An Unconventional Path To London Business School: From Writer To Executive VP

Ketaki Banga’s BPG team at an industry awards dinner pre-Covid

BUSTING THROUGH CEILINGS

Once hitting another ceiling as group editor, Banga was ready for the next step of her career progression. “At that point, it wasn’t enough to just be a writer or communications person. It was about having a holistic understanding of integrated marketing and how to connect the dots,” she explains. “You may have certain specialized skills, but the minute you start looking at the world through a narrow perspective, you’re doing a disservice to yourself, clients, team, and organization.”

Committed to continually evolving herself, Banga joined a boutique PR and marketing agency as an account director. She says that moving into PR felt like a natural transition because she was still telling stories. “Once a storyteller, always a storyteller,” she says.

London Business School’s Dubai campus

From this role, her career began to take off. From the boutique agency, she transitioned to BPG, a WPP agency specializing in media and communications. There, she’s experienced immense growth; she’s gone from account director to executive vice president in just 8 years. Today, she works with technology-led brands that are disrupting industries. “When I started my career at 18, I never knew I’d end up as executive vice president of a marketing agency,” she says. “When we’re young, we have all of these aspirations but we don’t necessarily have direction. The beauty of getting older is that we have more direction so that we can better channel that energy and enthusiasm.”

On the way to becoming executive VP, Banga had to overcome the challenges posed by her and her partner’s separation. However, she says that she’s come out on the other side stronger and more resilient; these turns in the road made her realize the inherent resilience of the human spirit. “Even when we fall down, we always get back up. We are strong and resilient. We may still have scars, but there’s always something better coming for us. As long as we stay focused on that, it’s always going to be okay,” she says.

CREATING EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

Now on the BPG leadership team, she prides herself on creating an environment for women to speak their minds and share their perspectives. “Despite being only one of three women on a large leadership team, I’ve built a team of strong women of different nationalities. I’m proud of that. Each and every one of them has an amazing character,” she says.

While she believes that there is much more equal opportunity now than when she first started her career, she’s still faced many challenges along the way; when she arrived in Dubai, most job postings only wanted Native English speakers. Plus, being a single mom hindered her options. “Now, you rarely face this issue and there is more equal opportunity for everyone. I want to make sure that I leave behind a better world than the one I found,” she says.

Despite much inequality in the world, BPG has been incredibly supportive of her career growth. “There’s a reason I still am where I am for the last 8 years; being an Indian woman has never been held against me,” she continues.

SUCCESS AS AN EXECUTIVE VP

As executive VP, Banga is most proud of her work in encouraging collaboration and breaking down silos between teams. “Silos are less operational and more in people’s heads,” she says, “There’s always a human tendency to hold onto how you’ve always done things. People don’t collaborate because they don’t feel safe, trust each other, or see the big picture. My role as a team leader is to get people to understand each other.”

Although Collaboration didn’t happen overnight, Banga says that it’s helped the organization evolve. Plus, it’s also helped drive post-pandemic recovery. “The pandemic was this gut wrenching, soul searching, transformative time for everyone. Everything that you knew and everything that you took for granted disappeared overnight. Business was impacted, but so were people,” she says. “Yes, the post-pandemic recovery is about processes and efficiency and making sure business isn’t overly impacted. But you can do that without neglecting the human side of things.”

She says that breaking down these silos has helped the organization continue to deliver results for its clients; they leverage their omnichannel teams to provide strategic marketing, social media, PR, digital content and creative thinking for impactful, award-winning campaigns. Recently, BPG Dubai became a finalist for 19 awards and won 10 for clients such as KPMG, Deezer, Mazoon, Sony, and Avenues Mall.

But Banga says that what’s driven the organization’s recovery is the way the team now feels like a family. “Our team members trust each other. They have each other’s back,” she explains. “You have to inspire your team to be part of the recovery with you through your actions. That’s not something you can just tell them to do.”

For her personally, the pandemic and her separation taught her how to be the kind of leader she wanted to be. “People strive for this one version of how life’s supposed to go, with one roadmap and a set timeline. But there’s no set path to success and there’s no conventional way to get to where you need to be,” she says.

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