13 Questions we ask everyone: Tina Dhawan, MD Operations and Business Transformation at Barclays Bank UK in Gurgaon, India

Tina Dhawan

As operational leader of community, premier and business banking across Barclays Bank UK, Tina Dhawan’s day involves multitasking to the max. From her home in Noida, in Indian’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, she leads strategic portfolios for the bank, including contact centres, and, in the ‘new normal’ is tasked with ensuring smooth operations continue as banks and customers grapple with a new, virtual world.


1. What are you looking at right now?

A changing world! Cleaner air and clearer skies, a world of new relationships, of new dependencies and new constraints. This is an unpredictable world where business is happening in a very different manner. Running a contact centre from home, with its heavy dependence on technology, would previously never been considered a possibility — but now it’s our reality.


2. Based on what you actually do, honestly, what should your job title be?

Head of Catch Alls! I have to think on my feet and quickly, and the expectation is for me to provide solutions or a way forward for every query that comes along. I don’t get to say “I don’t know” to any of it.


3. What’s your superpower: the one skill that makes you so successful at your job? 

I pride at multitasking and building relationships on a foundation of strong work ethics. My connections are my forte and have helped drive the culture. Even the toughest tasks can be solved by a simple phone call. My mantra is always to be celebrating a special day, giving a pat on the back or a genuine compliment, and sharing workloads as we work towards the finishing line. As they say, it’s the journey that matters and not the destination.


4. What’s your Achilles heel?  

My sweet tooth — and lack of a disciplined workout routine!


5. What’s on your to-do list right now that you’re putting off? 

We had to put off our annual family holiday. It was planned for March this year before the children left home for further studies. Ironically, Covid-19 brought our family of four together after years — the big upside has been that all of us have spent more time as a family ‘locked down’ under the same roof than ever before. My son was to join Indian School of Business this year, but he had to change his plans and is at home right now. My daughter Natasha was set to join Rotman College at the University of Toronto for her MBA, but she has just started online classes. My husband, who has lived out of a suitcase for the better part of the last decade, is also home. So these are unusual times for us as we wait for the world to get back to normal.


6. Introvert or extravert?

Extrovert for sure. I love being with people, laughing, cooking, climbing, walking and experiencing life. My interactions make me feel a whole, calm me down and energise me for more.


7. Which one person has had the most profound impact on your career? 

My SVP and boss in GE Capital, which was my first job. He brought out the best in me. He played a significant role in honing my management and data/six sigma [project management] skills. He gave me incredible opportunities through stretch assignments, and, while they challenged me, they had the biggest positive impact on my thought processes and career.


8. What book, film or piece of music sums up your outlook on life? 

‘I want to break free’ by Queen! I’ve enjoyed dancing and singing along to Queen at various college concerts and loud hostel dining room music. It felt like it described my life at that point in time. For me, this song captures the spirit of being in love, the need for independence and taking responsibility for your own life and journey.


9. Who, dead or alive, would be at your fantasy dinner party? 

I’d have a bit of a mix. Hugh Grant for his romantic looks straight out of Notting Hill. Princess Diana for her smile, her vulnerability, and the strength she displayed despite all odds. Also, Queen Elizabeth II, for her strength of character, her approach to responsibility and how she conducted herself amidst controversies. Roger Federer — the most likeable gentleman on the tennis court; the humorous Trevor Noah, who puts the spotlight on what’s going on in the US; and Graham Norton, for his energy, British sense of humour, versatility and everything he does to entertain.


10. Early bird or night owl? 

Early bird. The first two hours are my ‘me’ time. I wake up around 6am and after my warm water ritual, I step out for my morning walk with my earphones. I enjoy walking, the cool breeze, watching the purple sunbirds as they fleet around the fire bush, the bulbuls, chirping sparrows as they go for their morning feed. I try and soak in the morning sun and say a silent prayer to the gods, thanking them for the sunshine and the energy. After completing a large part of my daily target of 10,000 steps, I return refreshed to continue my day.


11. What has been your best ever day at work?

In 1999, I was selected for the CEO Award in IBM. It was given to a select few in recognition of exceptional contribution to the business that year. Needless to say, I was ecstatic at being chosen. The highlight was being invited — with my spouse — to collect the award in Cambodia Siam Riep, where we holidayed for four days. The ceremony itself was an extraordinary event, set amongst the ancient temples in Siam Reip, with dancing and a cultural bonanza. IBM did everything to make that trip memorable. It was a proud moment and one I am not going to forget.


12. When have you been at your least confident?

Recording videos and talking in front of a large audience doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me. But under lockdown, I’ve had to do a lot of that. Making my first video, taking part in virtual town halls, even moderating leadership webinars —it still makes me nervous. I have had to work on this shortcoming and would highly recommend scripting and rehearsing to build confidence. 


13. What was your ‘Plan B’ career?  

I’d love to start a business — I’d happily be a travel consultant, a chef, or run an online store for fine jewellery or a clothing brand. Maybe I will give these a thought for the post retirement life.