Lakshmi Shyamakrishnan ’20 is looking forward to making big impacts for employees at top companies. The double Smith Terp, currently earning her master’s degree in marketing analytics, has her sights set on a role in human resources, eventually in a C-suite position.
“Being a chief diversity officer is absolutely my dream job,” says Shyamakrishnan. “Diversity and inclusion is something that I’ve been passionate about for a while and something that I can speak to with my experiences, in terms of what we can do better and how we can become more inclusive.”
Shyamakrishnan is a little person. She has a condition called Achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. “It’s a very small proportion of the population, occurring in only 1 in every 10,000 births – so naturally, it’s not something that you would see represented very often,” she says.
She realized her unique perspective would be an asset in the corporate world.
“Part of my passion for going into HR is that I could help clear more room at the table for underrepresented groups, such as people with disabilities, women, and people of color,” she says.
But it took her a while to find her passion for HR.
Shyamakrishnan’s first introduction to business and to Maryland Smith came in high school. She grew up in Gaithersburg, Md. and her sister attended the University of Maryland. That’s how she found out about the SELF leadership program at Smith. She attended the weeklong program, hosted by the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets, during the summer after her junior year.
“I got the chance to meet some amazing faculty and staff members. And it was a really welcoming environment. I didn’t have too much of an understanding as to what business really encompassed, but being in that small program was a great introduction.”
Maryland Smith was the first school Shyamakrishnan applied to the following fall. “I was very excited to have gotten in and I knew it was the place where I could see myself having a future.”
At Smith, she changed her major four times, finally deciding to double major in information systems and marketing. It wasn’t until her senior year that she began thinking about HR. Thanks to a “Management of Human Capital” class, taught by former management professor Jeffrey Kudisch, she realized the field was a natural fit.
“In my experience – interviewing for positions, filling out applications, speaking with recruiters – they were all wonderful and it was great to learn more about these companies, but one thing that was always in the back of my mind was the fact that I didn’t see myself represented, in terms of disability.”
Shyamakrishnan narrowed her HR career goals to people analytics: “People analytics is about using data to make sure people in your organization have a great experience and that their skill sets are being utilized to the best of their abilities – basically analyzing what an organization can do better for employees.”
She decided to enter Smith’s Master’s in Marketing Analytics program to get the necessary skills to break into that industry.
“Marketing analytics seemed like a great fit, as it was more focused on not only providing that intersection of concepts between my two undergrad majors, but also in helping me learn more about how to actually apply analytics to the sphere that I’m interested in,” she says.
She’s excited for her future, when she can help companies make sure they are serving all of their employees and not leaving out any group of people.
“It starts with getting the right people in the room, and also continues into ensuring that they are doing the best work possible, that they are being recognized, that they are applying their strengths in the correct areas,” she says. “That’s something that I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn about in the organizations that I’ve been a part of, as well as through classes at Smith.”
She recently had a chance to take action at Maryland Smith, working with Smith operations director Darrell Clairborne and others, to make soap dispensers in restrooms easier to reach for individuals with disabilities. She says her unique perspective was welcomed. She says having a supportive environment is important for making advances for better inclusion, and representation is also critical.
“If you don’t have representation behind the scenes making decisions, these perspectives and needs are going to get lost and left behind,” Shyamakrishnan says.
She’s hoping to continue having conversations about creating more inclusive environments, and bring her perspective to the table in the future with large organizations.
“It’s about being able to have as many diverse perspectives in the room as possible to address needs and make sure all stakeholders have that inclusive and equitable experience,” she says. “It’s a very small portion of the population, but to be able to have that representation for people with disabilities, for people who are members of demographic groups that are typically underrepresented, it goes a long way and it goes in the right direction toward creating these inclusive environments.”
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.