Deepika Hebbalalu is a Human Resources Emerging Leaders Associate, currently based in New York, N.Y. Since joining the program in 2016, Deepika has contributed to our Talent Acquisition and Analytics team, as well as to the integration of Gracenote, one of our largest acquisitions.
As a college student, I spent the majority of my time in classrooms listening to lectures, buried behind textbooks, or referencing syllabi and grading rubrics to ensure I was on track to get an “A.” Once I moved into upper-level Psychology and Management classes in college, I experienced a noticeable shift in the structure of my semester and my classes. For the first time, I was able to tailor my schedule to my own interests, and learning now meant more than simply passing exams.
My focus shifted from measuring success through letter grades to feeling rewarded by critical analyses, self-initiated projects, and genuine passion. This lack of structure was new to me, but the endless possibilities made it an exciting change. The transition helped me develop as a learner, self-starter, project manager and most importantly, a leader. This proved to be invaluable after I graduated and acclimated to a full-time role in 2016 within the Human Resources track of the Emerging Leaders program (ELP) at Nielsen.
My major in Psychology and my minor in Management led me to the HR track of our ELP. Through the program, I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to our Talent Acquisition & Analytics space. I’ve also helped the company with its integration of Gracenote, one of Nielsen’s largest acquisitions, while moving to a new city and meeting countless HR leaders who have become mentors both personally and professionally.
In the past year, I’ve leveraged the soft skills I picked up during my junior and senior years of college far more frequently than the textbook lessons I once poured all of my time and energy into. I realized that the most valuable thing I learned in college was how to learn. As a part of the ELP, I’m thrown into a new rotation every six months, where I shift gears and start over with an entirely new team, sometimes in a new office and city. In order to be able to switch to a new role efficiently, it became important to learn how the new team functions, where my role would fit in, and where I could add the most value. While most teams spend time onboarding their new associates, I’ve realized it’s more essential to be proactive and fill in the knowledge gaps so that I can find my place on the team early on. This is where I first noticed the value of learning how to learn in my career.
I just began my third rotation and have been lucky enough to always be surrounded by colleagues who encourage risks, allow me to comfortably make mistakes, and guide me to learn from each experience. My teams have always embraced fresh perspective over sticking to routine, which helped me find my voice and allowed me to feel comfortable sharing it. With the team’s trust came the responsibility of making decisions on behalf of the team, which helped when I was beginning new projects where I had to trust my instinct to keep things moving efficiently. While this was certainly nerve-wracking at first, I began feeling empowered to trust my intuition and believed that I could take ownership of my assignments and produce valuable work and results. This change in attitude didn’t occur overnight. After years of being in a prescriptive academic environment, transitioning into an open and ambiguous one harbored its challenges, like self-doubt and uncertainty. But because I’ve been surrounded by supportive teams and individuals who truly have my best interests at heart, I’ve been able to tackle my first year out of college with confidence while adding value and contributing to Nielsen’s business. In addition, being able to take on a new position every six months before committing to a specific role has been advantageous to me as a recent graduate who faced anxiety over choosing what felt like a permanent career path right out of college.
Overall, working as an ELA at Nielsen has been a softened transition out of college. During my first few days, I remember missing being in a collegiate environment where I knew most of my peers, was constantly surrounded by familiar faces, and had the support and guidance of professors who fiercely advocated for me during my time on campus. It seemed too daunting to have to rebuild myself, my reputation, and my support system. But now, a year later, I am floored by the family I have found with my peers, managers, mentors and mentees at Nielsen. I’ve met people who have inspired me to be a better version of myself both at work and outside of work, who have taught me more than I can imagine about the HR and Data & Measurement space, and who see and value me for the person that I am rather than simply a colleague or just another associate at the company. I’m thankful for the opportunities Nielsen has given me thus far and I’m excited to see what the future will hold.