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India graduate career story: Swetha Raman

29 June 2020
Since the one-year Challenge Programme, Swetha discusses her career development at bp and how the programme has contributed to her success
The one-year (Challenge) programme gave me first hand exposure to different territories, people in the organization across all levels, and roles. It was almost like a trailer to the years to come.Swetha Raman, cv offer development manager, Global Marketing

How did the one-year Challenge programme help you succeed in your career?


The one-year programme gave me first hand exposure to different territories, people in the organization across all levels, and roles. It was almost like a trailer to the years to come. It helped me understand my skills and the organization, better. It is a neatly packaged programme with enough avenues for feedback and developmental conversations so, a confirmed outcome of the whole programme is - personal growth.


Have you always known how you wanted your career to develop?


Certainly not. I had perceptions when I started, which in hindsight make no sense now! I think it is always a good idea to have a clear view of the next 3-5 years, but be flexible beyond that. I also believe one must not fixate on specific roles, but think more around ‘will that role add value to me’. I have always got ample guidance, coaching to help me identify ‘what next’.


What are the most significant development opportunities that you have experienced?


The best way to develop is to look at a current role beyond what you have been told in the handover / done by the predecessor, and find ways to add value. Apart from that, additional responsibilities, project leadership, and people management roles have helped in overall development. Exposure to global teams, senior leaders also helped in expanding my thinking.


What are the leadership and technical skills that have contributed most to your success?


Business understanding and an appreciation of execution realities, channel management, brand management, cluster management and influencing skills.


Which skills have you found most challenging to develop? How did you tackle these?


Strategic thinking is vital to develop, and you need to recalibrate with every role change/growth. It is continuous learning and is something that never stops. I try to develop strategic thinking by attending leadership talks, putting myself out there in front of senior leaders, and trying to understand the context/larger picture for every small task. Curiously, I have also learnt a lot by just observing how senior leaders write their emails! It’s a lot more valuable than one would imagine.


Is there a defining moment that has impacted your career?


A couple of moments served as a reality check and made me evaluate what I wanted to do. I realized that my quest should not be for specific roles but development opportunities, and stopped bucketing roles as ‘good’ and ‘okay’. This view unlocked a lot of opportunities for me and it has been a fulfilling journey so far.


Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?


In the early stages of my career, I didn’t realize that my development should be my responsibility, with the support and guidance of line managers. On the contrary, I had lofty expectations from line managers. I wish I knew better at that stage.


Which role stands out as having contributed most to your personal growth?


Being in charge of marketing for South Asia (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal) within six years of my career, was an excellent opportunity to understand different cultures, markets, sales structures, and make a difference. It also gave me regular access to senior leaders which helped me shape my thinking, challenge the status quo, and act like a business owner. I will always remember the role fondly.


How important has coaching/mentoring been in your career?


Supremely important. Coaching and mentoring conversations have helped me understand myself better, get feedback, helped the mentor know me better and guide me accordingly. The world keeps changing, roles get modified, new roles get created – in such a world, it is essential to seek coaching and guidance to understand the best fit for oneself.


What advice would you give to anyone who wants to develop their career in sales/HSSE/GSC/Marketing/Operations?


Be flexible, be genuine. Work hard to make a mark in any role, while always keeping an eye on ‘what next’. Don’t shy away from asking for help.


How important has networking been in developing your career?


I have to admit networking is not my strong suit. I am still learning. However, bp/Castrol offers many platforms to make ones work and aspirations known – like self-advocacy sessions, coaching and mentoring, access to additional projects if you wish to take one on, cross-functional projects etc. So I do not worry that I am not great at networking.

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