The Power of Women: Lakshmi Shenoy

Written By: Maren Auxier

Lakshmi Shenoy is a recent transplant to the Tampa Bay area and is the CEO of Embarc Collective, formerly known as the Tampa Bay Innovation Hub. Embarc Collective strives to make Tampa Bay a prime destination for diverse startup talent. Before moving to Tampa, Lakshmi lived in Chicago and served as the Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at 1871, the top university-affiliated business incubator in the world. Prior to 1871, Lakshmi focused on growth strategies for a variety of businesses through previous roles at Prophet Brand Strategy, Time Inc., Procter & Gamble, and Leo Burnett. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Chicago, and a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. Lakshmi was recently recognized in 2017 as one of Chicago’s “20 Rising Brand Stars” by Ad Age.

Greatest Accomplishment

While working at 1871, Lakshmi had the opportunity to be a part of a group called WiSTEM, a 12-week program that supports women founders. The program helped give women access to capital, customers and technology talent.

The model was recognized across the country, and the companies that sprung from it are some of the most inspiring organizations Lakshmi has had the opportunity to work with. “I was really proud to know that I was a part of building the foundation of this network of women supporting women, and I think this is something the women in the Junior League can relate to.”

Impacting the Community

Lakshmi moved to the Tampa Bay area to take on her role as CEO of Embarc Collective, an organization committed to making Tampa a prime destination for diverse startup talent. She hopes to meaningfully impact the community, both personally and professionally, by making Tampa a central “landing zone” for entrepreneurs and startups nationwide.

As part of this initiative, Lakshmi and her team are creating a deliberate space where startups can grow and thrive. “When you create that physical hub, you are able to create a sense of energy, because you are putting a lot of really amazing activity into a single place,” she said. “That is what creates a buzz.”

Advancing One’s Career

Do not get left out of important conversations, or else decisions will be made for you instead of by you. “You’ve got to be in the room where it happens,” she said. Importantly, you cannot always wait to be invited into the conversation. “It is about showing up, speaking up and making the most impact,” she added.

The Workplace Environment for Women

Lakshmi believes there is still a long way to go for women in the professional world, although she is glad to note a recent upward trend of women in senior leadership roles.

She also believes that, when possible, women should do their best to make those senior leadership positions work better for other women. “We should incorporate more flexibility into jobs so that smart women who are perfect for leadership roles do not have to opt out of the workforce because they are juggling work and family obligations.” She also adds that women need to advocate for each other and highlight one another’s strengths and abilities.

Balancing Work and Home

Lakshmi focuses on integrating her work and life rather than finding a balance between the two. “I try to be kind and patient with myself when different dimensions of my life take priority,” she said.

Traits of Great Leaders

Lakshmi believes that a great leader should possess integrity, should operate with the long view, and should put one’s team and customers before oneself.

Recommended Reading

Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett
Skimm’d from the Couch by theSkimm (podcast)

This post is the second of a three part series The Power of Women: How Three Tampa Leaders are Making a Difference. The article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of The Sandspur.

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