Described as the “secret weapon” of the business world, intrapreneurs are quickly becoming a top commodity of workplace success. Intrapreneur You Need to Know is a series of conversations that takes us behind the desks of successful young women making big moves in their career and the steps that led them there.
Prerna Sinha is the trailblazer who’s held senior roles at GrabOne, Neighbourly and now Designer Wardrobe as Head Of Technology. When Prerna’s not leading her tech team, or diving into the code, building new features or investigating bugs, Prerna also dabbles in DJing, runs her own event brand and has her own clothing label, from which she has already launched two successful collections under. Oh, and in 2015 she was awarded a major Young Achiever Award. There’s a lot of ‘Ands’ to her multifaceted story. In her current intrapreneur role, Prerna leads, motivates and mentors a team of in-house and off-shore developers. She maintains exceptional relationships with team members, management and the senior executive team while gathering technical requirements, developing comprehensive IT roadmaps and delivering proposals to clients and industry stakeholders. Yes, we’re in awe of this powerhouse too.
Q1. After successfully cutting your teeth into tech during your Diploma in IT, you were offered a full time role as a programmer. This looked like it was your first major door into the tech industry. Which key things helped you find your foot in?
A key thing was having pursued an IT specialised undergraduate education. I have always been a quick learner and ever-passionate about grasping an understanding of new technologies and skills which helped me build a strong career base in IT.
Q2. You’ve worked for some big names in the NZ ecosystem, although the gig at Designer Wardrobe (DW) seems as though it was made for you, combining both your love of fashion and tech. What was that like taking a leap of faith into the unknown and leaving the security of a successful role at Neighbourly? Did you feel any fear or self doubt?
Like you said “… it was made for you”. DW offers a unique and robust marketplace and rental platform for designer fashion – we breathe sustainability. The opportunity to grow this business, by means of technology and innovation, got me bubbling with ideas.
There are always fears when you are stepping up to start a new role. Mine was, “Will I be able to deliver what I am committing to?” It was the fear of ‘unknown’. When you start a new role, you are not sure what to expect before you actually dive into it, understand your responsibilities, peers and the business itself. My path to overcoming that fear required me to be patient, positive and driven to learn.
My role at Neighbourly not only helped me polish my skill set but also helped me discover my leadership potential to lead a team of IT professionals. This in turn gave me the confidence to take on this opportunity and continue with my passion for learning.
My advice? Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and focus on your strengths – that’s how you hone your competence.
Q3. Often – women specifically – feel as though to apply for a new role, they need to be able to do 100% of the job’s requirements. Before joining the team at DW, you were promoted to Team Leader as a Senior Developer at Neighbourly.co.nz. What were your transferable skills that you were able to bring over to DW, and what were the biggest gaps?
Leading and mentoring a tech team, training stakeholders, communication and of course, my technical skills were some of the skills that I was able to bring to DW. My core gap was solely leading the IT of a company – a responsibility I was taking on for the very first time in my career!
Q4. What’s been your greatest professional achievement in your career?
I’d say building and running a diverse team of in-house and off-shore IT professionals from scratch has been one of my biggest achievements so far.
The above experience has taught me the ability to get a better insight of conflict management, develop negotiation skills, respect and embrace team members’ strengths and weaknesses and help them achieve their personal and professional goals.
Q5. What do you do to avoid a meltdown when tech just isn’t sitting in your corner? I received your beautifully worded DW email about the afternoon glitch a few weeks back. How do you stay calm in the midst of a long battle with “servers and cheeky APIs”?
Haha.. You noticed!
I always focus on the solution rather than the problem. Sometimes solving an issue can mean sleepless nights like the incident you mentioned. Being home with my family and puppy is what I look forward to and of course, some coffee! I find that part of my day very therapeutic.
Q6. You’re a young woman in a well-earnt, successful leadership role. How do you find the confidence to be a good leader?
I have been lucky to be surrounded by inspirational people who have been in leadership roles and I continuously learn a lot from them. I believe that leadership is about bringing out the best in people. As a leader, once you are able to do that and deliver as a team, that validates your understanding and direction of leadership. And ultimately, gives you confidence in your very own leadership style.
Q7. You’re not just “Head Of Tech” at DW, you’ve also founded Bombay Talkies – an event brand, whilst also running your own label, Prerna. You’ve got a lot of balls in the air. How do you manage balance and your mental health?
Commitment, prioritisation, time management! And, most importantly my passion for technology, music and fashion – this is what helps me stay focused and driven.
Eating healthy and exercising are very important part of my life. I believe that’s what helps me maintain my mental health and keeps me sane.
Q8. A lot of our intrapreneurial women excel in their careers because of their entrepreneurial spirit to drive businesses forward. What advice would you have for those wanting to expand their thinking and creativity by pursuing a side hustle? How should you navigate that conversation with your boss?
Navigate the conversation in good faith, by staying professional and reassuring their manager that they are dedicated to their role. Also, practising better time management will definitely help them achieve this.
Q9. What’s one piece of advice you would offer a young woman chasing her first senior leadership role in tech?
Just go for it! And do not let failure get the best of you, rather learn from them. With continuous learning and self-development nothing is impossible. Stay positive and believe in yourself.