Using My Femininity as a Power: A Conversation with Aditi Valecha

08 March 2018

 

Aditi Valecha’s career path to Senior Global Project Manager at Novo Nordisk was anything but ordinary. She began her professional life as an oral-dental surgeon in India, and later did her master’s in Clinical Research at the Medical University of Southern Carolina in Singapore & Charleston. It was then that Aditi found herself on the path towards pharmaceutical development. Directly after the completion of her studies, Aditi was in a position that allowed her to travel around the world. With influence from her upbringing, it was during this time that she understood from a global perspective the powerful advantage that women bring to professional environments.

Growing up in Delhi, India, Aditi describes the 80s as a time where not many families considered boys and girls equal. She recalls as a child being told by those around her, “fight like a boy.” She would respond, “No. I am a girl. And I will fight like a girl, and I will be better than a boy.” Despite her environment, Aditi was fortunate to be born into a family where women were given respect and where her maternal grandmother was a feminist. In a way, her influence encouraged Aditi to become the outspoken woman she is today. To young Aditi, it didn’t matter if it was a woman, a man, or an animal being wronged, she would always speak up for others, and especially for herself. More often than not, she found herself standing up for more feminine issues, but reflecting upon this, she says, “for me, it is not about being a feminist, it is about human equality; however, in order to ask for equality, one has to be a feminist. And to do this, we need to empower women in general.”

This did not always come without a little kick-back. Aditi remembers a time working at a company in Singapore where an older, male colleague continued to disregard her questions and inputs. Having had enough, she stood up for herself, only to be confronted with, “You need to stop being aggressive, remember you are an Indian woman.” For Aditi, speaking up for what one believes is right can make them subjected to mockery and harsher judgement, “It can get ugly sometimes, other times it leaves you at a loss for words, but this adversity is what makes you stronger. People can go two ways, either run from it, or face it and learn from it.” Choosing to face these challenges, Aditi believes, made her wiser, introspective, and prone to read between the lines.

Today, Aditi works directly with 21 countries where she, throughout the day, must flip between diverse cultural and professional norms. Living and working in several countries throughout her life and career, Aditi has a global understanding and cultural awareness of not only how to best communicate to her different affiliate offices, but also how to navigate effectively and address each culture as a woman in her position. Aditi says, “Not just being female, but a young female, you tend to have to overcompensate.” She wouldn’t say that women necessarily lack respect, but there is a need to prove one’s worth within the first few moments of meeting someone. Conducting oneself a bit differently and adapting adequately for each situation and culture is required. However, Aditi considers the femininity of women as a power source, rather than a hindrance to accomplishing her goals. She believes it is about a balance of being soft, seeing things from a different perspective, and being assertive, but not harsh—that is the most powerful combination. Aditi has learned how to use these skills tactfully in her approach with each team she works with.

As a woman working globally, Aditi believes it is essential to know oneself and understand the feminine edge all women possess. “With depth and clarity, know what you want, how to achieve it, and assert your goals. Share and discuss more with the people you meet abroad, or your colleagues in your local office. If you share, you might inspire others to improve their own career.” Aditi advises to not become petty and competitive with others, and that the only competition one has is with oneself. “If something doesn’t quite work out for you, it just wasn’t your time. Maintain a healthy balance between self-competiveness and patience—work hard to seek out your goals and enjoy the ride.” And most importantly, she emphasizes the value of knowing and understanding from within that one’s true worth should never be measured by human comparison, cultural, gender, age, or any other factors. Mutual respect is the foundation that is born out of this knowledge. For any healthy and productive work environment to exist, it is about embracing this fundamental truth and understanding one’s social setting, so that together they can thrive and accomplish exceptional things.

The greatest leaders have nothing to do with the question of gender, they are those who have the mind of service to others and are best suited for the job. For women in business around the world, there is still a long way to go, but Aditi believes that she has found, at Novo Nordisk, the values that resonate very much with what she personally believes in terms of respect, equality, ownership, and having a patient centric mindset approach at all times.