This much I know
Deepika Beniwal, Group Manager, Payment Solutions Desk at Microsoft, talks about career progression, professional development, and the importance of speaking up.
Payment Solutions Desk
Headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA, and employing a worldwide workforce of more than 200,000, Microsoft Corporation is best known for the Windows computer operating systems software, Office applications suite and Azure cloud computing service. In 2022, Microsoft reported US$198bn in revenue.
Based in Microsoft India’s Gurugram office, Deepika joined the company in 2017 as Senior Finance Manager, and was promoted to the position of Group Finance Manager in September 2022. She is a financial services professional with over 20 years’ experience in strategic development, risk management and financial analysis. Deepika is a Chartered Financial Analyst and has a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from one of India’s most premier B-Schools, the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
How did you arrive at your current role?
I actually began my career in sales. In my first job, I moved from sales and marketing to operations when I became Executive Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer, who had responsibility for finance as well. I soon realised that numbers and analytics were what really interested me.
In 2017, I started my journey with Microsoft’s Global Treasury and Financial Services, where we’re involved in the entire order to cash process of Microsoft’s customers. We begin by engaging with customers and partners to assess their creditworthiness, providing payment solutions options to those customers who want to manage their cash flow more effectively. We then support them to pay smoothly and on time. Finally, we ensure that the cash collected is invested wisely and made available at the right place at the right time.
I’m currently based in India in the Payment Solutions Desk.
Which would you recommend – having a defined career plan or being open and flexible?
I would say there’s no right or wrong way. My focus has been to build on skills and experiences, rather than being fixed on roles and hierarchies.
Some goals that you set yourself may not happen. But there’s nothing wrong in showing interest in another position – sometimes it’s good just to do a reality check to know what is within reach and what is not. And then all the work that you’re doing for your own career development becomes real, rather than something that you’re dreaming about but not really working towards.
What advice would you give to women in finance in terms of establishing and developing a career?
In terms of developing a career in finance, my advice to other women would be to reach out and build a network. By identifying role models and mentors, and by expanding my professional network, I have been able to create valuable long-term relationships and access their wisdom and career advice for future growth. I think it’s really important to establish connections. I’m still in touch with some of the batchmates from campus.
What is your motto in life or source of inspiration?
It’s not a motto per se, but I think the key to physical health and mental health is achieving a balance between work life and personal and family life.
It’s about the way we think and how we interact with each other and how we can work together better.
Deepika observes that for previous generations, career choices for women were more limited. “Today there are many women in finance and other fields that have an actual seat at the table and who are in positions of influence – which was not the case when I started my career,” she adds.
To illustrate the point, Deepika notes that in her organisation, the Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Vice President are both women. She believes the reason that change is happening so rapidly is because companies can see the value of a more diverse workforce and are prepared to invest in it.
Part of that commitment at Microsoft has been the launch of their SWIFT (Senior Women in Finance and Treasury) programme, an initiative designed to promote the talents of senior women within the company. “The main objective of this programme – which has the full support of our senior leadership – is professional development,” explains Deepika. “The programme includes forging allyships and hosting events, as well as enabling mentorship and coaching for women in finance so that they can achieve their full potential.”
Having such a passion for learning and development, as well as a tremendous desire to help others, Deepika was delighted when she was nominated by the executive sponsor of the SWIFT programme to be the co-lead for the Asia team. “Generally, the women I talk to have a lot of self-doubt and don’t have full confidence in their skills,” she says. “I think it’s really good to remember that anything we put our minds to we can do – there are enough women role models in the world that prove that.”
Working for a company that not only delivers what she believes to be great products and services but also has a tremendous focus on building a diverse and inclusive environment, is a great source of pride for Deepika.
In her role in 2022 as Global Co-Lead of Microsoft’s Global Treasury and Financial Services (GTFS) Culture Committee, Deepika led a team of volunteers who are focused on promoting diversity, inclusion and belonging. As well as helping to promote employee engagement and raise awareness on topics such as mental wellbeing, she is involved in a number of volunteering initiatives focused on women’s empowerment and education.
The various organisations she has contributed to include Navgurukul, a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing affordable education to underprivileged girls in India; Women Entrepreneurs empowered by Microsoft from Collective Good Foundation, and OSCAR Foundation, a community-based Sports for Development organisation that uses the power of football to encourage children to stay in school and complete their education.
“When I started work, there were no conversations about bias, but companies are now much more aware of such things,” comments Deepika. “Now we have regular trainings about allyship and how managers can create safe environments.” In addition, she is conscious that people can be unaware of their own biases. “It’s primarily about self-awareness and reflection. There are certain biases which are unconscious because of the culture or the environment we are in. Trying to become aware of them is the first – and the biggest step – to manage.”
Her advice for junior professionals who are keen to promote diversity and challenge bias is to learn as much as they can on the subject – and to speak up. “I think speaking up is very important,” she notes. “These days, young professionals speak up much more than we did when we joined work, which is a great improvement.”
Deepika is keen to emphasise that the issue of diversity and inclusion goes beyond gender and colour. “It’s also about different personality types,” she says. “It’s about the way we think and how we interact with each other and how we can work together better. I might be outgoing and comfortable sharing opinions. But just because somebody is quieter and less outgoing than me doesn’t mean they don’t have anything valuable to share.” As such, Deepika says it is important to ask people what they want, and how they would like to be treated.
Finally, she reflects: “Something I ask myself is, ‘What impact would I like to make in ten months’ time? What impact would I like to leave behind, ten years from now? And which blocks do I need to build on in order to move forward?’”