'Prioritise the organisation, do what's right irrespective of personal opinion or emotion'
Sarah Gideon, Senior Director and Head Corporate Communications, Flipkart, opens up about her professional journey, her inspiration and more
The pandemic redefined storytelling and the need for communication. Guiding organisations through effective communication strategies during these trying times are skilled corporate communicators. One such leader in this domain is Sarah Gideon, Senior Director and Head Corporate Communications at Flipkart.
With extensive experience in leading global communication campaigns for both enterprise and consumer companies, Sarah’s name is synonymous with dynamic communication strategies, crisis management, thought leadership programs, and communication programs on acquisitions. In a career spanning more than 18 years, she has serviced companies like American Express, 20:20MSL and Infosys.
In this chapter of the Women Achievers Series, Sarah Gideon, Senior Director and Head Corporate Communications, Flipkart, opens up about her professional journey, her inspiration, views on inclusion and diversity, pay gaps and more in a chit chat with exchange4media.
How did you enter the communications industry? How has been your journey ever since?
I entered the communications industry by chance after a short stint at a bank. I started my communication career as a Management Trainee in a tech-PR company called 20:20 MEDIA (now 2020 MSL) and worked there for a few years, after which I joined Infosys as an Assistant Marketing Manager in the communications team and grew in my role there to Head Corporate Communications. Recently, I shifted to Flipkart, and the journey has never been as exciting.
Throughout my career, I have learnt and grown. Communication has evolved significantly, like all other industries, and my career choice has continuously given me opportunities to grow and become a better version of myself.
What has been your biggest inspiration to serve the industry? Who has been your inspiration?
For me, the value that effective communication can bring to businesses is incredible. And being able to help people recognise that value by demonstrating it is incredibly satisfying.
I have learnt from many people, including mentors, bosses, peers and teammates. My inspiration is a combination of the best traits of people I have worked with. On the personal front, my family -small but fiercely loyal and supportive, have always inspired me to strive for what I want, deal with disappointment and failure, and never let successes get to my head.
What have been the key learnings for you in your professional journey in the comms industry?
Every day is an opportunity to learn, and while it is vital to have a goal and work towards it, like all journeys, there will be difficulties and curveballs. It can be very easy to give up, but it’s the nudges you give yourself and your commitment that make all the difference.
2020 was a different year. What major changes and challenges did it bring into your life both professionally and personally?
This year I spent more time with my children than I have in their lifetimes. They are pretty incredible! And while things were crazy, we also got a puppy right before the lockdown. Need I say more?
Between housework, online classes, work commitments, the first half of 2020 was a blur (so much for 2020 perfect vision). But I think people showed their vulnerability and shared their challenges, which helped us all soften up a bit to understand that it was an extraordinary year and will continue to be so for some time.
Working remotely after four months of joining a new company was challenging for me, but getting a routine to balance personal and professional commitments has helped.
How has the industry treated its women in the new normal? What paradigm shift have you noticed in the functioning with respect to women?
I have not observed any particular shift in the way the communication industry has treated women. We have always had a good ratio of men to women in the industry.
I would like to believe that women have a better understanding of what it takes to run a household and work over the last year, therefore enhancing compassion - but it may be idealistic.
Personally, for me, my workplace has been committed to overall employee health and wellbeing, both for men and women. We’ve invested in significant employee engagement (virtually) and emphasised providing avenues for employees to learn and look after their physical and emotional health.
Has there been any instance of gender bias in your journey? Is the pay gap a major concern for the industry?
I have fortunately not had to deal with either of these issues, but I am mindful that this may be a unique situation.
How did you convert a crisis into an opportunity for yourself, professionally?
As communications professionals, we deal with crises day in and day out. I have learnt from numerous experiences, and those learnings have helped me through my career. However, one of my biggest learnings and takeaways is the advice a senior executive gave me once while dealing with a crisis: to always prioritise the organisation and do what is right, irrespective of personal opinion or emotion.
What are the steps that you would take to support other women in the industry and large?
There are many things that we can do to support women in their careers. The biggest is to accept that everyone’s journey is unique and that there is no standard template. That realisation can help support women better by providing a framework of reference that is relevant.
Mentorship and coaching and providing platforms to learn and share experiences are also key elements to enable an environment to grow. And that’s exactly what GWPR India is trying to achieve by being a platform for open exchange of ideas and a space for inspiration, cooperation and support.
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