Office Hours: I'm VP of Partnerships and Company Programs at LeanIn.Org and previously was Senior Director of Customer Success at Medallia and Head of Partnerships at Google Helpouts. I'm Archana Gilravi.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Achana Gilravi, VP of Partnerships and Company Programs at LeanIn.Org. I am also the founder of the Unstoppable Women Podcast and on the Board of Governors for the Center for Creative Leadership.Prior to LeanIn, I was Senior Director of Customer Success at Medallia and spent 8 years at Google in a variety of roles including Partnerships, Customer Success, and Strategy & Operations. I have a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and an MBA from Wharton.Ask me anything about EDI programs, unconscious bias, partnerships, customer success, podcasting, being a board member, leading teams, or anything else!
Thanks so much for joining us @archana!Elphas – please ask @archana your questions before Friday, January 29th. @archana may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi @archana! Thanks so much for being here. What key skills did you need for roles in partnerships, strategy and/or operations and how did you go about developing them? I am finishing my undergraduate degree in Human Rights and Equity Studies and thinking about doing an MBA in a couple of years. I'm wondering if you recommend it for someone like me who is only interested in working in startups, or in CSR or EDI in the corporate sector? Is it relevant and worthwhile for me as I do not have "formal" business knowledge? I have heard conflicting opinions!
JathusaI built skills across all of those areas mainly by doing all of them. I have an MBA and I definitely credit it for the opportunities that came after it in terms of working at Google (where I learned most of my skillsets by having partnerships, strategy, and operations roles). I don't think you NEED an MBA in order to work in the areas that you have suggested. I think an MBA is a useful degree to roundout skillsets -- but mainly it provides space for you to build a strong network and get access to jobs as companies often recruit out of MBAs and it can be easier to do a career switch with an MBA than without one. If you are working in the jobs that you like and you are progressing great! you may not need an MBA. If you are feeling stuck and that you not making the progress you like - and MBA may be a great tool to help you get unstuck and get access to jobs outside of your network
Good Morning Achana, I have a podcast called Green Connections Radio where I interview women innovators and leaders in STEM, specifically in energy, sustainability and climate, and corporate social responsibility. I also write for Forbes about women in STEM, including on careers (I do career coaching too).I'd like to connect and chat about maybe having you on my show. Please email me to schedule it, at [email protected].Many thanks and I look forward to our conversation, stay safe,Joan
Dear Archana,great to have you here, I find LeanIn amazing! Was your move from business-driven to a social organization planned? What was your main driver and do you fill the difference professionally and personally?Thanks,Darya
DaryaIt actually was not planned. While I was in my last role before Lean In I started doing a lot more work on the side focused on women and leadership including leading my company's ERG and starting a podcast focused on women and leadership. When I was doing my job search - I was looking broadly for partnerships and/or customer success roles when a friend forwarded me the job at Lean In. The role was a perfect blend of both my professional experience and personal interest! When I went in to interview and met the team - it was such a perfect fit that I had to take the job. I was quite hesitant to leave the for profit world (thinking I could never go back) but that seems very silly in retrospect. Careers are fluid and no one can box you into one way or another. I see many successful women who work for both sectors across their career.
Hi @archana! So great to see you here! Lean-In is doing amazing things. I am the founder of SAYGe Link, a digital platform that connects women with shared experiences to exchange the valuable wisdom from our stories. Our mission is to reduce stigma, spread social capital and empower women globally. (Very aligned with Lean-in’s mission.) I just saw the addition of Circles. In addition to one:one conversations, our platform also facilitates small and larger group connections. Our smaller groups are actually called SAYge Circles! For all of our group meetings, we have added a post-event connection network feature, which fosters conversations and connections to continue after these virtual meetings. I would love to discuss a partnership with you as I know these event network could be a way to add value to Lean-in’s circles! We would offer this tool free to Lean-in members.
Great! Reach out to me on LinkedIn and lets see what we can do!
Hi @archana, what advice do you have for extending your work in equity, diversity and inclusion to partnerships?
I'm not sure that I understand the question but will try!If you are a leader in the EDI space - there are lot of opportunities to partner -- with external organizations that run programs, with internal ERGs who are looking for programs, etc. Are you looking to make a career switch into partnerships?
Hi @archana! Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome? I'm a second time Director of Customer Success, and I feel like I'm just gaining my footing with my "Director" responsibilities.Thank you!
Of course! I find that those are the best roles, the ones that you feel like you shouldn't have or are not quite ready for - it usually means that is where you do the most learning. Two pieces of advice- You likely know more than you are giving yourself credit for- Figure out where you are actually struggling and ask for help -- your direct manager could be helpful here or even leveraging a coach to help you articulate your strengths and areas that you need to work on could be very helpful in helping you overcome this
Hi @archana,What is the most common mistake you see when companies implement customer success (specifically experience management) programs? My team introduced an XM program to our company last year, after a year of lobbying. It is slowly gaining momentum and I would like to see it pick up. Second question about boards... I was approached to join the board of a friend's budding start-up. What is it that very early stage start-ups really need from board members?Thanks for supporting this community!Marie
Have you spoken to the employees to better understand what is preventing adoption? Are they using a legacy program that they prefer? Do they need more training on the new program? Is the new program easy to use? hard to use? Change management is hard -- so understanding the barriers that prevents someone from adoption new technology would be the first step to then diagnosing what the main challenges are and how you might remove those barriers to increase adoption. Regarding boards - I think it really varies -- ask your friend! What expertise are they looking for from you?
Good morning, @archana! Love seeing other Wellesley alums here on Elpha.My roles have straddled both team operations and partnerships building - I would love to hear your perspective about the growing awareness of inter-dependencies between employee and customer experiences. How do you maintain the balance between team-first and customer-first?
hello fellow Wellesley-ite. I so wish all women could have a womens' school experience.
Thank you, @archana! I agree re: employee-first and appreciate the helpful framing of identifying "what's actually at odds?" rather than pointing fingers at one side or another. Beyond staff-customer ratios, are there other metrics on which you rely to pinpoint conflicting activity between employee and customer success?
RocioIn my mind - employees come first. You can't have a happy customer if the employee that is providing the service miserable. I also don't think that these two have to be ad odds. So I would really look at - what is making at odds? Is the employee overworked? Are they looking after too many customers? What is the Customer / Employee ratio and is that correct? If you take care of your employees - you will ultimately take care of your customers.
How do you define partnership program goals as it relates to business objectives? How do you create criteria for defining who you should be partnering with? How do you get leadership on board with your vision for partnerships?
Nina - Partnerships should always be in service of something. What are the broader objectives that you are trying to achieve? What are your partner's objectives -- partnerships rarely work unless both parties feel like they are receiving value from the partnership. As for criteria -- all of this goes back to what your core objectives are? Increase reach? Increase adoption? Increase brand awareness? Running a small pilot? If you know the objectives, the criteria will fall into place. There are usually more criteria beyond the typical size & reach especially around how the partner's values line up to your org's values. In terms of leadership - what are their goals? Ultimately the partnership that you are trying to drive is key to helping them achieve their goals as well.
Hi Archana,I'm head of customer support and a D&I tech evangelist myself. I found our Lean In circles in our company which was actually the first gender ERG and winner of the Changemakers Women In Tech 2020 UK.Two questions1.- I'm very interested in your perspective on the effect of the pandemic - and specially unpaid carework - on attracting and retaining women in tech.2.- I'm looking for my first board position and, although I get requested for a lot of advice (e.g. as an advisor), I'm yet to land a board role. I've been told that I should try to minimize my work in D&I as otherwise all my other experiences (support, operations, acquisition integrations) wouldn't shine. What would you be your advice?FYI - I particpated in this report a million! Patricia
Patricia - great to see that you are leveraging Lean In Circles!1. I think COVID is having a really outsized impact on women. 1 in 4 women are thinking of dropping out of downshifting their role due to the impact of COVID and that is a very scary number. COVID has placed a spotlight on the lack of access to reliable, affordable family care in this country and I'm hopeful that we are able to take steps to solve it. For more data on the impacts of COVID on women - see our women in the workplace report here: Creating a board bio is very different than creating a resume. Boards are typically looking for a specific expertise. I don't think you should minimize your D&I work - but I do think you should be specific as to what your board superpowers are and where you could add the most value to a board.
Many thanks @archana! 1.- The report is indeed very good. We referenced it in ours about the impact of covid-19 on professional women's unpaid work. Thanks the for the feedback!Best, Patricia
Hi, thanks for doing this. I’d appreciate your thoughts on trends in CS and how to launch a new approach in this market that reduces churn and is centered around rapid change management. What might be some of the common barriers in the industry? What’s your view on CS as a habit/behavior change problem? Is there industry discussion around this? Who are some of the companies/people that are talking about this?My view is that when you’re asking someone to do something totally different today from yesterday, it’s about changing daily habits and flow. I’ve developed a framework for CS that dramatically speeds up adoption and reduce churns. I tested it in government - halving churn and doubling engagement speed. The framework incorporates elements from change management, human centered design, behavioral science, neuroscience etc. Thanks for any insight you can share.
I just realised how late I am to this post so will reach out on LI. Thx