Make it inclusive: An Indian settled in the United States shows how inclusivity is the key to becoming a successful professional.
Bio for Rohan Nigam
Rohan Nigam is a Director in PwC’s Deals practice. He has supported clients at various stages of the M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions) lifecycle including due diligence, integration, carve-outs, post-close support, and transformation. He has over 10 years of consulting experience specializing in pre and post-deal M&A, program management, process optimization, and systems integration. His work has spanned the USA, Middle East, Asia, and Europe.
Rohan has an MBA in Finance and Strategy from Kelley School of Business, Indiana University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering (Summa Cum Laude), Information Technology from Mumbai University. Before joining PwC, Rohan was a technology consultant with Deloitte and a management consultant at Horton International where he advised multinational clients across retail, industrial products, technology industries, private equity and the public sector.
In his free time, Rohan loves playing golf and racquetball, exploring new cities and countries, and trying out new cuisines and restaurants.
As an Indian who moved to the USA to pursue studies and a career, Rohan Nigam had the opportunity to combine the strengths of both cultures for success. Listen in on how he achieved great professional heights at an early age by being sensitive to cultural and personality variations in people.
- “Keep putting down goals, keep focussing on them, and once you achieve them, don’t stop there, you gotta keep going for the next one and… have those 2-3 year sprints of goals and enjoy along the way.”
- “Every interaction, be it like a 5-minute conversation or like a 6-month project, has made me learn a lot about people, about cultures, about how people think, about how the economy in these countries operates, what are the tax laws, what are the legal regulations… you pick up a lot.”
- “It doesn’t matter where you come from, but it matters what you are doing in that moment.”
- “It’s… mission-driven that we are here because we all want to be here and then where you’re from doesn’t matter.”
- “I want to know the other person irrespective of what caste, colour, religion, where he’s from… what ethnic origin or whatnot.”
- “Irrespective of where you’re from, who you are, even if you are an intern who’s been with the company for 2 days, the intern can have greater ideas than the CEO because that person comes in with a new perspective that no one else in the company has.”
- “I’ve seen people who blend into other cultures, who mix around, who learn the local language, the local sport, a local cuisine… they are more well-rounded professionals and they have stronger or more attractive personalities as they grow in their lives.”
- “To make… a really tasty salad… you need the veggies, you need the protein, you need salt, you need pepper. So, if you’re pepper in the salad… you might feel totally different from the veggies and the salt, but you need the pepper to make the salad.”
- ”[In the] initial part of COVID, there was a lot of time to tell all the stories because the people had all the time to hear but now as the economies are picking up, businesses are picking up, people are short on time because they are not used to being so busy in the past one year.”
- “Celebrate – when you finish it, when you win, when you do it together.”
- “Set the goal and work towards it. You might achieve 60-70% of it but you’ll still be better than.. not even starting it.”
- “If you learn financial discipline, you learn discipline in life because when you lose money, that’s the worst feeling.”
Rohan says that he was always interested in mechanics as a child, taking his toolbag out to fix a table or chair at home. He was also fascinated by technology and by how computers could do the job of a human, which led him to study information technology engineering at university.
Growing up in a big house in Mumbai, India, Rohan had everything a child could want – he went to a good school and had friends and all the toys he wanted. When he was around 10, his nuclear family separated from the joint family they were in due to some issues in the family business.
The financial struggles that came with this change affected him as a child. From driving to school in a big car to walking the few miles there, it was the first time he “faced real life as a kid.” His approach to education changed, and he recognized it as a means of getting into a good university, getting a good job, making money and being happy. Even though he hated that time, it taught him the value of hard work.
Rohan went to a middle school in Mumbai which had students from different backgrounds and religions who spoke different first languages. It was a great learning experience for him to see “how different religions, how different communities – be it social, financial, religious… come in harmony, they still learn to live together, learn to communicate together for everyone’s good”.
In India, Rohan says that parents envision careers like medicine, engineering or law for their children. His mother is a lawyer, and his father has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, and they both run a business together. They coached Rohan into his desire to become an engineer and be successful in life.
Working with different cultural groups as a global professional taught him more about cultures through real lived experiences than he could have through reading about them. He also came to learn and practise inclusivity, appreciating everybody’s ideas and opinions just as his ideas and opinions had been appreciated when he began his career.
Temperament and Personality Influences
Rohan says that he has always been an organized person, whether that be with his study schedule or work, creating to-do lists to stay on top of all his tasks. He also claims to have been an introvert, choosing to mingle only with Indian friends even after he moved to the USA.
However, he realized that people who stepped out of their comfort zone and interacted with people from different backgrounds “were happier… they had more friends, they were more likeable”. So, he worked on becoming more accepting of cultures and blending in with the larger group.
The first time Rohan was presenting at a client pitch with his team leader, he elaborated on the points in the few slides he was given, which was the norm in Indian contexts. However, he was later given feedback from his partner that in the American context, presentations are much more concise and meant to pique curiosity. He now follows the “80-20 rule: speak about 80% of the most important things in 20% of the words”.
Rohan says that experiences can be different not only based on culture but also on the situation. He gives the example of pre and post-COVID times, where if he had been asked to give an hour-long speech before, he would have hesitated. However, if someone were to ask him to speak at a local school event now, he could go on for 4 hours because during the pandemic, he has not been able to “see people, to be able to connect with people in person”.
Advice to an Employer
The mergers and acquisitions world involves multiple parties – the buyer, the seller and the supporting parties such as consulting companies like PwC. the law firms and the investment banks. When Rohan begins working on a new project with a new team, he has a conversation about the best way for everyone to work together within the team and with the other stakeholders.
Even though Rohan claims that “in the corporate world, when you’re working with different personalities, there’s always politics, ego clashes, people feel bad about things”, he learns and grows through every project. He emphasizes celebrating the completion of each project to bring in more such projects in the future, and to appreciate everyone’s work on the team.
More Great Insights!
Rohan says that the mergers and acquisitions world is a dynamic one with a never-ending learning curve, whether it be with carve-outs or whole mergers and acquisitions. He has observed some interesting market trends during the pandemic, of larger companies acquiring smaller companies as direct-to-consumer channels, and luxury companies losing out on upper middle-class consumers.
Rohan began managing his family’s investment portfolio at the age of 20 and has since grown it three times. He advises young professionals who are just venturing into stock trading and investments, to “start small and start early”. Reach out to Rohan to discuss the economy and market trends and to build an information-exchange community that everyone can benefit from.
Rohan Nigam saw the best of times and the worst of times, all as a child. He decided to use education as his springboard into a successful life as an adult. He has worked to incorporate cultural lessons from his wide-ranging work experience to create a positive professional atmosphere for everyone.