Women in the boardroom header image with Kiran Bajar

Women in the Boardroom: Kiran Bajar Interview | Ethical Leadership in Tech and Beyond

8 min read

Nick Holder

Striking a harmonious chord between career aspirations and personal priorities is a universal challenge many of us strive to master, usually requiring constant adjustment along the way. In this edition of Women in the Boardroom, we were delighted to chat with Kiran Bajar.

As Chief of Staff at Keboola, board member for a cancer charity and North London secondary school, mentor to students at King’s college London and devoted mother of two Kiran’s journey is an inspiring one. In the conversation that follows she shows us how we can navigate the complexities of a multifaceted career while staying true to personal values and commitments.

Delving into the essence of true leadership Kiran offers her wisdom on ethical governance, the power of lifelong learning, and the eternal quest for work-life balance.

A heartfelt thank you to Kiran for sharing her profound insights and personal journey with us and for inspiring us all to lead with integrity across every arena of our lives.

Headshot of Kiran Bajar Kiran Bajar
Kiran is a Middle Temple Inns of Court Member and with her legal expertise as a solid foundation, she shines in the tech world, bringing strategic vision and operational excellence. Currently Chief of Staff at Keboola, a pioneering data integration platform, Kiran was a finalist in the Women in Tech Excellence Awards 2023. Kiran's commitment to empowering future generations is evident through her roles as a School Governor for The Southgate School and Board Member for the cancer charity Cancer Awareness for Teens & Twenties(CATTs). Kiran mentors students at King’s college London and as a member of the prestigious CHIEF organisation, actively contributes to the largest community of senior executive women in the world.

Your career spans an impressive range across legal expertise, strategic roles in the tech sector, and impactful work with third sector entities. You’re currently the Chief of Staff at Keboola and also sit on two boards; the Board of Trustees for a cancer charity and the Board of Governors for a secondary school in North London. Could you share how these varied experiences have shaped your approach to leadership?

A key pillar in my approach is an intuitive emphasis on ethical and values-driven leadership. Working with charities provides first hand experience in addressing social issues and serving communities which translates to other sectors. At Keboola, I strive to embody our company’s values and integrate them into my conduct, which has shaped my leadership style. I prioritise the interests of key stakeholders and advocate for ethical practices in conduct, communication, operations and governance. This perspective can guide decision-making processes and inspire trust among employees, investors, and externally when representing the company.

Leaders with legal backgrounds are adept at identifying potential risks and developing strategies to mitigate them. My varied experience lends itself well to company strategy and foresight which is essential for effective leadership and company conduct. This skill is valuable in decision-making processes, as it helps leaders anticipate challenges and navigate complex situations.

Evolved leadership requires the continuous adoption of an adaptable approach and real collaboration as well as tackling challenges and finding the solutions. Since joining Keboola, I’ve had the privilege of working with different teams to execute various projects and it’s by engaging an agile mindset that we are able to work together and execute to a high standard. Working across different sectors has certainly strengthened my ability to adapt to new environments, work with diverse workforces and engage senior leadership teams.

Pad of paper brainstorming what ethics means.

As a mentor to young people at King's College London and a School Governor, you're actively shaping the next generation. How do these experiences influence your approach to leadership and decision-making in the boardroom?

Interacting with students and being involved in educational governance has certainly sharpened my empathy and understanding of diverse perspectives. I then migrate this empathy into the boardroom by considering how decisions will affect various stakeholders, conduct and processes.

Mentoring students at my old university in an official capacity and serving as a school governor has developed my communication skills as I’ve had to listen to, and also convey complex ideas to diverse audiences. Effective communication is critical when in leadership for ensuring alignment and fostering collaboration amongst senior leaders.

I’m also constantly reminded of the importance of a growth mindset, which is something I carry into leadership meetings at Keboola and board meetings for the cancer charity CATTs and The Southgate School. By fostering a culture of collaboration, open dialogue, active listening, and collective problem-solving, I have seen leadership teams and boards strengthen their cohesion, become more disciplined in processes and bolster their alignment.

In the rapidly evolving tech sector, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. What advice would you give to other women aiming for leadership roles?

Great Question! Never stop learning! Stay updated with the latest trends, technologies, and industry developments. Invest time in continuous learning through online courses, workshops, conferences, and networking events. I recently did a 6 week online course from Yale University which really resonated with me and my career progression. Always invest time in your development.

Networking is also important for career advancement. Connect with professionals in your industry, both within and outside your organisation. Join professional associations, attend industry events, and actively engage with peers and mentors. Building strong relationships can provide valuable insights, support, and opportunities for growth.

Focus on developing leadership skills such as communication, decision-making, strategic thinking, and conflict resolution. Seek out leadership roles within your organisation or in external initiatives. Demonstrating effective leadership qualities will position you as a strong candidate for executive roles.

Find mentors and sponsors who can provide guidance, advice, and advocacy throughout your career journey. Mentors can offer valuable insights based on their experiences, while sponsors can actively support your career advancement by recommending you for opportunities and providing visibility within the organisation.

Don't be afraid to showcase your accomplishments and contributions - but always be accountable and ethical in the process. Keep track of your achievements, and be prepared to articulate them confidently during performance evaluations, interviews, and networking opportunities. Building a strong personal brand can help you stand out and attract career advancement opportunities.

Immerse yourself in challenging assignments or opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone. Embrace new challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Taking calculated risks can lead to valuable experiences and pave the way for career advancement.

As a working professional and a mother of two children, how do you navigate work-life balance?

Stones arranged in a way that shows great balance.

Evolving my skill set in the following areas has certainly facilitated with (the eternal pursuit of) the artistry of balancing professional and personal responsibilities: Effective delegation, asking for help (still a working progress as my husband can confirm), clear communication, managing expectations and impactful prioritisation.

The truth is, the majority of working parents out there know all of this already, the hard part is the consistent application of the aforementioned points.

I don’t think a “perfect” balance of anything ever exists, life isn’t that clinical. There are times where the scales lean more to one side than the other and that’s Ok.

What helps is working for a company that embraces your personal priorities. I’m very fortunate that the companies I’ve worked for in the last few years and now, have all tangibly supported my family commitments. Secondly, I’m a lot kinder to myself now with regards to aspiring to perfection. If I make a mistake at work, I still get frustrated but I try to demonstrate the same patience towards myself as I would towards a colleague. Equally, when I have to miss my Son’s school assembly or I’m running late to my Daughter’s parents’ evening because a meeting overran, I don’t mentally punish myself anymore. My children and husband know they are my priority and always will be. The most any of us can ever do is try our best, so I try to stay focused on just doing that.

Thanks again to Kiran for generously sharing her time, experiences and invaluable insights with us.

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