“Breaking Barriers: How To Lift As You Climb”: Monica Bajaj with Okta (Video + Transcript)

May 23, 2024

Monica Bajaj (Vice President, Engineering, Developer Experience, Okta) speaks about the unique challenges and opportunities faced by women aspiring to senior roles. She shares the 5C framework to help you break your own barriers and lift others up as you climb.


In this ELEVATE session, Monica Bajaj (Vice President, Engineering, Developer Experience, Okta) speaks about the unique challenges and opportunities faced by women aspiring to senior roles. She shares the 5C framework to help you break your own barriers and lift others up as you climb.

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Monica Bajaj ELEVATE build connections unlock hidden opportunities mentorship collaboration supportive communities

Monica Bajaj:

Good morning everyone. Happy International Women’s Day. And what a great honor to kick off the day and be a part of Girl Geek X Conference Elevate. Thank you. Thank you, Angie for reaching out, and it’s great to be a part of the conference today here. Before we formally kick off the session, on a personal note, I want to reflect something. I’m here today inspired by the women who came before me and motivated by the incredible women around me, my mom, my daughter, women at work, and many others.

Well, the topic says it all, Breaking The Barriers – How To Lift As You Climb. Now each of this can be a topic on its own, and I would like to ask everyone who is watching this, what are your biggest barriers that you are experiencing at the moment? Please drop in the chat. Well, each of us have dealt with barriers in our lives during our own moments.

How we fight through these barriers is really the key. Our internal barriers, these are our own barriers, the ones that are all under our control and can be resolved if we are self-aware of them and work towards them. These barriers include our self-limiting beliefs, doubting our own voice, imposter syndrome, trying to be a perfectionist, sometimes lack of self-advocacy and limiting ourselves to our comfort zones.

But we also have external barriers, and these are the barriers that exist around us in the organizations at home that continue to be blockers for our growth and support. These are the barriers that exist as institutional mindsets, such as gender bias, stereotyping, social barriers like microaggressions, structural barriers like getting access to the stretched assignments, and limited access to establish networks. Sometimes lack of inclusivity as well.

But when these barriers are shattered, a remarkable transformation unfolds. The world opens with unlimited possibilities. Individuals rise to their maximum potential. Talent, creativity, and resilience, they all emerge to forge new pathways to success. But wait, the real magic happens when you continue to lift as you climb.

We always imagine that careers can be a linear progression like this as we travel up, get new roles, new titles, and everything else. But the reality is it looks something like this. How do we make this journey so smooth, fun, and satisfying as we rise in our careers?

Today I’m going to take you through a five C framework of leadership, which emphasizes the act of helping each other, climbing that ladder of success, our personal growth, more inclusive, and more collaborative approach to guiding others.

Now, the difference between leadership and leadership, let me touch a bit on that. Leadership focuses on guiding and directing towards a common goal, focuses on decision-making, focuses on setting direction and achieving the results. While leadership embodies a transformative approach to leadership, which is rooted in fostering growth, providing empowerment, and looking for collective success. It helps creating a culture of mutual support and growth, and that’s the beauty when we all come together. Let’s dig deeper into each of these facets. What does it mean?

Let’s talk about connect. Connections are the pathways to new horizons leading to success and fulfillment. Reaching the top in your career is by no means a solo endeavor. It is the power of connections. I see connections as the rungs on the ladder, the ropes that lift others up, and the safety nets that support during unexpected fails.

Connections are the key and they lead to collective success. It is equally important to build genuine connections because they unlock the doors to hidden opportunities, mentorship, collaboration, and, most importantly, they build supportive communities where individuals can lift each other up.

Let me tell you a story. I’m a part of an organization, SheTO, which focuses on women in engineering leadership. Two years back, I was introduced by a connection and I played my little part. We were 50 members at that time. I played my little part, connected with other women, brought them in SheTO like everybody else did. And today we are over 3000 members. And every day is an impactful day in that community.

Fostering these connections, relationships beyond individual achievements and accolades is the true essence of progress. The connections we forge and the support we extend to each other. Cultivating genuine relationship is totally built on trust, empathy, and mutual respect, and it’s more of a networking tactic as well. My call to action is to prioritize your connection in your own lives and build them professionally and personally.

The second one is challenge. Embracing challenge emerges as a catalyst for growth and transformation. Challenges present opportunities, not only to test your own limits, but also to lift those around us. We have all navigated through the complexities of our professional journey, but what keeps us going? Resilience, grit, and creativity. I came to US almost 27 years back. It was a big bold decision I took. When I took the first flight ever in my life, moving across the continents with nothing in the pocket.

And looking back, those obstacles were not barriers, but they paved the stepping stones to success for me. So lifting others up while ascending your own career is a noble pursuit, but it doesn’t come without its own challenges. It requires a strategic between supporting others and pushing yourself forward. And remember, the mountain is vast and there is room for everyone at the summit.

My call to action to you all is let’s climb together, support each other’s ascent and reach top as a collective force.

The third one is coach. Coaching is a pivotal tool for empowerment and growth. Reaching the top of your career is not just about your personal achievements, it’s about empowering everyone along the way. Here is where the role of mentorship and coaching comes into play. It unlocks the potential.

A good coach acts as a mirror, helps individuals identify their strengths and weaknesses. By investing in the development of others, you are cultivating a culture of continuous learning and collaboration. And where each individual’s success is a part of the collective journey. A story to tell. My call to action to you all is let’s create a ripple effect of learning and empowering others to believe in themselves.

The next one is captivate. Now in the pursuit of lifting others. As you climb in your career, the ability to captivate emerges as a powerful tool for inspiration and influence. Keeping aside the traditional leadership mechanics, captivating is a whole different game. It sparse curiosity, it ignites passion for something you really, really care, with your experiences and of all experiences together and insights, we all have an opportunity to captivate and draw others into a shared vision of possibilities and potential.

As we ascend in our careers, the transformative power of captivating and the storytelling can inspire many, many people around us, and help them reach the heights they want to. When you captivate, you are not elevating just yourself, but you’re elevating many others around you and becoming that catalyst for change. Let’s captivate, not compete. Together, we can create a masterpiece for success.

And finally, my favorite part, a journey can never be [inaudible 00:11:26] until there are moments of celebrations. In this journey of lifting others, as you climb in your career, celebration is an important facet that brings camaraderie, resilience, and collective success. Every triumph, big or small, it needs to be cherished, it needs to be honored, and it builds a culture of appreciation, recognition, whether it’s in your personal, professional, or community network.

Let’s fuel that collective motivation. Witness the genuine celebration for the achievements, ignites a spark of inspiration in many others, and help them push reach to their personal goals. It helps in building unwavering trust. When you celebrate each other’s wins, it fosters a culture of trust, vulnerability, making the journey a shared experience and not a lonely climb.

The last one is amplifying the effect. By celebrating every milestone, every single milestone, you magnify the positive impact of your efforts, inspiring others to join the chorus of shared success. Remember, success is never a zero sum game. Lifting others does not diminish your own victory. In fact, it enriches it. As you climb, celebrate those victories around you. I cannot emphasize more on this.

Before I leave. Here are a few things I would like all of us to take with us. Reach out, connect, and climb together. Support each other. Look around you and see how you can help them. And where do you need help? Do not hesitate to do that. So reach at the top with a collective force.

Number two, create that ripple effect of learning and empowering each other to believe in themselves. And the last one, which I always keep in my mind and my heart, keep the drawbridge down, walk down it, stand beside the woman at its base and walk back up with her to where you are and cheer her on as she advances beyond you.

Open the doors for her, whether she’s aware of it or not, and without condition, knowing in your own heart that her success is a product of yours. Then sit back and enjoy the multiplier effect. I hope you enjoyed the five C’s, and I hope you all have taken some actions for this month and many other months throughout the year to follow up. Thank you.

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Share this