Unleash Your Leadership

#24: Confident Leadership with Prashha Dutra - Part 1

August 30, 2023 Priyanka Shinde Season 1 Episode 24
Unleash Your Leadership
#24: Confident Leadership with Prashha Dutra - Part 1
Show Notes Transcript

Get ready for an inspiring episode of Unleash Your Leadership! In Part 1 of this engaging interview, I, Priyanka your host sits down with the remarkable Prashha Dutra, a TEDx speaker, CEO of Believe In Your Brilliance LLC, and a Confidence Coach. Prashha is on a mission to empower women in STEM fields, helping them find their path and confidently achieve their goals within 90 days.

In this episode, Prashha shares her journey from growing up in India, pursuing degrees in chemical and mechanical engineering, and ascending the corporate ladder. She reveals the turning points that led her to create her podcast "Her STEM Story," which showcases the stories of women in STEM, and how this eventually led to her stepping onto the TEDx stage.

Learn about Prashha's transition from her successful corporate career to founding her own business, and the "Believe In Your Brilliance Academy." Discover the importance of confidence, clarity, and consistency in achieving your goals, and how Prashha is guiding women towards realizing their potential and finding success on their own terms.

Tune in to gain insights into confident leadership, the power of caring for others, and the incredible journey of a woman who found her calling in inspiring and guiding others towards their brilliance.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview next week, where Prashha shares more wisdom and practical tips for unleashing your leadership potential.

You can find more about Prashha Dutra 

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Hi everyone. Welcome to another episode of Unleash Your Leadership. I'm really excited about sharing this episode with you. I love doing these episodes because I get a chance to connect to other leaders and bring you their stories. And on this episode, I'm going to be doing just that chatting with a very special guest.

So please welcome Prashha Dutra she's a confidence coach, TEDx speaker, and a CEO of believe in your brilliance. Prashha is on a mission to help stem women find and confidently answer what's next in their careers and accomplish it in the next 90 days. Welcome to the show, Prashha 

Hi Priyanka. Thank you so much for having me.

 Thank you for taking the time. , tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do for the world. 

Yeah, for sure.  I moved to the US about 11 years ago. I grew up in India. I did my bachelor's in  chemical engineering and master's in mechanical engineering.

I worked in the industry for about seven years in manufacturing grew. The, on the corporate ladder just did a lot of different roles. Towards the end my last role was group deputy director for D n I, for the entire company, which was a multinational with 108 plants around the world. And I just stick with the same employer.

But in 2017, I started my podcast called Her Stem Story, a very very cool podcast about collecting stories of women in STEM, which led me to the TEDx stage. And then in 2020 that's what led me to start my own business which eventually morphed into a. Confidence coaching program called Believe In Your Brilliance Academy which is a lot about confidence, clarity, and consistency.

Those are three things that I'd like to cover. Doesn't matter what goals you're facing or what goals you're working towards it's all about believe in your brilliance. If you believe in yourself anything is possible. 

I love that name. Believe in your brilliance.  Amazing  it , feels so simple, but it's such a powerful statement.

, really great name. I'm sure  when you were younger, you didn't think about being here today, so what did you want to become when you were younger? 

, it's funny because I always wanted to become, I always wanted to work in a factory. It's such a weird thing because. My dad and I always watched he made me watch like how it's made and that was a show that  was very new in India and Discovery was just, , I think, I don't even know if there was an actual channel or they had parts of it, , being telecasted on the channel, but he was really passionate about us using television as a means to learn versus, , every other parent was like, don't watch tv.

Don't watch tv. And they were cutting their cable networks and all that stuff happening, but he was like, no, this is how you connect to the world. And I remember watching how it's made ever since I was little.  I was in eighth or ninth grade. And since then I was just obsessed with the show and I just wanted to work in a factory.

It was a very very weird dream of mine. And sometimes what happens, Priyanka, is we forget those dreams. I think, , Steve Jobs said that you can only connect the dots looking backwards. And so  for a very long time. I actually forgot. And through her stem story into the work that I do, I got an opportunity to connect those dots and say, you know what?

That, I remember that, that's a very big memory from my childhood where I remember going on a train ride to Jabalpur where I'm from. My, my parents were from, my dad was from, and I asked my dad like, how does the train work? I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. I couldn't believe this thing was working and taking us to my grandmother's house.

And I just was so excited. And I remember he went to the, to his work and printed out on a dot matrix printer, like actually printed out  an entire,  how a diesel engine works and actually read it. I don't think I understood anything, but I was up all night and it was just such  a really nice full circle for life that I always wanted to do this and I, I'm so happy that I got to stay in the factory, work with operators, meet a lot of people from a lot of places, saw things on fire, like actually on fire.

. Which was pretty cool as well. I remember wearing churas like when I got married and like going to the, going to the factory and working, . So I had a really, really wonderful engineering career and I really always wanted to do that. 

 I  love how your father was really encouraging you, which is great to see, especially, , as a girl child growing up in India,  our parents and the society plays a big part and I love that he was encouraging your curiosity.

And , in some ways I'm sure  that led you to the career that you had in terms of your corporate world . 

Yeah, for sure. A lot of things were defined by that, I think because my mom was the first lady officer in her department. So we grew up in a very confident and very , progressive household.

She was the only mom who was working, , so it was just a different reality for us and it was always encouraged, always everybody. I think three generations in our family have been working women, like whether it's teachers, whether it's,  just going out to work in different fields and so it was a really cool household to grow up in.

And then even, even podcasting. It's funny, and  when I was in third grade, me and my friend had a, had a radio show. Like what we did was we learned how to record tapes. And what we would do is whenever I would go for sleepover, we would act like we're RJs and then we'd have  her sister call in and we'd just run this radio show.

So when I actually found out podcasting,  that child in me was just so excited to actually do it. I've had a blessed, blessed life so far, knock on wood, that I've, I've been able to do a lot of things I wanted to do as a child. . 

That's wonderful. . I , love the RJ story, and , all the pretend play and now you can do it, right?

 I tell her all the time, , can you find that tape? And she's like, we've moved homes, moved cities. , I just wish one day maybe we'll find it. 

 That's the thing about not having phones or digital media is that , you can't really  find those things. I,  totally resonate.

, you mentioned that you started podcasting in 2017 and you were working in the factory . What motivated you to start that podcasting? 

Yeah, so my podcast was called, was called her Some Story and the, and I'm bringing it back. But the reason I started it was I was in a team full of women engineers and suddenly, like one day I realized, wait a minute, we're all women and we're all in this team and we're all from around the world.

So there was someone, someone from China, someone who was African-American, myself, another lady from Lebanon and,  somebody from Ohio. So it was like a really cool United Nations thing. And I thought for me, I don't know why I just thought there's something special about it. I don't know what it is.

I've never looked into any of this stuff before. I didn't know women in stem. I didn't know social media. So I just wrote to my c e O and I just said it. I said, look, there's a team and they're all women. I think you should do something about it. I don't know what you told me. And he is like, okay, why don't you write an article on it?

I'm like, okay. And he is like, well post it on the internal company blog and take a photo. And I said, sure. So I did that and that just stuck with me. So I started reading on it. I started reading Lean in, and I started researching and I realized that it is a very big deal because there are only 14% women engineers in mechanical field.

And they were all mechanical actually. I think one was chemical, but everybody else was mechanical or electrical engineers. So it just, for some reason at that moment, I had this aha, like, wait a minute. They're talking. No matter where I look up women in stem, they're only talking about the gap. They're only talking about the gap.

The gap. The gap, right? Like 21%, 26%, 24%. Everybody just cares about the fact that we have 20% less women. Here I am with the contrasting reality that all my life, even, , when I was going to my wedding venue, my entire bridal party was women engineers. Right. I grew up with those people, they're my friends, and I was telling my cousin about it, and I just felt like, wait a minute, this some, like, what is missing?

, why are they not talking about it? And this is 2017, right?  Before the women in STEM thing became as big as it is now. And I just couldn't find anything. I could find people talking about researchers. , I could find people talking about, , engineering topics. I could \ , find things on technology, but I just couldn't find a place where I could hear these stories of the stories just like my friends and the stories of the girls that I was working with and.

I just thought, these are so wonderful stories. So I thought, let's start a podcast. Because I made a list. I said, okay, I know 33 women who are engineers, right? All my friends, I wrote everybody's name. And I said, there it is. I have a podcast. Right? So I send everybody a message saying, look, I wanna do this.

I would love to host you. And nobody responded, nobody , till this day, there's some people who don't wanna talk to me, be like, , they never, that's the last message I sent them. And then I got nervous. I'm like, hold on. , what is happening here? And I think that's how it started. And I found a lot of my guests through LinkedIn, Instagram, things like that, and Twitter, and a big following on Twitter.

But I just thought that if we wanna fill the gap, it has to start with talking about the women who've stayed and why they have stayed. Because otherwise we're just approaching this problem in the wrong way where we're just focusing on the negatives and why it's not happening versus people who are already here and they have a lot to share.

 Thank you for sharing that.  It's such a great way to look at it. You're  flipping the problem . On itself. And saying, and,  this is what I love even about , the strengths-based approach. , here we are, here's what I can do, let's talk about that. Let's not talk about, , all the other things.

 So really putting it in a positive light. I, love that. And that's something , not a lot of people I have seen do as well. So kudos, kudos to you. 

Thank you. And I think the other issue also is that we are trying to fill this pipeline, but it's broken, right? So when we don't focus on the 26% women that are there, or 40% that join, or whatever that number at the entry level is when we don't focus on their stories, when we don't make, make them feel special, when we don't give them that platform, then we lose them, is all.

, and so it's a complicated problem. So if you're obsessed with just getting women in stem, it's definitely part of the problem. But then somebody also has to talk about why are they leaving, and then somebody also has to talk about why are they not in leadership. So I think it's a very complicated problem, which sometimes in mainstream seems like all we need to do is get more girls in stem.

I mean, if you include public, like the health sector or like the medicine industry or even the zoologists and botanists, right in the mix of stem, which that traditionally don't count in STEM fields. But if you include them, there are over 60% women who actually start graduate programs in STEM fields.

If you start including nursing, if you start including all those fields, right? But then only 26% are left at the end. So, I mean, again, in the STEM profession, the technology profession stuff, so it's,  really complicated because to get more girls in STEM would. Is a great idea if your STEM pipeline is actually robust and if you can actually grow these people in.

But if you're ignoring the people who are already there, if you are not doing anything for these people, if you are not fixing your culture and how you treat talent, then there's no point getting more girls in STEM because they're just gonna have the same experience as everybody else. . 

You bring up in a very important point, which as somebody who has been in all the diversity and inclusion initiatives , you're saying  diversity is one aspect of it.

We're building the pipeline, but  diversity is more than that. Right. It's inclusion, it's sense of belonging. . And it's true.  I mean, over the last,  few years, maybe  four or five years, , we are talking now more about the sense of belonging and inclusion, 

so you're really thought about it much before other folks, which I love.  You've gotta motivate the people who are here and those are also the people who will be the role models for your incoming pipeline . 


So you also mentioned that in 2020 is when you moved into building out  believe in your brilliance and working as a confidence coach.

So tell me about that shift. 

Yeah, so I think in it was, there's a thing in, I don't want to quote it wrong, so I'll paraphrase, but I think there's somewhere in Bible that says the seventh year coming. So I always feel like the seventh year coming is  when things actually start to pay off or things actually start to like end, ?

And it's just, for some reason , as soon as I hit that seven year mark in corporate, part of me was just like, okay, I don't, I think it's time, , I've been doing these two things I was waking up at 4:30 and I was working before I went to, before I went to work, I was taking into, , I was taking my client calls every single day.

I was working all day Sundays. I would come home, eat, and then six 30 onwards I'd work on my podcast and worked till nine 30. So I was doing a lot of things and I was just, Inching towards burnout eventually. Even though I loved doing all of it, and I said, this way nothing will grow. Right? , and I had a really great opportunity with the, the group deputy director position.

I was like, I have to make a choice.  If I'm gonna go down this path or this path, like, because the way it was growing, at least on the work end, it would've moved very fast and my responsibilities would be much, much, much more. And so I said I had to pick one. And I think the reason I was in corporate had nothing, had very little to do with fixing the gender gap.

It was so much for my love for manufacturing and I thought if people are starting to see me in this light, maybe it's time to do that fully. And just had a, had a voice, had an inkling, and just decided to  leave. Probably would never do that now that I'm a mom. But I was fearless that time. So I'm like, okay, let's be responsible.

Let's do this. What do we have to lose? And so, That's when I moved into just doing this full-time. That was July, 2021. But I started this because I had to spend so much energy and time and effort into building my brand. And  anytime you do so much in one area of your life, you want it to start to repay you in some way, whether it's money, whether it's more opportunity, whether it's growth of sorts.

We're all wired for growth and I think monetization was the next step. And so that's kinda why I started the coaching program. And then iterated through 2020 tried different formats. One-on-ones group coaching different. Try to solve many different problems for many different people. And of course, we're still doing it, right?

That's what entrepreneurship is. You keep trial and trying and testing, and as you grow, as your audience grows, , things start to shift. So that's  the journey of believe in your brilliance. I l C. And of course, it's now also I believe in your Brilliance Academy, which is which is a 12 week program.

And it's basically for women who are lost and don't know what to do next and have a lot of ambition, but no way to work on that ambition.  They don't know the process, they don't know the method, they don't have the confidence. And that's a very  frustrating place for someone to be, ?

And,  I realized that not everyone's as confident as I am because I was. Raised by a very confident mom. And when I realized that there were just these little things that , nobody just told them ever about. And I just felt called to share that with as many women as I can. So that was  the reason why I started it.

And ,  feels like dedicated my life to it. So we'll see how it grows and what come, what all comes out of it. But that was  the path and the leaving and the quitting corporate was at the highest point of my career. Like, it was, it had nothing to do with, , I hate to hear or I don't relate.

Let me not say hate because it's someone's reality, but I don't relate with stories of I hated my job and I couldn't do it anymore. , I have empathy, but I don't relate to it because I loved my job. I jumped, like, there was always a hop in my step and I loved saying hi to all the a hundred operators.

And it was just like, yes, it was just birds chirping and voilins playing, right? , I loved it. And I was like, I would rather leave now than be miserable and then leave, , I even got a big farewell. It, it almost looked like I was retiring. So   everybody realized that she ended one chapter and she's gonna start another one.

So let's see, let's see if I make everyone, everyone proud. 

Oh, I'm sure you have already.  I'm sure a lot of people have really benefited from not just the confidence  that you portray and probably bring to them, but also I think there's a lot of  care that I sense in your end and you truly care about this particular topic and this initiative and helping.

And that probably, I'm sure connects with a lot of people. And so I'm sure you have made a huge difference in their lives and I'm sure ,  it was great working in, manufacturing and all of that, but it's okay to make a, make a shift and  it's just a new chapter and, that's what i love also about this.

Particular era of the workplace is that now it's becoming more normal to try out and try different paths and,  different ways of doing things. And you don't have to be an engineer your entire life or something like that. Right. 

Yes. I love that. 

 You have held roles in your company and then of course you started your own company.

What does leadership mean to you? 

So I think leadership is, is the hardest job in the world, right? Like it's, it is to realize it is to put other people above you. That's what I think truly because a leader is somebody who really does not care about themselves or worries about , selfish motives, even though it seems like they do, because they have all this external persona and titles and, , All the things around them, but a, a true leader, which I've met some incredible leaders in my life, and I, and I emulate them, and I want to be like them, and I aspire to be like them.

But most of them have one thing in common is that they care about other people. They care about their companies, they care about their employees, they care about you. They see you. They don't ignore you. They don't, , they really see you. I think to me, leadership is basically a higher level of humanity where you really care so much that you don't care.

, you care so much about somebody that you don't care what they think of you. You care so much about somebody that they don't, that you don't care what it would take to serve them. Right. , I think the greatest entrepreneurs are like that. I think the greatest. CEOs are like that. I think the greatest accomplished sportsman athletes.

The people who are representing countries, they're actually putting their body through all of this rigorous activity just to make the country proud because they care about those millions and billions of people who are looking up to them. So  it's really a very human trait and,  it's a skill too.

But  if you understand the real, real definition of it in my, in my opinion and my experience, I just think it's humanity at another level. It's just, it's just caring so much about the world and the people who are in it depends on whichever setting you're in. And  those are the people who can influence.

Those are the people who can guide. Those are the people who are trusted the most. Those are the people who can say, come follow me. I got you. Not because I know everything, just because I care about you. So I did the homework, I looked the path. Let's do this because I believe in you and we can all do it together.

So I think. They're truly really special. It's a very special thing to be a really good leader. So to me, that's what leadership is on a very human level.  

 I love how you're bringing the humanity aspect to it because somehow the perception of, especially when people hear the word leadership or leader, becomes  this really  some  persona and a perception and , that person is too different, too extraordinary,  or something  that.

 That's not true. So I'm glad you're bringing that into focus and that everybody has that ability within them. 

Absolutely. And I think everyone's a leader. I think you're, as an individual contributor, you're leader as a mom, you're leader as a wife, you're leader as a partner, your leader as a friend.

You're leader. You could lead anybody. You can lead anybody. The point is, it's all about having that deep level of care and empathy for somebody. And then I. Having the courage to tell them that I think this is what would work. . Right? , let's try this. ? And then, and then the test, real test is will they listen?

 How many wives out there cannot make their husbands listen to them, right? , how many kids out there don't listen to their parents? Right? ,  that's just because one party doesn't want to understand the other party, and that's where things start to fall apart. So , we should conduct ourselves with leadership as our value, that we can actually lead people in the right direction.

And it's, again, it comes down to influence, it comes down to connection. It comes down to. How we build relationships with people. So it's,  really very, very important and I think everybody should focus on it. Everybody should develop it as a, as a quality. Even if you don't have the biggest ambitions, or even if you are not on the path to be a c e o, I think monks are leaders, right?

, think about it  they lead so many people to believe what they're saying. Everybody  has the ability to do it, and everybody should think about it because it's a very interesting, it's very fun to watch when you turn a disagreement into an agreement. It's very fun to watch when you finally make that connection with somebody which did not like you, who did not like you, or when you're able to get your message across, because again, that message served a bigger purpose and a bigger scope.

It's very fun to stand up in a meeting and be able to say, That's illegal and we shouldn't do it. Right. That's really, it's,  everyday things. It's everyday things of maybe telling somebody , don't litter the streets. , it's simple things like that. But, but how you say it, will they listen or will they protest?

Will they go with you or will they hate you? ? And, that's what makes me very interested in leadership because I think it's just such a human thing to watch people's behavior change and to, to convince them of , this is right for you and this is important to, for you. And, that's  , I think we, we should all, we should all invest our time into learning that it's a really good skill.

definitely, , we are on the same page on that sense, and , that's why this whole podcast is here, is because there's so many nuances of leadership.  You said, it's,  at a human 

level. It's, , I. Not 

just skills, it's qualities and then it's in some ways it's influence and how , you mentioned the part about how, and I think that is something that is really critical as well for people to understand is yes, maybe you are confident, you are courageous, you can  blurt things out, but how it lands, it's also part of your leadership qualities.

So I love that you are bringing that in and it's,  in everyday things as well. 

It's a value. I truly believe it's a value. . 

. Like I say, in the state of mind, and it's similar, it's a value, it's not a position. It's not something where you have to earn it by doing something, but it comes from within.

Yes. And so with that, I wanted to ask you, , when did you first become aware of your own leadership qualities? I mean, sometimes you don't think about these things I know, but at some point you, you hit that moment , . 

Yeah, so I was in third grade and my teacher said, no second grade.

And my teacher said, you cannot run for class president because you're a girl. You're a girl like class monitor. And you cannot, you cannot run for it because you're a girl. We only give this to guys because it's tough. , you have to control the class when teacher's not there. You have to be strict and, second grade, by the way, so little kids.

Right? And when she said that, it just, it really bothered me. And so what I did was I said, okay, just gimme a chance. Let's, let's say nobody takes, , nobody votes for me. Nobody raises their hand for my name. Who cares? If you gimme a chance, give me  one week. And if I don't do it, well you give it to the guy, no problem.

Or you make me co co-captain, right?  It's fine. Or whatever the title was, class monitor, and I, I, I really, really, Talk to her. I, I, that's how I remember it. I don't know, maybe I made it up or I don't, I don't trust my memories all the time, but I do have very vivid, vivid memories of my childhood for some reason.

But I remember having that conversation with that teacher and having it very confidently  I, and we ran and I won.  And she wrote in my diary and, ,  she told my mom that she asked me for this position and, , she was able to get it. So I think that was my first lesson in leadership is like I can convince somebody to get what I want, , and what I think would be best for the class, because if I can do it, then other girls can do it.

And again, growing up in our house, this was always the conversation that my mom was the only lady officer first lady officer. So there was a lot of,  conversations around you. You are equal, . And so I think just I. Raising that voice and trying to get that position was really fun. I don't know if how long it was for, but it was a lot of fun to convince that teacher and she did.

And that was really nice that she listened to me. 

Oh, that's such a sweet story. .  I'm sure  if your teacher was to look back on it , I'm sure there was a lesson to be learned even for the teacher here, right? ,