Women in Leadership Profiles

Trailblazing Leadership at Pegasystems: Naznine Tilak’s Path to Inclusivity

Current Role: Inspiring Success Through an Equitable and Inclusive Workplace Culture

How would you describe Pega’s business?

Pega is a leading enterprise AI decisioning and workflow automation platform provider. Its platform empowers organizations to unlock business-transforming outcomes with real-time optimization. Clients use Pega’s solutions to solve their most pressing business challenges – from personalizing engagement to automating service to streamlining operations. We also provide scalable, flexible architecture that helps enterprises meet today’s increasing customer demands while also evolving and transforming for what’s to come.

In simple terms, what is the primary mission of your role?

My passion lies in helping our people reach their goals and achieve success. In my role as vice president and global head of DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging), talent, and learning at Pega, I find great satisfaction at the intersection of two critical areas: DEIB and Talent. It is incredibly rewarding to cultivate an inclusive and equitable culture where everyone feels they belong, shares a common purpose, and has access to equitable career advancement and development opportunities.

Did anyone in your upbringing have an influence on your path – professional or personal – that was particularly impactful?

Growing up in a small, conservative town, I always looked up to my parents. My parents placed a high premium on education, hard work, and independence, treating my sister and me no differently than my brother. My mother, who had to quit college to support her family, is my role model and a source of strength. At 72 years old, she continues to run our family business. While my parents had certain expectations for the profession I would pursue, I now understand it wasn’t about what they wanted me to become. It was about them instilling the importance of aspiration, pursuing dreams, and persevering through challenges.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town in the western part of India. Later, I lived in multiple cities across India and the US. Living in different places has given me a deep appreciation for diverse experiences, cultures, and perspectives.

What characteristics does someone need to be successful in a role like yours?

Maintaining curiosity, actively listening, and continuously learning are key characteristics for success in this role. The landscape is changing rapidly, especially in the technology industry, and therefore it requires openness to trying new things, resilience, and adaptability. I also work with the C-suite, team leaders, and employees across the organization to help shape the direction of our DEIB and talent programs and drive execution. To do this effectively, inspiring, influencing, and fostering collaboration is essential.

Exploring Career Paths: Embracing Second Chances and Diverse Experiences

Did you ever dream about a career at a young age other than human resources?

If you were to ask anyone who grew up in India during the 80s, they’d probably tell you that their parents wanted them to become a doctor or an engineer, and I was no exception. I would love to say I had a profound reason for choosing one career path over another, but the truth is that my test scores weren’t sufficient for medical school admission. So, I pursued my second option, Business Management, with a focus on Human Resources. And I have never once regretted that decision or considered doing anything else.

What pivotal career moment led you in a new direction by saying ‘yes’?

There have been several pivotal moments in my career, but if I were to think of one that had a significant impact, it was when I left my job in India and moved to the US. It was tough, as it took straight four years for me to start working again due to visa restrictions. So, it was during those four years, that I made a choice to pursue a second master’s degree in human resources. Going back to school provided me with a vibrant network of professionals, and I seized every opportunity to put myself out there, eventually securing employment in the US.

What were some of your work experiences before Pega? Have they been useful in your current position?

As I reflect on my professional journey, I find that the most valuable experiences have come from working in diverse industries and global companies. I started my career with a small but fast-growing technology startup and eventually worked my way up through big companies in India and the US across multiple sectors.

All the experiences working with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, have pushed me to not only appreciate but to actively seek different perspectives. And that is very important in my current role.

Unlocking Career Potential: Mentorship, Self-Belief, and Building Networks

What is your favorite part of your job?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is that I work with extremely talented, passionate, kind, and highly dedicated people within my company and in the external communities.
I really enjoy helping our people grow and thrive and enabling them to build products and solutions that help our clients solve their most difficult problems.

What is most challenging?

We find ourselves in extraordinary times, marked by economic and political pressures, as well as health and well-being concerns. Maintaining a steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion can be a formidable challenge against this backdrop.

Would you change anything?

I’ve had the opportunity to live and work both in India and the United States, and my career has primarily involved working in global roles. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the chance much earlier in my career to work in a different country – one that could have pushed me even more out of my comfort zone in terms of culture and language.

What about Forté’s mission makes you want to support our efforts?

I am passionate about women’s financial independence. I believe all women should have the resources and a network to support themselves, especially when things get tough. I try to find opportunities to support this cause however I can. Forté is a great partner for us at Pega in helping employees with resources, tools, and a support network.

What advice do you have for young women starting their business careers?

When I was growing up, I didn’t have professional mentors and a network to show me all the amazing opportunities that existed out there. I realized much later the importance of mentors and a strong network. So, my advice is to seek out a diverse network of people who can open your eyes to a world of possibilities. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Finally, be bold and try new things, especially early in your career.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day during Women’s History Month, Naznine Tilak stands as a role model of empowerment and leadership for future generations.

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