Sarvita Sethi, CFO, Coca-Cola India and Southwest Asia, was recently elected to the prestigious ‘Economic Times Women Ahead List 2019.’ The annual listing is a celebration of India's rising women professionals and entrepreneurs.

In an interview, Sarvita talks about her love for her work, maintaining a work-life balance, gender stereotypes and her advice to other career-oriented women.

What I enjoy most about work:  My favourite days are when we are brainstorming an issue together as a team, debating it out, challenging each other, listening to different points of view and then co-creating a solution. We recently went through an internal audit for a seven week period and there were moments, where we were concerned about how the audit might go. Pressure built up, people got anxious and the clock was ticking. 

However, we got together and worked through each challenge methodically, and as a result, the team felt better positioned to have the next round of discussions with the auditors, and better armed with the relevant level of detailed information. This ultimately led to us setting a new record as we received the cleanest audit report we have ever had in the history of our business here in India and on par if not better, than many developed countries. 

I am convinced that we would not have had this result, had we not got the collective genius of the team together.



What I have learnt about work-life balance
:  I believe we have one life and therefore, we must make the most of it.  I still abide by ‘work hard, play hard.’  So whenever I take up a new assignment, I work very hard in the beginning to get up to speed as fast as I can. That will lead to a moment where you can then step back and consolidate what you have learnt and see a better path through. This can be ideas on business as well as processes or other areas.  Process ideas are often undervalued, but in my experience, these are the ideas that often lead to better ways of working. 

This ultimately leads to less hours on inefficient processes at work, thereby giving your team and yourself more time to work on value-added work as well as more free personal time to enjoy.

My advice to other career women: Take risks on yourself. We can change perceptions by firstly betting upon ourselves, after all, if you will not bet on yourself, how will someone else?  So take chances, it can be taking roles in areas you may have no direct experience in but help your overall career, volunteering to lead projects when they come up, or even smaller things such as voicing your view in meetings, asking questions in conferences etc.  Build your own self-belief and confidence, do not rely on others to do it for you - that's just a bonus when it happens.   

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:  My view on this is you have to nurture the roots, and then only the trees will grow. I was in the news on joining the India business as CFO. Someone had ‘shared’ that newspaper article on a Facebook page and I followed the link. It opened up a page which had a photo of many Indian women gathered together and it read ‘see, women can be good at math.’

It still haunts me today that there are women out there that have been brought up with such a belief.  We have to, as a society, change such beliefs, to help the future generations. Belief is absolutely essential to achieving your best. With unwavering belief, continuous support, encouragement and investment, from an early age, we will be able to enable our gender to aspire to reach their dreams- whether that's the boardroom or not.

An abridged version of this interview was originally published in The Economic Times