The 2019 SLA Rising Star award winners will be formally recognized at the annual conference. One of the recipients, Natasha Chowdory, is currently serving as LMD Awards Chair. She was also the inaugural winner of LMD’s Career Advancement Award and then led LMD’s webinar program in 2017. We asked Natasha to tell us a little bit about the factors that have influenced her career development.
You have held several volunteer leadership positions with SLA. How have those experiences contributed to the development of your career?
My voluntary positions within SLA have been a catalyst for a lot of the work I've done, both voluntary and paid. By having the opportunity to take on small leadership roles and learn how to run small teams I've been able to take those skills into my professional life. I would honestly say that even the smallest things such as. getting VERY familiar with Go to Webinar and Go to Meeting when I was working on LMD programs prepared me for running meetings at work (seems like a small thing but really it was huge).
Learning how to interact with SLA member across the world has been immensely useful to me - especially in my role at Oxfam. Working in different time zones and developing the flexibility that comes with that is definitely a skill I've taken into every job. When I was younger, I would think “well, that's not possible.” Now, I ask “how can we work around your commitments, do we need to invest in headsets, how do we create a more inclusive working environment? These seem like obvious things, but at the beginning of my career, they weren't. Also, these translate heavily into the evolving nature of how we work and when we work which requires us to be flexible and able to welcome people with different skill sets and backgrounds.
What do you consider to be your leadership strengths? Are there leadership skills you want to develop?
Great questions! You should know that I have struggled with the concepts of leadership and management over the last year or so. It's very hard to progress in our profession (in the UK anyway) if you don't move into management. However, I recently attended some training and I am forced to admit to having a wide range of leadership strengths that may or may not mean that I'm suited to management (only time will tell).
I am incredibly direct, and this is both a strength and weakness as it can make some people feel very uncomfortable. But it makes it easy to work with me because I don't go in for two-faced working styles and I find working with different types of people interesting. My first job was at a tech company where I had to learn to be very direct to be heard, and now I think it's something that I do everywhere!
I have a genuine desire to reach consensus and believe that everyone should be included in a decision process where they feel comfortable and where it's relevant. To be clear, teamwork isn't my favorite thing in the world (there's a reason why I do no team sport-based exercise!) but there is great fulfillment from working with a great group of people working to the same goals with complementary skills. I've had the privilege of working on two teams like this in my career so far, I hope there will be more!.
Here is the biggest one: I think I can handle critical feedback. It's not fun and on occasion, it has been awful, but I am grateful to the people in my career who have said to me “Natasha, I think you need to address x because it affected y and the result wasn't good.” It's made me a better person to work with and also appreciative of how hard interpersonal stuff at work can be
Skills to develop would be related to how I work with people with different needs - I am very results focused and can be very impatient (I have been known to ask if I can do group activities on my own on training days because I know the other people will be too slow!). You lose people when you work that way, so I'm trying to develop in this area - which goes in line with understanding and influencing.
Are there any particular achievements in your work which you consider to be key factors in your recognition as a Rising Star?
To be honest, I don't actually think there are any 'standout' achievements, but rather that I've been plugging away for the last seven years. For me, it's not so much the recognition of me that's important, but raising awareness of our profession as a whole and how we can embed ourselves as agents of good within society and the organizations we find ourselves in (academic, government, commercial or otherwise). I hope that that has been the reason why I've been awarded the Rising Star award and I hope it inspires other people to nominate and encourage people within their teams too.
You have demonstrated high achievement early in your career. What are the sources of your motivation?
It's really funny to me because I genuinely don't see it that way. I care about the profession not just for myself but for future librarians and information professionals. I will confess to being incredibly driven and ambitious, not for a corner office or anything like that, but rather for the ability to be in a position where I can make positive and effective change.
There are not many information professionals like me who have jumped across multiple industries and to never have worked in a 'traditional library' role - so I think I try and look across industries to see how successful outliers have managed themselves and adapt that to the way I approach my career. If you are like me and have never worked in a public/school/higher education library, please get in touch so we can chat!
Natasha Chowdory is a Clinical Evidence Based Information Specialist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust. Prior roles include librarian at Microsoft UK and Information Officer at Oxfam, which took her to Geneva, Kenya and the Rohingya Refugee Crisis in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh.
She has won awards, been on the Librarians with Lives podcast and does regular talks on professional development as well as her own experiences of diversity within the profession. She has a BA in International Relations and Politics, MA in Critical Discourse, Culture and Communication and an MSc in Information and Library Studies. Prior to being a librarian, she worked in South Korea and Azerbaijan as an English Teacher. She blogs at infoprotasha.wordpress.com and tweets at @InfoPro_Tasha.