What makes someone a strong leader and an exceptional ally
for their teams and the people around them? According to Vidisha Chatterjee, WhatsApp Communications Director, India, at Meta, it’s a person who inspires inclusivity, welcomes diversity of thought and champions the growth and development of others.
“At Meta, we believe that if you don’t encourage people to speak up, you’ll never learn what might be holding someone back,” Shivnath Thukral, Director of Public Policy for WhatsApp in India, Meta, agrees. “The greatest leaders I’ve worked with know that we need everyone’s input to solve better, build better and do better.”
Vidisha and Shivnath are both leaders for WhatsApp teams in India, where their work helps connect more than 400 million people across the country. Reflecting on their individual career paths and the lessons they’ve collectively learned while working with their teams, they share how anyone can become a stronger advocate and step up as a leader.
Vidisha, WhatsApp Communications Director, India, at Meta, believes strong leadership is centered on inclusivity.
Leading by example
Vidisha worked for two decades in roles spanning satellite television, radio and consumer technology. She joined Meta remotely amidst the pandemic in 2020. While it wasn’t ideal to meet teammates remotely, only online, she chose to lead by showing a genuine understanding and appreciation of her colleagues.
“I wouldn’t trade being a part of this team for anything. At Meta, we all come from vastly different backgrounds. It’s a place rich with diverse talent and I have a lot of respect for their varied experiences, culture, interests and the passions they bring with them.”
“It’s important to me to be the kind of leader I am inspired by and enjoy working with, so I set a personal goal to proactively meet with each person on the larger WhatsApp and cross-functional teams,” she explains. “I do my best to actively engage with and encourage different points of view because they provide me with the greatest opportunities to learn. I am also invested in my colleagues’ growth and their career journeys. Empowering people, helping them believe in themselves and achieve higher horizons every day is a fascinating experience. I am accessible to anyone on our team for anything that they hope to resolve, get advice about or create. I’m grateful that my colleagues reach out to me as an ally and mentor.”
Shivnath, Director of Public Policy for WhatsApp in India, Meta, says his leadership style is centered on empowering the people around him.
Lifting others up
Shivnath collaborates closely with the Communications team, and Vidisha beams when talking about the allyship he demonstrates every day. “Shivnath and I work closely together as partners in progress. It’s an association built on mutual respect and openness,” she explains. “He serves as a sounding board and we’re all so fortunate to have his inputs and collaboration.” When asked about his leadership style, Shivnath says it’s fully centered on lifting those around him up by highlighting their perspectives, abilities and accomplishments.
“When I joined Meta in 2018, one of my primary goals was to eliminate blockers so members of the Policy team—and broader WhatsApp team—feel fully empowered to design and build for the future.”
“The past year, in particular, gave me ample opportunities to show up as an ally and empower my team. When it comes to leadership, I ask myself questions like, ‘Can I help my team to grow and fly?’ and ‘How can I be a sounding board for someone?’”, he explains. “Being an ally comes in different forms for different people. It may mean looking for specific ways to help someone who is new to the team, giving unbiased advice when asked or simply stepping back to demonstrate trust and let other people make the decisions they believe in.”
A seasoned leader, members of Shivnath’s team speak highly of his inclusive approach. They note that he’s an incredibly “fair listener”—demonstrating how his advocacy has an impact in everyday situations such as one-on-ones, team meetings and spontaneous discussions.
Be the ally
Looking back on their career experiences and the lessons they’ve learned about leadership, Vidisha and Shivnath share advice that anyone can use to be a stronger ally for those around them:
Take a step back: “Take a detached view of what’s around you to get the bigger picture. Observe objectively and take steps from there.” —Vidisha
Develop self-awareness: “Empower and strengthen others in any way you can. There is no option other than being an ally. ” —Vidisha
Be intentional: “Not everyone is aware of those who need support. Be intentional about empowering new team members, cross-functional team members, those who may be underrepresented.” —Shivnath
Take meaningful action: “Allyship can look like small gestures, such as asking for input, to bigger actions, like serving as a formal mentor or using privilege to speak up on behalf of others. It’s important to remember that every action has the power to make a meaningful difference.” —Shivnath