Managing a Diverse, Executive-Level Network with Aliya Bhatia
Non-Profit Executive Aliya Bhatia is someone who knows the challenges of organizing a diverse network. She recently sat down with us and talked about why she likes to use Nudge, and why it’s important to consciously manage your own network in the world of modern work.
Menaka: Why is it important for you to grow your network?
Aliya: In today’s world, every person has to be their own CEO. To be effective, you have to manage who you know and how well you know them. The network you build will ultimately impact who you hire, who hires you, your client base, and – most importantly – the personal friendships you are able to nurture and grow.
In my line of work, the way that you interact with people is so varied: There are people you email, people you call, people you see in meetings, and so on. It’s extremely helpful to have a tool like Nudge that can keep track of your network regardless of how you communicate with any particular person.
Menaka: What are your favourite parts of Nudge?
Aliya: I’m a big fan of the ‘losing touch with’ feature. My memory is average on a good day, and I’m a lot more forgetful than I wish I were. So ‘losing touch with’ really helps me stay aware of the people who are important in my life who might not be popping up in my day-to-day interactions or LinkedIn feed. The ‘losing touch with’ feature also reminds me of the people who might have once been top-of-mind but are no longer in touch, and I’m forced to think about why they’ve fallen off my radar. I appreciate that sporadic element of how Nudge can surface someone who I haven’t reached out to in a while.
I also religiously use lists to organize my network. I really like how the lists are automatically ordered too, so that you see who you need to reach out to right at the top, and then it progresses down the page to include those who you already have a strong relationship with. That helps tremendously – I right away see the people who I care about and haven’t had a chance to spend time connecting with on my own.
Menaka: What tools did you use before Nudge to manage your network?
Aliya: I had a never-ending challenge with organizing my network, because I couldn’t find the tool I needed. At one point I was even thinking about building one. Instead I did something simpler, and just created a spreadsheet.
The first sheet kept track of about 300 people who I wanted to make sure I kept up with over time. I listed when I was last in touch with them, and how many months I wanted it to be before I reached out again. There was an automatic trigger where if the person was “due,” they popped up on the second sheet. That way I knew who to reach out to when, and I could keep track of them. It was very manual, and my jerry-rigged system was not sophisticated enough to automatically filter through my emails to check if I had recently been in touch with someone. It was really easy to lose track of important people or for a new connection to slip through the cracks.
Now, with Nudge, when I email someone, it’s there in the system. It has become really easy for me to keep track of my network. I can go find a particular person and all their information in Nudge, and Nudge will also remind me later about getting in touch with that connection. So it’s a big upgrade, and great to now have a tool that does all of that for me.
Menaka: These days it’s very easy to connect with people online and have lots of connections, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into having a strong network – how do you know when you’re doing it right and building a strong network?
Aliya: You’re doing it right when you’re looking beyond who will be “useful” to you and are instead building relationships that may take decades to payoff. Chances are, the person you never thought will be “useful” will emerge as indispensable, and the person you thought you might need in 20 years will be mission-critical tomorrow.
There’s also a limit on how many people can be “strong relationships” in your network. If you’re trying to sort among 1000 people you know, there’s a good chance you’re spending too little time on each of them. An awareness of who I am trying to keep up with and why helps me identify a shorter list of relationships to deepen.
At the end of the day, your interactions with your network should feel natural rather than strained. You’re steadily advancing your career, your interests, your friendships, but it’s more effortless because you’re just building on your already-developed network.
And the other way I know I’m strengthening my network is that I see lots of strong green bars on my Nudge relationship indicators! Then I know I’m doing well.
Menaka: Has Nudge changed the way you think about your network?
Aliya: In the past, too much of my follow-up was driven by chance. With Nudge, I can consistently keep track of who I meet, and I know that even when I’m busy, Nudge will be keeping track of my day-to-day communication and provide me with proactive suggestions when I am ready to dive back in. The Nudge platform allows me to make my own reminders, and then creates an additional set of natural “nudges” – pun intended – pushing me to build a robust and long-term network.