Don’t limit yourself by treating opportunities as challenges – Pranjalee Thanekar Lahri, AVP Marketing, UpsideLMS


Describing herself as a lifelong learner, growth hacker and passionate mother, Pranjalee’s enthusiasm for all things ‘learning’ is motivating. A marketer, writer and reader; she is an influencer beyond her domain expertise.

  1. What is the most valuable advice you got as a woman professional?

ANS: I wouldn’t want to color my answer with the gender piece, as quite honestly, I never have got any advice from a woman professional POV in my 12-year career!

I have been blessed to have well-meaning people in my life, both personal and professional, who have encouraged me to become a better version of myself. And one of the common threads across all those “advices” has been to ‘keep learning’. I swear by it and recommend it to all!

2. How challenging was it starting off in a competitive environment?

ANS: I truly believe that we, as humans – please note it’s not just women, limit ourselves by looking at opportunities as challenges. It hasn’t been a straight path for me – when I started out or even now. But it’s one’s own perspective and the ability to see the bigger picture that makes it either challenging or opportunistic.

3. How important is it having the right team to be successful?

“It’s the critical building block for success, there are no two ways of looking at it. While individually we are all capable of doing a lot of good things, it’s the collective genius that makes great things happen.”

Be it at my current organization, UpsideLMS, or my previous ones, I have had a team that works/ worked toward a common goal with a shared passion for success. That’s not to say it is/ was devoid of disagreements or differences of opinion, quite the contrary, it’s this confluence that opens the doors to new opportunities.

4. Your ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ moment

ANS: I have got so many! Though the one that cuts the closest to the question statement (quite literally!), is my thyroid cancer diagnosis earlier this year. It made me understand myself – my strengths, my innermost fears – in a way I was blinded to earlier. 8 months post the c-bomb was dropped on me, I continue to live my life with the same gusto and opportunism as I did prior. It has made me stronger inside out!

5. How do you measure success?

ANS: First and foremost, success is very relative and subjective. And each one of us has a free hand in setting up ‘our’ criteria. For me, it’s the people and the lives I have impacted. It applies beautifully at both professional and personal levels.

Professional – if I have managed to build a strong community on social media, built and nurtured relationships, helped people make the right business decisions with respect to their requirements, helped my team be at their productive and creative best, I have succeeded.

Personal – as a mother of a 5-year old boy, I have made it my mission to make him sensitive to his environment, empathetic to everyone’s needs, and, most importantly, raise him in the most gender-neutral way as possible. For other young people his age, I conduct (free) storytelling sessions to impart values and make that behavorial shift we also love to wag out tongues about but do little for. If I have managed to influence my boy and a bunch of kids a teeny tiny bit – my job here is done. 

6. Any specific advantages and disadvantages of being a woman professional?

ANS: I have never put myself or anyone else in a box, especially that’s labelled with ‘gender’. Women are biologically different from their male counterparts. It’s just that. The sooner we embrace that, the faster the needle can move on gender acceptance at the workplace or outside. It’s a privilege to be a working mother/ wife/ daughter/ daughter-in-law and the other roles I take on. You get the best of both worlds – yes, it’s tough to balance it, but not impossible.

PS: The role of family and an ecosystem, in general, men included, is critical in making diversity and equity be more than just buzzwords, and cannot be understated!

7. Can you give us insight into your responsibilities and challenges at work?

ANS: My key role at UpsideLMS is to not just bring about marketing outreach, increase brand footprint, be a growth hacker and all the niceties that the AVP-Marketing title endows you with. But beyond this too, a key responsibility I take very seriously is to make our brand as authentic and relevant to the people inside as it is to the external audiences.

I wouldn’t term them as challenges, but being a small, self-funded and fast-growing company we have to work with limited budgets and resources (that’s not equivalent to limited thinking – those are very different things!) which keeps me on my toes and neurons in my brain constantly firing. 

8. What are the most common mistakes novices make and your advice to avoid them?

ANS: I would consider myself a novice in so many areas still! Michelle Obama said this famously in her book, ‘Becoming’ – “Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done”. This is my mantra and also my 2 cents to the younger lot who are in this mad haste to reach someplace, achieve something, be someone. Only if we started enjoying our journey, our struggles, our victories and our ever evolving selves – we would be so much more fulfilled and truly happy.

9. Which female role model inspires you the most and why do you look up to her?

ANS: I don’t idolize anyone in particular, but I am inspired by Michelle Obama, Indra Nooyi and Oprah Winfrey. That these women leaders are women of color is pure coincidence. Talent and good intent doesn’t have a religion, a region or a gender.  I like them individually for their key traits, but if I had to draw a commonality across them all – it would be their ability to stand up for the truth, lend voices to the supressed and, most importantly, be their authentic selves – women, mothers, rape victims, all of it bared and proud!

10. What are the three most important lessons that you have learnt in your journey?

ANS: I have had and continue to have so many learnings and lessons. If I had to cherry-pick, it would be the below three:

  • Don’t go after fancy titles, seek role fulfilment instead.
  • Work-life balance is not about dedicating yourself to one thing for a fixed set of hours and switching to another for the rest. It’s embracing the seamless flow of one into another.
  • Never quit learning, even when you think you have achieved it all!

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