You can’t always plan your career – sometimes, you have to take risks. It’s something we’ve all heard before: Don’t be afraid to take risks! Step outside your comfort zone!
But how is taking risks relevant to career growth? Isn’t risk something we should try to reduce?
The truth is, with the right support, skills and belief in yourself, strategic career risks can often pay off with massive growth. And these can come in many forms.
It could be accepting a role where you don’t have 100% of the qualifications. It could be upskilling and pivoting into a new role. It could even be moving to a completely new country for a career opportunity.
Nivedita Kang, Head of Technology for Woolworths Group, understands this well.
A self-described risk taker, she loves exploring the unknown and is always on the lookout for new challenges. In fact, just seven years ago, she left her life and career in India to move to Australia.
“I left my family behind,” said Nivedita. “Saying goodbye to my family, friends and six-year-old son was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. But when I found a job, I helped my family join me.”
Now, Nivedita leads the Quality Assurance and Automation Engineering (QA) practice for WooliesX – a critical part of the Woolworths Group. It’s powered by the brightest minds in e-commerce, technology, media, and data to transform the way we live and shop.
“Our QA community in WooliesX ensures we provide quality products and services to our customers. I’m passionate about helping people in my team to build capabilities and grow in their careers.”
Here are her thoughts about what taking risks means to her, why she enjoys it and tips to make pushing yourself outside your comfort zone a little easier.
Her learnings as a leader in the WooliesX technology team are particularly valuable for women already in, or perhaps interested in beginning a (traditionally male-dominated) STEMM career.
You won’t always be able to plan your direction
According to Nivedita, her current career would have been impossible for her to imagine.
“When I think about my past self, it was so difficult to see the road ahead. Even though I set goals for my life and career during university, I’m lucky I had parents who guided me. They encouraged me to try new things and take a computer science course.”
Interestingly, she connects most strongly with Woolworths’s tagline: The Fresh Food People, as her father is a farmer.
“I was raised around crops and nature. It must have been a subconscious decision because I only made the connection after I joined! Coming from a farming background, I’m proud of where I am today, working in technology to make a positive impact in people’s lives.”
You’ll handle risk better with a supportive company
Nivedita joined WooliesX as QA lead with eight people in her team. In her current role as Head of Technology for Quality Assurance, she now has around 180 people in her team!
“WooliesX senior leaders have supported me throughout my career journey and my aspiration to make a difference in senior leadership roles. It’s a progressive, future-focussed organization with opportunities and career progression for everyone. We’re all working to achieve our goals by doing the right thing and making the right choices.”
She knew she’d made the right decision to join right from the start.
“The people I met during my first interview talked about the role and challenges, as well as the company’s bigger purpose and vision for the community – which is in line with my personal values.”
Woolworths Group supports professional development through coaching programs and mentoring opportunities.
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You’ll face challenges along the way
Of course, accepting new opportunities comes with its own set of challenges. Some of Nivedita’s biggest challenges in QA is the responsibility that comes with it, and ensuring the team is moving forward in one direction.
“QA is about being customer-focused and taking action on our customers’ behalf. Our role is to make everyday life easier for them by providing quality products and services. To do this, we need to harness technology, look at the numbers and evaluate their diverse, ever-changing needs and behaviours.”
Woolworths helped Nivedita overcome these challenges by providing the training, support, tools, and technologies to make Quality Assurance easy and fast. These critical capabilities empower teams to make decisions and have more autonomy.
“They support teams through upskilling in line with the latest and future-project trends. They take care of everyone with wellbeing sessions and provide people with headspace to do their best work.”
You’ll handle risk better with supportive leaders
Nivedita has reaped the benefits of supportive leaders and strives to deliver the same benefits for others in turn. She does so by treating people with kindness, giving back to the community, and ensuring the people around her feel open, hopeful, and positive.
“I’d love to be remembered as someone who has helped others in their career journey. I also enjoy learning new things, taking on new challenges, and coaching people in their career progression. “
In terms of growth, while she’d love to be CEO one day, learning, growing, and making informed decisions are her ultimate teachers in life.
“These things take you to heights you could never imagine! So, my focus is on bettering myself through the experiences I share with others and staying positive when facing difficult experiences in my own life.”
In particular, she’s grateful for the people she’s surrounded by who inspire her with their positive attitudes and uniqueness.
“I love seeing people’s uniqueness and working with people from diverse backgrounds. The interesting, inspiring people I work with make me better every day. I enjoy getting to know people on a personal level – their life, background, challenges, and what drives them. It motivates and inspires me to be a better person. “
“I lead diversity, and inclusion in WooliesX Technology Practice. It’s an honor to be part of such a great organization that takes ownership of inspiring and helping build careers for women and next-generation talent.”
Your passions can lead you to unexpected places
Life and work are often intertwined. Nivedita’s personal interests relate to her values, passions, and approach to work – in particular, sharing culture and giving back to the community.
“I was a hyperactive kid. My mom wanted me to put my energy towards something fruitful – so she enrolled me to learn Indian classical dancing, in which I obtained my diploma. I competed in the regional folk dance, Gidha, at university. It’s a group dance that takes a lot of energy and coordination. Once, my university team won first place in a competition! I’ve performed many times in Diwali Festivals, office events and cultural lunches we’ve hosted.”
In terms of personal values, Nivedita also enjoys volunteering, cooking, and serving food in her temple. (There are many ways Woolworths Group actively contributes to the community, by offering paid volunteer days and more.) She spends a few hours each week in her garden, enjoying time in nature, and doing DIY at home.
So, if you’re considering taking a career risk – particularly in STEMM – take Nivedita’s advice!
“Stand up for yourself. Be courageous. Be a risk-taker. And, most importantly, believe in yourself to better yourself!”