Following Stellar Women tradition, Mila and I had 2021’s Stellar Women Innovation Award winner on the podcast—Heena Bhambhlani—to talk about our favorite trends and takeaways from the year. I always leave our conversations with Heena feeling so inspired, and this one was no different.
Heena shares her story in e-discovery, her leadership style, and what the Stellar Women community means to her. And, to close out the month, Heena shares her goals for 2022, including becoming a better version of her already stellar self. [Check out our community’s New Year’s resolutions for some fun motivation!]
2021 Stellar Women Innovation Award Winner
Managed Review & Functional Analysis Leader (Mumbai)
Mary Rechtoris: Hey Stellar Women fans. I'm your host, Mary Rechtoris.
Mila Taylor: And I'm your co-host, Mila Taylor. Stellar Women shines a light on female leaders making their mark in tech.
MR: To start out this new year, Mila and I are first just going to catch up. We haven't chatted in years, I feel like.
MT: I know. It feels like it honestly has been 10 years.
MR: It has been 10 years.
MT: I have like no sense of time.
MR: Where even are you in the world right now?
MT: I am in Miami. I just got back. I was in Australia visiting my family. I was there for six weeks. It was only meant to be four. Because of COVID, it grew to six, which I wasn't complaining about. I had a lovely time, and it went by in a flash. It was just exactly what I needed after the past two years of not being able to go home. It was amazing. I had a really great time. How did you spend your break?
MR: I was with my family a lot. I showed my mom the videos you posted.
MT: Of me surprising my parents?
MR: Yes! We were both crying in the car.
MT: It’s honestly gone a little viral.
MR: Did you put it on TikTok or is it just Instagram?
MT: No, it's just on Instagram. But my mum actually felt like a celebrity. We were walking around in like the supermarkets and people were coming up to her. These are people that she knows, but not well. For anyone listening, my parents knew I was coming home, but I switched my flight and came home a couple of days early. I surprised my dad just at home and my mum was already at work. I went to the school that she teaches at, and all of her colleagues were in on it. They had to pretend film her [reading], but she didn't know it was pretend. She is a special needs teacher, and they had her reading this storybook. They were filming her reading it and she just thought this was like something for the school. But then in the middle of the recording, I walked into the room and she just so shocked. She actually looked up at me three times and then kept reading, and then I had to say, like, “Mum, hello.” And then she just lost it.
MR: It looked like she didn't register what was going on.
MT: Exactly, exactly.
MR: I’m tearing up now thinking about the video.
MT: It was a very good moment. I felt very grateful to be able to actually see my mum and give her a hug and see my dad and give him a hug. It was—it was very, very special. And before the break, Mary, you had a bit of a life update.
MR: I did.
MT: Please share with the class.
MR: Yes, my boyfriend, who is now my fiancé, proposed. I’m an engaged lady.
MT: It was so great. I saw it on Instagram and I literally audibly gasped.
MR: It was really fun because it was just me and him. It was in this beautiful forest preserve. We went back to our apartment and both of our families were there. My sister got my dog a bandana that said “my parents are getting married.” The whole family was in on it. So, some good updates from Mila and me. It's awesome to catch up. Now, I think from here we'll bring in our guest for this week. We have Heena Bhambhlani, our 2021 Stellar Women Innovation Award winner, which we're all so excited about. In this episode, Heena shares how she was always destined to be an attorney and how her career in this field of e-discovery has made such a wonderful impact on her life. She also talks about why kindness is important to her when mentoring other team members, and why we should all take the time to invest in our relationships. Why don't we bring in Heena? Heena, we're excited to have you here today, and for people that haven't heard your earlier episode with us, why don't you tell us a little bit about your story? How did you get to where you are today?
Heena Bhambhlani: Sure. Thank you, Mary, and Mila for having me on. Hope 2022 has started off on a wonderful note for you and everyone. I don't think I've had any other aspirations than to be a lawyer. My dad is a practicing lawyer in India and like any other daddy's girl, I grew up idolizing him and that's the only reason I took up law. I graduated law school in 2007, and just a few weeks after graduation, I received an interview from a legal services provider company named Pangea3. Since I had never faced a job interview in my life until then, I went only for the experience of facing an interview. Fortunately, the interview went well, and I received an offer letter from them on the same day. My intent at that point was to perhaps work only for a few months to get exposure of working in the corporate environment. But I take extreme pride in sharing that I have been working with Pangea3, which was acquired by Ernst and Young in June 2019, for 14-plus years now. I'd never really heard about e-discovery until this job, as e-discovery is something that is not widely known in India. I had never imagined that, 14 years down the line, e-discovery would become second nature and, in a sense, a way of life for me. Looking back, this job has truly been one of the best decisions of my life. I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunities that I have received to grow not just as a professional, but as an overall individual. That’s my short story.
MR: Did you ever wonder if you didn't become a lawyer, what you might have done?
HB: Now that I think back, I’d probably do something in the fashion world because that is something that I'm extremely passionate about.
MR: Love, love fashion!
HB: Law and fashion don't really go together and may not go together hand-in-hand, but both are things that I feel passionately about.
MT: Something that really resonated with Mary and me, as well as the larger community, is how much of a fantastic leader and mentor that you are. Diving into that a bit, is there a moment in your career or life where you recall a mentor or leader really making an impact?
HB: Oh yes, Mila. I have been blessed to have the best set of mentors and leaders who have always guided and led by example. What I love about this journey is that I get to learn every single day from people who I admire and idolize, and then pick up on some of their traits to take the legacy forward. And in the process, I also get to create my own unique leadership and mentorship style in stride. I remember this one instance when my leader was extremely kind and polite to people around them. They made each one feel unique and empowered at all times, especially the weakest ones on the team. I felt that that was a great show of the leader's character, as it can sometimes be a natural tendency to not be as polite to the weak ones, while being extra polite or even submissive to the strong ones. And I think this is not just in the context of a specific instance or specific meetings, but this is something that applies across all areas of life. And I think especially during the current times that we are living in, that kindness, modesty, and being grounded are things that serve as constant reminders for us to be working on.
MT: Yeah, I love that. That really encompasses our Stellar Women program and what we look for in a mentor and leader. You articulated that really well. You are such a fantastic leader and mentor, which led you to win the Stellar Women Innovation Award. Congratulations again! Can talk to us a bit about what that award means to you?
HB: Oh, yes, for sure. And I still remember how excited I was to be hearing from Mary and how excited I was to be filling in the nominations for the Stellar Women award. As I was filling in the form, I looked up the previous years’ winner and was in awe of the body of work that each one of them had. I felt absolutely honored to be one of the nominees for 2021 and was pleasantly surprised when Mary emailed me that I was shortlisted as one of the three nominees for this award. What followed after is something that I will always remember for a very long time. Essentially, I tried my best to leverage the power of social media and requested my family, friends, clients, and colleagues on LinkedIn, Facebook, and WhatsApp to cast their vote for the most deserving candidate. I was deeply touched by the love and support that I got from everyone. Being a person who heavily invests in relationships, I am constantly looking to forge deeper bonds, both on the professional as well as the personal front. I consider their trust and support as some of my biggest victories. Winning the Stellar Women Innovation Award has been an absolute honor, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect as the award came just a few months after a promotion that I received within my firm—Ernst & Young. The award means several things to me, but most importantly, it means two things. The first is looking back on my career journey and the things that work out well and the things that didn't work out as well, I want to thank all the people who have and continue to inspire me every single day with their actions. This award, for me, is a celebration of the love, support, mentoring, and guidance that I have and continue to receive in the course of my professional journey from everyone. The second aspect of winning this award is looking forward—looking forward to understanding what success means and looks like in the next stage of my career journey and then to be ambitious about obtaining that success. It also means looking forward to being of help to other colleagues, especially the female professionals. I have received a lot of positive messages from female professionals. I feel that even if I can motivate one of them, I would consider myself extremely lucky.
MR: I love that. With Stellar Women, we want to inspire each other and just really lift each other up. You've been doing that throughout your career and this award is just a wonderful acknowledgment of all the work you're doing, and I'm sure will continue to do so. As Mila said, congratulations and we were just so happy when we found out you won.
HB: Thank you. Thank you so much.
MR: Of course. And in the spirit of looking forward, a lot of what we talk about with our program is what a gender equitable world looks like and what can we do to inch a little bit closer to that world. In an ideal state from an industry or a larger perspective, what does gender equity look like to you?
HB: A gender equitable world to me is when people are able to access and enjoy equal rewards, resources, and opportunities regardless of gender, but based completely on merit, talent, efforts, and commitment. This includes equality in financial compensation, leadership, and growth opportunities in hiring. It is also [equal] acceptance of caregiving and family responsibilities and being able to create an atmosphere where each one feels open and empowered to be putting their thoughts and views across the table for all important strategic as well as routine, day-to-day decisions.
MR: To close us off here, being that it's January, we quoted you and other Stellar Women community members about their 2022 resolutions. Would you like to share what you plan to do this year and the context behind that resolution?
HB: Yes, of course. It is difficult to imagine starting January without New Year’s resolutions, even if it means forgetting the most constant resolutions that a lot of us make, such as eating healthy or hitting the gym. We forget about it within a few days of making that resolution. But kidding aside, my resolution this year is to become a better version of my own self; a better version that strives to be honest, kind, compassionate, and committed to putting her heart and soul into every single thing that she pursues, either professionally or personally. A better version that is fearless, more open to stepping outside of the comfort zone, and always ready to keep hustling to achieve goals because, as they say, nothing worth having comes easy. And most importantly, a better version that is always grateful for all the beautiful things that this amazing life has to offer—better health, happiness, family, friends, colleagues, clients, world travel, food, nature, and the list goes on. As we discussed a little earlier, it has been a challenging start to 2022 with the COVID resurgence. It is always disturbing to see so many near and dear ones suffer, but I’m really hoping and praying hard for the world to heal soon and for a happy, healthy, productive, and peaceful year for everyone. I hope that everyone gets an opportunity to do things that make them happy, as well as get the opportunity to be meeting their goals and resolutions.
MR: And with that for Stellar Women, I am Mary Rechtoris.
MT: I’m Mila Taylor.
Both: Signing off.