We live in a transformational era which is undergoing a generational shift towards clean technologies that naturally support people, progress and our planet.

Anuja Kadian, our next pathbreaker, Government & Industry Affairs Leader (APAC) at Corteva Agriscience, spearheads the planning and execution of strategic programs and initiatives for the organization across Asia Pacific, through product and policy advocacy.

Anuja talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about always being conscious about sustainability and equitable growth challenges, and her work with policymakers and industry leaders such as Rolls-Royce, expanding the company’s footprint within South Asia’s burgeoning energy, defense, and manufacturing sector through strategic CSR and non-market programs.  

For students, remember that sustainability is not just limited to environmental sustainability but also related to the most pressing challenges faced by the world today, whether it is social, economical or environmental !

Anuja, what were your initial years like?

I had an extremely unrooted childhood that was spent across various thermal and hydro power plants in Uttar Pradesh. My father is an electrical engineer and worked with the UP government. My mother is a homemaker and I am an only child. Living in the middle of nowhere, my childhood was spent in remote areas and understanding how things worked which emerged as bonding time for us as a family. 

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I am an Electronics Engineer and MBA in Technology Management. I recently completed my second MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan School of Management with a Sustainability Certification. 

What were some of the influences that led you to such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

With my childhood spent in the middle of power plants and amongst heavy industrial machinery, engineering was an obvious choice for undergrad. 

Over a period of time, I observed that Sustainability is not just limited to environmental sustainability but encompasses most pressing challenges faced by the world right now such as equitable growth, reduced inequalities, economic growth, to name a few. With this in mind, I decided to pursue my MBA at MIT-Sloan. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

As a fresh MBA, I worked in marketing, entry strategy and with a start-up as well. 

My first brush with the corporate world was at Yamaha Motors where I was involved in the launch of super bikes in India and was also exposed to transformational management from a marketing perspective. It was like the text book case from Philip Kotler’s marketing books with strong focus on data analysis – very similar to my academic area. 

However, I had this constant urge to do something offbeat. With this in mind, I joined Dua Consulting (a boutique public and government affairs advisory firm). I joined them as an entry strategy consultant,  a natural progression from my last role at Yamaha, but I soon found myself gravitating towards public policy and crisis management. These were the key expertise areas of Dua Consulting.  My first brush with public policy was with the telecom sector and it was extremely clear that I had found my calling. I worked with the firm for a little short of a decade and worked up the ladder and learnt by doing. The firm is a treasure trove of mentoring culture and I was fortunate to be mentored and guided by the best in the world. Since it was a horizontal consulting firm, I worked across a number of different sectors and issues. I advised Fortune 500 corporations on sensitive reputational issues such as hate speech in the digital world, telecom security & infrastructure, security issues, IPR policies, resettlement & rehabilitation policies, manufacturing ecosystem, regional air connectivity and civil nuclear establishments, with big impact on business .

I feel that consulting during early stages of one’s career helps with accelerated learning and provides immense exposure. If one gets a good team and boss, it further enhances one’s outlook. 

Subsequently, I shifted in-house and joined Rolls-Royce – Aerospace & Defense company. I led Government Relations, Community Investment & Strategic Initiatives in South Asia for Rolls-Royce Plc wherein I worked with policymakers and shapers in expanding Rolls-Royce footprint within South Asia’s burgeoning energy, defense, and manufacturing sector. 

Recently, the pandemic and lockdown were milestones that pushed me to take a stock of what I wanted to do next. I decided to study in-depth about sustainability and joined MIT-Sloan as Sloan Fellow. This is a 1 year, full-time residential accelerated MBA program. During the year, I brushed up my business basics and learnt from eminent faculty, entrepreneurial incubators, business leaders and peers.  After a year spent reestablishing my boundaries, unlearning and relearning, I am now charged up to begin the second phase of my professional journey.

How did you get your first break? 

My first break was through regular campus placement but I shifted quickly thereafter. All my subsequent breaks have been via online job portals. I developed horizontal expertise in govt affairs, public policy and CSR/Sustainability during consulting days and my subsequent career progression was organic. I shifted sectors but continue to develop strategic thought process within the public policy & sustainability arena. Also, most of my work has been around technology policy although application of tech may be across different areas. So, sectoral policy issues have been easier to comprehend. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: Key challenge was to find a role and work stream that I enjoyed doing. As a fresh MBA grad, I worked in predictable areas such as business analysis, marketing, CRM, etc. But none of these appealed to me. I was looking for something that combines my love for problem solving and thinking outside the box. 

Challenge 2: Another challenge was when I decided to shift from consulting to in-house. It required a different rhythm and mindset. 

Challenge 3: A recent challenge was to shift to Boston for my MBA. Leaving my family and my 8-yr old son back in India and going back to school required breaking lots of mental barriers. It helped me reestablish my boundaries and emerge as an even stronger person. 

Where do you work now? Tell us about your current role

I work with Corteva Agrisciences. Corteva is a major American Agricultural Chemical and Seed company that was the agricultural unit of DowDuPont prior to being spun off as an independent public company in 2019.

I look after Government and Industry Affairs for the APAC region. In this role, I spearhead the planning and execution of strategic programs and initiatives across Asia Pacific through product and policy advocacy. I play a pivotal role in developing and maintaining relationships with key policymakers and shapers. 

How does your work benefit society? 

At Cortiva, I am motivated by the sheer size of impact. My company works with producers and consumers to create an agricultural ecosystem that naturally supports people, progress and the planet. Opportunity to ensure food safety and promote prosperity in the agri value chain is a strong motivation for me.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

Social investment and outreach has been one of the pillars of policy advocacy for me. I have designed India’s first Women Engineering Scholarship Program and am extremely proud of the same. I am passionate about promoting more women in STEM careers and getting an opportunity to do the same as part of my day job, makes it immensely memorable. 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

  • Personal SWOT is crucial. It is important to understand what works for you and then take steps towards the same.  
  • Informational interviews are a good way to gauge various career options. Use it intelligently and pay attention to detail. 
  • World is too small – Be respectful to people and don’t burn bridges.