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Executive Education

INSEAD Certificate in Global Management

Committing to Challenges & Growth

Prerna Munjal

Head of International Growth Solutions - Ad Sales, Google

Having crossed several industries and geographical locations from frontline shipping sales in India, marketing luxury eyewear in Milan, Prerna found herself at Google for the last eight years, making the move to Singapore as part of a founding team for cross-border sales within APAC. Seeking for greater mental simulation during the months where the world was in lockdown from COVID19, Prerna embarked on a journey of further education at INSEAD, ultimately earning the Certificate in Global Management. 

At the end of the day, you have to really ask yourself - why you are doing this and what are you aiming to get? How committed are you to act based on based on the learnings? 

Having crossed several industries and geographical locations from frontline shipping sales in India, marketing luxury eyewear in Milan, Prerna found herself at Google for the last eight years, making the move to Singapore as part of a founding team for cross-border sales within APAC. 

“One of my strengths ‘Input’, which means I love collecting information.” Seeking for greater mental simulation during the months where the world was in lockdown from COVID19, Prerna embarked on the INSEAD’s programmes, Leading for Results, Leading Across Borders and Cultures, and High-Impact Leadership Programme, ultimately earning the Certificate in Global Management

This strength allows Prerna to draw learnings from multiple aspects, work, formal education to even recreational activities where she shared a story of going shark cage diving in South Africa – despite being quite fearful of aquatic life and being unable to swim! “It was my idea, my husband was absolutely against it,” she laughed. “I went there, and I got really scared and froze. But my lifelong learning is that fear is in your mind. It’s how you tackle your thought process in that moment and the results depends on how you speak to your mind.”

Providing thoughtful end-to-end integrated consulting solutions 

In her role at Google, Prerna provides end-to-end integrated consulting solutions and works mainly with handpicked key accounts across APAC. Sharing that a large sector of these key accounts is in the gaming industry, an industry that took off incredibly well during COVID. She takes pride in working on their cross-border international user acquisition strategy. 

“I think a more nuanced thing at work is- in a matrix organisation, we are accountable to our EMEA and USA counterparts, and we release the same global strategy. This created a problem statement because we don’t understand the realities of the region.” Prerna shared, quoting from Professor Meyer’s programme where it is important to learn about the spectrum of application-driven versus principles-driven and understanding that different cultures live differently on that spectrum. 

“Something we incubated in 2021-2022 is a programme called DEI in Gaming,” briefly sharing that many of her customers are focused on penetration of numerous high-context markets in APAC. DEI in Gaming is designed to tap on Google’s vast experience as a thought leader in diversity and to help better game design and advertising solutions to drive business impact. 

“We try to see the connections between the game and the holistic marketing campaign into the new market and advise on what needs to be changed – it could be language, words used, tonality, visual identity, character designs etc - all these can have a very positive or detrimental impact on the performance in a given market.”

Navigating international complexities to overcome challenges 

This also brings to a forefront a challenging aspect of her role, navigating the international complexities in and outside of her organisation. At any large multi-national companies, especially in the technology sector, being able to tap on formal and informal networks to successfully communicate and drive projects across teams and departments is a required skillset. 

“If you are working on an idea, there is a very high likelihood –that someone else would be working on it in another part of the world,” she emphasises the importance of being able to build an internal global network to share ideas and to build on the shoulders of others to get things done even more efficiently. 

She recalled her application to Leading Across Borders and Cultures, where one of the questions is to list an approximate number of cultures that she works with on a day-to-day basis. “I had never done that exercise in my head! And when I started to think about it, it’s around 15 – 20 nationalities in any given week,” she shared, noting that Asia tends to be heterogeneous, with each country bringing a very different behaviour and expectation that she would need to navigate around. 

“I really look up to the person who hired me, she was a very multi-cultural person – being a European, living in China who married an Indian, and that complexity aside, she built a team of very diverse individuals from ground up, leading with empathy yet providing a clear vision for us to move forward; something that I think is very hard to do.” Prerna muses, referencing a learning from the programme where Professor Meyer shares about weighing up innovation versus efficiency in building an organisation, where innovation has been shown to be driven by diverse unique teams, while efficiency by homogenous teams. 

“You don’t realise just how much you need to flex your communication and adaptation muscles to be able to communicate and deliver your message to get things done,” sharing of how her day usually starts with meetings in Asia - be it a teammate in China, or a client in Vietnam, through to Europe with multiple nationalities sitting into the call, and finally to the US with her global stakeholders and product teams.

Being passionate about mental health & understanding her leadership style 

Drawing on her personal experiences, Prerna realised that being open to seeking help when she needs it was a key aspect to overcoming her struggles. And this was a learning that she took into her working and leadership style. “As a leader, you are responsible for helping your team bring their whole self to work. And sometimes its hard to decouple mental health from physical, and emotional health, it could be a big part of their own personality,” she acknowledged the need to not only rest from physical tiredness, but also mental stress and emotional safety. 

With Google being a multi-cultural matrix organisation, Prerna acknowledges that the stress could take a toll especially with the pressure of ambition and growth. “I don’t have all the answers, but I try to be someone they can approach and talk to, if they need to reframe problems and discuss how to go about tackling them.” 

Prerna humbly shares that she would like to be more observant and take the time be a good listener, noting that in her early career, she had focused on being ‘solution-oriented’. “I think as people get senior (in rank) or develop as a leader, it’s important to stay with the question to reframe it and spend the time challenging the underlying assumptions and seeing where this problem really comes from. Only then you are really listening,” she reflected. 

On top of being a high-flier at work, Prerna has also recently become a mother to twin boys. As she navigates the challenges of motherhood, she is acutely aware that it would change the way she operates. “It's always a fine balance between your current situation and what you want to do with the rest of your life.”

INSEAD & the Certificate of Global Management 

In deliberating her needed development and skills, she was first drawn to Leading for Results, having been a line manager for a few years it presented an environment for her to become even better at driving results, marking her first step into INSEAD, albeit virtually. 

“One of the key takeaways from the programmes were the coefficients around adaptability and effectiveness as a leader. To both questions, I’d given myself a much lower rating than what everyone else gave me and it made me realise that there are things I am not giving myself credit for,” she shared. Today, Prerna is intentional about her leadership style and identifying her leadership agenda. 

Layered with the multi-culturalism of her work reality, which exponentially became more complex over time, Prerna jumped at the opportunity to learn from Professor Erin Meyer at Leading Across Borders and Cultures, a programme that was well-known at Google. “The programme learnings stay with you much longer than you realise; I noticed that I had a better understanding of why conflicts arise, seeing past the business conflicts on paper and understanding that it oftentimes is cultural or contextual instead.” 

Something that appealed to Prerna were the coaching sessions as well as the 360-degree feedback modules, something that she was keen to conduct in a neutral environment. To qualify for the Certificate in Global Management, Prerna had to complete three programmes (with a minimum of 15 days in length) within 4 years. Within these four years, she observed how she had developed as a leader not only through theoretical learnings, but also multiple layers of feedback internally, from coaches, as well as her peers at INSEAD. 

“It was the opportunity to see your current situation from a very neutral lens,” Prerna recollected her experience with the different coaches, noting the difference in styles but a similar powerful impact they had made on her. “And I got very emotional! The coach was very direct, and I felt extremely challenged from the first conversation. We had three conversations, and I left each time feeling dejected. But it did help me realise that there are things that I needed to work through for my own good.” 

Having completed two programmes during COVID, she unfortunately missed the opportunity to meet her class physically. In comparison to her classmates from the High Impact Leadership Programme, which was conducted on campus in Singapore, she formed much stronger networks and connections. “The programmes all start with a business context, but it becomes personal very quickly. That is the beauty of the cohort with different people, different cultures, and at different stages of their career as well – that’s the real value.

The power is really in the reflections that we do.

If you are considering a programme at INSEAD, Prerna shares the following questions to reflect on: 

  1. What are you looking for in your professional career next? It is important to understand how an executive education programme can fit into your personal motivation, beyond a company directive.
  2. If you have already identified your areas of growth, then where are your areas of needed development? Finding a programme within INSEAD is easier once you have identified your needs and business realities.
  3. How committed are you to really challenge yourself? The true value is in digging deep and committing to making changes through the uncomfortable moments and the personal growth you will experience. 

“INSEAD gives you a very credible and solid brand, you get exposed to very knowledgeable professors as well as a handpicked diverse cohort; but at the end of the day, you have to really ask yourself - why you are doing this and what are you aiming to get? How committed are you to act based on the learnings?”