Celebrating one IT leader’s story of growth
August 10, 2023
Learning and growth are one of the many benefits of an enriching experience at Yale and part of what makes leadership opportunities possible. Vidhya Narayanan, IT Director of Health Software Solutions and Engineering, had such an opportunity last spring when she joined the second cohort of the Emerge leadership program as part of her leadership training. The program is a Presidential initiative to retain and grow high-performance employees into future university leaders and requires a nomination by each unit’s Vice-President.
The nomination builds on past leadership experience, a quality Vidhya honed over time at Yale. She joined IT in 2008 as a Programmer Analyst before moving into the role of Technical Lead a few years later. Through hard work and dedication, Vidhya advanced from Manager to Associate Director of Software Development in the Advanced Technologies team. As Associate Director, she led the university’s technology strategy for many mission-critical projects. One of her recent accomplishments in her current role as IT Director involves leading the support transition of Salesforce applications from central ITS to Health Sciences Information Services.
We recently met with Vidhya to hear about her experience with the program:
How did you join the Emerge program, and how did you react to the nomination?
The Associate CIO of Enterprise Applications, Frank Mathew, nominated me and shared his recommendation with John Barden. I was excited that senior leaders recognized my potential and efforts to build a dynamic team. My focus has always been on growing as a leader, and I have taken several leadership training courses to develop those skills. I considered this another growth opportunity, for which I was extremely grateful. I knew this would expose me to the views of university leaders, and I would get to connect with them in person. The cohort was described as a collection of leaders from across the university.
What were some of the highlights of the experience for you?
The caliber of guest speakers, the subject materials we covered, and the university focus. Every month, top university leaders shared their experiences and thinking through strategic problems. Learning how leaders think and resolve challenges was inspiring, and I could apply these learnings immediately to my work at ITS. Emerge was an 8-month program with a monthly focus on critical university areas. Gaining a better understanding of the scale of Yale’s operations and how Yale staff supports that mission was invaluable. Even the case studies we discussed in training sessions were not abstract; they used Yale examples. I appreciated the focus on keeping the university at the core of our thinking.
How did the Emerge program set you up for success?
The training structure was integral to my leadership development. For one day every month, the cohort met in person for a full training day. I received a one-on-one leadership coaching session with a trained coach to understand my strengths better. I learned to focus on my strengths and not my weaknesses. There were also thoughtful exercises, such as reflecting on problems presented in the program and applying those to my day-to-day responsibilities. We had sessions on handling conflict, leadership ethics, emotional intelligence, dealing with the press, and growing as a good leader. That individual attention to developing my leadership skills had a significant impact, especially as I was starting a new position requiring performance at a higher level.
Can you share any insights learned from the Emerge program?
I learned the importance of networking and developing strategic relationships. I am now willing to invest the time and energy to build good client relationships. It is not a skill that comes naturally to me. I appreciated the networking opportunities the program provided to connect with leaders from the university. I met with and learned from cohort members outside ITS, an opportunity I never had before. Some members are now ITS clients, and that rapport has enhanced our working relationships. The program inspired me to think through challenges with a new lens, and I gained a unique perspective to help me succeed in my career.
What were some of the benefits of the Emerge program?
We had in-person meetings at different buildings on campus, and it was a great way to explore West Campus, Sterling Hall of Medicine, and the Schwarzman Center. You could say I had an unofficial campus tour. I also enjoyed working and spending time with members of my cohort from diverse areas at Yale, such as the School of Drama, Office of Financial Aid, Public Safety Department, President’s Communication Office, and Yale Catering. It was an exciting opportunity to connect with talented individuals across the university to whom I had never been exposed.
You were recently promoted. Can you tell us how that happened?
I saw a job posting and was encouraged to apply by my manager, Hadar Call, who thought I would be a good fit for the role. It was wonderful to receive that encouragement and validation from my manager.
While we are learning about your experiences in the Emerge leadership program, I would also love to get to know you. What activities do you enjoy, and how did you end up working in IT?
I enjoy outdoor activities. I often spend the summer hiking with my family at state parks and always make time to go on a long morning walk with friends. I also read fiction books and am currently learning to garden. In 2008, when my children were very young, I juggled a full-time job, a long commute, and parenting. I wanted a different job that would provide a better work-life balance, and then I got a call from a headhunter regarding an opportunity at Yale. The rest, as they say, is history!
If this story inspires you, consider taking courses through IT Academy, creating an Individual Development Plan, or speaking to your manager about your career goals and aspirations. Your manager can help you get stretch assignments, shadow experiences, and mentoring opportunities.