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Stellar Women: Catching up with Our 2021 Innovation Award Finalists

Mary Rechtoris

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We are counting down the days until our 2021 Innovation Awards ceremony on October 6. Our Innovation Awards are an opportunity to celebrate the individuals who make our community stronger. These are individuals dedicated to innovation, elevating emerging leaders, and making our industry a better place. The Stellar Women Innovation Award is one that is dear to my heart.

This year will mark the fourth year bestowing the award, with previous winners including Joy Murao, Stephanie Clerkin, and Kenya Dixon. This year’s finalists—Rebecca Grant, Kamaka Martin, and Heena Bhambhlani—are the epitome of what it means to be a stellar woman in tech.

Mila and I wanted to give you all a better opportunity to get to know them. Check out this episode to see what makes all these women leaders in e-discovery.

Heena Bhambhlani

Heena Bhambhlani

Managed Review & Functional Analysis Leader (Mumbai)
EY

Rebecca Grant

Rebecca Grant

Executive Director, Founder
icourts

Kamaka Martin

Kamaka Martin

SVP, Client Services
Legility

Transcript

Mary Rechtoris: Hey Stellar Women fans. I'm your host, Mary Rechtoris. Stellar Women shines a light on female leaders making their mark in tech. In this special episode of Stellar Women, we get to know this year's Stellar Women Innovation Award finalists Rebecca Grant, Kamaka Martin, and Heena Bhambhlani. All three are truly stellar and we've really enjoyed getting to know all of them. We encourage you all to join us on October 6 for our Innovation Awards ceremony at 11:45 a.m. Central. We're going to share our Stellar Women Innovation Award winner alongside our other persona and tech award winners. It should be a fun show, so we encourage you all to join. Alright, let's get to the interviews. First up, we have Rebecca Grant from icourts joining Mila and me. Hey Rebecca.

Mila Taylor: Welcome.

Rebecca Grant: Thank you. Good morning.

MT: I'm excited to have you on again, Rebecca. How does it feel to be a finalist for this award?

RG: Well, it's very exciting, given what the awards stand for and the breadth of the community—particularly how I've seen the community grow. Plus, there’s the energy that the Innovation Awards create, all back when we can all remember being in person at Fest. It's lovely to be part of that energy and perhaps help disseminate it even further in these virtual times.

MR: So, Rebecca, what we know about you so far … So for listeners, you’re a cat mom. We saw four cute cats on the screen. You're a stellar woman, obviously, in this industry. You dabble in photography. To put you on the spot here, what's something a lot of people may not know about you?

RG: Okay. I have a degree in Latin.

MR: That is something unique.

RG: Something people don't know about me or don’t have an understanding about is just how many things pique my interest. It’s quite a long list.

MR: Give me like two or three on that list.

RG: I'm a stupidly, insanely obsessed gardener. During lockdown last year, I decided to learn how to lay sandstone. I laid 300 linear meters of sandstone to try and build the retaining wall around the beginnings of what I call my orange grove.

MR: Good for you. That's dedication.

MT: I tried to get into gardening during lockdown. The Chicago seasons are a little bit different to what I'm used to. Growing up, I had a lovely lemon tree and [the weather] was just conducive to all sorts of things. Here, I couldn't even grow a little herb. It was tough. So, I've retired that.

MR: And your teammate Jackie … we've worked with her before. She's the head of marketing at icourts. She shared some of the great things your team had to say about you. So, Rebecca, I don't know if you've seen it, but it was just such wonderful things. Some of the adjectives are “empathetic, sincere, supportive, and challenges the status quo.” This is not even the full list. Another one of them was inspirational. This team member said, “it's really empowering and inspiring to see a woman leader excel in such a male-dominated field.” I really want to focus on this—being a female leader excelling in a male-dominated field. I don't think we've ever asked this on the podcast. Looking throughout your career, do you think that you maybe would have ended up in a different place or would have progressed differently if you happened to be a male in this field? Do you think there would be variances there or do you think it's not contingent necessarily on your gender?

RG: Things would have been different. That's certainly for sure. I'm not sure if I were a different gender if I would have not ended up in the same place. That’s something that I like to think comes from within and can't be bounded by whether you're male or female. But I think the experience would have been different. And for that, I hope that there is change for those that follow. Too many times, you get looked over or passed over by virtue of the fact that you don't happen to be the dominant culture or the part of the dominant group.

MR: There are so many female leaders at icourts and in our industry who have dealt with different challenges than their male peers. They’re paving the way for emerging leaders, like you. Through sponsorship and mentorship, you’re helping them identify different opportunities to progress their career. We really think that's great. We know that you've done that both with your icourts team, throughout the industry, and generally in tech and beyond. It's really, really cool that you're doing all that.

MT: To wrap us up here, do you have any words for any stellar women or stellar men who listen to the podcast?

RG: You don't get anywhere without having a goal. That's served me extraordinarily well. Have big goals made up of little goals, and if it's something you want to do, keep seeking the people that support you. Build allies around you and continue to strive forward no matter what happens, and you’ll get there.

MR: Alright, Mila. We're onto our second Innovation Award finalist, Kamaka Martin. We’re so, so excited to have her here.

MT: Hello and welcome.

Kamaka Martin: Hi there.

MR: Tell us about your reaction learning that you were a Stellar Women finalist. What was that like?

Kamaka Martin: It was really exciting. Then, the next moment was like, “Wow, what does that mean?” I definitely asked myself that question, and it was really exciting to be considered. In that moment, it was also a bit humbling as well.

MT: You are dedicated to building the skillsets of leaders, both who are new to management and those who are more seasoned. What's the best piece of advice you give to them?

KM: Generally, in management, knowing yourself is really going to be important so that you can really be in a position to offer those who you are leading an opportunity to identify and play to their strengths. That's really key in the day to day. It does take a person who is very aware of themselves and the environment that you're working in, in order to guide someone in a way that they are going to be able to make professional strides that are in line with goals that they set for themselves—all while balancing the team and organizational goals as well.

MR: Part of being a stellar woman is elevating each other and elevating ourselves. To put you on the spot a little bit here: What's your favorite strength of yours as a leader? What’s something you really lean into?

KM: One of the things that's important for me is leading with positivity. Especially in the technology space, there are a lot of moving parts and things change at a moment's notice. It can also be a challenging environment. It's important to recognize that we are all able to do our jobs in a way where we recognize that we're peers and that the people that we're working with should be treated with a sense of respect, regardless of what's happening in the day to day. Sometimes it does really require you to pause and think about how you are going to respond to a challenging situation. Choosing to proactively be positive is something that is important for me. I never want the humanity of our relationships, even though some of them are purely professional, to ever be lost. I think that is an important element to contemplate. There are so many things that are going on in the day to day, that leaning into positivity allows people to extend grace in challenging situations. You don't ever want to inadvertently make a difficult situation more difficult by choosing to not be positive in those scenarios. It's not a sense of false positivity; it's a choice. It's a choice to say, “Regardless of what the scenario is, I'm going to approach this from a place of how I would like to be treated in this scenario.”

MT: And talking about navigating crazy times, we've all been through a whirlwind. How do you stay calm under pressure?

KM: I take a moment to assess the situation. I try not to have knee jerk reactions to what is going on, but really to be very solutions focused. The other side of it is carving out time to care of yourself. For me, it's important to have healthy outlets like yoga. I exercise and take opportunities to say, “I'm going to choose a moment for myself so that I'm in a good headspace.” That way, when I am leading a team or having a one-on-one interaction with someone, I am in a good headspace. Taking care of yourself is important first and making the choice to be intentional about being solutions focused. This allows you to think about the broader vision of the issue and/or challenge that you may be contending with in the moment.

MR: For people that are getting to know you, Kamaka, we know that you're obviously a stellar woman. Now, we know you're a yogi and you host leadership workshops which we've heard are just amazing. But what's something you would want to share to people about yourself, maybe that your friends and family know, but other people might not know?

KM: That's a good question. Generally, I am a very compassionate person. That is something that most people in my personal life appreciate. I'm someone who will always go above and beyond for my family and my friends. And I think that translates to a degree in terms of how I lead in the day to day. I come from a very loving, caring family so that has always been my baseline. That’s something that rings true in my friendships, in my relationships, and with my family. Being compassionate is something that we are really intentional about within my family. So, I don't know whether that’s a big “aha!”

MR: I really like that, and we see that you’re building that into your professional life as well. Leading with positivity requires a lot of compassion. That's excellent. Okay, let's head onto our third finalist, Heena Bhambhlani. All right, let's get going. Heena, hey, thanks for joining us today.

Heena Bhambhlani: Pleasure to be on.

Mila Taylor: I'm going to just jump right into questions with you. What excites you about being a finalist for this award?

HB: Well, I feel honored to have been nominated for this award. This one is truly special for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is because it comes from Relativity. Relativity is the first e-discovery platform that I started using at the beginning of my career in 2007. Secondly, this award is special because it relates to recognition in the world of tech. I vividly remember my law school days and as an Indian law student, I had never imagined the powerful role that tech could play in shaping my career. Lastly, this award is special because of the category that it belongs to—Stellar Women. As a woman who feels passionately on the topic of women in leadership roles, I draw a lot of inspiration from all the strong women in my life—women who have gone all out to pursue their dreams and aspirations, as well as women who've displayed immense strength and grace even in supporting roles. That being said, it takes a really strong man to support a woman, and I have been fortunate to have them in the form of my family members, male colleagues, mentors, and more. For me, this award is a celebration of all the love, support, mentoring, and guidance that I have and continue to receive in the course of my professional journey from everyone.

MR: We love to hear all of that. What really stuck out with your nomination was just all you've done to pay it forward. You have 25 female managers who report to you, as well as numerous male managers. You really talk a lot about giving them resources to succeed, whether that's training or learning different soft skills. We'd love to just hear from you. Why is mentorship so important and why is that a priority?

HB: So for me, people management has and will always remain the most dynamic and exciting part of my job. I think it requires immense patience and commitment as a team leader to be able to identify the strengths and improvement areas of the team members. It’s also important to leverage the strengths of each team member and provide them with opportunities to overcome and get better on improvement areas. That is a constant practice that I strive to pursue.

MT: Thank you so much for sharing that. On that note, what's the best advice that you've ever received and what would you want to share with our listeners?

HB: Well, I am still learning every single day like all of us are. A few pieces of advice that come to mind are … Change is the only constant. They say that what got you here will not take you to the next level. Embrace change and keep an open and flexible mindset to always learn. That will only help us and allow us to improve and grow each day. The other lesson, or one challenge that I have encountered, is that as female professionals, we are sometimes made to feel guilty about being overambitious or being bossy and leading from the front. I think we should not get bogged down by that. We all have different phases in our lives at different points in time. Balancing the different professional and personal priorities in our lives is a decision that we should always allow ourselves to make in a holistic manner. Lastly, but most importantly, we should always follow our instincts while being aware of all the alternative routes. Some arrangements may appear to be perfect on paper, but if they do not fit in or are not aligned to our long-term goals of learning growth and self-improvement, we shouldn't shy away or think twice before walking away.

MR: Heena, it was so great to catch up with you, as always, and best of luck with the Innovation Awards.  

HB: Thank you.

MR: Alright, that's a wrap for this special edition of our Innovation Awards finalists for 2021. We're excited to work with these finalists and get to know them better and announce our winner on October 6 at Relativity Fest during the Innovation Awards ceremony from 11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. CT. Be sure to tune in and catch you next time. For Stellar Women, I'm Mary Rechtoris. Signing off.

Artwork for this series was created by Guss Tsatsakis.

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Mary Rechtoris is a senior producer on the brand team at Relativity, where she's always collaborating and looking for new ways to develop and socialize stories.