When you meet Divya Amarnath, the first thing that strikes you is her endearing personality. Her passion shines through, as she walks us through her rich and diverse experiences over the course of her illustrious career.
Describing herself as “grateful, confident, and an all-rounder”, Divya Amarnath, Senior Group Leader – Leadership and Organisation Development, Infosys Leadership Institute, speaks to YourStory about “loving what she does”, her formative years, and learnings she has imbibed through her rich professional experience spanning over 20 years. Her interview was a part of the ‘I am the future’ series – YourStory’s collaboration with Infosys wherein business leaders share their journeys in the hope to inspire more women to join the workforce and take up leadership roles.
Striking a balance between “head” and “heart”
Sharing an interesting anecdote, Divya shares how her parents took on the roles of “head” and “heart” at home.
“Our parents influenced us into picking up all the things that we enjoy doing. My parents were extremely hardworking. My mom was a fashion designer and she kept her passions alive, while also holding the family together,” she says.
In addition to her mother, Divya also was greatly influenced by the conversations with her father and teachers. “As a child, I grew up watching people giving their best to everything they were doing,” Divya tells YourStory.
Today, as talent and leadership development professional and executive coach, she works with global corporations and is a firm believer in building equitable work cultures, while striking a balance between her head and heart as she navigates through various challenges and opportunities.
The secret to being an all-rounder
Divya wears many hats – she is an author, motivational speaker, dancer, leadership coach, and more. While her son calls her an all-rounder, Divya speaks about various conversations and life experiences that paved the way for her to be able to try different things.
For instance, the idea of writing her best-selling book, ‘Relationship algorithms: A mindbook for professionals’ originated from her conversation with a colleague post a training session she was conducting. “I told that person to speak to a mentor [because she wanted to pursue the elements that I spoke about in my training program] and she was puzzled and said that she didn’t know how to find one,” says Divya.
That conversation led her to realise that like her, a lot of people don’t have access to mentors and coaches. “While growing up, my father was my professional coach, and after getting married, I have enjoyed conversations with my husband about our careers and choices,” she says, adding that the book came out as a result of wanting to share her gifts with others.
Similarly, the combination of dance and speaking happened when she saw an opportunity to give a creative presentation at a conference on interpersonal success as individual leaders. That was the first time when she combined her speaking skills with Bharatnatayam to convey a message around listening to the inner voices.
“I received a standing ovation, and I cried. A mother walked up to me, and expressed how my message meant a lot to her, since her son had recently come out as gay. Another colleague told me that she felt the presence of her mother, who she had lost years ago. The simple idea of combining two things I love turned out to be a life-changing experience,” she shares.
Her parents – her most important cheerleaders – played a pivotal role in steering her towards dancing.
Role of allies and cheerleaders
Bringing up yet another interesting anecdote, Divya shares that she suddenly had an urge to get back on stage after 27 years. That’s when her father encouraged her to hone her skills; in the meantime, he promised to find her a stage to perform.
She remembers how she felt “high” after performing at a temple function in Kerala and remains grateful to her father for supporting her.
Divya leans in on her team and friends for support, and credits her development to her cheerleaders. She also adds that managers can be cheerleaders too. “It all starts with sharing your aspirations with your manager, and requesting them to be our allies,” adds Divya.
“While many say leadership can be lonely, it doesn’t have to be, if one nurtures their ecosystem of allies and celebrates them, as part of their journey,” Divya tells YourStory.
Learnings and creating a legacy
One of the areas she is truly passionate about is the work the Infosys Leadership Institute is doing around ‘I am the future for women in leadership.’ This has helped Divya engage in conversations with colleagues across the globe, and made her realise that every person is connected through human elements.
“There’s nothing more critical than the choice to invest in yourself through learning,” shares Divya. She also speaks about developing abilities of taking a pause and truly listening to others; and the importance of sharing knowledge.
“I’d like to leave a legacy of nurturing the aspirations of people whom I’ve worked with, so that they remember me as somebody who pushed them beyond their boundaries and helped them see their own true potential,” she concludes with a smile.