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Starting Thought Leadership Early | Vaishali Dialani


Starting Thought Leadership Early | Vaishali Dialani | 520

The benefits of starting thought leadership ASAP.

An interview with Vaishali Dialani about her thought leadership journey and how starting earlier in her career has paid off.

An investment in thought leadership – for yourself or your org – compounds over time.
Starting earlier in your career will have a greater impact. So what’s stopping you from getting started?

For today’s episode, I’ve invited Vaishali Dialani to chat with us. Vaishali is a Senior Customer Experience Strategist at Konabos Consulting; a full-service, end-to-end, digital experience solutions agency.

Vaishali paints a picture of her earliest journey in thought leadership by participating in everything she could find, and every event possible – often leading events, even though it was early in her education and career. By taking these initiatives she was able to get speaking and presenting opportunities that strengthened her confidence and opened the door to networking prospects.

Meeting a connection at a conference is great but you need to follow up to foster that new relationship. Vaishali shares how she does active outreach, reaching out via LinkedIn to grow her network. She goes beyond people she has met in person and explains what you should be looking for in a contact before reaching out.

Finally, Vaishali shares how growing up in India and being from a blended family gives her unique perspectives that she uses to enhance her Customer Experience (CX) work. We learn how her personality not only affects the CX work she does but also how her personality is blended directly into the work.

In this episode Vaishali shares incredible advice for starting the thought leadership experience, excelling at customer experience, and nurturing a network of value.

Three Key Takeaways:
  • Thought Leadership doesn’t have to be industry changing ideas. If you have thoughts and opinions – share them!
  • You are never going to know everything about your field of expertise. Share what you know now, you can share now.
  • People don’t invest enough in learning. You can never know enough and can always be sharpening your craft.


If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.



Bill Sherman Many people stumbled into the thought leadership sometime during their mid-career. But what if you want to start earlier in your career? That’s the question I want to explore today. We know that thought leadership work has a compounding effect. So how early can you actually start? I’d argue that you don’t need a certain number of years in your career. You don’t need a book published or you don’t need a fancy title at your organization. With me today to explore this concept is Vaishali Dialani. Based in Dubai, Vaishali is a senior customer experience strategist at Konabos Consulting. Vaishali has put significant effort into her early career thought leadership. We’ll explore what she’s done, what she’s learned, and what you can do to get started. If you like her early in your career, I’m Bill Schurman and you’re listening to leveraging Thought leadership. Ready? Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Vaishali.

Vaishali Dialani Thank you so much. And super excited to be here today.

Bill Sherman As am I. And I think we’re going to have a great conversation around something that I haven’t had a chance to have on the podcast yet, which is a conversation around starting thought leadership earlier in your career because it’s something that compounds over time. So, I want to ask you the question, what got you to start your work in thought leadership and when did you start in your career?

Vaishali Dialani Oh, lovely question. I think the first and foremost thing is defining what our leader is and how do so how does one define themselves as thought leader? Someone very wisely once told me that. I asked him, you know, why do you think you’re a thought leader? And he said, “Because I can think and have an opinion, and that’s enough.” And so that’s something that stuck with me. And from that day onwards, I was like, you know what? He’s right. I am an opinionated person. And I know what I want. I know how I think. And it is different from many people around me. And I think I feel like whatever I think about makes sense. And it is logical. So it is something I can talk about. So that’s where really my initial thought of thought process thought leadership came into. It was very early on. I think it was 1780. Very early on in my career and like, you know, graduation, I just had started my graduation back then and I started participating in the smallest things possible from like every curriculum, every event. And I was leading it, and I was very opinionated about those. I think that’s where the foundation of my thought leadership really began from, and it started to grow into my career over time when I started taking on more projects from like university projects to like, you know, actual digital transformation projects and marketing projects and a proper full-fledged career. So, if someone was to ask me, you know, when I started, I think it was very, very early on in my career, and it is something that has stayed with me as a part of my personality. It is something that I embrace as a part of who I am.

Bill Sherman And I want to underline this because I think a lot of people set the bar very high for themselves. And they say, if I don’t have thoughts that change the field, that don’t, you know, revolutionize how we’re talking about something, I should be quiet. I should sit in the corner and wait until I have that big thought. We’re as the way you defined it is if you have thoughts, why not share them? Right?

Vaishali Dialani Yeah. And I think it’s also part of embracing who you are, but embracing your learning journey. Most of the people only want to share things when they are at a certain bar, like you mentioned. Right. And that’s why I think starting or really comes from many people are not vulnerable. They feel like, Oh my God, if I say this, what happens? A lot of people see imposter syndrome. I did. At some point, I’m like, Right, I’m sharing it. But like, am I really being true to everything? Like somebody has to say something about me? Am I trying to portray myself as someone I’m not? You have these kind of natural, very instinctive thought process, but I think it’s embracing that imposter syndrome is a part and parcel of being a thought leader is not something that’s going to completely go away. It’s how you decide to look at it and what’s your perspective towards it. And you continue to still thrive besides that syndrome that you have.

Bill Sherman I think when you talk about imposter syndrome, over the years that I have worked with people who have practiced thought leadership. I have seen more people who were experts in an area wrestle deeply with imposter syndrome because they knew how much they didn’t know about their field. And so the deeper they dug, the more they realized this would take more than my lifetime to ever understand.

Vaishali Dialani Correct. And I think, you know, it’s about evolving, too, right? You’re never going to know it or you’re never going to know it. And that’s just understanding that. Yeah, I’m not going to know it. It’s fine. But what I know now is what I can share now, and I think that’s starting very early on in my career kind of came through because I was like, If I’m now sharing something that I am going through, it will help people who are going through something similar. It’s not going to matter if I share five years later because the situations have changed. The resources that they have has changed. It has really evolved. The topic in the conversation has evolved. How is it while people giving more different perspectives about things than what I’m going through right now? So now being a present thought leader is more important than just thinking about what that future kind of holds through all the time.

Bill Sherman Well, and you underline that there are always people one or two steps behind you in the journey. And even if you ask a smart question from people who are more experienced, that is valuable to the people who are just coming up behind you as well. And so there’s this constant conversation across a career arc. Like you said, that what was true 20 years ago isn’t true today. But you can still learn from the experience of the people who have been through that journey. Right. And so it’s transmitting knowledge and sharing knowledge and keeping the conversation alive. So I want to ask you a question. Your expertise is around customer experience and customer experience strategy. What steps did you first take and where were your first steps and thought? Leadership in that area.

Vaishali Dialani So I have to admit, and I’m going to admit this publicly, I was such a confused person when it start when you start your career, you know, just like I think anyone younger you like. Am I doing the right thing? Is this where I really belong? Is this what I really want to do all day long? Like 50, 60? I don’t know. But honestly, I think it was about me enjoying whatever I did. I never felt like, Oh my God, I’m doing something I hate and I do not want to do it. And that’s how things started for me. Little did I know that over the year is whatever I was doing would lead me to see everything from design to metrics to understanding culture together. Gathering customer insights. Each element design thinking to each element that I was working towards as different roles, starting off as a marketing intern to social media, to a CRM officer moving down the line of communications and heading the customer engagement department to now working as a strategist. Each element and each role led me to where I am. But what’s more beautiful is that I shared my journey through it all. I didn’t wait to reach here and then say, Oh my God, I look at eight years back and I look at six years back and this is how I was and this is what I did. I started very early on connecting with people in my space, and I think I learned a lot from other people. And when I learned from other people, I wanted to share that with people who are going through because I like you said, someone else was transmitting knowledge to me who had more experience than I was transmitting it to people who were equal to me or below me in terms of like following the career plot of figuring themselves out. So having said that, I think I must have started in the CS space five years ago.

Bill Sherman Mm hmm.

Vaishali Dialani Yeah, it’s been a while. I think five years ago was cool. Prior to COVID and I was like, You are in there trying to navigate what’s the right way to be a thought leader? Probably. You know, you don’t know. You have to launch shadow, speak, gather, like, get mentorship, read a lot of blogs and watch a lot of videos. Understand how to even put your thought process out there. I think there’s a thing about being authentic and real, but it’s also knowing that, you know enough and there’s a process where you learn. People don’t invest in learning most of the times, unfortunately. They are like, Yeah, we know we will be needed. That’s good enough. No, it’s not. You have to know your craft. Sharpening your craft then comes later. But knowing your craft is important. So I think it was five years ago that I started really considering, you know, what is thought leadership. Navigating it, figuring it out, and then paving my way to connecting and networking with the right people, outreaching to get to where I am today. And I have a long way to go.

Bill Sherman So let’s talk about those initial steps. Did you start writing? Did you start speaking? What were your first steps and thought? Leadership.

Vaishali Dialani So my first steps in thought leadership was I was really grateful. And I have to say I was really privileged that I worked at fantastic places. I had amazing work culture, be it with Now Money, which is a fintech organization, all with Birmingham City University. I’ve always had opportunities to speak or present. So I was always the front face of any project, ideally because of my role, not something that I ever was privileged, but because of my credibility. So that started very young. And as I navigated through that, because I was a front face, it allowed me to network with people within internally, as my colleagues within different departments were not on the projects that I was on. That’s what I think it kind of began from where my confidence level started. I’m like, I don’t know, Bill, but I can actually connect with them or like them because I saw him and he knows me now. And you’ve got that chatting and build a network of people you already know of or at least have met once. I was then kind of started going to networking events and some of my colleagues actually, and my manager, I remember I was it was my first ever job and he’s like, you know, wish I knew you were really good at what you do. I think you should go to networking events and try and get some leads. And she actually told me that I was talking to a lady in the washroom and I made a really good lead out of it, and that worked out well. That led to my confidence and being able to network very strongly in person. But what led next was how I built that relationship. So I would drop the message and say, You know, it was lovely chatting with you when meeting you in person and we should catch up sometime. Which conference are you going to? It was not just connecting randomly with people, but actually making a strong connection and really understanding the meaning of commit unlimited.

Bill Sherman I want to ask you about something that we’ve talked about before, which is the importance of active outreach, because one of the things early career is you might have a mentor or someone who’s your champion creating opportunities for you. But one of the things that you’ve done well is to create opportunities. So let’s talk about active outreach and how you’ve done that.

Vaishali Dialani Like I said, you know, when I was in the process of being able to connect with people, I first met only once and then build a relationship on LinkedIn. I think that was my stubbornness. And I’m like, Oh great, you remember me? I can actually do the same thing with people I’ve never met, but actually connect with them virtually. So that’s where my confidence began from. I started reaching out to people very actively with the right intention and thought of like, What do I want to be recognized for? What do I want to be known for? What is my craft? What do I want to be able to speak about? What am I or be needed about? What do I really want the listeners to know and hear from me, from my voice? Being able to sit down with myself and answer these questions led me to. Then taking the next step or going on LinkedIn and saying, I’m looking for X, Y and Z, or I’m looking to speak at this event, or I’m looking to be able to write a blog for certain things. So I think C started with writing for blogs. So I actually came across as wire and I follow a lot of blogs and read a lot of blogs and then became an option to actually submit, you know, Ed requests. So I signed up to be an author and you have to fill all out and do all of that. And I actually got selected and I was like, Wow, that actually works, though. I can write for real and be known for what I want to be known for. So that kind of became my first step towards write. I started with writing blogs, I started writing internal blogs and then external blogs, and that helped me book my confidence. And I said right then I can now shared on LinkedIn. So you’re going to be posting and creating more content and then creating snippets out of it and everything else. So that was that was the initial phase. Once I got there, I was also simultaneously listening to a lot of podcasts. Like I said, crafting and learning. Sharpening your craft is extremely important. That’s what I was like right now. I really enjoy this podcast and I know what they’re trying to say and what they’re looking for. Is that something I can do? And so I had the guts. I remember this so vividly, like it happened yesterday. I actually drafted a message and I sent it out to this one who was the podcast host, and I found her on LinkedIn and I messaged him. I said, Look, I love your podcast. I think it’s great. I am an X, y, z person. I’m based out of the BI. I’m recognized. I have won awards, I’m recognized as the X and I would love to chat with you about X, y, z in industries that I was good at. She actually replied back and I was like, Whoa, but that happens. There really works. One thing led to another, and that was my first ever podcast. I was so excited and I was like, Okay, this works. I can do this more now, you know? And so I started doing this more often, is actively reaching out to people and not waiting for any opportunities coming my way because I started creating them for myself.

Bill Sherman I love that example that you tell. And I think one of the things that a lot of people get hung up on is they wait for the world to ask them. But like you said, you’ve got to raise your hand and say, hey, I’m interested in doing this. And if it’s a purposeful, clear ask and you understand the person you’re reaching out to and you’ve done your homework, it’s so much easier. Right. Whether that’s for publishing internally, publishing externally, appearing as a guest on a podcast, you have to do that homework and be willing to take the first step. And it’s sort of like publishing a book. You make it a number of people who say no before someone says yes. The no’s. That’s okay. Nobody’s going to look at you and say, Oh, you had one podcast appearance and 35 pitches, right?

Vaishali Dialani Correct. You know, actually, you’re absolutely right. And it’s not like a rejection for me. I have this one mantra that I would love to share, and it is every rejection is a redirection. And that’s something that stuck with me forever. So there’s so many times people are like, I’m actually I’m not a being criticized. Like, who do you think you are? And you’re going to be a thought leader. Like, people have actually responded back so rudely. And I’ve just said, you know what? Lost one day they wait and watch and moved on and less well into it a lot.

Bill Sherman Well, and it’s okay to say that person is not part of my target audience or I had thought they might be. This isn’t the right time for them.

Vaishali Dialani Okay. Absolutely.

Bill Sherman And you have to be willing to ask frequently. And I think for folks who are looking to start going down this path, those first few asks often feel a lot bigger and scarier than they really are.

Vaishali Dialani Yeah, absolutely. It does. It does. But eventually you having a fit and people like you and other people who are so open and so and really want to make a difference and give opportunities are there. But as someone looking for opportunity, you have to take that first step for sure.

Bill Sherman Mm hmm. Well, and I’ll flip it from the other side. If you are an editor of a publication, if you are a host of a podcast and you have any sort of publication cadence rather than you put out when you’re a piece out, when you feel like you have a good piece. You’re always looking for good ideas. You’re looking for good story proposals or for podcasts, a good conversation. And so by raising your hand and say, I have something to add to this conversation, you may have someone on the other side go, Oh, thank goodness. That helps me because I don’t have to go find people.

Vaishali Dialani Yeah, absolutely. I think it goes to a way to do it right. It’s a mutual benefit thing as well. The main thing is what is your value when you’re when you’re creating some kind of content? I think many people miss out on that essence. They want to they want to have the big names. Mm hmm. Oh, my God. We definitely need to have this kind of thought leader and this kind of thought leader to make sure that our podcast is extremely credible. But people are looking for authentic conversations, are looking for honest conversations. They’re looking for really impactful conversations that is vulnerable and share their real story.

Bill Sherman Exactly. And I know this was true in my time in school. The thought leadership was not something that was taught or these skills were not something that was taught. And I still think that’s true. It. Was that true for you?

Vaishali Dialani Absolutely. Nobody taught me. I think there were. I had to spend time learning that. I even had them instilled in me since childhood. But it’s funny because I am I am a thought leader since birth, actually.

Bill Sherman If you’re enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave a five-star review at and share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listening apps as well as thought leadership leverage dot com forward slash podcasts.

Bill Sherman And so you talked about the value of content. Let’s talk about that. You’ve talked a bit about what do you talk about? What should you be talking to your audience? Once you start building an audience and you use a little bit of a framework for that that I want you to share and then let’s dig into it.

Vaishali Dialani Yeah. So I think one of the key frameworks that I spent time analyzing was what is my USP? Who am I? What do I really want to put out? And I and from my experiences. But we want different experiences. I live in the Middle East. I live in Dubai, but I am an Indian girl raised in an Indian household, moved into from a joint, lived in a joint family who has certain characteristics and personality that is so unique to somebody else in the West who has never experienced that and my Indian and Western upbringing. Is really led me to who I am. A lot of my characteristics are version of my parents, but also my surroundings and my colleagues. So I have a bit of different personalities and learnings of life. Being able to bring this British slang into my conversations or be able to understand Canadian or, you know, the North American jokes, two different things. I think you become a version of the people that you are from. Most times when you want to be able to talk about something, you connect those dots, you identify who you were, who you are, and what you wanted to be. Internally and then reflect that on the work that you do. Most people, what they do is only talk about their profession. They don’t deep dive deep into who they are and make that connection. And that’s all you see. A lot of people use tragedy or like just content to create content. The value that comes out of content, I believe, is bringing your personality and your content and bringing who you are in your content by portraying your work.

Bill Sherman Well and with artificial intelligence and aggregation. You can come up with some strange things that, you know, I could try to byline a piece which would talk about my experiences growing up in India as a woman. Then. You know, that’s a fever dream that does not connect with me authentically in any way. Right. And you’re laughing at this. I would be embarrassed in the same way because it’s not true. It’s not the it’s not the insights that I gained through life. And so what I like about what you’re talking about is it’s more than bringing your authentic self. It’s really acknowledging who you are, where you came from and how you got here that becomes so relevant to this conversation. Otherwise it would just be as dry as a textbook.

Vaishali Dialani Exactly.

Bill Sherman And so let me double click on this. How does your experience growing up in India through the blended family like you describe? How does that impact your work in Sikhs and how does it impact your work in thought leadership?

Vaishali Dialani Oh, very interesting question. So from a C perspective, C is customer experience and you’ve so many types of different customers, how do you define a customer? Right? It’s basically a human being. And an experience is an emotion. An experience is memorable. An experience can be taboo, but it is something that’s triggering within you as a human being. So I love to break it down and simplify customer experience as a human trigger. That’s what I like to call it. How do I want to trigger somebody? How do I want to make somebody feel? So when I think about it. From my personality. I am always trying to make sure that I get my best behavior because that’s how my parents taught me should be in your best behavior. You know, you should make everyone happy. And first I was like, Oh my God, these instead of life rules that I have to follow. But eventually I realized that that’s who I am as an individual. I love to make people happy around me. I love to make people smile around me. Even after we’ve had the conversation. I want somebody to remember me post that conversation. And that’s what’s the is this pretty much you give somebody an experience and you’re hoping that they’ll come back to you and are repeat customers. So that’s how I connect the dots between my personality and the different elements and competencies of that. In my research, for example, I as an individual, ask a lot of questions since childhood. I’m a very curious personality. I love to know and learn, and I really embrace learning. Like, I’m like, okay, you know, you’re doing this. Why are you doing this? What is that process that’s going behind you? Because I make a note or something, but I love to know and my curiosity even reflects in customer experience. So when I am designing a product or service, I’m thinking about why is thinking that what led to thinking that and where does he think he will go next? Similarly, when I’m I love documenting, I love recording my memories, my pictures, and really making life full of it. So I do the same thing. I actually document all the requirements that a business needs and wants to make sure the customer needs and kind of blend that in to get a perfect product or service out. It involves making sure that the journey is captured. The journey is mapped out from every holistic experience that we want to make sure that the customer has. So documenting is a huge part of what I do, and design is something I’m very creative about. A part of me and my personality involves being very critical, analytical and creative, and I think I’m so blessed that I can bring all 3 to 6, which is beautiful.

Bill Sherman That’s wonderful. Thank you, Michelle. So as we begin to wrap up, I want to ask you a question. And you’ve touched on pieces before, but I want to ask you directly this question. You’ve been in the field of thought leadership now for a number of years. What do you wish you had known at the start of your career? Because there are a number of people who are at the start of their career now looking for advice. Oh.

Vaishali Dialani If there was one thing that I wish somebody told me is or I knew earlier was believe in myself. I didn’t or I would say.

Bill Sherman More on that.

Vaishali Dialani Yeah, I think I I’m very confident as an individual. I know what I want. I know what I can get and I know it all. But I think I know it all from my little ways in the world. But I think I was I still had imposter syndrome of like, Oh my God, what if somebody else thinks like that? Will that be the right thing? What if some of my friends see it? And what are they going to think? Was that girl on the poster and what is she trying to draw out of herself? All those candidates are so normal. Are so normal for all of us to feel. I wish I could embrace myself better and actually enjoy that initial stage. But to be very honest with you, that initial stage lasted for me for not more than six months. So I’m very lucky. Many people feel, I think less than six months. Be sure it was that initial deal. I got that one gig and I’m like, Oh damn, I can do it. You know, it was till you get that first one, always that first one.

Bill Sherman So accelerate the time to that first one because then, yeah, then you can get that bite and say, Yeah, I can do this.

Vaishali Dialani I can do that. Yeah. I think that first one thing is the hardest is that, was that always.

Bill Sherman So partially. Thank you for a great conversation today and thanks for joining us on leveraging thought leadership.

Vaishali Dialani Thank you so much. I absolutely love the conversation today.

Bill Sherman If you’re interested in Organizational Thought Leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website, and choose ‘join our newsletter’. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.

Bill Sherman works with thought leaders to launch big ideas within well-known brands. He is the COO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Bill on Twitter

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