An Interview with Puja Jaspal

Kara M. Zone

December 02, 2014

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Puja Jaspal found herself seeking a greater challenge from her position as senior vice president at Google. When she discovered this, she followed her heart into a new position with Visa. Although a tough decision, she realized it was the right one for her and her family.

It was my pleasure speaking with her about her experience and her life story. She is an exceptionally kind woman who is encouraging and down to earth. She is an esteemed member of WITI and has contributed greatly to helping other women succeed by developing a role model status as she shared her wealth of knowledge and experience.

Kara Zone (KZ): Your Keynote Speech at the WITI Summit this year was about leading with purpose and passion. Can you describe how you live your life in this way?

Puja Jaspal (PJ): "Leading with purpose and passion" was my way of saying"listen to your voice. Everyone will have an opinion with what they believe you should do with your life. Many don't understand what worked for them may not work for you, and their life may be a far cry from what you are truly seeking.

I follow my convictions. I have done this throughout my life, and it was how I chose to go to the University of Cincinnati instead of some larger named or Ivy League school. They offered me a full scholarship, and they had a co-op program where I would get fieldwork from my major. That was a big draw for me. The co-op experience helped me understand that engineering was not for me. Then, PNG had a business school with human resources—that was what I enjoyed doing. Because I enjoyed it, opportunities followed, and with that came the money.

I strive never to have regrets. We have to live life with purpose; taking risks on ourselves is part of creating our purpose. When I left Google to join Visa, I was nervous. I wasn't sure if I made the right decision and I started to second-guess myself.

When I spoke with my mom, she asked me, "Would you be happy if you stayed there? Would you have any regrets?" I realized I would. I am not a person who can stay in one place and be complacent. I crave a challenge. When I am truly happy, my family life is happy.

KZ: You grew up in Cincinnati, do you see a difference in the professional environment from the east to the west coast?

PJ: I lived all over the east coast, and I found that Washington DC had the best blend. West coast is more mid-western than one would believe. Many Ohioans have moved out here. The culture is all about entrepreneurship; there is an intense passion. It's better than the east coast because it's not as much of a rat race. The energy here is fun. It's understated, but each person is focused on some dream.

Of course, I miss my family. My parents have asked me to come back, but I enjoy the environment far too much. I want my sister and my parents to move out here, and I keep trying to get them out here. Hopefully, one day it will work.

KZ: You have had fantastic professional positions. Can you explain what drives you to keep going? How do you incorporate your drive with your daughter?

PJ: Simply put, don't apologize for your ambition. Too many people, women especially, apologize for being assertive in knowing what they want and how to get it. We have to go for it.

The reason I keep moving forward is that I want to be a great leader. There are enough bad leaders to make me want to make a difference positively. I like looking at the cracks and seeing how we can fix them. Collateral damage can come with bad leadership. Many people overlook how serious a responsibility it is, and it's a never-ending development. I know there is a better way to manage and influence people, to be able to do the right thing and to inspire people. I want to leave a legacy and create an environment where people are free to innovate.

Being a mom is a constant balancing act. There are things you can't outsource, like time with your children. I know I feel out of balance when I haven't spent enough time with her. I haven't been to the school in the past couple of weeks. I can tell when she's sad. Sometimes my daughter gets angry because she knows there is less time with mom and dad.

Andrea Young was the CEO of A1, and she told me once, "There are days when work wins, and there are days when family wins." I like to keep this in mind when work days keep me busy.

KZ: Are you still involved with the Indus Women Leaders? How does co-founding an organization such as this help motivate you? What helped you have the desire to start such an organization?

PJ: My co-founder and I met at a conference for Indian professionals. We held a couple of focus groups—we wanted to create an organization centered around advocacy. It's cool. I'm not as involved as I used to be, but I've been asked if I gave up working in HR what I would like to do. I would love to take IWL to the next level.

Not only is IWL a networking community, but there is a learning enterprise going on as well. If we have one member who is looking to learn Spanish, another member can help point her in the right direction. We had five chapters grow from it. Because of it, each place I've moved for a new job, I had friends.

Puja Jaspal is vice president and HR business partner for Visa Inc. where she leads the team providing human resources support for Visa's global technology organization. Read more about her on Diversity Best Practices.

Kara Zone is a professional writer, editor, and graphic designer. She is the managing editor of and enjoys working remotely. She is a critical thinker and builds departmental systems for companies to use when structuring organizational systems.

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