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#OpenUpTheWorkforce with Harsha Jalihal, Chief People Officer at MongoDB

Published by Mitra LeBuhn on May 26, 2023
4 min read

Mitra LeBuhn

Mitra is the Head of Impact and Communications at Symba and leads social impact, PR, and marketing partnerships for the business. She combines a unique background in Global Health and Higher Education, and speaks French. Beyond Symba, Mitra spends her time outdoors, traveling the world and making music.

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Presented by Symba, #OpenUpTheWorkforce interviews feature executives advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity for the future of work. In these short audio-only episodes, we talk with the top about what it takes to develop and implement inclusive processes. 

In this episode of #OpenUpTheWorkforce, Harsha Jalihal, Chief People Officer at MongoDB shares her insights and experiences on developing and implementing inclusive processes within organizations. Her journey, from selling software to HR, and her belief in the power of diverse experiences, have shaped her approach to fostering a culture of inclusivity. Listen here.

Let's dive into the interview and discover how Harsha and MongoDB are driving positive change in the workplace.

The Importance of Intentional Culture

Harsha emphasizes the significance of intentionally shaping company culture as organizations grow rapidly. She believes that without intentional efforts, culture fails to evolve in sync with the company's expansion. To encourage different perspectives and ensure inclusivity, MongoDB leverages Paradym, a platform that supports inclusive behaviors and culture. Harsha recognizes that the collective of micro-cultures within the organization informs the overall company culture, and all six core values at MongoDB are interconnected to build an inclusive culture. These are: 

  • Think Big, Go Far. We are big dreamers with a passion for creativity.
  • Make It Matter. We are relentless in our pursuit of meaningful impact.
  • Build Together.
  • Embrace the Power of Difference.
  • Be Intellectually Honest.
  • Own What You Do.

As an example, expanding on the value “Be Intellectually Honest,” Harsha says, “Being intellectually honest means that you're able to admit that you need input from someone else, that you don't have all of the answers, that you are willing to admit your mistakes. These are leadership behaviors that build trust and ultimately allow for everyone on your team to know that they can be their authentic selves, that we're not looking for perfection.”

Partnerships for Opportunities

MongoDB actively seeks partnerships that provide opportunities to underrepresented groups. They participate in events such as Google Next and AWS Summits to recruit a wide range of individuals. From an early career standpoint, MongoDB adopts an all-school strategy, reaching early talent through virtual skill-building activities. The company has also created a supportive environment for interns by allowing them to join any of the ten Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Additionally, MongoDB has a dedicated senior manager focused on supporting these ERGs and targeted development programs.

The Impact of Early Careers Programs

MongoDB's Early Careers (EC) program started before the company went public, initially aimed at meeting their need for strong engineering talent. However, it has evolved into a critical talent pipeline. The success of the program is evident in the strong retention of interns who have grown into leadership positions. Harsha elaborates on this, “the results speak for themselves. So many of our leaders in the engineering organization have joined us early in career, as interns or new grads, and have grown into positions at Director and VP levels in the organization. So it sort of has built its own business case because these individuals have stuck around.” 

Navigating the Challenges

Harsha reflected on the learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and the growth of remote work. The virtual setting provided a unique opportunity to see into someone's home and understand their personal challenges. It also highlighted the difficulties faced by individuals balancing work and motherhood, blurring the boundaries between the two. Harsha stressed the importance of being intentional about building and maintaining culture, particularly when teams are dispersed.

What do leaders need to do to #OpenUpTheWorkforce?

When asked about what leaders need to do to drive inclusivity and diversity, Harsha emphasized the business case for diversity, which centers around innovation. She highlighted the importance of redefining inclusion and separating it from diversity as two distinct bodies of work. The measures of success differ for both, requiring leaders with different subject expertise. Harsha explained that diversity focuses on recruiting diverse talent, while inclusion is tied to employee engagement. When employees feel a sense of belonging, they are more engaged, perform better, and are more likely to stay. Embedding inclusion and belonging into daily business processes is key to achieving the desired outcomes and making it easier for business leaders to drive impactful diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Harsha Jalihal's interview shed light on the strategies and initiatives MongoDB employs to foster an inclusive and diverse workforce. From intentionally shaping culture to forging partnerships and implementing targeted programs, MongoDB demonstrates a commitment to creating equal opportunities for all. By embedding inclusion into daily business processes and recognizing the distinct roles of diversity and inclusion, organizations can harness the power of diverse perspectives, drive innovation, and cultivate an environment where every individual feels valued and belongs. The future of work demands that we #OpenUpTheWorkforce, and leaders like Harsha Jalihal and MongoDB are leading the way.

About Harsha Jalihal

Harsha brings more than 20 years of experience in a broad range of HR, recruiting and business roles to her role as Chief People Officer at MongoDB. Prior to joining MongoDB, she was the Vice President of HR at Unilever, responsible for delivering the end-to-end HR strategy and operations for Unilever's U.S. business. She also co-created Unilever's strategy to build a sustainable future of work across its multinational business while being on a part-time secondment to the World Economic Forum. Harsha started her career as a business development associate with a software company before finding her calling as an HR business partner at Cognizant Technology Solutions in 2004. She spent 10 years at Cognizant, helping the company through its hyper-growth phase, and laying the early foundations of their talent acquisition, talent management, reward management and employee relations practices. Harsha was recognized as Crain's New York Notable Women of Talent for 2020.




You can view other episodes of #OpenUpTheWorkforce here. Are you an executive leader increasing access to jobs and wealth creation? Request to be featured and show us how you #OpenUpTheWorkforce.

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