The highly intelligent and skilled Aparna Lal Das is a Global IT Business Relationship Manager at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics who has been recognized as a rising star in her field. She has broken down numerous barriers as a strong and respected women in the field of IT. I first met Aparna in 2021 when she was a participant in my women’s coaching cohort, Learning to Lead You. Aparna is not only an exceptional leader of teams and a collaboration strategist, but she is also a loving and supportive mom and an all around authentically beautiful human being!
We sat down to discuss her journey, her methods, and her advice to female leaders.
Aparna’s brand of leadership is rooted in authenticity and intention. She believes you must bring your most authentic self into every scenario of your life and stop overthinking every decision.
Showing up authentically as a leader is to do what you feel is right and act with intention.
To drop your societal or mental filters that shape who others think you should be and just be conscious in your mind to choose what you want.
“…Being honest, telling the truth, is what really gets people to listen to you… But what I realize is, you can just deliver the same message slightly differently, with more empathy, which is who I am.”
Aparna firmly believes that when you understand why people respond or behave in a certain way, you are better positioned to support them. Most people are afraid to bring forward their true, authentic thoughts and they just agree to whatever is presented.
“But that is the difference between theory and practice.” She says she tries to speak with others, not at them, and help them understand, think through things, and discover the desired outcome.
“For me, making a difference is very, very important… The knowledge I gained from the participating in Learning to Lead You really propelled me to instill empathy in my leadership and to think that every time I interact with someone, I should be conscious of how I’m interacting and understand where they’re coming from.”
As a woman in a largely male-dominated field, Aparna is always being underestimated. The leadership in the IT field is lopsided in favor of men, and it shows in their leadership styles.
When she started her career, Aparna’s desire was to advance more teamwork and collaboration, constantly pushing herself to avoid being written off. She knew respect would be earned by showing her skill and leading authentically from the heart. She’s since developed an environment that advances collaboration, and the people she works with seek her out to talk things through. Over time in IT, she’s had various struggles with overcoming workplace bias but says, “It’s all about understanding your audience” and “being confident in what you know and what you bring to the table.”
Aparna’s philosophy is to give everyone the chance to be heard. “I reach out to every single person individually and …connect at that level. That has been a game-changer for me!” If you understand what motivates your team to do or not do something, you can adapt your approach to stay on track.
She believes leaders can never forget that people are people with egos and emotions. This can be a weakness for your team or a weapon. “Sometimes not everybody knows…how to channel that. So, I think that is my big strength.”
Leading with her heart, as she does, requires a lot of trust in herself. She is a strong proponent of gut feelings. “If something doesn’t feel right in the gut, I don’t ever do it, no matter what it is.”
She recalled a project with a difficult team member whom she knew would eventually cause a problem. She shared her instincts with her boss about what she predicted would happen.
And exactly four months later, it did.
This inner knowing allowed Aparna to be acutely mentally prepared rather than overthrown when she needed to react. She knew exactly how to deal with this “problem” person, how to pacify them. Because Aparna acts with intention and empathy, she could zero in on this person’s insecurities and handle any rising objections delicately.
Aparna strongly believes in the strength of intuition and leveraging it to help her be more prepared to dissipate any potential issues.
Women leaders should be empowered to lean into their gut or intuition, to hear it out. To try and understand what it is trying to say. It may not always be obvious right away, but it should help guide them in their decisions.
This is what inspired Aparna to keep going during a dark time. She remembers having the realization that she did not have to do something just because she was told to do it or because society expected her to do it. But her self-worth was so depleted that she had to build that up before she could act.
She heroically led her two children by example through a difficult marriage. She chose to go back to school and start over. She finally saw herself as she truly was. She was no longer a victim. She could choose her life and how she wanted to live and lead.
She was the only person who could fix what was wrong in her life, and she had the power to do it.
“My kids will never, ever have to deal with the feeling that just because something breaks down that there is no future. There is a NEW, BETTER future. And that’s the biggest lesson that I’ve ever told them. You can rise from any adversity. It’s up to you!”
Aparna thinks women especially need to be reminded of their own capabilities. She emphasizes the importance of carving out time for yourself and, rather than coming up with obstacles, instead tell yourself, “I WANT to do this, I CAN do this, and here’s how I’m going to make it work.”
In the face of life’s challenges, Aparna perseveres by going deep within and finding the strength and fortitude to make her hopes and dreams her living reality. She doesn’t sit back and wait for life to change; SHE prevails and finds a way to make things happen!