June 2nd, 2021

Purvee Kondal is a global procurement officer, board advisor, and an expert leader in diversity/inclusion and strategic procurement who understands the importance of mindfulness when making changes for a team.

Below, hear more about Purvee’s experiences with AI technologies, how to intentionally steward transformation within your company, and her tips on growing a support system throughout your executive journey.

Tell me about your executive journey up to this point.

I started my career in the technology procurement and partner management function under the Chief Information Officer. From there, I learned all parts of the procurement life cycle, leading me to become a Chief Procurement Officer. I love technology, so I championed it throughout my career when others ran away from it.

I am a constant learner and aim to be a knowledgeable leader. I’ve been on teams of large companies and respected brands where I helped lead transformations that unlocked tremendous value. I typically go into organizations to help them manage a change when they are trying to do something for the first time, want to do it dramatically different than before, or where others have failed in the past.

You recently led a Salon for Athena members on how we can combat anti-Asian sentiment as leaders. What are your tips for creating a more supportive environment for Asian people?

First, self-reflect on times when you may have seen any kind of biases. Biases do not have to be large and violent to get noticed.

Second, become self-aware of the times you did not do something that could have helped. Most of the time, you will find that people do not step in to correct the bias when they observe it.

Third, make small changes for how you will act in the future if you were to face those or similar instances again. Change is difficult, so we need to be realistic, but it can start with small changes.

What are the first steps leaders should take to get their stakeholders on board with transformation?

First, try to understand the scope and why transformation is required. Second, understand what motivates people, what fears they have, and try to identify your supporters vs. those who will just pile along the journey. Next, ask some important questions… Does everyone understand what the goal is and why? Is everybody rowing in the same direction to support your objectives? Do you have the right executive support in place?

How can leaders identify potential allies for a project or goal?

Think about if they were a partner on the journey to share your successes and failures while being inclusive and supportive. To me, a partnership is a two-way street that requires transparency, knowing how you fit in each other’s interlock, and if you share risks and rewards. I always assume good intent and start from a position of trust because that’s how you find a good partner. Trust and transparency should be present from the get-go if you want a solid partnership.

What is the unique value you bring to the boardroom?

My unique value is around transformation, having led many complex projects where transformation was needed, warranted, and required. I can bring innovative perspectives to companies if they are looking to evolve their business models or embark on a digital transformation using emerging technologies such as AI, ML, and leveraging the Cloud.

I have also been blessed to have worked within an AI company focused on my domain. Hence, as an operating executive, I understand what does/does not work in AI and what needs to be done to prepare an organization for the AI-enabled future. I am a great asset to companies when considering AI to transform their business models and functions.

Where do you think boards are often missing the mark when it comes to AI and AI governance?

Since AI is new, many companies and people have a misconception about what it can do. I don’t think they are missing the mark, but there is certainly a lack of awareness. Boards and executives need to learn more about it. We need to be asking different questions based on a diversity of experiences and thoughts. From my perspective, it should be driven by the board asking questions like, “what is our AI vision?” and “what AI guardrails should the company have?”

What challenges does AI pose when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

As we head into the 4th industrial revolution led by AI, the training algorithm will miss critical data sets to pull from if we don’t embrace diverse thoughts or experiences now. We need diversity to make sure we make the right decisions for our organizations, people, planet, and communities. If we don’t, AI will uncover and amplify decision-making plagued with rooted biases that can harm an organization in many ways. AI may seem like a risk, but in reality, without risks, there are no rewards. Having diversity of thoughts and experiences to govern AI will help mitigate risks that may otherwise outweigh the rewards.

What advice do you have for underrepresented women rising through the executive ranks?

From my own experiences as a minority woman, it’s important to ensure you have the right sponsors throughout your career. Early in my career, I was told my success as a minority business woman made me too visible. I initially accepted that and adjusted myself accordingly. However, my sponsors and mentors reminded me to be myself and keep doing the right thing by not settling for underperformance in order to rise. The reality is you have to create your own persona and be in environments that allow you to thrive while being your authentic self.

Joining Athena was great because, throughout my career, I only had one other woman mentor to rely on. The rules of the game were never explained to me nor made visible; I was only told where I can/cannot enter—and I never understood why. Athena explained the unstated rules and helped me discover new allies. I now not only have the support of an amazing woman leader, but also many others who welcome diversity and bring leadership styles that one can look up to, admire, and continue to learn from.



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