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Women on Top in Tech – Navneet Nayyar, Associate Vice President and Regional Business Head SEA at Sterlite Technologies Limited.



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is my interview with Navneet Nayyar, Associate Vice President and Regional Business Head for South East Asia and SAARC at Sterlite Technologies Limited. An avid speaker and technology enthusiast who believes in participating and contribution at various thought leadership events to keep pace with the fast changing environment. This has led to product innovation and new solutions in areas like Digital Partner Settlement, IOT, API-led models, SDN, Digital Customer Journeys etc.

What makes you do what you do?

I think the primary reason I am doing this is because I aspired to carve a niche for myself in the world of Telecommunications and Technology. It helps me connect with the marketplace as well as the tech that enables the marketplace. Telco is a dynamic space, which is not only consistently evolving and changing itself but also significantly impacts each & every industry and is a driver for transformation in them. Hence it keeps me going by learning each day and looking forward to new developments around me.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

To be honest, I started my career as a solutions architect, I was not a business leader to
start with. I started my role in tech, slowly and gradually I did my MBA in Marketing and
from there I flipped the coin. I always felt there is a bridge from the tech that would drive business, which is today a reality. And I guess my persistence and conviction paid off. Today with the eruption of digital, technology and business are used interchangeably.

Further, my inherent inquisitive nature to learn new stuff and explore unknown space made me stick with this industry and as a result, I just like what I do. I guess that’s why I have done well for myself and my organization.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?

Firstly, the leadership demographic itself has changed from what is used to be 20 years back and how it is today and how it will be in future. The image of a leader in early 80s was a grey-haired person with a suit and tie. Today that’s not the case.

Today’s world is fast changing, e.g. – If I had to look at the recent phenomenon. Mobile data has changed over 4000 folds in the last 10yr and 80% of that growth has come in the last 2 years. You see the pace at which it is changing. If I expect a person who started with Mainframes to innovate on what can be done on a digital SIM or bitcoin, it cannot happen. For this either he must be a genius who has constantly evolved himself faster than the pace at which the world is evolving. Or get some young blood who is hungry, impatient and can run with the pace to match the disruption.

When I joined my organization around 6 years back, I have given a challenge, We had zero presence in Southeast Asia and the task was to make an impact starting as a Sales director. Making this greenfield region into a multi-million dollar region was a challenge and today looking back makes it feel like a roller coaster ride. South East Asia is one of the growth levers for our organization and has not just given us revenue growth but also some of the best in class transformation stories in the Telco space.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

I will say I have multiple mentors. I try to learn and get inspiration from every inspiring individual I come across, whether they are renowned names like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Indra Nooyi, Narendra Modi or even my family and friends There is plenty to learn from them and I do learn from each one of them. A simple idea of a growing start up coming up with something interesting can also influence you. So I don’t have one particular mentor I look up to, I tend to pick up all whatever I think is inspiring and bring about a positive influence on me.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

We all know these are uncertain and hence exciting times because everyone and everything around us is changing at such rapid pace. So how can we keep up with this change? And probably that’s the answer to this question. For myself as well as for growing talent. Continuous reading, you have to continuously read and you need to specifically give yourself time outside the mundane work that you are doing. I will have my goals, targets, KRA but 2 hours in a day I need to step out of that space and see what I need to do to survive myself in this fast changing world. A better way to put it, ‘To grow myself’. I read and follow editions/ webinars on how technologies are changing right, what are the recent upcoming trends, there are so many journals, so many startups who are innovating and you need to follow their innovation. Put yourself out of the box and challenge yourself each day. I look for the similar traits before hiring people. I believe in hiring people who are better than me and I can look up to them and learn from them. I strongly believe that hierarchies in organizations have
been destroyed and any growing organization will have to be flat. Essentially all it means is to have an equal right to opinion and opportunities for each and every individual. Hence I follow these basic principles to spots, develop and grow key talents in my team and we all work as one team with a common goal in mind.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Diversity is a key element in today fast changing environment, while the technology is a common thread connecting people but at the same time, every country and its culture is unique. We need a diverse set of people in a team who can bring a flavor of new ideas and different aspects. Our workplace, like the nation and wider world, is made up of men and women of diverse racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, with varied lifestyles and approaches to life. Instead of trying to make everyone fit one mold, diversity acknowledges people’s differences and works with those differences to create a strong team.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

Ability to lead is directly tied to one’s ability to inspire confidence in people. And to earn the confidence of your people in a world of the technology-driven world, you need to learn how to identify the driving forces that are shaping the future.I guess that holds true in terms of leadership traits for people as well as for organizations.

A leader of today focuses on agility — being able to change quickly based on external circumstances as a change from the outside in has been coming at an ever-increasing speed, and it’s only getting faster. To be a leader both today and in the future (again I am referring to people and organizations) you need to become adept not only at reacting to events but also anticipating a change. I believe that’s a general rule of thumb for me to identify someone as a leader. Look at any modern organization today from Google to any unicorn startups which is leading a change, you will realize they are all working towards controlling data and building models around predictions.

Advice for others?

Just follow yourself, live it and follow yourself. Make it as crazy as possible because the best of innovation comes from the craziest of things we do. Just follow your instincts and don’t let anyone run you down. Look for advice but do what you feel is right even it sounds crazy to others. Till the time, it is not crazy enough chances are someone else will also be thinking of the same idea. That’s how Google, Facebook, twitter have emerged and more of such examples are emerging in today’s world.

To learn more about Sterlite Technologies Limited, please see

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.

Callum Connects

Malcolm Tan, Founder of Gravitas Holdings



Malcolm Tan is an ICO/ITO and Cryptocurrency advisor. He sees this new era as similar to when the internet launched.

What’s your story?
I’m a lawyer entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, and who is now stepping into the Initial Coin Offering/Initial Token Offering/Cryptocurrency space to be a thought leader, writer (How to ICO/ITO in Singapore – A Regulatory and Compliance Viewpoint on Initial Coin Offering and Initial Token Offering in Singapore), and advisor through Gravitas Holdings – an ICO Advisory company. We are also running our own ICO campaign called AEXON, and advising 2 other ICO’s on their projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
It is the start of a whole new paradigm, and it is like being at the start of the internet era all over again. We have a chance to influence and shape the industry over the next decade and beyond and lead the paradigm shift.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Singaporean and most of my business revolves around the ASEAN region. Our new ICO advisory company specialises in Singaporean ICO’s and we are now building partnerships around the region as well. One of the core business offerings of our AEXON ICO/ITO is to open up co-working spaces around the region, with a target to open 25 outlets, and perhaps more thereafter.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, since it is my hometown and most of my business contacts originate from or are located in Singapore. It is also a very open and easy place to do business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be careful of your clients – sometimes they can be your worst enemies. This is very true and you have to always be careful about whom you deal with. The closest people are the ones that you trust and sometimes they have other agendas or simply don’t tell you the truth or whole story and that can easily put one in a very disadvantageous position.

Who inspires you?
Leonardo Da Vinci as a polymath and genius and leader in many fields, and in today’s world, Elon Musk for being a polymath and risk taker and energetic business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Early stage bitcoin investors would have made 1,000,000 times profit if they had held onto their bitcoins from the start to today – in the short space of 7 years.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Seek out good partnerships and networks from day one, and use the power of the group to grow and do things together, instead of being bogged down by operations and going it alone from start.

How do you unwind?
I hardly have any time for relaxation right now. I used to have very intense hobbies, chess when I was younger, bridge, bowling, some online real time strategy games and poker. All mentally stimulating games and requiring focus – I did all these at competitive levels and participated in national and international tournaments, winning multiple trophies, medals and awards in most of these fields.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket – nature, resort life, beaches, good food and a vibrant crowd.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki

Shameless plug for your business:
Gravitas Holdings (Pte) Limited is the premier ICO Advisory company and we can do a full service for entrepreneurs, including legal and compliance, smart contracts and token creation, marketing and PR, and business advisory and white paper writing/planning.

How can people connect with you?
Write emails to [email protected], or [email protected]

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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Women on Top in Tech – Pam Weber, Chief Marketing Officer at 99Designs



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Pam Webber is Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs, where she heads up the global marketing team responsible for acquisition, through growth marketing and traditional marketing levers, and increasing lifetime value of customers. She is passionate about using data to derive customer insights and finding “aha moments” that impact strategic direction. Pam brings a host of first-hand startup marketing experiences as an e-commerce entrepreneur herself and as the first marketing leader for many fast-growing startups. Prior to joining 99designs, she founded weeDECOR, an e-commerce company selling custom wall decals for kids’ rooms. She also worked as an executive marketing consultant at notable startups including True&Co, an e-commerce startup specializing in women’s lingerie. Earlier in her career, Pam served in various business and marketing positions with eBay and its subsidiary, PayPal, Inc. A resident of San Francisco, Pam received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MBA from Harvard Business School. Pam is a notable guest speaker for Venture Beat, The Next Web, Lean Startup, and Growth Hacking Forum, as well as an industry expert regularly quoted in Inc., CIO, Business News Daily, CMSwire, Smart Hustle, DIY Marketer, and various podcast and radio shows. You can follow her on Twitter at @pamwebber_sf.

What makes you do what you do?
My dad always told me make sure you choose a job you like because you’ll be doing it for a long time. I took that advice to heart and as I explored various roles over my career, I always stopped to check whether I was happy going to work every day – or at least most days :). That has guided me to the career I have in marketing today. I’m genuinely excited to go to work every day. I get to create, to analyze, to see the impact of my work. It’s very fulfilling.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I had a penchant for numbers and it helped me stand out in my field. This penchant became even more powerful when the Internet and digital marketing started to explode. There was a great need for marketers whose skills could span both the creative and the analytic aspects of marketing. I capitalized on that growth by bringing unique insight to the companies I worked with, well-supported with thoughtful analysis.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup?
I’m not sure this is relevant to my situation as I had been a marketing leader in various start-ups and companies. I took on the role at 99designs because I was excited by the global reach of the brand and the opportunity the company had to own the online design space. I especially liked the team as I felt they were good at heart.

The challenge I’ve faced in my time at 99designs is how do I evolve the team quickly and nimbly to address new challenges. The work we do now, is very different than the work we did a year ago and even the year before that. There is a fine line between staying focused on the goal ahead and being able to move quickly should that goal shift.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industry or did you look for one or how did that work?
There is no one I’ve sought out or worked with over my entire career as my “mentee” needs have changed so much over the years. There are many people who have helped me along the way. For example, one of my peers at eBay, who was quite experienced and skilled in marketing strategy and creative execution, taught me what was in a marketing plan and how to evaluate marketing assets. As I have risen to leadership positions over the years, I often reach out to similarly experienced colleagues for advice on how they handle situations.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
I learned early in my career that it rarely hurts to ask for advice. So that is what I have done. Additionally, there are people that are known to be quite helpful and build a reputation for giving back to others in advisory work. Michael Dearing, of Harrison Metal and ex-eBay, is one of those people. I, as well as countless others, have asked him for advice and guidance through the years and he does his best to oblige. Finding mentorship is about intuiting who in your universe might be willing and whether you are up for asking for help.

That being said, generally, I have found, if you are eager to learn and be guided, people will respond to the outreach.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I generally look for a good attitude and inherent “smarts”. A good attitude can encompass anything from being willing to take on many different types of challenges to working well amongst differing personalities and perspectives. Smarts can be seen through how well someone’s done in their “passion areas” (i.e. areas where they have a keen interest in pursuing).

I try to hire those types of people because in smaller, fast-growing companies like many of the ones I’ve worked in, it’s more often than not about hiring flexible people as things move and change fast.

Once those people are on my team, I try to keep them challenged and engaged by making sure they have varying responsibilities. If I can’t give them growth in their current job or in the current company, I encourage them to seek growth opportunities elsewhere. I’d rather have one of my stars leave for a better growth opportunity than keep them in a role where they might grow stale.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity. When I am hiring, I am constantly thinking about how to balance the team with as broad a range as possible of skill sets, perspectives, etc. to ensure we can take on whatever is thrown at us, or whatever we want to go after.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I’m going to assume a great leader in my industry to mean a marketing leader in a technology company. I think a great leader in this industry is not afraid to learn new tricks no matter their age – it’s the growth mindset you may have heard about. I have a friend who inspires me to do this – she purchased the Apple Watch as soon as it was available, and was one of the first people I knew to use the Nest heating/cooling system. She’s not an early adopter by most definitions, but she adopts the growth mindset. This is the mindset I, too, have sought to adopt. In my field of marketing, it most recently has meant learning about Growth Marketing and how to apply this methodology to enhance growth. Independent of your industry, I think a growth mindset serves you well.

Advice for others?
I have been at 99designs for 3.5 years. During that time we’ve invested in elevating the skills and quality of our designer community, we’ve rebranded to reflect this higher level of quality, and have improved the satisfaction of our customers. Our next phase of growth will come from better matching clients to the right designer and expanding the ability to work with a designer one-on-one. We have the best platform to find, collaborate, and pay professional designers who deliver high quality design at an affordable price, and it’s only going to get better. I’m excited to deliver on that vision.

Pam Webber
Chief Marketing Officer of 99designs
Twitter: @pamwebber_sf

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