ESSENCE OF LEADERSHIP

Rohini Kappadath discusses daily life, influences and aspirations working in senior leadership roles that impact humanity, one story at a time.

Rohini lives and works in Melbourne, Victoria. She is a dedicated and passionate advocate supporting society and institutions that impact humanity. In her words, “As general manager for Immigration Museum at Museums Victoria, I am entrusted with leading its transformation, to bring life and vibrancy and to tell its stories.” G’Day India’s Chief Editor, Mr Tonee Sethi, had the honour of interviewing Rohini and tapping into how this spirited woman keeps motivated and relevant. After dedicating three decades and counting, to working in senior leadership roles, Rohini shares what it takes to be top of your game.

Although Rohini was born in New Delhi, India, her story begins in Calcutta. She shares, “I think I’ve been quite fortunate to have had the nurturing of family and friends and a large community of people where I was raised in Calcutta through their love and care. Really, they have created environments in which I was fortunate enough to be able to thrive. My early canvas was my childhood playground, where I played each day with children from about thirty-six families. So I felt part of a very large, interconnected family. It was an exquisite way to be raised. Embedded in this way of life was a culture of respect for elders and excellence. I think that my background has instilled this rare kind of confidence and resilience and an absolute determination to build a career.”

From this, Rohini knew that her intrinsic abilities to seek out opportunities of significance were something special. However, she was determined not to keep it a secret. Her gift was a clear realisation that she possesses a fierce determination to impact humanity in meaningful ways. Her motivation led her to seek and find missions where she could help the community from leadership roles. One memorable time was her trip to Toulouse, France, for a sports festival, when she was Public Youth Secretary for the United Nations Youth Organisation and Young Delegation Leader. At 18 years old, Rohini was in her element and although, heavily armed with responsibility, it only grew her resolve and appetite for more. She reflects, “I think that those early leadership opportunities also kind of validated that desire and that sense. And, that inner knowing of leading a life of significance.”

Rohini was a risk-taker and approached life with vigour and passion, and at the age of 20, she migrated to Sydney, Australia. But that was not enough to build the career she envisaged. She undertook studies in Computer Technology and landed quality jobs. One being with the American software company SAS Institute, the largest privately-owned software company and a leader in its field. Rohini thrived in an environment of leaders, talented people and commitment to a robust work ethic. Furthermore, this being her number one break in life solidified the importance of “the right work culture.” Break number two came along when she relocated to Mumbai, India, with her husband and young daughter in tow, to set up SAS Institute operations as Managing Director, she built two business units, in local sales and marketing and in the global consulting division. Proudly, Rohini states, “My life’s journey has been very much about seizing these opportunities when they presented themselves. I’ve built a terrific career in technology.”

The picture painted so far of Rohini is being work-orientated, success-driven and a high achiever in the leadership sector. However, her aspirations were not singular; she wanted to grow her family. Rohini relocated to Melbourne and embarked on “…my own consultancy operation that focused on cross-border transactions and advisory.” She worked from home for the next eight years, growing a successful business but also “fulfil my desires as a mother and as a woman. So, my journey has been very much about managing both of these aspirations.”

Rohini is the first to admit her string of success in managing both family life and her career is not without challenges. In fact, “…holding very senior and executive roles that have required a considerable amount of travel, time away from home, long hours and managing large teams are lifelong challenges.” Knowing this is a constant, Rohini adds, “Life has served up many challenges, but I think the beauty of life has been exposed through those challenges. In overcoming those challenges is when you meet yourself.” With so much enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to both aspirations, Rohini grew her family to 3 children in total and gained her General Manager role for the Immigration Museum at Museums Victoria.

At, this point her incredible story is brought to the present. After three decades working in senior positions, she continues to meet the needs of society. In typical Rohini-style, her explanation is profound as much as it is inspiring. She proclaims, “At some point in a leadership journey it becomes a lot less about your own success, but about helping others to succeed and growing other leaders and growing the leadership capacity in others. What I have found is after three decades of a successful career I draw great joy from contributing, enabling and supporting others around me to thrive. I think that’s the essence of leadership. Feeling secure enough in yourself, in your achievements to be able to focus on others.”

Front and centre, Rohini keeps being significant in 2021 by ensuring that her leadership style is of relevance to all those around her. To secure this mindset, Rohini gravitates towards dynamic growth, two ways. Firstly, she believes in lifelong learning. Rohini furthered her studies and completed a Masters of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Swinburne University in the hope of staying current and influential. She reinforces, “A growth mindset is an essential attribute. I think always studying in parallel to running and working a gruelling work schedule has been a choice I’ve made to invest that time in growth.”

Now more than ever, Rohini finds it important to stay abreast of changing times amidst Covid-19, work and life challenges worldwide. Rohini elaborates, “We’ve come through a time when humanity is challenged through its very core. The ways in which we live and work have all shifted. We’ve all seen how to use technology to be able to bring about a greater balance between our professional and our personal lives. So, I think 2021 is going to be about leveraging that technology, working in ways that have more meaning to your life, aligning with your core purpose and meeting all of your obligations, personal and professional, and thriving.”

Second, to lifelong learning, Rohini encourages investing in meditation and self-awareness and finding “…calm in moments of storm and chaos.” This belief system is far-reaching, and Rohini adds, “We are spirits having a human experience. That life is short, and we’re all far more similar than we are different. And, I think holding onto that thought and spreading optimism and hope for others is a really important way to live and to create a good life and to create a good world around you.”

There is no way that one can mention Rohini without elaborating on her passion for the Immigration Museum. She reveals, “You know museums hold a mirror to our society, they provoke discourse on the big issues of our times, and ultimately they unite us through an understanding of what we share as humans. Museums Victoria is the largest Museums organisation in the Southern hemisphere entrusted with the care of Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks, Royal Exhibition Building, Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre and the Immigration Museum.” In addition, Rohini confesses, “It’s quite a complex business to run a cultural institution. My job each day is to lead the transformation of the museum and to bring our strategic vision to life.”

Without a doubt, Rohini exhibits creative and administrative skills to oversee this multi-faceted role. However, she credits success to teamwork and being surrounded by talented and dedicated people, front and back-of-house. In line with her outlook, she advocates Melbourne, migrants and Museums Victoria. Her overriding message: “For migrants, it is so important for them to come to the Immigration Museum and to back it, to support it. So that the government continues to recognise just how valuable this institution is. I’d like to make sure that every person that comes to Victoria that sets up home recognises that their story of migration is reflected in an institution like the Immigration Museum and that contributing to that story involves being part of this museum’s life.”

Rohini’s wholesome approach to life is why she is where she is today and why she will continue as focused and passionate as ever. She combines a mixture of confidence and resilience and backs it with commitment and a solid work ethic. She reiterates, “There’s no point having dreams if you’re not prepared to back them up with work.” Also, Rohini admits that she would never have accomplished so much without the constant support from her father (deceased) and role model. She reflects, “…he has been a central anchor in everything that I’ve done. The memory of him will always remain a source of motivation and strength for me.”

When Mr Sethi asked Rohini if she were to be born again, what would she do differently, her response was, “I would still join the technology industry. I have a great love for industries that have such a deep impact on how people live and work. I would follow the same path. Again. I would do it all over again.”

By Agata Zema