What is your true north in life? How will your inner wisdom get us there? Today, Churni Bhattacharya, the Chief Application Officer at AssetMark, graces us with her wisdom in this special episode. You might want to get a pen and paper because you need to take notes to gain insights for your personal and professional development. Buckle your seat and tune in to this episode today!
During my chat with Churni, we discussed:
- Her amazing career history and how she got to where she is today
- Her thoughts on ambition and success and how leaning into love and passion has been more of her true north in life and work
- How we can let go of the need to control the outcome of our careers
- Questions we can ask ourselves to ensure that we are tapping into our wisdom, having fun, and experiencing joy
- How we can reframe perceived failures into learnings. Churni even mentions that the failures have been more interesting in her life, not all of her successes.
- How our definitions of success can change throughout our life
- How we can have a voice at the table
- And so much more!
Listen to the podcast here
Our Inner Wisdom: Your Guide Towards Personal And Professional Growth With Churni Bhattacharya
I’m excited for you all to read this. I first met my guest, Churni Bhattacharya, through longtime friends in the investment industry, Karri and John. Karri met up with Churni at a company event. They work at the same organization. Karri told me that she had an amazing conversation with Churni that touched her heart, and she had to be on Brave Woman at Work. Karri, thank you so much for taking the time to introduce me to Churni because you are right. She was a joy and a blessing to have on the show.
This particular show is special because there is so much wisdom packed into this hour. I plan to go back and take some notes for my own personal and professional development. As you may know, it is one thing to be in something. I am in the conversation with Churni, and it is happening in real-time, but it is happening fast. We are in that conversation. I’m not in full absorption mode.
It’s another to go back and absorb the content as a student. That is what I will be as I go back to my own show with Churni to learn some more. She was generous with sharing her learnings and insights on what has led to her having a fulfilling career and life. I am pumped for you to learn this one as it relates to every working woman out there. Hang with me and Churni, until the end.
During my chat with Churni, we discussed her amazing career history and how she got to where she is now. Her thoughts on ambition and success, how leaning into love and passion has been more of her true north in life and work, how we can let go of the need for controlling the outcome of our careers, questions we can ask ourselves to ensure that we are tapping into our wisdom, having fun and experiencing joy, and how we can reframe perceived failures into learnings.
Churni even mentions that those failures have been more interesting to her in her life, not all of her successes. It has been in the failures. That is where the gold and the real learning are. How our definitions of success can change throughout the course of our life, which was shocking to me. Everything for me has always been one definition of success. Maybe not. Maybe now, as I’m in mid-career, it is different than when in my earlier career as I was and as I proceed towards the later part of my career. Finally, how can we have a voice at the table? There is so much more packed in there.
Here is more about Churni. She serves as the Chief Application Officer at AssetMark Incorporated. She has extensive experience in technology transformation, focusing on vision, strategy, roadmap, and implementation to enable best-of-class customer experience and measurable success. She has a proven track record of transforming the legacy landscape into next-generation SaaS platforms, transformational change, leadership building, high-performing teams, and delivering outstanding results.
She has worked in financial services for most of her career, focusing on capital markets, commercial banking, mortgage banking, insurance, and wealth management. In doing so, partnering with C-level executives to define and deliver on technology roadmaps. Prior to joining AssetMark, she was the VP of Business Technology Partner for Deposits at First Republic Bank. In that role, she worked as the Divisional CIO, which is the Chief Information Officer, providing end-to-end technology services and experiences for the largest business of the bank.
Prior to the First Republic, she served as the Director of Technology and PMO for the small business care group at Intuit. She has also worked at Accenture, JMN Consulting, and Ernst & Young. She led a technology strategy initiative for many different Fortune 500 financial services companies. She has delivered numerous large technical implementations. Interestingly enough, she started her career as a software engineer at Citibank in Tokyo. Churni has an MS in Computer Science from Hoon University and a BS in Physics from Jadavpur University.
Before we get started, if you are enjoying Brave Women at Work, as I always say, please make sure to leave a rating and review and Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you have already left a rating and review, I thank you so much. Your support of the show not only means the world to me. It helps the show get visibility, gain traction, and continue to grow. Thank you so much.
If you haven’t joined me and some amazing powerhouse women in the Brave Women at Work private Facebook community, join us. We chat between the show over there about our career wins and struggles. I share articles and other things I don’t share on the show. Get on over there, and we love to have you. Let’s welcome Churni to the show.
Churni, welcome to the show. How are you?
Thank you so much. I’m excited to talk to you, and I’m doing well.
I always start and tell everyone I love women’s stories. That is why I do what I do. I would love to hear it because I know you have an interesting backstory. Tell us about that and how you have gotten to where you are now.
I will try to keep it short. I grew up in India in a privileged family. We were not privileged based on money, but we were privileged based on our intellectual gifts. I have 13 or 14 PhDs in my house with my grandparents, uncles, aunts, parents, and cousins. It is an education-oriented family. It is a high privilege to be born into that family.
When I was in high school, I wanted to be a professor of Physics. I went and did Physics and undergraduate. When I went to do my postgraduate, I wanted to do Computer Science. I wanted to be a professor of Computer Science, but that quite didn’t happen because I joined a consulting company and became more in the computer science consulting profession.
That took me to Japan. I was in Japan for several years. I worked at Citibank in Japan, learning the financial services business by reading programs because I was a nerd and a techie, completely a computer engineer at that time. I have no idea about the financial services business. I realized the best way of learning is by reading code because your code is not lying. If it works, that means you know how exactly the business works.
My work got me to New York. I moved to New York in a similar role I was doing, but at a much larger scale. I was doing more product management roles for global derivatives for Citibank. I got in touch with the consulting management company. Somebody suggested that what I do is more suited for that. I wasn’t sure about that. I didn’t even know anything about management consulting. I always thought management consulting was for MBAs and not for engineers.
I went and had a chat. I fell in love with consulting. I thought, “I would retire as a consultant.” I loved problem-solving, going from client to client, and figuring out how to make an impact. That consulting job brought me from New York to San Francisco. I stayed there, and my son was born. That was when I realized that getting on a plane every Monday and coming home on Thursday was not a viable option anymore.
I changed my career. I joined a software company called Intuit. I love working at Intuit. I left and joined an awesome company, First Republic Bank. With our financial services crisis, the bank got acquired by JP Morgan. I enjoyed my time. Several years ago, I moved to another company, AssetMark. That is where I am now.
I have to ask you, as an aside, did you teach yourself to read code? You used some big words in there, like code and derivatives. Did that come naturally to you? Did you teach yourself to do that?
As a computer engineer, that is what you do. You are a programmer. You live in the world of coding. I had no idea about what derivatives trading meant. The best way I thought to learn how to price an option, instead of reading a book, I chose to read my program, and that taught me.
You don’t read that every day. Everybody, Churni can help you how to read code. One more thing for fun. I know that you are much higher level in your career and strategic in nature, but do you still look at code?
Unfortunately, I don’t. In one of the jobs, when I was promoted to a manager role, my boss came and said, “If I catch you looking in code, I will fire you because that is not your job. Your job is to train people to get there, not doing it yourself.” that forced me to think about things differently, be more of a player-coach and how I can nurture talent. That was an awesome thing.
I don’t get into that level of detail anymore. However, I’m proud that my son did a Python course at his school. He was stuck. I said, “I still remember how to do that. Why don’t I look at your code and debug?” I was proud to be able to debug his Python code, where I knew nothing about the language. That is the thing when you love and have passion for something. I had a passion for computer science. It doesn’t matter which language. You still understand the fundamentals. You can always retain that while the technology changes.
It was a pleasure to get to know you. One of the things when we first met, your career did not follow a straight line. You have talked about India, New York, and being in Asia. You have been all over the place. Are you in California now?
That is right.
You have been all over the world. I wanted to ask you how we can trust ourselves to a higher path or understand our intuition. You have this beautiful thing I picked up right away. You have trusted your life and career that it is not always going to follow a straight line. How did you get that? How did you trust? You went with the flow, and it has been a beautiful unfolding for you.
When I look back on my life, what I feel is not what drives me. What was not the most important driving force? It was ambition. When you get focused on ambition, you want to chart a straight line because you want to plan it out. You go to college, and you say, “I have been to college. I want to go to Wall Street, and I want to do this particular job. From there, I will get promoted by this time. I will find this most amazing man. I will get married, have kids, and be in this place.” We try to map it out, but that is driven by ambition.
When I look back on my life, I feel that my life has been driven and is still being driven by two main things, which are love and passion. It is a love and passion for what I do and a love for human beings. I am in San Francisco because I fell in love with a man. I never thought about that. When I was in Japan, I got married to a guy. That is how I ended up in Japan, and I moved to New York. Sadly, we had to part ways.Love and passion are what drives Churni Bhattacharya's life. Click To Tweet
I came to San Francisco. I never thought I would stay here for a long time. That happened because of love. I’m in my job now. For several days, I have been operating with 3 to 4 hours of sleep because we are doing some big implementations. In my role, I’m responsible for that. I’m with my team being there, troubleshooting, or however I can help. I can do that because I have a passion for what I do.
That is the difference. I never wanted to manage a straight line. I manage my passion. I went with my gut. That is the third thing I will include there beyond love and passion. When you start your life, that is all you know, love and passion. When you get more experience, you learn to trust your intuition. When I look at successful leaders in any industry, the big difference between an extraordinary leader and a mediocre leader is the ones who can trust their guts. That is something nobody teaches us how to do. That is also another thing that has helped me tremendously in my life.The big difference between extraordinary and mediocre leaders is the ones who can trust their guts. Click To Tweet
Everybody is taking notes at home. Love and passion are different. You talk about love, relationships, and having relationships. That is important. Brené Brown talks about how it is about connection for humans. We are not meant to be on our own islands. That is the first piece. You are talking about passion for your career and what you do. Three hours of sleep a night, I give you kudos, but also, I hope you are taking care of yourself. What was the third thing you mentioned?
That is a beautiful recipe for leadership. One of the other things you said I wanted to ask you about is the need for control. I don’t think you need control when you use that recipe. What do you think about that?
Control is a thing where we try to control everything around us. Our human race had a jolt in 2020 when we faced COVID. That is when we all woke up and realized that what we thought we could control was not in our power or control. COVID was a blessing in disguise for us because it woke us up to make us aware of what truly matters.
Control is interesting because many times, we try to control, which doesn’t matter. We try to control certain outcomes where we do not have any. What I tell myself is, “At the end of the day, I want to go to bed feeling that I have done my best.” That is more important to me than controlling the outcome. That is what I tell my son. I said, “Did you do your best every single day? I don’t care whether you get an A, B, or C, but the most important thing is you do your best, and you have fun doing it. I focus on that more than anything else. Did I do my best? Did I have fun? At my level, it is also creating an environment where everybody in my realm can do their best and can have fun.
I want to come back to, “Did I do my best? Did I have fun?” You are giving many truth bombs and wisdom. Thank you for being open and honest during this conversation. I will give you a real example. I can’t use the exact because I’m in a corporate job like you are, but I have a project. It has not gone well. It is going south in a hurry.
We have done so much preparation. It has been stressful. I don’t want to say it is a failure, but it has been a rough go of it. Maybe we will put it in the failure camp. How do you reconcile? Let’s say you have a failure. You have still done your best and everything you can. You are like, “I did my best. I had fun while I was doing it, but it was not a great outcome.” How do you reconcile those two?
It is a system implementation. It is rough. One thing I always tell people around me is, “Will people remember that several months from now, when we stabilize every single thing, and things go on perfectly? Would I worry more about that? Would I worry that there is a problem now?” It is always about what outcome we are leading to.
Many times, when you go through that, it is hard to stay focused on the true north. When you think about the true north, the true north is what we want to do. There are certain outcomes we planned for, but the true north is how do you get there? You may not get there over the weekend. It may take you a little longer, but how do you stay focused on that? While you do that and where you go through the journey, it is extremely painful to get through that journey. When you get to that point that, “I have reached where we were supposed to, and we have attained our objective,” you can sit back and say, “That was quite an interesting learning experience.”
I never look at things as failures. I look at situations as learning experiences. I cherish my learning experiences way more than my success. If you ask me about the success or highlights of my career now, the answer I will give you now would be vastly different from the answer I would have given you several years ago because the definition of success changes with our life and maturity.
For example, I may have done a perfect implementation, but it burned out my entire team. When I did that, I would possibly have said, “That was a successful implementation.” When I look back and say, “I achieved it but at the cost of what?” The definition of success changes because we think about things differently. I would rather have failures because those are my learning experiences. I know what not to do going forward. That is where I look back more on my life and say, “Did I mess up? What did I learn so I corrected myself and not look back and do the same thing?”
I had never heard someone say that the definition of success changes throughout our life. When you said it, I was like, “No kidding, because that makes sense.” That resonated in my bones. Is that something that you always knew? I will throw myself in the many women category. You train that success equals leadership, success equals getting that bigger job, success equals having a family, and success equals having the house. You are saying maybe not as you go through your life. Where did you learn that? That is fascinating.
When you’re talking to me about this, that makes me think about it. It is from my grandfather. My mother’s father was the most influential person in my life. He was a phenomenal educationist in India. He was a vice chancellor of the universities, and he became the Education Minister of India with Prime Minister Gandhi and later the petroleum minister.
One day, he went to Ms. Gandhi and said, “I have done everything you asked me to do. I needed to pursue my spiritual life.” He left and joined Ashram, and he lived there for several years. His quest became different. I have seen him when he was a minister. I was little when he was a minister, but I have seen him go through his spiritual journey. That shaped me in ways I didn’t even understand. What true success looks like or defined by how society defines success was never important. I had to define it for myself.
You had said when we were prepping, “You cannot manage your success.” We are going to put somewhere attributed to you because that is interesting. In the US, and you have been here for many years, we are taught to manage our success. This is Ambition 101 Central. It is interesting that you are saying the exact opposite. It almost feels like life flows through you. Otherwise, it feels like you are strangled, held, or over.
I attribute it to when I was first learning how to drive a car. God bless my parents’ journey. My parents were driver’s ed instructors. Even though they were Driver’s Ed instructors, you would think, “Your parents were Driver’s Ed teachers. You learned how to drive quickly, 15 or 16 years old, as soon as you could.” No, because I held onto the wheel like it was a desk grip. I was overholding, overcorrecting, and overmanaging. It makes me think of that. You can’t hold too tight to success or your career.
Many times, we get focused on the destination and forget about the journey. I was thinking about it like a road trip. You have to get to a point like two hours, you are driving like crazy, and you don’t care about it. Many times, I think about my life as a road trip. I would rather enjoy the journey as opposed to where I’m going to head when I reach my destination.
I want to take my time to appreciate the beautiful sky and when I’m stopping. I’m enjoying that beautiful lake on my drive, this little town, having coffee, and talking to somebody I never thought I would ever meet. I feel my journey is a lot more interesting, enjoyable, and nourishing than getting to a destination. That is like that. We try to manage our success so much that we forget that the journey is more important than the destination.We try to manage our success so much that we forget that the journey is more important than the destination. Journey's much more interesting, enjoyable, and nourishing than getting to a destination. Click To Tweet
We all do this. We drive in the same place from point A to point B. It is scary because we have driven to point B and have no recollection of ever driving there. You are saying more of a cautionary tale in our life and career that we can do that too. We are gunning for this outcome, result, and ambition of success that we forget about enjoying the conversation you had with our coworker, a beautiful project that came to a conclusion, or other things you could completely miss all of the steps in between.
When you get focused on your destination, you forget gratitude. You forget that it is important to stop and appreciate everything around you, like people who are your core journeymen and taking the same journey with you. How are you taking care of them on not only the skills?
One of the things I have wondered about what you are saying is you have had such beautiful foundational learnings. It has allowed you to maintain your identity and stay true to yourself throughout the career journey you have had. You had the twists, turns, ups, and downs. Have you had to disappoint people? People may think, “She is going to keep on this career trajectory.” You are like, “No, love and passion have taken me over here.” Can you comment that maybe you have had to disappoint people or shock people even to say, “The journey is flowing me this way?”
It has been. People expect certain things like, “Your life is going to be like this.” Your life doesn’t turn out that way. In my entire life, I have possibly disappointed people by making certain choices. When I grew up in India, nobody thought I would show up in Japan, New York, or San Francisco. Not of them were planned or charted. Nobody thought that my first marriage would not work. There are always expectations.
I always felt that the biggest expectation is what I have for myself, not for others. Everybody can have expectations, but that cannot drive me. I cannot be driven by societal expectations or other people. I have to be always true to my own. That is what has driven me throughout my career. Can I tell myself every day I’m true to myself and being as authentic as I can be every single day? Yes, there are times I’m sure I have surprised or disappointed people, but I don’t think I have negatively surprised myself with my choices.
I was having a conversation with this guy I hired. He worked with me in a company before, and I hired him here. We were connecting and seeing how he was doing. He is happy to be here. He said, “Churni, many years ago, you told me if you think and you told me, ‘Doug, you are trying so hard to fit in and behave in a certain way because you think that is expected. I don’t want you to do that, Doug. I want you to be you. I want your fun self. I want you to be authentic and goofy. I want you to show up your true authentic self.” He was saying, “I think about that many times. You told me that several years ago, and I still cannot forget that because that has changed me for who I am.” That is where I feel that being authentic is way more important than trying to manage your identity.
We painted this beautiful image. We are on a journey together. We have talked about driving with a compass. We didn’t plan this, everyone. It is unfolding. It is beautiful. One thing I wanted to ask you is, when you go through this whole process, have you had to say, “How do I also get buy-in at different levels too?” You have had to say, “I’m at this level. I’m going to be authentic to myself. I get my true north, but I still get buy-in.” One of the other things we talked about is having a voice. The underlying question is getting that buy-in and having a voice while still being authentic. Can you give some insight on how you have done that throughout your career?
At the beginning of my career, I was coached that women are typically quiet, and you need to speak up, be visible, show up, and do this. I realized that I was playing a man’s game. I was almost following something which is not me. That is how it is expected. It is a woman competing with a man. Many times, you hear that women are competing with men. You are trying to do this. You go out after work. You drink more than them, and you do this and that. Those are all perceptions.
The biggest learning in my life came after my son was born. Until that time, I realized the power I was aspiring for was masculine. Many times, you think of power as masculine. You do this and control that. Anytime you think about it, be ruthless and decisive. There is a mental image we create about power. That is not always healthy, and it is masculine. Many times, women struggle to get into that. It changes us fundamentally when we try to adopt that mental model.
After my son was born, I realized that the power truly in me is the deep feminine power. Coming from India has helped me so much in my spiritual grounding. There is this thing called Shakti, which is the feminine power. When I got in touch with that feminine power, that unleashes your authenticity even in way more ways than you can imagine.
Having said that, I will come back to your point of how you create that accountability. The most important thing is to learn to influence. Every one of us has different styles of influence. It is not by shouting, being most vocal and visible. I learned this from one guy who I worked with early in my career. He was an introverted guy. He would be completely quiet throughout the entire meeting. At the end of the meeting, the head of the project would look at him and be like, “Neil, do you have anything to say?” He would say for 30 seconds what he felt. That was a gem. He didn’t need to talk for one full hour. He listened and said, “Here it is.” It is in 30 seconds. That was more impactful than anything else.
That made me think that being the loudest voice or the smartest person in the room is not it. It is all about your power of influence and creating impact. How we create impact and influence is first. I do that based on building credibility and saying, “Let me show you how to deliver results and let’s talk that you have seen me deliver results. Let me tell you how we should do it differently.” It comes from a place of feminine strength and power where I don’t need to scream and yell. I will influence you to look at it my way.
You said it was unique or individual how to use Shakti or power. Do you have any thoughts about how you found your unique way of influencing versus maybe another woman’s? Any thoughts on how women can find their unique way to leverage their power and influence?
I was having the midyear review with one of my team members. What I was telling him was, “Focus on your strengths, not your weakness.” Many times, we women fall into the trap of focusing on weakness. We constantly focus on, “I’m bad at this. I need to improve on this.” In that process, we let go of our strength.
Many times, I talk about like thinking about it as a boxing match. There are some table stakes. You have to have the stamina to be with the entire thing. If you have an awesome right hook, focus on that because you need to connect that right hook once as opposed to you having a weak left jab. Forget about that. Nobody cares. You focus on your strength and the table stake for the game you are playing. That is where you will figure out your power and how you can influence.You focus on your strength and the table stakes for the game you play. That is where you will figure out your power and how you can influence. Click To Tweet
If your strength is building a team, that is your key. You figure out how you build the team and bring people along in the journey. If your strength is more as an individual contributor, you are the sharpest mind. Figure out how you are going to come up with the most innovative idea and present it in the right way. Each of us has unique strings. That is where we need to focus on. Many times, we go through all this leadership training. It is very vanilla. It all talked about the same thing. It is one size does not fit all. We fall down because you cannot all say, “Learn to communicate.” We all have our strengths. We need to focus on that as opposed to how to focus on our weaknesses.
We have talked on the show about StrengthsFinder and other assessments, but you can also tap into yourself, like intuition or people that love and are around you, friends, and your family. You say, “Describe me right back to me. I’m doing this exercise to find my strengths.” You are going to be amazed by people, and there will be common threads saying, “You are an excellent listener. You ask great questions.” Things that you may not even know that you do. You automatically do without even thinking.
My biggest critique and coach is my son because many times, I go and tell him to do my performance evaluation. I said, “Tell me about Mommy in five words. How do you describe Mommy in five words?” That is more insightful than you know. Even when I think about innovation, I have a conversation with my son. If I can make sense to my son, I’m on the right path. We sometimes get constrained. We think only in a certain way. I only have to talk to certain people or my higher-ups. They are giving me their feedback. We forget that it is not how we are seen or how our authentic self is all the time. Look for those connections, feedback, and unusual things.
Children are smart and intuitive, but you have to be able to explain it clearly to a child. You are not talking to your boss or a colleague in your field. If you can explain it to them, and they are like, “I get that concept,” I agree that you are speaking to the masses, and you have a clear message.
For guys not in my field, but many times I bounced ideas off of him. It’s like, “Does it make sense what I’m saying?” If he says, “I didn’t understand,” I know I have to change my message.
We use all of our spouses and partners. They are along for the ride. This is part of the process. They are our internal cabinet and board of directors. We have to bounce ideas as female leaders. I wanted to ask you. We talked about true north and passion. For you, it is intertwined. Maybe you have never had this, but let me ask, have you ever fallen off the true north or fallen off passion? How have you gotten back on the horse and said, “I’m back on my true north?”
I wouldn’t have fallen off. I made compromises. At a particular time, I thought I wanted to go into a startup. I was exploring options of going into a startup. At that time, my husband’s health was not good, and I had a young boy. I did that mental calculation. I was like, “Is this the right time for me to follow my passion and go into a startup? I’m taking a risk that is high that it may be detrimental to my family.” At that time, I did not fall off my path, but I changed it. I said, “What is most important to me at this point? If my family’s well-being is more important, I’m going to happily make certain compromises. When the time is right, I will go back.”
You made the tough choices you had to make at that time in your life, which is instructive for us.
You make a choice, but if you are not fully bought in, it doesn’t work. What I mean by that is if I did not lovingly make my family my highest priority, it wouldn’t have worked. I would have always been resentful. Nothing would have worked professionally or personally. That time, I had to have that honest conversation. I said, “Lovingly, I’m making my family my highest priority.” That is when I realized that no matter what, my family is my highest priority. Who am I kidding? I am working because of my family. Well-being is the most important thing for me. I will find other ways of pursuing my passion, but it cannot be in conflict with my family.When you make a choice but not fully bought in, it doesn't work. Click To Tweet
Have you ever had a situation that you couldn’t lovingly make that choice, where one was in conflict with one another?
When I think back, I cannot immediately think about a situation because I do mental prioritization. I don’t know whether I shared this with you. This is an interesting image that I say to women especially, “We juggle a whole lot of balls all the time, but not all balls are equal. Most of the balls we juggle are rubber balls. If you drop them, nothing will happen. You can pick them up.”
“We always have a few, maybe 2 to 3 crystal balls, and you have to hold onto them with all your power. Do not lose sight of them. Focus on those crystal balls. If your rubber balls drop, pick them up. You will always juggle 20 to 25 balls back.” That is what we do as women, but they are not equal. Many times, I step back and tell myself, “Let me reorient myself. What are my three crystal balls?” Those exercises always help me stay grounded.
If anyone is taking notes, the crystal ball question is, “What are the three crystal balls I’m holding?” We can’t let those drop, or they will crash to the ground. It could rip up the fabric of our life and career versus the ones that bounce. You are like, okay, “It has bounced into the corner. I will pick it up.” It is a big lesson for me there. I’m taking the soak on that one in.
You are in a C-Suite position. I work with women of all levels, whether they are a manager, directors, VP, executives, or C-Suite. I’m wondering if, for women that do want to get to the level that you are at, because you have been in all of them. Do you find that there’s a difference for women between the levels of management and leadership? I was wondering how we navigate them. If you say, “The stakes are truly higher because I have been at all of them,” how do we get through that so we can rise to the top? We need more women like you in the top levels and echelons of leadership.
Stakes will always get higher. What happens is that at every level, the most important thing that happens is your realm of influence increases. The most important thing to understand is that your realm of influence is increased. How are you going to adjust to that? You cannot do the same thing you did as a director when you became a VP. When you are ready to take on the larger realm of influence, automatically, you will go to the next level.
The most interesting thing to keep in mind is that you are solving for the outcome, not the effort. You are solving for managing your influence and for a larger realm. That is how you change and grow. You are not growing yourself. You are making sure your entire realm of influence is growing with you. That is how you progress in your life and career. I focus more on that than what the title means.
It is the sphere of influence managing it appropriately as it grows and changes. I’m learning so much from you, Churni. I’m going to learn with this question because I’m excited for you to comment. What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work?
One thing I learned much later in my life, and I wish I had learned it earlier, is how to say no. I felt that my job was to work hard and help everybody around me. I didn’t realize that saying no is not a bad thing. Saying no is not letting people down, but saying no is important. That lesson I wish women learn early in their life. You are not going to say no randomly, but when the time comes, you have to say no to enable yourself and protect your team. That is a hard lesson to learn, and that is empowering. That is the first thing I would say, and it goes hand in hand with the next thing I will talk about. It is setting your boundaries.
Women have to deal with so much with work, life, and many different things. We play many roles. In a way, we always are trying to do our best in every single role as a daughter, sister, mother, spouse, and friend, and at work, we are always playing all these roles. We sometimes do not take the time to set the boundary. When you set the boundary, it is clear for everybody. You are not letting anybody down, but you are setting the boundaries of what you can or cannot do. It not only makes you a lot more peaceful, but it is much clearer.
For example, my mother is in India, and she is aging. There are certain things I can do for her and certain things I cannot. My sister is in London, my family is here, and I have a demanding job. Unless I set boundaries and I’m comfortable with the boundaries, I only keep tending to bring stress into my world and hurt myself. Another thing I wish I learned earlier is how to set boundaries.
I wish we could’ve had this chat several years ago. That is why I’m doing this work journey. We have talked about some beautiful teachings and some things that helped you, but there are many of us that were like, “Maybe I missed those courses and information. I’m coming back around now. I’m getting it now. Better late than never.”
This is such an interesting conversation because when I have these conversations with talented and interesting women like you, Jen, it makes me think about myself in a way I haven’t thought of before. It is more of a privilege and honor for me than you know.
Let’s wrap up by telling anyone who is reading this. I know you have been blessed by Churni’s wisdom and the exercises you can do, and things to think about. How can women connect with you online?
I have a very easy email. It is Churni@Gmail.com. Reach out to me. I love to connect.
Churni, it has been a blessing for me to have you on, hear your story, and learn from you. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you, Jen. It has been my pleasure.
That is a wrap of my discussion with Churni. As Churn said a few times during our conversation, my question spurred her thinking. She was wondering where did she learn some of the deep wisdom that she has used as a guide throughout her career? Here are some questions for you to think about until the next episode.
What are some of the wisdom you have? Where does it come from? What are the stories behind that wisdom? How can you pay it forward with your wisdom to help other women? How can you loosen your grip or grasp on success, ambition, and a certain outcome in your career? How can you learn to trust yourself more? As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts or any other platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up. Trust your own internal wisdom and be brave.
- Churni Bhattacharya – LinkedIn
- AssetMark Incorporated
- Apple Podcasts – Brave Women at Work
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- Facebook – Brave Women at Work
- Google Podcasts – Brave Women at Work
About Churni Bhattacharya
Churni currently serves as the Chief Application Officer at AssetMark Inc. She has extensive experience in technology transformation, focusing on vision, strategy, roadmap and implementation to enable best of class customer experience and measurable success. She has a proven track record of transforming legacy landscape into next-generation SaaS platforms, transformational change leadership, building high performing teams and delivering outstanding results. Churni has worked in Financial Services most of her career, focusing on Capital Markets, Commercial Banking, Mortgage Banking, Insurance and Wealth Management, partnering with C-level executives to define and deliver on technology roadmaps.
Prior to joining AssetMark, Churni was the VP, Business Technology Partner for Deposits at First Republic Bank. In this role, Churni worked as a “Divisional CIO”, providing end-to-end technology services and experiences for the largest business of the bank.
Prior to First Republic Bank, Churni served as the Director of Technology and PMO for the Small Business Care group at Intuit.
Prior to her time at Inuit, Churni spent most of her career in management consulting, working at Accenture, JMN Consulting, Proxicom and Ernst & Young. She led technology strategy initiatives for Fortune 500 financial services companies, as well as delivered numerous large technical implementations. Churni started her career as a software engineer at Citibank Tokyo.
Churni has an MS in Computer Science from Pune University and a BS in Physics from Jadavpur University.