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Why we do what we do
Meet Meghna Panwar
Faces of Deloitte Advisory is a series of true stories that explore the personal lives of our professionals, highlighting experiences that defined their values and sharing why they do what they do. In this story, from the hills of the Himalayas to the frontlines of diversity issues, Meghna shares who and what shaped the courage she employs to serve her clients, colleagues, and society.
“I approach every challenge with the same passion and resilience, be it in an everyday situation in the multiple roles I play or 14,000 feet high up in the Himalayas.”
“Hang on. Keep breathing,” I told my fellow trekker, while cradling her face. “We’re almost at the camp.”
An unexpected blizzard blanketed our adventure group in the Himalayas at nearly 14,000 feet. For the first time in 50 years, the mountain trek was overtaken by deadly, unpredictable weather.
I felt death very close. I still had my senses. Several did not.
When we arrived at the camp, there was only one oxygen cylinder. Helping the group ration the supply between the three trekkers struggling for breath was the toughest decision I’ve made in my life. We calculated and did the best we could.
One male trekker survived. Two females did not. They expired right in front of me.
Could I have done something different? Could I have prevented this from happening? These questions haunted me.
I leaned on the resiliency that my parents ingrained in me from an early age. From everyday situations to life-changing events, we were taught to take things in stride, adapt, and do the best we could.
As I look back, my resiliency has helped me differentiate in my role as a strategy and innovation professional, where I help clients anticipate and prepare for the future. I enjoy the process of crystalizing a go-forward path as it relates to emerging opportunities by aligning diverse stakeholders. Having been blessed by a parent who was an auditor by trade, and technologist by hobby, I am naturally drawn to driving innovation within the risk and financial advisory space.
Be it creating market-leading frameworks that define the future of risk, developing cutting-edge solutions to help clients solve emerging problems, or establishing approaches to shape and steer a corporate innovation program, it’s been a fantastic experience.
With ancestral roots in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan, where gender issues are deeply rooted even in current times, I was privileged to be raised by parents who nudged me from early years to keep pushing ahead. I was encouraged to be self-sufficient and self-aware, especially as a female. Eventually, this grooming from early years helped me become one of a handful of females to graduate from my business school in India.
Early in my career, I encountered some of the roadblocks and stereotypes I was warned about. Pivotal business decisions were made at happy hours and smoking sessions that I was never invited to, a typical “boys club” setting. I knew I deserved a voice in these conversations, but I never had access at the right time. I couldn’t bring my perspective, so I felt under-optimized. At a recruiting event, I was rudely referred to as a “showpiece” by a high-ranking male official. Out of respect, I did not reciprocate. But it got me to reflect on deep-rooted biases and to question them.
At Deloitte, I’ve been fortunate to work with highly inclusive leaders who have been committed to advancing diversity. Through my current role as co-lead on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts within the business, it’s been immensely satisfying to shape and drive our DEI priorities. I’ve leaned in on my inherent resiliency as we’ve taken on bold priorities that help us raise the bar in offering equitable growth opportunities to a truly diverse workforce.
A futurist at heart, I love connecting the dots to do what’s right for our collective future. Last year, I furthered my education by attaining a global sustainability and climate risk certification. I’m very excited to lend myself to critical causes such as climate change and sustainability by applying my years of training in framing problems and helping organizations solve strategy and innovation problems.
At home, you’ll find me educating my family about minimal waste principles that reduce our carbon footprints. I teach my children that we cannot run away from life’s problems; we must own them and tackle them head on.
At the end of the day, I approach every challenge with the same passion and resilience, be it in an everyday situation juggling priorities in the multiple roles I play or 14,000 feet high up in the Himalayas. Even after the tragedy years ago, the mountains continue to give me a sense of strength and comfort. The elevation, the beauty, the unpredictability—it’s a microcosm of my life.
Life’s outcomes can be positive or negative, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying—you keep climbing. I was especially lucky to have a mentor like my father who built courage in me. Now, I feel it’s my duty to share that forward-thinking with others.
I still trek in the Himalayas and welcome friends to join me. It’s a wondrous, ever-changing journey.
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Senior Manager in Deloitte Financial Advisory Services India Private Limited’s Strategy, Innovation & Transformation
Meghna is a Senior Manager in Deloitte Financial Advisory Services India Private Limited’s Strategy, Innovation & Transformation practice with more than 10 years of experience in identifying and commercializing opportunities from emerging business and technology trends shaping the risk marketplace. Meghna has helped shape new offerings in areas of risk culture, brand and reputation risk, risk intelligence, technology risk, digital transformation, corporate governance, and risk analytics for financial services and technology clients. She has significant experience in applying design thinking and behavior design techniques to help clients address business challenges.
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