Abhilasha Akhouri’s ‘Shadow’ experience with Gunjan Soni
For an entire month, I was a shadow-mentee to Ms Gunjan Soni, who heads the e-commerce website,Jabong in Gurgaon, Haryana. Shadowing her meant I could closely observe her working style, and be exposed to corporate situations that interns normally don’t have access to. This mentoring experience allowed me to gain multiple perspectives and enabled me to see the practical applications of concepts learnt in class. I came away with insights in terms of what I wish to emulate and inculcate within me, in my own journey of becoming a leader.
My job was to keenly observe the surroundings around me, especially everything to do with my mentor and her daily routine. I was given the opportunity to attend all of my mentor’s meetings as well as the brainstorming sessions that she would head. The month was an exciting period for the e-commerce industry, what with preparations for the GST roll-out in play. On the business side of things, I was afforded the opportunity to witness how two organisations merge their logistics in the event of an acquisition. Jabong was acquired by Myntra in 2016, and I got a first-hand view of the preparations that go into launching a large-scale independent sale by Jabong. It was rare perspectives like these that really edified me through the Shadow month.
I had three key takeaways through my observations, and I hope to be able to incorporate each my thinking. The first is a motto which my mentor swears by — “punch above your weight”; be aspirational and never settle for less than what you think you can do. The second is her habit of giving appreciation where it is due. This worked wonders in helping to establish relationships, building trust and facilitating accountability within the organisation. The third is the importance of structured thinking, both in terms of communication and for problem-solving. My mentor constantly stressed on the importance of “knowing your content” well enough to be able to stand your ground in any discussion. She exemplifies a problem-solving approach. In the several one-on-one sessions I had with her, she spoke about the value of ideas and how important it is for people like me (who are beginning their career paths) to try and constantly be innovative and come up with potential solutions to all kinds of problems. Another interesting motto that my mentor lives by is “spray and pray” — meaning that one has to do everything in their power to lay the foundation that can then ‘catch’ luck. Luck doesn’t just happen by praying for it. One has to prepare the field and do everything in their power to make anything a success.
One thing that I would do differently if I could undergo the experience again, would be to talk more to more people. As someone with no prior work experience, I sold myself short in terms of not putting myself out there and interacting with more people and more situations. All in all, the ‘Shadow’ module was a terrific learning experience for me. I was exposed to the everyday workings of an established company in the burgeoning fashion e-commerce space, and I got the chance the come close to the ‘CEO perspective’ — which gave me a bird’s-eye view of everything happening within, and around the organisation.