Rakhi Voria is the Chief of Staff, Sr. Business Manager to the Corporate Vice President of Inside Sales at Microsoft. She has a strong passion for advancing millennials and women in business and shares her thoughts regularly on these topics by speaking at conferences and by writing publications in Forbes as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Rakhi is also the co-chair of Women@Microsoft, which is designed to help women grow their professional skills and expand career options through access to resources and tools. She received her M.Sc. from the University of Oxford and her B.A. from Colorado College.
Tell us about yourself?
I joined Microsoft six years ago after attending a recruiting event at my graduate school. Like many millennials, I was interested in working for a company that was committed to making a difference. I was attracted to Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, and I had seen the impact that Microsoft technology had made even in my own life growing up.
During my time at Microsoft, I’ve had several different roles across sales, licensing, financing, and business development. The beauty of Microsoft is that you can take on horizontal challenges while still growing vertically. There’s a growth mindset and a culture of learning at the company where employees are encouraged to try roles across a variety of divisions.
Today, I work on the Inside Sales team, an organization that Microsoft created about 2.5 years ago to engage customers with the right touch at the right time with the right insights to achieve more. I was fortunate enough to be one of the first members in the organization and have helped grow the team to 1,800 people globally. I’ve played a key role in building foundational elements of our sales centers — everything from recruiting and interviewing new hires, to providing input into the programs, processes, and tools that they need to be successful. This start-up culture has given me amazing insight into what it takes to build a brand new, high-performing sales force.
What was the reason for creating this organization?
The decision to build the Microsoft Inside Sales team was centered around our customers. Customer buying decisions are shifting toward digital engagement, and digital transformation is enabling more informed, richer conversations. Inside sales models have become a way for companies to address customers’ needs in a consistent and scalable way while maintaining much more personalized relationships. I think we’ll see more companies shift toward an inside sales (digital) model vs. a field sales (in-person) model, leading to cost efficiencies. We’ve seen some strong early indications that this model is working, and we’re excited to see how we can connect even more seamlessly with our customers through this digital sales motion.
You are a big supporter of advancing women in business and technology. Tell us more about this.
This has always been an important topic to me. I come from a family of women, having grown up with my single mom and two older sisters, and now have a niece. My upbringing sparked my commitment to helping break down barriers for women and building a more inclusive society.
I currently serve as Co-Chair of the Women@Microsoft Board, which is designed to help Microsoft women grow their professional skills and expand career options through access to resources and tools. Leading this group has allowed me to exercise my passion for supporting, advancing, and retaining female talent in the workplace while also building partnerships with similar groups at other companies.
I’m also passionate about getting more women into business and technology, and particularly the sales function, where women are underrepresented across all levels. As we were growing the Inside Sales team to 1,800 people, we struggled at times to attract women into sales positions due to preconceived notions that they had about the profession. I recently published two articles in Forbes on this topic (Why We Need More Women in Sales and Why Women Should Consider Roles in Sales) as a way to bring attention to this issue and to encourage women to explore sales positions, and I often speak on this topic at various conferences.
What was the best book or series that you’ve ever read?
“How Will You Measure Your Life” by Clayton Christensen. It provides a good perspective on how high achievers often get side tracked by success and offers guidance on how to put your energy into truly find meaning and happiness in life.
What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?
Best purchase: Bose noise cancelling headphones. I travel internationally frequently, so these are my saving grace when it comes to sleeping on planes and listening to conference calls, audiobooks, or music while I’m on the go.
Worst purchase: Furby baby in 3rd grade. It drove me crazy.
What takes up too much of your time?
Sleep. I’m a big believer in the benefits of getting 8 hours of sleep each night. But I can only imagine how much more I could accomplish if I didn’t have to spend 1/3 of my life sleeping!
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students/new startup business owners who want to become entrepreneurs?
- Find entrepreneurs who are gold star and learn best practices from them. The best way to prepare yourself to start your own business is by surrounding yourself with individuals who have done it themselves. Learn what worked for them, what didn’t, and ask them for advice as you embark on your entrepreneurial journey.
- Focus on gaining a set of skills and experiences that will set you up for the long run. If you want to run your own business, then invest in building this capability by learning about finance, operations, sales, etc.
- Once you have your business idea, develop a strong elevator pitch. Practice it alone or with friends. Be open to criticism and ask for feedback so that you can refine and develop your talk track over time.
Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
Bill Gates. His contributions to the world are unparalleled – everything from founding Microsoft and bringing technology to the world to his humanitarian and philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
How people should connect with you?
This Interview is exclusively conducted by “Haris Siddique”
Haris Siddique is an entrepreneur and investor based in Pakistan. He is a co-founder of Artimization (A global branding and marketing company) which already served more than 500 businesses around the world. Haris is one of a board member of Vizaca Media Company and currently serving as a Head of Global Marketing.
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