressful and lead to burnout if not managed well.

As a Senior Vice President of HR, my favorite and least favorite aspects of the job tend to vary depending on the specific scenarios and their level of feasibility and manageability. Nevertheless, as long as I can make meaningful contributions and handle situations sensibly, I would never categorize any aspect of the role as my least favorite. I live by the saying, “if it ends well, it is well.”

What was the inspiration behind establishing HR Association of India? As the Founder, what is your vision for this non-profit organization?

As the Founder of the HR Association of India, my inspiration for establishing this non-profit organization was to create a platform where HR professionals could come together, learn from each other’s experiences, and grow together as a community. By sharing knowledge, listening to experts, and learning from each other’s hits and misses, we can be better equipped for the future.

Additionally, as the Founder of the HR Association of India, we believe in recognizing people for their work and accomplishments. We acknowledge change-makers and HR leaders who have significantly impacted their organizations and the industry. By highlighting their achievements, we aim to inspire others and create a culture of excellence within the HR community.

Our vision for the HR Association of India is to create a community where HR professionals can connect, collaborate, and contribute to each other’s growth and development. We intend to give back to society by creating an environment where HR professionals can learn and grow, not just for themselves but for the betterment of the community.

Where or whom do you seek motivation and inspiration from? How?

I find inspiration and motivation from individuals who are passionate about their work and strive to improve daily. These people have a contagious energy that encourages me to push beyond my limits and to work towards a bigger picture. Witnessing their drive and dedication motivates me to be more focused and goal-oriented.

Moreover, I’m inspired by those who do not give up on their dreams despite the obstacles and challenges they may face. The determination and resilience that they exhibit encourage me to persevere and keep pushing toward my own goals.

Everything positive around me inspires me, whether it’s the beauty of nature, acts of kindness, or inspiring stories of people who have overcome adversity. This positivity profoundly impacts my mindset and inspires me to be optimistic, even during difficult times.

How? We need to look around; there are amazing, inspiring people. 

What has been the most career-defining moment that you are proud of?

I am particularly proud of a career-defining moment when I was given a chance to work in departments outside of HR, despite having any academic specialization in those areas. This opportunity has allowed me to broaden my skills and knowledge base significantly. Over the last four years, I have taken on six additional functions, achieving step-by-step milestones that have been instrumental in redefining my career.

The satisfaction of excelling in all these functions and growing alongside my team cannot be overstated. It is a fulfilling feeling to know that I am delivering on what I have been trusted with, and this sense of accomplishment motivates me to continue pushing myself further. This experience has been transformative, giving me the confidence to tackle new challenges and explore different aspects of my field.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

As the Founder of the HR Association of India and a Global Head of HR, I plan to continue learning and developing my leadership skills and mentor and inspire the next generation of HR professionals. In addition, I leverage technology and innovation to drive HR practices forward and to build a stronger and more connected HR community across the globe. I want to be at the forefront of new developments and trends in the field and to help shape the future of HR in a rapidly changing world.

In the next five years, I envision myself taking on more significant challenges and projects that enable me to contribute at a larger scale and be part of a more substantial change. 

Ultimately, my goal is to make a meaningful impact on the lives and careers of those I work with. I am excited about the possibilities and look forward to the challenges and opportunities the next five years will bring.

What is your secret to striking a work-life balance?

As a mother of a three-year-old, founder of a company, and global head of HR, striking a work-life balance can be challenging. However, my secret to maintaining this balance is prioritizing my time and being intentional about my choices.

Firstly, I try to set clear boundaries between my work and personal life. This means allocating specific times for work and reserving time for my family and personal life. I also delegate tasks, which allows me to focus on more critical projects and responsibilities.

Secondly, I maintain a routine that includes work and engagements that must be attended to personally or professionally. This helps me stay organized and structured while dealing with the demands of my work and home.

Thirdly, I am open to seeking support from my family, friends, and colleagues. I have learned to delegate and seek help when necessary, which has helped me avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Finally, I strive to maintain a positive mindset and remain flexible. By keeping a positive outlook, I can deal with stress and challenges constructively, and by being flexible, I can adapt to changes and maintain balance in my life.

Striking a work-life balance requires a conscious effort and can be challenging. However, by prioritizing my time, setting boundaries, maintaining a healthy routine, seeking support, and staying positive, I have achieved balance and enjoy success in both my personal and professional life.

Throughout your career, you have and continue to don numerous hats and excel in all the roles. What is your secret mantra for being successful?

As a head of various functions, a mother of a 3-year-old, and a founder of a company, managing multiple roles can be challenging. However, a few fundamental principles have helped me be successful. Firstly, prioritizing tasks is essential to focus time and energy on the most important things. Secondly, managing time effectively is crucial for staying organized and maximizing productivity. Communication is necessary, keeping everyone in the loop and ensuring everyone understands the commitments. Taking care of oneself is also vital; incorporating self-care activities like exercise, meditation, and other relaxation techniques helps one stay focused and energized. Finally, being flexible and adaptable is crucial in managing multiple roles, and being able to adjust plans when unexpected challenges arise is crucial. In conclusion, balancing numerous roles requires dedication, discipline, and a willingness to prioritize and make sacrifices. Still, success in all aspects of life is possible with the right mindset and tools; I will modify the saying a bit from where there is a will, there is a way” to “WHERE THERE IS A WILL, WAY CAN BE CRAFTED.”

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring female professionals?

First and foremost, believing in oneself and having confidence in one’s abilities is crucial. It is important not to let anyone else’s doubts or biases hold one back. Second, building a supportive network is also essential. Mentors, sponsors, peers, and even friends and family members who believe in one’s abilities and encourage and support one’s career aspirations can provide an excellent support system. Third, investing in oneself by continuously learning, growing, and developing skills and knowledge is one of the essential needs of today. This can be achieved by taking courses, attending conferences, reading books, and seeking opportunities to expand one’s expertise and network. Fourth, don’t take yourself for granted; advocating for oneself and speaking up for accomplishments are crucial to ensure recognition and opportunities. Finally, being resilient and staying focused while learning from mistakes, adapting, and continuously pushing toward goals is essential. To conclude, I would share what I truly believe: “Stay unique! Never be afraid to trust your voice.”

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