An Interview with Puja Jaspal

Kara M. Zone

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An Interview with Puja Jaspal
Kara M. Zone

Puja Jaspal recently found herself seeking a greater challenge from her current position as Senior Vice President at Google. When she discovered this about herself, she followed her heart straight into a new position with Visa. Although a touch decision, she realized that it was the right one for her and her family. It was my pleasure speaking with her about her experience and her life story. She is an exceptionally kind woman who is encouraging and down to earth. She is an esteemed member of WITI and has contributed greatly to helping other women succeed by developing a role model status as she shared her wealth of knowledge, experience and experience.

Your Keynote Speech at the WITI Summit this year was about leading with Purpose and Passion, can you describe how you live your life in this way?

Puja Jaspal (PJ): "Leading with purpose and passion" was my way of saying -- listen to your voice. Everyone will always have an opinion with what they believe you should do with your life. Many don't understand what worked for them may not work for you, and their life may be a far cry from what you are truly seeking.

I follow my convictions. I have done this throughout my life, it was how I chose to go to University of Cincinnati instead of some larger named or Ivy League school. They offered me a full scholarship, and they had a Co-Op Program where I would get to work in the field I was majoring in. That was a big draw for me. The co-op experience helped me understand that engineering was not for me. Then, PNG had a Business school with Human Resources - that was really what I enjoyed doing. Because I enjoyed it, opportunities followed, and with that came the money.

I strive to never have regrets. We have to live life with purpose, taking risks on ourselves is part of creating our purpose. When I left Google to join Visa I was extremely nervous. I wasn't sure if I made the right decision and I started to second-guess myself. When I spoke with my mom, she asked me, "Would you be happy if you stayed there? Would you have any regrets?" I realized that, I would. I am not a person who can stay in one place and be complacent. I crave challenge. When I am truly happy, my family life is happy.

You grew up in Cincinnati, do you see a difference in the professional environment from east to the west coast?

(PJ): I lived all over the east coast and I found that Washington DC had the best blend. West Coast is more mid-western than one would believe. Many of Ohioans have moved out here. The culture is all about entrepreneurship, there is an intense passion. It's better than the east coast because it's not as much of a rat race. The is energy here has fun. It's very understated but each person is still focused on some dream.

Of course, I miss my family. My parents have asked me to come back, but I enjoy the environment far too much. I want my sister and my parents to move out here, I keep trying to get them out here. Hopefully, one day it will work.

You have had many fantastic professional positions, can you explain what drives you to keep going? How do you incorporate your own drive with your daughter?

(PJ): Simply put, don't apologize for your ambition. Too many people, women especially, apologize for being assertive in knowing what they want and how to get it. We have to just go for it.

The reason I keep moving forward is because I want to be a great leader. There are enough bad leaders to make me want to make a difference in a positive way. I like looking at the cracks and seeing how we can fix them. A lot of collateral damage comes with bad leadership. Many people overlook how serious of a responsibility it is and it's a never-ending development. I know there is a better way to manage and influence people, to be able to do the right thing, and to inspire people. I want to leave a legacy and create an environment where people are free to innovate.

Being a mom is a constant balancing act. There are things you can't outsource, like time with your children. I know I feel out of balance when I haven't spent enough time with her. I haven't been at the school in the past couple of weeks, I can tell when she's sad. Sometimes my daughter gets really angry, because she knows there is less time with mom and dad.

Andrea Young, was the CEO of A1 and she told me once "There are days when work wins and there are days when family wins." I like to keep this in mind when work days keep me busy.

Are you still involved with the Indus Women Leaders? How does co-founding an organization such as this help motivate you? What helped you have the desire to start such an organization?

(PJ): My co-founder and I met at a conference for Indian professionals. We held a couple of focus groups and really - we wanted to create an organization centered around advocacy. It's really cool. I'm not as involved as I used to be, but I've been asked if I would give up working in HR what would I like to do? I would love to take IWL to the next level.

Not only is IWL a networking community, but there is a learning enterprise going on as well. If we have one member who is looking to learn Spanish, another member can help point her in the right direction. We had five chapters grow from it. Because of it, each place I've moved for a new job, I had friends.