You pass them in the halls, seen their faces on Zoom calls, and exchange e-mails. You know their job title and department, and might even know their extension by heart. But do you truly know who you’re working with? Get to know our Chief People Officer, Vaishali Rathod!
Who are you? (Where are you from; where’d you grow up; where’d you go to college; etc.)
My name is Vaishali Rathod. I was born in India and came to the US when I was about 3 years old and we settled in Hoboken, NJ. I’m sandwiched between two uberly overprotective brothers. My dad worked at Rolex in NYC and had this American ideal dream that all of his kids would go to Rutgers. That was his Harvard for us. He didn’t want us to dorm because of his perception of college life, hence, he moved us near the Rutgers New Brunswick campus when I was in high school. From there, I graduated with a degree in Communications and Political Science. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer because it was ingrained in me that every Indian is “supposed” to be either a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. But I went the HR route. I met my husband—who is also Indian, a Marine, and an entrepreneur— a few decades ago. It wasn’t the traditional choice that my father had for me, but it’s been a wonderful 24 years together, and we’re raising three amazing boys.
Cat or a dog person?
I’m 100% a dog person. My family and I grew up with German Shepherds. My father always had one as a kid in India and my brother actually has one too, which we consider our “family dog”. As far as my immediate family owning our own dog, it doesn’t seem like that will ever happen. My husband has an acute sense of smell and is not much of a fan of shedding hair. But I will always and forever will be a dog person.
Do you have any specific heroes or role models you strive to be like?
My real-life superhero has to be my maternal grandma. She was an amazing, hardworking woman who jumped on a boat with my grandpa to Congo (Africa), where they started a soap factory with no money whatsoever. Her husband passed away sometime after she gave birth to her youngest and 8th child, but that type of adversity didn’t stop her. She adapted by learning French, Lingala, and English, and single-handedly ran an entire factory, sent money home to build a home for her family back in India where she supported a total of 18 people. All of this was done independently. She passed away a couple of years ago in her 90s. I don’t want to say she lived a great life, but she lived a fulfilling one and had such a great sense of humor. She was a woman who could just do it all and was so talented. She knitted all of my dresses since I was a baby. When she would come to the states and spend summers with us, her stories were just amazing. She was such an iconic woman and if I can be a fraction of the woman she was, I’d be lucky. The woman had no formal education past 5th grade, was forced to work immediately after, and then was married off. And look at all she did! Funny story, I used to always try to speak French with her when she would come to visit. I was learning French in school and she learned it just by communicating to learn the trade back in Congo. And somehow, she spoke it better than me, accent and all!
Go to topping on pizza?
I’ve got to say onions and maybe jalapenos. Oh, and garlic! I love veggies and I love them on pizza. I do love a good plain New York slice, too. But if I have to choose toppings, I’d go with the veggies. Spinach, broccoli, red peppers, all of that stuff. I should’ve just said veggies to start off, right?
When did you know you were destined for a career in Human Resources?
I honestly never picked HR, I feel like HR picked me. I thought I wanted to be a corporate lawyer and do corporate law. I kind of stumbled upon HR at Siemens Healthineers. Our communications team was under HR and it was all-encompassing. I started in internal communications and then began exploring and helping with other areas, including employee relations and recruiting, and it kind of continued to grow from there. My friend who did Corp Law at BASF convinced me to stick to HR when she learned I was studying for the LSAT (and learned that I was pregnant with my second child). I love this space, and am so happy I stuck with it!
Yankees or Mets? Knicks or Nets? Giants or Jets?
Oh gosh! I’m not much of a baseball fan, but if I had to choose it’d be the Yankees. For basketball, I’d say the Nets, only because I went to a game once. Football? Giants. That was an easy question.
Other than work, what is one thing you’re irrationally passionate about?
One thing? Because I actually have a lot of things. I love to bake. I’d love to be able to take a baking class every weekend if I could. I experiment a lot with alcohol-infused desserts. No one’s getting too tipsy over these, by the way, so no worries. But I also consider myself a creative person and would love to reupholster furniture. I also love to read and write. I used to have a blog called “So Vaish”, which was kind of a philosophical-type blog where I’d write about the upside of real life scenarios that people often dramatize.
Movie night at your house: what are you watching?
I’m a total rom-com person. I’m always in favor of those types of movies. I really, really loved binging “Game of Thrones” though – which would not be my normal go-to. I know that’s not a movie, but I just loved that show. My husband is a huge tv binger and he watches absolutely everything. But if I’m talking about rom-coms or favorite movies, maybe “Ghost” or “Dirty Dancing”. We have a little movie theater in our basement and one night my husband and kids let me choose the movie and I chose… “Ghost”! My kids and husband rolled their eyes at my pick, but I know they all secretly loved it!
What appealed to you about The Execu|Search Group?
Hmm, let’s see. To be honest, the agility of a firm of our size and the ability to pivot and adapt to times of change through the guidance of our senior leadership team.
I was concerned it was going to be a bait and switch because the company was very appealing with their growth strategy. 11 months later, everything that appealed to me about this company is still intact and it has to do with the organization’s appetite for growth and change. It’s been amazing so far.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
This is a question that is always an icebreaker or dinner table conversation. I would have to say…. Ugh, I don’t know! Reading minds seems kind of toxic and unhealthy. I forgot how I usually answer this question. I’m really good at time management, and people tend to say that’s a power of mine. I just keep going because it’s natural to me. I don’t understand people who can’t get things done. So maybe being able to manipulate time and control it. Is that a good one?
What are you better at than most anyone else you know?
Like I said, time management is my forte. I think I’m also a really good writer and I’m an excellent communicator when I need to get my point across. I’m super confident with those skills of mine.
Would you rather fight 10 duck-sized Shaquille O’Neal or 1 Shaquille O’Neal-sized duck?
I think I would have to go with 10 duck-sized Shaqs. I feel like I’d just be able to tackle and kick them off better. Shaquille O’Neal is 3 times the size of me. I’d definitely have a better chance with the small Shaqs.
If we’re having this conversation a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you in this role, what would it be that you achieved?
I set a lot of lofty goals and objectives when I first started. Even Larry, our CEO, told me to choose a few and do them well. I’m just ambitious and love to do lots of things at the same time. If a year from now, we could improve upon one thing that I would be most proud of, it would be increasing our retention. It goes hand-in-hand with all of our Corp HR’s initiatives, including creating an inclusive environment through our DE&I efforts. What I want to see is our DE&I committee having a seat at the “table”. I really want them to make a difference internally within our company because when you get it right internally, you have the ability to influence our external community. I want it to take on a life of its own and I want people to come in and see the opportunities and acceptances that come along with it. I feel like that one is a big one I would really be proud of.
If you could be any animal, what would it be?
It would definitely be a jaguar or maybe a cheetah or leopard because of the speed that they can move at. I’m always going a mile a minute, so it makes sense. What I would like is to be an owl. You know, to be wise and intelligent and patient. Maybe a hybrid of them. That could be fun. Wait… was that corny?