Sucheta Misra recently joined North Highland as Associate Vice President, Inclusion and Diversity and Social Impact Leader. She brings a wealth of expertise to her new role from experience at the University of Illinois Chicago and United Airlines and will lead the firm’s inclusion and diversity programs as well as its community social impact strategies. She says her passion for inclusion and diversity comes from being part of an immigrant family that emphasized the need to give back to surrounding communities. We put her in the hot seat with the questions below:
What attracted you to North Highland?
The combined authenticity and dedication to I&D and community impact from leadership attracted me to North Highland. Since I’ve been here, what has been most impressive to me is the enthusiasm and motivation to move the needle in I&D and community impact within the company. North Highland has a fantastic team of individuals that put people first.
- Over the last two years here in the States, race relations hit a fever pitch, along with so much political unrest. During what seems like so much division, what’s the new charge for I&D professionals to help foster inclusion in work environments and local communities?
With both national and global events, the new charge for I&D professionals encompasses a few ideas. First, embedding I&D throughout the business, rather than operating as a silo, is incredibly significant to make an impact. Second, facilitating I&D discussions that are courageous and driven by continuous listening, learning and taking incremental action. Each one on its own is insufficient to foster inclusion in work environments and communities. However, done together and repeatedly - listening, learning and taking action, however small - creates progress. Finally, I view companies as individualistic, each with its own unique makeup of leadership, employees, culture, values and strengths. Just because Company A is doing something in I&D doesn’t mean that Company B can and should be doing that exact same thing. To me, part of the new I&D charge includes understanding how to tailor I&D strategy and initiatives to a specific company.
- Is there a particular plan or program you implemented in your career that stands out? Why?
A more recent program that stands out to me is implementing a mentorship program designed for a diverse talent interested in giving back to underrepresented communities. The reason this program was so important is that the result of having an experienced individual being invested in your career and success cannot be underestimated. Many individuals that come from underrepresented communities are unable to find organic mentorship relationships because of a lack of access. As a result, a program that proactively pairs individuals with a mentor that is outstanding in a similar field and that can open doors is invaluable.
- You are also an attorney. How does that background shape the way you approach your work?
For anyone who has been to law school, on Day One you are told that you will learn how to “think critically.” Most of us don’t understand what exactly that means until years later. That ability to “think critically” has served me well. In Inclusion & Diversity and social impact work, there are often multiple ways to approach problems and answers aren’t necessarily clear cut. With my legal background, I’m able to approach problems from various angles and lenses and understand each path to arrive at the best answer for a specific problem at a specific time.
- Because this work is so mission-oriented, it likely sticks with you long after your work day has ended. What do you for fun?
Unsurprisingly, my idea of fun is rooted in diversity and learning about other cultures, particularly through art and food. My ideal activity is traveling – it is a thrilling rush to be in exploration mode in a new country. Some of my most loved locations are Rio, Tokyo, Bali, Kigali and Singapore, probably because these places also have the best food. I also find these types of experiences locally. For example, I’ll actively seek out cuisine that I’ve never tried before or an exhibit by an artist from an underrepresented community. I’m an adventurer at heart - there’s so much to explore in our world and I often take family and friends along for the ride as well. After all, diversity is the spice of life.