Piyali Mitra

Piyali Mitra is the Pods Programme Lead at Barclays.

Piyali joined Barclays in 2016 and is currently responsible for enabling cross-functional collaboration and accelerated delivery for the bank’s group wide growth initiatives.

Piyali’s brand is complex problem solving, backed by thorough analysis, strategic thinking and a client/shareholder mindset. An influencer, mentor and a keen collaborator, she is comfortable challenging the status quo to deliver the right outcome. Piyali is an advocate for nurturing diversity of thought and experience at the work place. She believes any business requires a balanced workforce that accurately represents the society which they serve, in order to build the solutions their customers truly need.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I grew up in Mumbai, India, as the youngest of four daughters. I am a qualified Chartered Accountant, and have worked across three continents in Investment Banking, Corporate Finance, and delivering complex Transformational Programmes for global banks. Currently, I am a Managing Director within Group Technology at Barclays, leading on a key strategic priority for the Group COO bringing cross-functional teams together and enabling delivery of our growth initiatives.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The only thing I planned for in my career is change! Growing up in Mumbai, which is famous for Bollywood movies, I always wanted to do something in the creative industry – following in the footsteps of my grandfather, a successful Hindi film producer and director of his time. That idea changed very early, when in college numbers, accounting and financial management fascinated me. Since then I qualified as an accountant and decided I wanted to be an Investment Banker closing multi-million dollar deals – and as luck would have it, I joined a large US bank in Mumbai and within a year transferred to Wall Street – something I had never dreamt of, let alone plan! I’ve not looked back since then, only embracing change and the opportunities and challenges it brings

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Absolutely – I have faced challenges. The mantra that gets me through challenges has been around my mind-set of embracing it – knowing that there is something to learn, and something to take away from a tricky or difficult situation has been instrumental in allowing me to face the challenge. Analysing the why and the what, and becoming aware and tackling the issue at hand rather than ignoring it. To be more specific – about five years ago – I made a wrong career move. Being true to myself, understanding why that role and organisation was not right for me and being able to be honest and have those discussions with a number of stakeholders, allowed me to get out of the role, introspect and truly understand in what context I will flourish and then target specific opportunities.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement has been my ability to successfully span Front Office, Finance Restructuring, and Operations roles. I have always strived to become an SME and gain deep knowledge, whilst also maintaining a broader perspective by doing different roles that enable me to look at the same circumstances, problems and think about solutions from a variety of lenses. Also adopting an infinite learning mind-set has allowed me to be successful in these varied roles and not feel like an imposter (most of time).

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Believing in myself. Period. If you don’t believe in yourself how will someone else? And, of course I do have doubts time and again, but I use it to identify and further harness any weak spots to become better and play my A game!

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Your career is a marathon not a sprint. Enjoy the small achievements along the way, there will be short-term setbacks but it’s not game over, so keep your chin up, and keep your eye on the end goal.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I do think there is an unconscious bias that exists for any form of diversity. One way to deal with this is to ensure both managers and colleagues are clear on what they bring to the table, what expectations they set around work life balance and how they will deliver the work. There are many unsaid things, which then leads to expectation mismatch – and clear communication can solve this easily.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I think men have to take part in diversity conversations and supporting the progress of women. It’s not a token or an allowance women are looking for, and it’s not just for women to bring other women up. For any company to truly support diversity of all kinds, they need to believe in the why – and that why needs to be a business imperative that the senior management truly believe in. For example, diversity is good for business as it mirrors the societies we serve. They need to articulate this “why” clearly – and promote women who are competent to prominent roles – and walk the talk.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I enjoy Azeem Azhar’ Exponential View podcast, I also enjoy HBR Ideacast podcast and Thrive Global podcast by Arianna Huffington. In terms of Books – Start with Why by Simon Sinek and How Women Rise by Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesin are pretty good reads.

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