Gauri Seshadri, DTM
Candidate's Office: Second Vice President
Region Number: 13
Toastmasters member since: 2005
Education: M.S., Chemical Engineering - University of Utah, B.E., Chemical Engineering - BMS College of Engineering, Bangalore University
Employer and/or position: Director, Gentle Bamboo Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Owner, Sesh Consultants
Served as District Director of District number: 92
Term of service: 2015 - 2016
In term as District Director, District achieved: President’s Distinguished
Toastmasters offices held and terms of service (international-, region-, and District-level):
- 2011-2012 Area Governor
- 2012-2013 Division Governor
- 2013-2014 Lieutenant Governor Marketing
- 2014-2015 Lieutenant Governor Education & Training
- 2015-2016 District Director
- 2016-2017 Immediate Past District Director, Club Extension Chair
- 2018-2019 Region Advisor, Region 13
- 2019-2020 Region Advisor, Region 14
- 2021-2023 International Director
Toastmasters honors and recognition (international- and District-level):
- 2011-2012 President's Distinguished Area
- 2012-2013 President's Distinguished Division
- 2013-2014 Excellence in Marketing
- 2014-2015 Excellence in Education & Training
- 2015-2016 President's 20+ Award (#1 District)
- 2015-2016 President's Distinguished District (#1 District)
- 2015-2016 Excellence in Leadership
- 2020-2020 Presidential Citation
Relevant work experience and how it relates to Toastmasters and your role as a Board Member:
With over two decades of experience as a strategy and management consultant across various industries and different geographic regions (North America and Asia), I have gained invaluable insights into finding innovative solutions, data analytics and forecasting, and building client and vendor relationships. I have not just worked, but also lived in and embraced diverse cultures in these regions. This has enabled me to think globally and act locally when it comes to the customization of products and services.
My current job scope involves analyzing customer needs, developing and delivering strategic learning solutions, and empowering stakeholders. My professional experience and expertise have provided me with the knowledge and skills required to work strategically and collaboratively on our board.
What experience do you have in strategic planning?
As a strategy consultant, I help small to medium enterprises, across different business sectors, to identify needs and develop strategic plans. I have worked on projects ranging from handling environmental regulatory changes to building frameworks for workforce engagement.
At present, I am a Director for a game-based learning company. In this capacity, I work with the leadership team to evaluate and execute initiatives that support the company's short- and long-term strategies. This involves developing strategic plans for marketing, lead generation, and scalability.
As a Toastmasters Board Member, I had the opportunity to contribute to the current 2022-2024 Strategic Plan by participating in strategic planning exercises. I also served on various Board Committees and Groups, including the Governing Documents Review Committee, the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Accessibility (DEIBA) Committee, the District Reporting Committee, and Listening Groups.
What experience do you have in the area of finance?
In my professional tenure, I have managed multimillion-dollar budgets for numerous projects. This included preparing, reviewing, and managing budgets and financial reports.
I have learned how to prioritize certain projects, leverage assets to scale the business, and help the company better manage its cash flow. Furthermore, having managed the P&L for several projects and companies has also helped me understand the importance of balancing fiscal prudence with the company's growth strategy.
As an International Director, I reviewed, approved, and provided oversight of the monthly financial reports and the Toastmasters International budget.
What experience do you have in developing policies?
Working as an environmental consultant in the USA, I had to actively research, review, and adopt policies published by federal and state environmental agencies. During that time, I participated in public hearings and provided feedback on these policies. I was also instrumental in drafting company policies and procedures to ensure regulatory and environmental compliance.
While on the Toastmasters Board, I worked with my peers on reviewing and updating policies and procedures to better serve our membership. Additionally, I also served on the Governing Documents Review Committee, which was tasked with conducting a complete audit of Toastmasters International Policy.
What lessons did you learn from previous leadership positions?
I have learned to lead from the front in times of challenge and from behind in times of celebration. Importantly, whether I lead from the front or the back, I have learned to listen more, learn more, and connect more to be effective and impactful.
During my leadership journey, I developed the skill to flex and adapt to address any given situation. When providing recommendations, I now understand that it is not always a one-size-fits-all proposition. I believe it is imperative to analyze the need of the hour and then pivot to implement what will make a difference.
Finally, the most valuable lesson I have learned is - to successfully lead others, I must learn to effectively lead myself.
What experience and key strengths would you bring to the Board of Directors?
I lead with purpose, simplify the complex, and develop guidelines and strategies that set up the team for success. I believe that in the team's success lies the organization's success.
I bring a global perspective, strategic planning experience, compliance expertise, and a strong analytical mindset. The ability to foster a cohesive and collaborative culture has allowed me to effectively lead diverse teams to achieve excellence.
Serving as Region Advisor for two different regions spanning 20 countries has provided me with a more in-depth and global awareness of Toastmasters International's operations.
As International Director, engaging in and contributing to discussions, as well as listening to comprehend different viewpoints, has increased my understanding of our membership and our organization. Serving on the Toastmasters Board has also given me the opportunity to hone my abilities in decision-making, consensus-building, and governance.
Why do you want to serve as an International Officer/Director?
Toastmasters International has achieved amazing results in the last 100 years since its inception, and I feel that there are still many unexplored possibilities. I believe that people worldwide have a need for what Toastmasters has to offer; not only in communication and leadership, but also to help them learn to tap into their potential. This drives me to continue to serve Toastmasters - to take it beyond simply sustaining to truly thriving as an organization.
We need to continue to adapt to change, streamline operations, and seek and optimize growth opportunities. Our bottom line is not just about revenue; it is about continually investing in and meeting the needs of our members. We must be fully committed to delivering exceptional value to our members and providing them with progressive and meaningful experiences.
I feel very fortunate to have a unique global perspective on the organization with my Toastmasters journey beginning in North America, and later serving in one of the world's fastest-growing regions, Asia. I am a dedicated and proven leader who, together with my team, has always strived for excellence. I would like to leverage my knowledge, skills, and experience to help shape the strategic direction for a stronger Toastmasters experience in the next century.
What volunteer experience do you have outside of Toastmasters?
The most significant volunteer experience I have had was with the American Red Cross as a member of their Disaster Action Team. As the Red Cross' first responders at the site of a local disaster such as home fires and traffic accidents, I helped conduct damage assessment, provide emotional support, and offer financial information to assist families begin the process of recovery.
With my global experience over the years, I have volunteered my time in training postgraduate students on cultural sensitization. This included providing training for one of India's largest health equity conferences.
During the pandemic, I volunteered with my city government as part of their COVID Citizen Quarantine Squad. My responsibilities included supporting people who were quarantined, conducting contact tracing, and organizing free COVID testing camps.
Have you worked with other Boards of Directors outside of Toastmasters? If so, describe your experience.
Currently, I am a Director at Gentle Bamboo Solutions, one of India's pioneer game-based learning companies. I work with the board in developing short-term and long-term strategic plans, including identifying new business opportunities.
I have also worked as a consultant with multiple boards across various industries, including environmental compliance, travel and tourism, and digital marketing. This work entailed providing information to the board, as well as recommendations for action, to support the board in developing its strategic plans. Furthermore, I have assisted the board in analyzing federal compliance regulations and policies, leading to the development and implementation of new policies in the company.
Working with various boards has taught me the importance of creating, implementing, and evaluating business strategies in line with financial targets for dynamic market conditions.
In your opinion, what are Toastmasters International’s major objectives and how would you work to achieve them?
Toastmasters International's major objective is to steadily progress towards our envisioned future of being the first-choice provider of communication and leadership skills development worldwide. To achieve this objective, I believe that we need a renewed focus in three key areas.
Leadership Experience: We have an opportunity to develop a structured Leadership Development Program that incorporates training and practical assignments, as well as mentoring, evaluation, and feedback. Empowered leaders will help provide a better membership experience, which in turn will boost retention and growth. When we invest in our leaders, we invest in the success of our organization.
Revenue Diversification: Our main source of revenue comes from membership dues and fees. Inflation costs, tax implications, and an evolving financial landscape can cause our membership to decrease in certain markets. As a result, we should continue to explore ways to diversify our revenue streams and identify growth opportunities.
Agile Organization: In today's polycrisis world, we should not just bounce back from challenges but be resilient enough to bounce forward. By allowing for dynamic decision-making, being agile to the changing needs of our membership, and understanding emerging market trends, we will help the organization stay relevant.
Additional information about candidate:
As the daughter of a military officer, I have spent my childhood in Eastern Europe and various cities in India. This frequent change in geography has taught me to embrace diversity and provided me with a deeper understanding of inclusion and belonging. It has also given me a passion for traveling. I have visited over 30 countries across Asia, Europe, and North America, and I am always planning my next big adventure.
Travel has also instilled in me a love and appreciation for different cultures. I have a beginner's language certification in Japanese and understand and speak basic Korean. Having lived, studied, and worked in many cities across the world, has opened my eyes and heart to the values and cultures of a global community.