Shamina Singh, the Executive Vice President of Sustainability and President of Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth, earned her seat in the upper echelons of one of the world’s most-respected companies through a combination of preparation, creating opportunity, and being in the right place at the right time.
Execution is key: “You have to have the audacious goal, but also work on the adjacencies,” Singh advised. “It’s about building the skillset to get you that job you want in that company you want. They’re not amorphous. I think it’s making sure you’re being very real about how you plot the points….You have to have an implementation plan… Execution is as important as the aspiration.”
“Learn how money moves”: This was advice that the late Texas Governor Ann Richards gave Shamina when Shamina said she felt something was missing in her career. This applies to the importance of women having financial independence too, building their assets, and knowing the financials.
Seek guidance when you’re “at an inflection point”: When Singh felt she was at such a point professionally, even though she loved her job with Governor Richards, Shamina talked to the Governor about it. I’ll add, seek input from multiple sources.
Get varied experience, leveraging what you know: After 15 years in the public sector, including in the Clinton White House, as well as working with Governor Richards and with nonprofits, Singh transitioned to the private sector to “learn how money moves.” Leveraging her expertise in the public sector, she landed in the community development area of Citi. She also worked at Nike for about a year.
Build professional relationships with your coworkers: At Citibank, Singh worked with Ajay Banga, who eventually brought her to Mastercard where he became CEO, promoting her to her current role.
Participate in influential training programs, throughout your career: Singh attended the prestigious Presidential Leadership Scholars Program (PLS, created by former U.S. Presidents), among other programs, enabling her to grow her leadership skills while creating a valuable network outside her job. Singh was already in her leadership role at Mastercard when she did PLS in 2018.
Have what you need to make a good decision: “Do I have the tools and capacity and the data itself to make the right decision?” Singh said is the question to ask. She was referring to leading cities toward sustainability, but it applies to every decision, including career ones.
Create partnerships: Singh summarized the key to partnerships by saying, “If your assets and our assets come together, how big is that impact?” Leverage your complementarity for greater mutual benefit.
It’s about empowering and preparing you, and creating an execution plan, to help you achieve those audacious goals.