"I have seen the struggles women still go through in forging a leadership path unique to themselves, and I strongly believe in supporting that anywhere, and in any fashion I can." – Tashina Charagi, VP of Operations & Digital Transformation
Tashina Charagi grew up in Bombay, India, on the grounds of a research institute. Both her parents were academicians – her mom was a zoology teacher, her dad a nuclear physicist. Science and math were an early part of her life. Her dad taught her the basics of differentiation at 10 – "it was awesome to understand the basics and applications, but I never could remember all the formulae needed to pass tests!" As she says: "I grew up around nerds, and my attraction to understanding math and science was natural. I wasn't the most dedicated student, but I was always curious about how things worked and loved to learn."
Tashina Charagi, VP of Operations & Digital Transformation
After high school, Tashina got her undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Mumbai. When she graduated, she decided to go to graduate school in the U.S., imagining that she would get a PhD like her parents. She arrived in New Brunswick, NJ, with two suitcases, a little bit of spending money, and contact information of student from the graduate program who was willing to host her until she found her own place. This was the start of two glorious years of living as a broke student, having jobs as diverse as pizza maker to note taker to tutoring Rutgers' football players in calculus. But after two years at Rutgers in an electrical engineering program, she realized academia (and being a broke student for five more years as she got her PhD) was not the right path for her. Her experience in the engineering labs and exposure to industry through internships made her realize she was much more interested in the practical application of her research than in pure theoretical learning.
From designing smartphones to designing strategies
Tashina's first tech job was as a software developer at Motorola where she was on the cutting edge during the early days of smartphones. "We were developing a 'Blackberry killer,' while fighting Nokia's supremacy," she says. "I was working on the navigation system for this Windows smartphone. It was very exciting to be in the middle of tech innovation in the mobile industry.
"Then Apple released the iPhone and our whole program basically folded. I realized I might be a good engineer, but I really needed to learn more about business, strategy and what drives the consumer."
This led Tashina to getting an MBA from the Stern School of Business at New York University, where she focused on strategy. That experience also helped her understand her passions better – she knew she wanted to be at the intersection of tech, customer experience, and business strategy. She could go from imagining "what if?" to "how do we do this?"
Consulting and growth strategies
She joined McKinsey based on a recommendation from a friend at NYU. She was excited to be working on her skills in strategy while also focusing on technology and innovation. "I loved working with clients on impactful, innovative projects," she says. "It was trial by fire and really stretched my capabilities to help companies develop their strategies for growth." This role also exposed her to a veritable who's who of technology and consumer firms, enabling her to learn from the journeys of many of the world's leading firms and the people who lead them.
As Tashina was coming back to work after her first maternity leave, she was excited to be fulfilling a new role in her life focusing on family growth. However, she also realized she did not want to travel as much as she had been and as much as would be needed in a client service role. She reached out to her leaders, who were extremely supportive. They helped Tashina figure out a role that enabled new ways of working while utilizing her expertise to unlock a new area of growth for McKinsey.
"It was fantastic learning experience, given that we were trying to develop a new venture within an established firm," she says, "and it also gave me a lot of exposure to the struggles of growth-stage start-ups."
Tashina out biking with her husband, Arjun, daughter Anaya and son Advay.
Coming to ADP
However, Tashina was still looking for a long-term home – a place where she might have broader societal impact and also bring projects to life. It was at this time she was put in touch with leadership at ADP.
"I was excited about everything they talked about, especially the impact of and the vision for ADP," she says. "ADP was in this extremely exciting field of human capital management (HCM), which was drastically changing and evolving, with the introduction of gig workers and other new ways of working. Additionally, ADP was in the process of disrupting itself by designing and building a whole new set of products.
"I joined the corporate strategy team, where we worked on broad ideas and tried to answer big, ambiguous questions." One example of this work was ADP's efforts around pay equity. When changes were being made to EEO-1 reporting requirements, Tashina worked across functional and business teams to determine the impact new legislation might have on ADP's clients, and how ADP might be able to help. The culmination of this project, working with ADP's DataCloud team, was the release of ADP's award-winning Pay Equity Explorer.
Tashina then got an opportunity to take on a new role, working in ADP's technology organization, where she led the charge on ADP's digital transformation journey, helping ADP simplify and modernize the client and associate experience. In this role she has had the opportunity to drive the adoption of innovative new technologies and bring them to bear for solving client needs. "It's been an extremely productive learning journey and I've had the opportunity to be part of significant changes that matter to the company and our clients," she says.
Becoming a people leader
"I never set out specifically at any stage to become a manager. I started being in a position to lead and direct folks' efforts, provide insights and feedback. I learned that it's not about telling people what to do but about helping optimize their work to broader priorities and getting things out of their way."
Tashina believes an essential part of being a good leader is helping people get more out of their careers. It's partly to help them explore their interests and figure out what they want to do next. Then it's guiding them to build skills and connections to get to that next thing. "I want to make sure I understand what success and fulfillment means to each individual and how that ties into success of the company," she says.
This is especially important to Tashina as a woman in technology leadership. "I have often been the sole woman around the table or in the team room," she says. "I know what it is like to not have someone like me to model my path on. I have seen the struggles women still go through in forging a leadership path unique to themselves, and I strongly believe in supporting that anywhere, and in any fashion I can.
Tashina hiking with daughter Anaya.
"The best advice I've received is to recognize and play to your strengths," she says. "In my early consulting days, I would get discouraged when I struggled with tasks that others could do inherently well, and much faster. My mentor told me to focus on recognizing my own strengths, building them and leading from those. They helped me see that my strengths were setting a vision, in getting people to agree on a plan and in building teams that work toward common goals. Now, I do the things I do well and try to find other people who are good at and love the other things we need to do to complete the team."
"Also, don't be pigeon-holed in what your strengths are and how you should use them. This is especially important as a woman, where you might end up being stereotyped in some ways. Instead, elevate your strengths, develop new ways of utilizing them, and explore how they fit in different roles."
Tashina loves imagining what the next decade or century might bring in terms of changes driven by technology. "Our world is changing, at a greater pace now it seems than ever," she says. "It is such an exciting time to be in technology, and an even more exciting time to be a woman in technology."
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