Vice President of Operations DHL New Zealand

Breaking Barriers: Chitra Shinde smashing it in a male dominated field

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17 April 2023

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Chitra Shinde is the VP of operations for DHL New Zealand, a woman that is dominating in a usually male filled space. WOMAN+ spoke to her about her experience and what advice she has for women wanting to do the same.

What do you do at DHL New Zealand?

I am Vice President of Operations for DHL Express New Zealand. I lead a team of International Specialists who manage our safety, security, export and import operations, transportation, customs clearance and our last mile pickup and delivery couriers, and service providers. We also design and build infrastructure, train our people, build customer solutions, audit against internal and external compliance requirements and work on continuous improvement to improve our customer experience.

What made you decide to pursue a career in this industry and how hard was it to break in?

I aspired to be a professor teaching poetry and literature at my hometown cCollege. Instead, I ended up pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration. I joined DHL Express as one of the first women trainees in Gateway Operations in India. From there I have worked in various roles across Operations and IT in India, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand. Throughout my career in Operations, it was not unusual for me to be the only woman in the room. I also have an extremely supportive husband who has played an active part in raising our four children. My willingness to learn new skills, embrace change and invest time to develop myself and my team has helped me grow. 

What challenges have you faced in this career?

Looking back, I think I could have done things better or differently.  I should have sought out mentoring much earlier.  You can learn so much from the experience of others. I had to shift my focus from myself to my team and transition from being an individual high performer to being able to lead and motivate a team of high performers. Challenges have been mostly on the personal front in balancing my many responsibilities as a daughter, wife, mother, and employee and trying to excel in all of them.  Understanding your own self and self-imposed limitations, accepting them, and finding coping mechanisms are a great way to overcome these self-created barriers. I know how to recognise my early warning signs of fatigue and stress and I take immediate measures to address these.

What has been your proudest achievement in this career?

Two things come to mind

  1. When I see the development in individuals with untapped potential or when I have the courage to share the right feedback at the right time to positively align their development.
  2. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, we experienced massive peaks and troughs operating as an essential service. We responded by introducing new routes, new flights, new processes, facilities, and people and innovated as we progressed. It was the most unpredictable and exciting time in my career. Coming out of it has presented a novel challenge –how to create a Wow factor for our employees and our customers every day.

What would you say to other women wanting to pursue a career in this industry?

I have seen the transformation and transition of the operational environment in the last decade, which makes it a great place for women. I am already observing that the younger generation is shifting. 

Avoid these seven common mistakes if you can,

  1. Don’t overthink: Generally and more specifically our own capability.
  2. Don’t be a perfectionist: The last 20% takes too much time for very little value it delivers.
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff:  Sooner or later, it will tarnish your Brand.
  4. Don’t hire clones: Seek out people who are different from you or better than you. Lucky if you can find both. Skills can be taught.
  5. Don’t try to do it all yourself: Your growth will come from being able to get things done through influencing and execution.

Related article: Cate Blanchett: ‘Early In My Career One Director Used To Treat Me Brutally’

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