Sumeeta Maxwell is the very definition of “casually inspiring.” She doesn’t leap out to pull you in. There is nothing aggressive or pressing about her. But you walk away from a conversation with her just feeling better. It’s the mark of a true HR professional, one who understands the value of truly connecting with her peers.
Maxwell is senior vice president of human resources for the global technology and security teams at Experian, where she has been since 2019. As she continues to double down on the development and recognition of Experian’s talent, she’s also on a mission to empower women to take more calculated risk in their careers. Or, as Maxwell puts it, to “just apply!”
The Value of the Lateral Move
The SVP’s hope for women of the future is, in many ways, colored by her own experience. Early in her career, the Indian immigrant says she was willing to do the unthinkable—and then she did it a couple more times.
“Early on, I took the leap of faith and made a lateral move in my career,” Maxwell explains. “My philosophy was that it may have been a lateral move pay- and job grade-wise, but from a career and ambition perspective, it was a huge jump that gave way to more huge jumps. Since that decision, I’ve made other lateral moves, and every time I’ve done it, it’s been a springboard to something bigger and better.”
It may sound cliché, but a lateral move is only that if stagnation is the goal. For Maxwell, a chance to learn a new area of her profession, build a new skill set, and grow professionally wasn’t lateral in the least.
At Experian, Maxwell is undertaking two exciting initiatives to develop the top talent in Experian’s global technology and security teams. The WeExceed event is the new way to honor the highest performers. It’s also a way to provide skill-building and leadership development for those who are already on the way to making great leaps in their careers.
Additionally, the team is partnering with online coaching platform BetterUp to provide its future leaders with career and leadership training.
“The reason I’m so excited about this is that all of the participants are getting to experience coaching from a holistic perspective,” Maxwell explains. “It’s not just about career development and not just about the next promotion. It’s thinking through how they can develop so that they’re ready for that next role or opportunity when the time comes.”
Through these and other HR initiatives, Maxwell is determined to help more women take those leaps of faith that she herself has made time and time again.
“I have been that person who didn’t check all of the boxes, so I didn’t apply,” Maxwell explains. “Fortunately, I had a husband who said, ‘Just apply. What’s the worst that’s going to happen?’”
Maxwell says women need to be willing to take the chance of getting turned down, to seek out feedback, and to not fixate on the negative but learn where they can grow and continue to develop.
“Sometimes I just try and remind people that they have been successful before, and they will figure it out,” Maxwell says. “And if not, I think you can be amazed at what you can accomplish if you’re open to taking feedback. Doors will open, I assure you.”
Maxwell’s own doors never really get a chance to close. The SVP owns a global role, and that means emails are hitting her inbox every minute of every day. Fortunately, this is the executive’s sixteenth year in this type of position. She seems more energized by the constant buzz of activity than drained by it.
“Experian offers its people the opportunity to work flexibly, in a way that works for them. For me, this role means some very early morning or very late-night phone calls, and it has taught me how to manage my time,” Maxwell says. “But I thoroughly enjoy it. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have ‘normal work hours,’ and I just know that I would get bored.”
Working across countless time zones and cultures for so long has taught Maxwell the importance of cultural competency and flexing different muscles depending on where she is working. The SVP says the challenge is always fun for her; she actually enjoys the reset and contemplation of how she needs to approach work in a new city, country, or jurisdiction.
Regardless of the location, Maxwell says nurturing top talent almost always comes down to development and recognition. How can someone continue to grow and evolve in an organization, and is their work being recognized and acknowledged? “You have to learn what people want and where they want to go,” Maxwell says. “And you need to know how they like to be recognized. It’s not one-size-fits-all, but those are two huge components of making sure your top talent is happy and growing.”