Diversity, equity and inclusion have been a focus of the technology industry for years, but companies large and small are now dedicating even more resources to growing their workforces in a just and inclusive way. Neha Arnold is an entrepreneur whose company, Sedna Consulting Group, has actually been doing this work for over 15 years, well before DEI became a hot topic in tech. As CEO of Sedna, she leads a team focused on thoughtfully connecting businesses with talent. Neha and her team are working to create a more equitable technology industry that individuals of all backgrounds can contribute to and be a part of.
In addition to her advocacy for equity in the workplace, Neha is passionate about social impact and has advised non-profits and social enterprises around the world. She has even served as a US representative to the One Young World Summit, a gathering of leaders working to tackle human rights issues globally. She brings a wealth of knowledge to her role, as a proud woman of color in technology and as a first-generation American entrepreneur.
Neha also happens to be a very old friend of mine. It’s been an honor to watch her career evolve and a few weeks ago I asked her to share more about her journey:
My career and especially entrepreneurial journey has been quite an unexpected one. I studied Finance and Management information System in college with the goal of supporting mission-driven organizations. A few months before graduation, I came across a slightly different opportunity to apply all of the advanced math classes I had taken in college.
That's how I spent several years convincing high school students that I was in fact their math teacher and not a transfer student. In all seriousness though, this experience and the ones that followed taught me how one’s career path can take many twists and turns.
My next transition was to a large professional services firm in their Technology Consulting practice within the Government & Public Sector. In this role, I built human-centered technology solutions to support large civilian agencies. Working alongside creative and ambitious individuals to tackle challenging business problems ignited the entrepreneurial drive in me. Now, I serve as the CEO of Sedna Consulting Group, an organization set out to create a more equitable technology industry through thoughtfully connecting innovative businesses with the top talent.
The biggest advice I would give myself is to set goals that are intrinsically motivating and personally fulfilling, and then seek opportunities that align with those goals. This means really understanding your personal "why". So instead of "I want to go to grad school", setting goals like "I want to deepen my understanding of x, y, z and become an expert in that field". The latter helps you be more open-minded about opportunities and even pursue ones that you might not have imagined for yourself.
I know I for sure did not have "become CEO" on my list 10 years ago but my latest career transition was guided by one of my goals of making an impact on the lives of those around me. I apply this same thinking to other endeavors and community involvements I take on.
Ask for help. Most entrepreneurs and small business owners are highly motivated and driven individuals. You are likely putting in 15+ hour days into your business, especially as an early-stage entrepreneur. So I think one of the best things you can do for the growth of your business, and your own sanity, is to identify ways to lessen the load.
I recommend making a list of things you're energized by, things you're good at but don't enjoy, and things you're not good at and dread doing. Start with the items in that third category and find people to take some of those tasks off your plate. As your business grows, you can start to delegate tasks that you may be good at but don’t feel energized by. This will not only save your time and energy, but it will help you take your business to the next level much faster.
I believe that given the expectations of the changing workplace, work-life integration is more fitting with our environment than work-life balance. With our "personal and professional lives" so intertwined, it's less draining and more productive to mesh the two together rather than trying to balance two separate buckets of responsibilities. I’ll preface my advice by saying that achieving work-life integration is a constant work in progress and I am not sure if we can ever achieve perfect work-life integration.
Something that helps me though is every morning (or the previous night) writing down everything I need to do in a day - whether it be personal, work, or family related. I then try to construct my daily calendar based on what my energy levels during the day look like. Since I find that I am more creative later in the day, I try to do my routine tasks such as small house chores, answering emails, etc. earlier in the day while I save my afternoons and evenings for creative tasks such as check-ins or team meetings, strategic work, etc. For me this might look like running some errands in the middle of the work day, when I am feeling a bit of a lag and working after my team has logged out on research or activities that require deep thinking and concentration.
I realize that everyone might not have the flexibility in their work schedule as I do, but I would encourage anyone reading to evaluate their energy levels throughout the day and try to plan their day accordingly.
My support system consists of previous co-workers and managers, friends who are also business owners, and loved ones. Each person in my network brings a different perspective to challenges I might be experiencing. Some are able to provide tactical advice on how they've handled a situation in the past, while others serve as my cheerleader and sounding board.
I think it's important for every professional, and especially business owners, to have a person or group of people they can lean on, because entrepreneurship can at times be a lonely road. You're going to experience new roadblocks at every turn and having individuals you trust in your corner will help you navigate those challenges and keep you focused on your vision for your business.
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