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Updated: April 6, 2020 / 2020 Women in Business Awards

PWC Partner Manaktala builds strong relationships, employees

Photo | J. Fiereck Photogrphy
Shilpa Manaktala Q&A
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One of Shilpa Manaktala’s principles of leadership is to be adaptable to change.

It’s a philosophy that’s served her well during her 15-year career in accounting, which has seen technology transform the profession and her own portfolio of clients — across multiple industries.

“Change is about being comfortable with the uncomfortable,” she said. “Ultimately, [one] grows from that experience.”

For Manaktala, 2019 was a banner year for change. In July she became a partner — one of four — in the Hartford office of accounting giant PwC and last fall, gave birth to her third child.

It’s a balancing act that, in the immediate term, has motivated Manaktala to create more personal boundaries for herself, but also to emphasize flexibility as a leader.

“I think work-life balance is different for each individual,” she says. “I try to be a champion for flexibility so when [employees] are at work they’re present and engaged, but open and upfront about other commitments they have.”

It’s Manaktala’s care for her team’s well-being and professional growth that have helped her build strong relationships with her colleagues, says Keith Hubert, managing partner of PwC’s Hartford office.

“Shilpa provides a positive example through her energy and drive, but also spearheads lunch breaks and healthy habits [for her team] — especially during the firm’s busy [tax] season,” Hubert said. “She also uses her personal experiences to mentor younger managers.”

Being a role model is one of the aspects of her leadership role that Manaktala values most and a professional experience that being a mother has helped her appreciate more.

“Having three kids, each with their own personality, has helped build my emotional IQ,” Manaktala said. “It reinvigorated my awareness of people’s different learning styles and the importance of adapting my coaching style.”

That’s allowed Manaktala to be an effective mentor and develop younger professionals.

“Mentoring has been a real focus of mine during the course of my career, to create a supportive environment and give people the tools and opportunities to stretch themselves,” Manaktala said, noting she’s relied on her own set of mentors during her career.

“First and foremost is my mom, a pediatrician, who was able to balance work and family, so I grew up watching her juggling those responsibilities,” Manaktala said. “She’s always been my cheerleader over my career and a great role model.”

She also credits her professors at UConn, where she graduated as class valedictorian in 2004, as positive influences, including many female mentors.

“It’s always great to see women supporting other women,” she said.

Manaktala, in turn, has overseen her firm’s efforts to recruit talent from UConn with a focus on increasing diversity, a passion of hers. She currently serves as the partner champion of diversity at her firm.

“When you build a diverse team, you get a broad set of skills and idea sharing that you otherwise wouldn’t get,” she explained.

Manaktala’s leadership style fosters effective communication, says PwC’s Hubert.

“She’s very effective and transparent and handles difficult discussions with authenticity and empathy,” Hubert said.

Manaktala said she tries to be a good listener and responsive to employees’ needs.

“[Leadership] comes down to relationships and how you treat and interact with people,” she said.

That’s something Manaktala doesn’t plan to change.

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April 11, 2020

Shilpa is truly a remarkable person in every dimension in life we can measure. As a UConn professor, I feel so fortunate to have had Shilpa as a student and Teaching Assistant in my mass section intro accounting course. We are all so proud of her. The accounting profession and PWC are very fortunate to have her as a member.
Best wishes always, Dick Kochanek

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