By Tina Garg
Participant in the Fortune/State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Program and Founder and CEO of Pink Lemonade Communications
What could possibly be more satisfying than being hand-picked from among hundreds of candidates, to be transported to one of the most dynamic organizations in the world’s biggest superpower, only to do more of what you love? Precious little! That’s why when the U.S. Embassy wrote in, informing me I’d been chosen for Fortune/State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership Program, I was understandably ecstatic! That I’d even been considered and selected from scores of others the world over was in itself a great honor.
The idea behind the program is to bring together the world’s most powerful women leaders and emerging women entrepreneurs from across the globe. The process is simple enough. First, the mentees define critical areas of their business. Fortune then identifies and pairs the mentees with the right mentor for the 4-week long program. The State Department supports this with training and sets up meetings with leading senators as well as business leaders.
In my opinion, such mentoring programs open up avenues for people to learn from diverse perspectives and exchange valuable insights with each other. With companies embracing a ‘local’ way of doing business this is more critical than ever before.
My experience so far with Airbnb has been absolutely phenomenal. It is a rare gift to be given insight into the organizational culture. And of course this program has strengthened my urge to give back. It is my belief that as we progress in the workplace, we must learn to pay it forward. When you empower one woman, you plant the ‘giving’ gene in her DNA. That’s the simple truth and the profound beauty of working with women: we multiply everything we’re given! It is precisely for this reason that such programs are of vital importance – they stretch your scale globally and enable you to have a better-rounded, higher view of the world, which enables you to give back more. In this sense my Airbnb mentors, Belinda Johnson and Varsha Rao have been a treasure-trove, giving the gift of time and expertise from their global organization to my smaller one. I am grateful and enthused by this invigorating exchange of ideas, thoughts, and material, that has enabled learning on an unprecedented scale.
At Airbnb, one of the happy realizations has been seeing so many women at work. I’m impressed that everyone seems so confident and strong and sure of their work.
During my first week here, for instance, I had the opportunity of speaking at ‘Women@’, which was launched with a wonderful initiative of donating supplies to #HappyPeriod. It set the tone for the ethic of women supporting each other, both at work and outside of it. It was interesting to see some men attending the talk as well, and I was pleasantly surprised when a few came up to me after the session saying they enjoyed it thoroughly! This just reinforced my belief that though we are working on other sides of the globe – many of us share the same challenges and opportunities.
Throughout my mentorship, I have had multiple meetings with internal experts and roundtables with internal and external teams. And the learning has been so tremendous! One of the biggest eye openers at Airbnb has been seeing the way the founders trust their team with information. Once you put your trust in someone and make it known, the onus is upon them not to let you down. I also had a chance to meet with two of the founders, and their humility and insights have touched my heart immensely.
No mention of Airbnb would be complete without mentioning the company’s emphasis on values – which I believe are the glue that binds people together. Just like a strong marriage. In the coming weeks, I will certainly be working with my team to define Pink Lemonade’s values and cascade them organization-wide. The importance of a clear set of values cannot be overstated, because when the going gets tough and when you need to start asking yourself pertinent questions, these values will act as a solid framework to guide you. Sometimes, just listing them down is the simplest but most effective thing you can do, in order to remind people of them. And of course you live them and reward those who love them too.
Finally, I plan to pass on the priceless lessons on leadership from my time here to the immediate next level of leaders at Pink Lemonade. Being alongside Varsha and Belinda – be it in the meetings or during the Week of Good (which was a happy coincidence with my visit), I have learnt that leaders are natural givers. That’s what differentiates you from a manager. This is something I see in most leaders who have spent time with me. Such deep lessons and memories in Rausch will stay with me forever!