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Pung Speaker Series: Apple VP outlines keys for effective leadership

By Vivian Tran, student writer
Monday, February 13, 2023

The Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series featured a discussion led by Priya Balasubramaniam (MBA ’01), vice president of operations at Apple, last semester. In this role, Balasubramaniam oversees the supply chain and manufacturing of all Apple products.

With over 20 years under her belt at the tech giant, she has relied on six qualities to stay true to her leadership style: courage, curiosity, consistency, commitment, connection and collaboration.

“I truly believe that if you have these six elements, you can deal with any type of challenge,” she said.

Balasubramaniam’s presentation to MBA students laid a foundation for how to continuously grow as a leader, from best practices to approach data problems to strategies for leading through challenges. She explained that courage, curiosity and consistency are characteristics a person embodies, and commitment, connection and collaboration are the values they bring to their team and organization.

“Connection in this day and age is super important,” she shared. “The key as a leader is to provide an opportunity to hear diverse thoughts from teams across the world and to build trust between teams. The most critical part of having a worldwide organization is building that trust and bond.”

As an avid Spartan sports fan, Balasubramaniam is inspired by Michigan State men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo. As a leader, she believes it is her responsibility to help those around her reach their fullest potential and to challenge them.

“Transformations are one of the biggest challenges of humanity,” she said. “Seventy percent of transformations fail because, in my opinion, four simple reasons: a lack of leadership, lack of goals, lack of a roadmap and lack of talent with the right mindset. This is where leaders have to step up.”

“The key as a leader is to provide an opportunity to hear diverse thoughts from teams across the world and to build trust between teams.”

An effective concept she utilizes to motivate herself and her team to continuously strive for the best is the principle of marginal gains: 1% progress every day on a goal or task over a span of year will yield significant improvements.

“We fail more than we succeed, and we learn more from our failures than from our success,” she said. “The key to move on from failure is to have that next project lined up. Recognize the effort put into the failed project and move forward.” She believes in having a growth mindset and in lifelong learning.

Balasubramaniam dedicated a generous portion of her time to Q&A and enjoyed interacting with the MBA students, addressing all of their most curious and forward-thinking questions. Her invaluable advice served as helpful takeaways for the students to apply in their own career journey.

In response to a question asked by Associate Dean Richard Saouma on behalf of his young daughter, Balasubramaniam provided one heartfelt message to all girls that are dreaming big: “She can be anything she wants to be, and she should not limit herself.”

More information on upcoming events in the 2022–23 Pung Speaker Series, as well as information on past events, is available at the Full-Time MBA program page.

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