11: Millennials: Where Passion Meets Drive
Every company realizes the importance and impact of the millennial generation. And every company wants to hire ROCKSTAR millennials. But at the end of the day, is your workplace culture truly one in which millennials can be successful?
Rakhi Voria is a Director at IBM Global Digital Sales | Forbes Contributor | Speaker ~ Passionate about advancing women & millennials in the biz. She manages a team that is responsible for the strategy, implementation, and revenue of the Digital Development Representative sales function globally. These are digitally enabled sellers that drive client engagement, deal progression, and closure of select deals.
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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
The Transcript - Where Passion Meets Drive
Hey, this is Amanda Hammett and this is the millennial Rockstar podcast.
Amanda Hammett: All right, so today's Rockstar is rocky for from Microsoft, and the thing that you're going to notice right off the bat with rocky is that she's incredibly intelligent, articulate, and passionate, and one of the things that Microsoft has done for her is that they've given her a platform in which, which to share her passions, which happened to be women and millennials. So tune in and see what rocky has to share with us today. Hey, this is Amanda Hammett and today's episode of the Millennial Rock Star podcast has a very special guest because this is Rakhi Voria on the rock star podcast. Rocky, welcome to the show.
Rakhi Voria: Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.
Amanda Hammett: Awesome. So Rakhi actually is coming to us from Microsoft's headquarters in Seattle right now, correct?
Rakhi Voria: Correct.
Amanda Hammett: All right, so you're actually at home and not traveling the world like normal.
Rakhi Voria: Yeah, for once.
Amanda Hammett: Wonderful. So Rocky, why don't you tell the audience a little bit about what makes you a rockstar.
Rakhi Voria:Sure. Okay. Well, a little bit about me and my background. I grew up in Colorado, went to Colorado College, and then I went to the University of Oxford for graduate school and it was there actually that I came in contact with a Microsoft recruiter and now I'm working at Microsoft for six years. So I'm like many millennials. I didn't really know exactly what I wanted to do after school. All I knew was that I had an interest in business and what I loved about Microsoft was that it offered so many options and experiences. I mean, there were product spanning across consumer and enterprise. There were offices all over the world, there were jobs in every business function imaginable. And so as someone starting off fresh in the working world, all of those options and experiences were just different possibilities for me, which was really exciting. Um, so I've been at Microsoft, as I said now for six years, I've worked on three different teams.
Rakhi Voria: I started in a licensing role, then I moved to a business development role supporting the financing organization. Um, and today I'm a chief of staff to our corporate vice president of inside sales, which has been a lot of fun because it's an exciting part of the company. It's pretty much a brand new organization. I was one of the first employees two years ago and now we have 1800 people globally across eight different sales center, so it's been an amazing experience for me as someone who's relatively new to the workforce to be part of building something new and having the chance to see all the nuts and bolts of running a business.
Amanda Hammett: That's awesome. That's been a really major build that you guys have done and I've been really impressed kind of watching from the outside what you've done. So on top of everything else that you're doing at Microsoft, you also have some side hustles that you're doing, so why don't you tell us a little bit about that?
Rakhi Voria: Yes. In addition to my day, I'm. The first is I coach here, the women at Microsoft board, which is basically our company wide women's organization here, which is focused around attracting, advancing and retaining women. I'm super passionate about advancing women in business. It's been a common theme throughout my life. I grew up with my single mom. I spent time in India during my undergraduate, um, researching on women's empowerment for my college thesis. I wrote my master's dissertation on Female Employment Policies in China and India. So basically leading women at Microsoft has been a great way for me to continue exercising that passion internally at Microsoft, but it's also given me a really great platform to create connections across different companies to help move the needle for women. So that's the first one. My second side hustle, I guess as I write regular articles for Forbes, I'm, I'm a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. And so as part of that I provide some quotes and expertise on sales and business development topics and I also have the opportunity to write my own articles. So if you look up you'll see that they're primarily focused on actually tips for millennials and for women. And so it's been a lot of fun. I encourage people to read and comment and share.
Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. Absolutely. I actually, I shared one of your latest articles about why more women need to get into sales on my linkedin profile and I had, uh, several young women that I mentor or that I've met throughout the years, reach out to me and say, Hey, can we talk about this? And I'm like, yes we can. So thank you for spring that conversation. That's awesome. So, all right, you walked us through kind of high level your background. So tell us a little bit about what's worked for you throughout your career so far.
Rakhi Voria: I would say that there are probably three specific things that come to mind here. I think number one, one of the first things that's worked for me is I work for a company that doesn't require me to leave my passions at home. You just heard a little bit about what some of those are. It's a advancing women and millennials. It's writing and as you heard, I've found ways to be able to do those things in addition to my day job, both inside and outside of Microsoft. And I've also had managers who have supported these efforts and I think that's something that's really important to millennials because unlike previous generations who wanted work life balance and the separation, millennials actually want work life integration. We want to bring our whole self to work. We want to have personal relationships with our coworkers. We want to share our passions in the workplace.
Rakhi Voria: So I think it's really important for companies to find ways to foster an environment that's really conducive to that. Um, the second thing that I would say is, um, I think what's worked well for me is I haven't been shy to kind of leverage my unique qualities and use them to my advantage when I first entered the workforce. Actually, there were certain people who told me, you know, maybe you should hide your age to gain credibility, um, you know, act like a man because technology is such a male dominated field. And I sort of asked myself why, what's so bad about being younger? What's so bad about being a woman? I mean, I think, in fact, those qualities actually have helped me contribute even more at work. Um, so I, I think that, you know, as a millennial who's relatively new to the workforce, I actually offer a really fresh perspective that allows me to change the business and look at things differently and that's what I've done over the past six years at Microsoft.
Rakhi Voria: In fact, we actually started a cross generation mentoring program which we proactively pair of millennials, what senior leaders for this very reason and we've all heard the statistics that millennials are going to make up 50 percent of the workforce in the next two years. So I think it's about time we start to really understand what are some of the millennials strengths around being well connected and tech savvy and energetic. And then I guess the last thing that I would say that's worked well for me. I think it's all about being really proactive in learning the jobs that I've had. Networking, building my brand. I think in my first year at Microsoft I did probably a hundred different informational meetings with people, so probably one to two meetings with different people every week. And I just wanted to learn more about what do they do on a day to day basis and what's their background and walk me through your career development and not only did I learn from those meetings, but um, it really helped me get a chance to meet with a lot of different people across different parts of the company in the world. And those are relationships that I've definitely leveraged as I've sort of continued in my career path. So I always encourage people that I mentor, um, be really proactive and get out there because it's super easy to stay siloed within your organization. But it's way better for the long run if you kind of take the initiative.
Amanda Hammett: That's great. Well, I can just speak from my experience with you is that you have, you and I have been involved with the same organization that's international and you have leverage that and you are incredibly networked within that organization. And when I first came into it everybody was like, Oh, have you met rocky? And I'm like, I haven't, but I. But your, your reputation preceded you things. So, um, obviously you talked a lot about some things that have worked for you. I would imagine there might have been a bumper to in the road so far these six years in. Tell us about that.
Rakhi Voria: Definitely. Um, you know, I would have to say that I think what hasn't worked for me actually is saying yes to everything. So millennials we're known for seizing opportunities, right? So I would definitely say that I was like that earlier on in my career and I still am. But back then I would say yes to everything. If there was a stretch project and the organization, I would raise my hand for that. Uh, if the team needed volunteers for a special assignment, I will raise my hand for that. So I was just super eager I think, and I wanted to get involved in everything so I could learn as much as I could and be someone who was known to be willing to do anything to help contribute to them. And then I suddenly saw myself getting pulled into everything and I got some really good coaching for my manager at the time, about a year working into Microsoft and he told me, look Rakhi, when you're doing a good job, everybody is gonna want you to help and to be on your team like you've proven yourself now you get to decide what you take on the really strategic about the give get.
Rakhi Voria: And you know, if someone asks you to do something it's okay to first say, what am I going to get out of this? Or at least think through it. Right? So this coaching is something that I am so thankful for it. I think about it even today because you know, he was right. I mean now I'm not, I'm not saying if you're a millennial, 60 days into role, if your manager asks you to do something you should say, what am I going to get out of it? I mean, you definitely need to use your judgment, but I think his principal, right? And I wish I had kind of learned that a little bit earlier because you know, it would help me be a little bit more focused and understand where I was spending my time and put it in the right efforts.
Amanda Hammett: Oh, that is such good advice. I mean, I think that there are some people further along in their careers that could use that advice. So. Fantastic. Alright. So you mentioned a little bit about this particular manager and how he, he saw you potentially struggling a little bit and so he helped you through that. Were there other, any, any other mentors or managers that you've had that have helped you or have done anything in particular that really keeps you engaged and motivated and ready to wake up every day regardless of what country you're in saying, all right, let's, let's move Microsoft forward.
Rakhi Voria: I mean, as it relates to your question around mentors, for me, I've definitely surrounded myself with a really solid set of mentors. I kind of have a board of advisors that I call them, consists of a mix of people. Of course it's my formal manager, but then it's also a set of executives across the company who I look to for career advice or peers that I looked to for on the job advice or some days it's my mom who grew up in a very different world and started her own business or a friend and a completely different industry to provide just a completely new and different perspective. So I can't stress the importance of having all of these people, I guess, in your inner circle to guide, provide counsel as you navigate through some of the stumbling blocks. Um, one thing in particular actually that's been really valuable to me over the past year is having a formal executive coach.
Rakhi Voria: So about a year ago, um, Microsoft invested in me having an external coach. So this is a professional who is trained in coaching. I'm emerging and senior leaders and it's made a pretty impact I'd say on me because my coach has so much experience just helping people negotiate, communicate at the highest level. So, um, you know, since working with her I've been promoted, I've moved into people manager role and I think part of it it's just she's really helped me have the right conversations with my manager in order to make these things happen and you know, it's great to have a variety of mentors in your life that this is actually the first time I've had a formal like external coach and it's been really valuable to have someone with an outside perspective and also the formal training to help me navigate through some of these issues and challenges.
Amanda Hammett: That is fantastic. I have a bunch of questions that I'm just like, oh, which one do I go to first? Okay. So let me, let me circle back for a second before I go to your executive coach. Let me circle back to your board of advisors that you mentioned a few obvious people like your mom and, and, and people like that. Um, but what about the people within your, within Microsoft that are senior leaders, how did you approach them to walk us through what that looked like and how did you put this together?
Rakhi Voria: Yeah, definitely. I mean I would say that I just sort of reached out to people really if there's a funny story that my first boss always likes to tell, he's like rocky's not afraid to ask anybody for time because when I was at Microsoft when my first week I actually ran into our chief marketing officer, like literally physically ran out into each other, walking out of the bathroom, just randomly struck up a conversation. He was extremely kind and welcoming, knowing that it was my first week at the company and at the end of it, you know, he kind of said, well, if you want to chat about anything or need any advice, feel free to reach out any time. And I'm sure that was just sort of like a nice blanket thing that he says to anyone. But I said, well, he offered me his time, so why don't I just reach out to him?
Rakhi Voria: So I did. I sent him a note and I said, you know, thanks so much for the quick chat. I would love to pick your brain. As I'm new to the company. I want to learn a little bit more about how I can make an immediate impact and get your coaching since you've navigated well through your career. Would you mind if I grab 30 minutes of your time? And he said absolutely. Yeah. And I think it's just, it's a funny story because I mean like wide eyed millennial. I didn't even think like, oh, this guy is our chief marketing officer. He's totally out of reach. I just thought, you know, this is someone who's clearly spent some time, I'm investing in others and it sounds like he's open to a conversation. So why not seize the opportunity? And I think that's one of the things that I've just sort of done along the way as I mentioned, being proactive. I mean, um, it, it definitely, I've definitely noticed there are a lot of people at Microsoft who are very willing to give you their time and people outside of Microsoft to all you have to do is ask. And I don't think I've ever been told no to a meeting. So I've really encouraged. A lot of people just don't be afraid. Take the risk, ask them for a meeting if they say no, whatever, they're probably not going to remember you anyways, but at least you tried.
Amanda Hammett: That is such great advice. I that. I love that. I love that. I, I do hear a lot, especially when I'm on college campuses and I'm talking to students about, hey, you know, why don't you set up some informational interviews, you know, as you're, as you're getting going, oh, I don't know. I don't know, and I'm like, you need to this, this will help you. I promise. So I thank you. I'm gonna. Take that, snip it out. Not going to send it to me.
Rakhi Voria: Absolutely.
Amanda Hammett: So tell us a little bit about the culture within. I'm Microsoft, I'm obviously everybody hears all the stories and reads the articles, but tell us a little bit about the culture within Microsoft as a whole, but also I'd like to hear a little bit about the, the interesting culture or subculture that your particular team has.
Rakhi Voria: Definitely think there are a couple of. There are a couple things that probably come to mind here. For me, as I think about Microsoft first, Microsoft is a really great job of reminding me that what we're doing is truly changing the world and that's really important to me and most millennials because we really want to make a difference. There was a recent study by a group called the intelligent group. They focus on youth preferences and it showed that 64 percent of millennials say it's a priority to make the world a better place. So, um, it's definitely something that I thought about is I was exploring company is straight after graduate school and I wanted to work at a company that was changing the world and I saw that Microsoft was technology. So I think it's really important for companies to, to really tie their mission, I guess, to societal contribution and for managers to constantly remind millennials that the work that they're doing actually ties to something that is making a difference.
Rakhi Voria: So that's one of the things I've really enjoyed about Microsoft. I think the other thing I would say is, is really variety that I think has kept me engaged. Um, as I mentioned earlier, I targeted a job at a company like Microsoft because I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do and Microsoft offered a plethora of options and experiences and uh, when I first started here I very quickly threw out the idea of a career ladder and I instead focused on gaining a set of skills and experiences that I think would set me up for the long run. Um, and so as I mentioned, I've been able to differentiate my experiences by having rules and sales and business development and finance and I've sort of almost been able to create kind of like a liberal arts experience for myself here at Microsoft and sort of a portfolio career I guess.
Rakhi Voria: But you know, millennials, a lot of people refer to us as the job hopping generation. And I think just having this type of environment where variety is offered is really important to us because we want to take on new challenges. We sometimes want to take on horizontal challenges but still grow vertically at the same time. And Microsoft has done a great job of kind of allowing me to do that. And it's really interesting because I think as I think about some of the previous generations, a lot of people just sort of chose a career path and they work their way up, but that's not really of interest to most millennials, I'd say. I think we'd want to differentiate our experiences, we want to try new things, develop new skills, and Microsoft has really fostered a culture. I've been able to do all of those things.
Amanda Hammett: That's awesome. So talk a little bit now about your particular team and what you guys have built.
Rakhi Voria: Yeah. So inside sales, as I mentioned, it's a brand new organization at Microsoft. Um, much of our workforce is actually millennial. Much of our workforce is also senior, so we have a pretty diverse mix of people all over the world. Uh, I think what's unique about inside sales actually is that 70 percent of our organization was hired as externally. Um, so we had just an amazing opportunity to really build a culture from scratch by taking all of these experiences from people who have worked at some of the best companies in the industry, bringing them here, taking some talent who have been at Microsoft for a long time and then thinking through like, what do we want to do with all of that and how are we going to build the right culture? And um, fortunately I work for a leader who's really passionate about this topic as well.
Rakhi Voria: And so, um, we spend a lot of time thinking through how are we making inside sales the best place to work and grow. And we have a lot of people related initiatives, many of which I actually lead myself. So I started a group called the people first ambassadors where we have basically different inside sellers and managers all over the world who are representing the voice of inside sales. And like I said, just making it a better place to work and grow by developing different initiatives and plans and programs and offering different perks and experiences. But it's been really amazing because I think I'm,
Rakhi Voria: I think it could have gone one of two ways. Um, you know, you hire all these people and you don't give them the right infrastructure. Support may not pan out as you would have liked, but I've had the chance to go to all eight of our sales centers over the past six to eight months and I can definitely say that the culture is the same everywhere. And I think part of that it's just really intentional about it, which is exciting,
Amanda Hammett: but is that, is very exciting. You know, one of the things that I would love for you to share, and this is, um, for other companies that are looking to build, even if it's not inside sales, another, a new division or they're looking to start their culture over from scratch. One of the things that I really appreciated is that you guys had a major focus on diversity and even when you were told, oh no, that can't be done. You guys didn't take no for an answer. So can you walk us through a little bit of that?
Rakhi Voria: Yes, absolutely. So, um, you know, obviously when you're hiring 1800 people at scale, there are tradeoffs that you used. Supposedly captive diversity was not one of them. For us, it's, it's really important and I think there were challenges definitely along the way. I mean, but our goal was to have 50 diversity within inside sales. Now we're not there 100 percent across the globe, but there actually are places like in Asia where more than 50 percent is email as an example. And Asia in particular is actually a really challenging place to hire talent for tech and that are female. And so we've been really proud of some of the work that we've done and the culture that we foster. But I think part of that is just pushing her to have, have that conversation. I mean, I think there were definitely times, as you said, where people said, well, the talent pool isn't there, and the reality is it is there.
Rakhi Voria: We just have to make more of an effort and there are things that you need to do in order to do that. So specifically for women as an example, we've all heard the statistics that, uh, you know, I think it was by IBM, they did a report a few years ago, they said that women only apply for the job when they meet 100 percent of the qualifications, whereas men apply for the job when they think they meet 60 percent. And so we need to be really thoughtful about the language that we're using in job descriptions. Even for inside sales team. I mean, you know, do we want to use words like Hungary and competitive and, and things like that, or do we want to use kind of a more softer language that my cater to more women. Um, so those are the things that we've had to be really thoughtful about just to widen the pool as much as possible and push our hr teams to lead to this outcome.
Amanda Hammett: That's awesome. I love that story. That's one of my favorite stories because not only did you guys hit enormous numbers and just hiring over a very short amount of time, but you guys did it in a very thoughtful way, which is usually okay. So I, I'm perfectly appreciate that. Um, so for our younger audience members, is there anything that you think made you stand out in the applicant pool back six years ago when you're fresh out of grads? What was it about you that made you a rockstar on, on resume paper?
Rakhi Voria: I think part of it was just demonstrating a track record of success. I mean the reality is most millennials are not going to have the previous experience that employers are looking for. So I think we instead just need to show that our past experience, whatever it may be, whether it was sports, whether it was internships, whatever, that all of those results were actually the same regardless of what the task was at hand, that we were able to demonstrate success, see things through. And I think that's what I did. I mean I had never worked at a major tech company, but I had some great internships across various industries. I performed well academically. I want full rights to school. I mean, I think all of those things kind of collectively, hopefully showed Microsoft that I was someone who was willing to learn who had somewhat of an aptitude to be successful. Um, provided I was given the right training and skills development opportunities. So yeah, that's what I. Fantastic.
Amanda Hammett: So is there anything that you wish other companies knew about hiring millennials? Is there anything that you, you hear complaints about or is there anything you just, you just wish the thing new?
Rakhi Voria: Yeah. You know, I think the first one I would say is don't underestimate the importance of giving some of your younger millennial employees flexibility. Millennials really want flexibility in how, where and when we work. I mean there was actually a really great millennial study that Deloitte put out last year which shows that 75 percent of millennials, they want the ability to work from home or somewhere other than the office and they think that that's where they can unleash more creativity. And the study actually found that in most markets, worklife balance came before career progression when evaluating job opportunities. So we shouldn't underestimate how important a flexible lifestyle is for this generation. I think the other thing that I might add is like, we hear a lot about these whole employee perks and I think that's a really funny topic because people always say all millennials, they want Free Food and candy and bean bags and nap pods.
Rakhi Voria: Otherwise they're not going to be happy. And I think those things are all great, but there's actually no formal data that shows that's enough to retain your millennial employees. Right? And I think it's kind of a generalization that's been driven by movies like the internship and stuff like that. And um, for me, the number one thing that I've seen personally as a millennial and then also through a lot of our millennial workforce here at Microsoft is they want to have differentiated experiences, which I talked about a little bit ago, but I think companies that win with millennials are those that offer experiences. So, um, as an example, the topic of how millennials are approaching business travel has become really prevalent recently. So I'm, you know, I'm definitely one of those people, but in that same deloitte study, actually it said that 78 percent of millennials intentionally carve out personal time during a business trip. I do that myself. I mean, I think in the five continents and 20 countries over the past time that I've been at Microsoft, but um, I'm always looking to turn those business vacations into workstations I guess, because I think it makes my trips more balanced and memorable. Um, so I think those are some, some things that a lot of people probably don't really know about when they think about millennials, but I would encourage people to look at that. Deloitte study actually their whole. Yeah,
Amanda Hammett: that is a great study. That was actually one of my, one of my favorites. Um, so. All right. Is there anything, just one last thing, is there anything that you think that you wish the company did to make it make the hiring process easier for millennials in particular?
Rakhi Voria: here are two things that come to mind for this. The first one was what I mentioned earlier, it's just being more cognizant of the language that's used on job descriptions. Most job descriptions say that you need two to five years of experience, even jobs that are targeted actually toward university and graduate higher. Say this for some reason. I think it's just standard verbiage that's often included, but a lot of people take those job requirements quite literally and they hold themselves back unfortunately because they don't think they'll be considered. And as I mentioned earlier, women in particular have that issue. So you compound, you know, being a woman and being a millennial, that's a whole pool of really great talent that you might miss out on if you're not being thoughtful about the language and the job descriptions. The second thing that I would mention is, um, you know, I would love to see more bigger company is targeting smaller schools actually as they think about university hires.
Rakhi Voria: Unfortunately, a lot of the big companies like the big tech firms, procter and gamble and Mckinsey, et Cetera, they target some of the tier one school. So Basically Ivy Leagues and Great Liberal Arts Colleges including the college that I went to for Undergrad that unfortunately those students don't really get access to some of those top tier companies. And so I, uh, it's a conversation I've even had internally with some of our Microsoft hr teams because I think we needed to be a little bit more open minded and thoughtful about how we're recruiting so that we're not missing out on a great talent pool.
Amanda Hammett: I agree. I could not agree with that more. I love it. I also went to a small liberal arts college. I hear you. I completely hear you. And I have those conversations a lot as well with company. So. Well rocky, this has been fantastic. I mean you are just, I mean I already knew you were a rock star, but now everyone else will get to see that you're a rockstar. So thank you so much for being here and thank you so much for bringing so much knowledge and passion to this interview.
Rakhi Voria: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Amanda Hammett: Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the millennial Rockstar podcast. If you are looking for even more information on millennials and some free resources, visit my website at AmandaHammett.com. The link is below. It's AmandaHammett.com. There you can download a free millennial employee engagement guide that will give you all kinds of tips and tricks on how to keep those millennials engaged on a day to day basis because we all know that millennials who are happy at work are more productive at work.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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