Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

This Company Is Committed to Developing Women Leaders. Here's Why That Matters.

Kavitha Glenister, a senior manager at Autodesk
Kavitha Glenister, a senior manager at Autodesk.
| Courtesy of Autodesk

Kavitha Glenister is no stranger to diversity: She’s lived in seven countries—four of them in Africa—and her career has spanned a number of industries, from public relations to product management to corporate sales to IT.

Glenister is also not afraid to turn life’s challenges into opportunities. Case in point: Following a broken engagement and disillusionment with her job at the time, she found herself on a road trip in Southern Africa with her father.

“Six weeks later—after a chance conversation, four interviews, and two job offers—I moved to Botswana with a three-month temporary work permit and where I knew no one,” Glenister says. “I built myself back up from scratch! It was the best thing ever.”

From there, her career continued to evolve, and eventually led her to the software company Autodesk, where she’s currently a senior manager on the Global Revenue Enablement team based in Singapore.

Here, Glenister shares how Autodesk has supported her growth as a woman in leadership, why talking (and listening) to people has helped her succeed, and the interesting place she grew up.

What led to your job at Autodesk, and what excited you about it?

I knew I needed to be somewhere with a supportive and inclusive culture, which I wasn’t receiving from my employer at the time. I came across an open role for a channel manager at a company called Autodesk, which I knew nothing about. I realized I had heard the name 15 or so years previously. A friend of a friend in India worked at Autodesk and considered it a great place to work.

The team in South Africa was small—only three employees—and we had to be generalists. We had a seasoned partner channel with decades of experience, and customers creating sophisticated solutions in a developing market. It was a fantastic place to learn!

You’ve been with Autodesk for six years and have held four different roles. How has the company encouraged and supported your growth?

I have been super impressed with the emphasis on development at Autodesk. In addition to virtual and in-person trainings and workshops, I attended a global sales session within months of joining the company. I then had the privilege of being nominated by my manager for a year-long program for emerging leaders, which took me through targeted development pathways. Building my network at Autodesk was probably the most powerful thing I took from it, as well as exposure to the different parts of the company.

After a fateful conversation, talking to a few people, and interviewing for a couple of internal roles, I transitioned into a position to lead Partner Enablement in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, moving with my husband and two kids to Singapore in the middle of the pandemic.

Last year, I was nominated and selected to participate in NEXT LEVEL, a sponsorship and leadership development program that was established to increase diversity in senior leadership. Autodesk recognizes that a critical determinant of career mobility and growth is visibility, which is a core element of the program. For example, I was assigned an executive sponsor and mentor as part of the experience.

Overall, the support I have received at Autodesk for my development has been incredible.

Tell us about the new team you’re leading and what it’s responsible for.

Earlier this year, Global Revenue Enablement (GRE) went through an evolution. I was invited to head a global team, called Global Landing, with members spread across six countries. We liaise with the sales and success teams, ensuring that our global programs are understood, prioritized, adopted, and reinforced regionally, while consistently sharing impact and feedback.

We are starting to get our feet on the ground, and the last few months have had me completely wrapped up in building a team that is cohesive, structured, and functional without losing the incredible richness of varied experiences, skill sets, and backgrounds. That has been hard work, but a lot of fun and very fulfilling.

What are your duties as a board member of the Autodesk Women’s Network (AWN), one of the company’s employee resource groups? How does the group help empower women at Autodesk?

AWN’s mission is “to empower women, at all levels and across all global regions of Autodesk, to develop and realize their full leadership potential.” As a board member responsible for the sales chapter of AWN, I represent the needs and perspectives of women in or aspiring to be in sales and customer success roles.

To meet this objective, our sales and customer success divisions have also set up an initiative known as Autodesk Women in Sales (AWIS), with the support of senior leadership, the People & Places team, and our corporate Diversity and Belonging team. AWIS focuses on the levers that drive workplace diversity: recruitment, retention, advancement, and culture.

Given the synergies between my role within AWN and the AWIS program, we work on several joint initiatives and amplify each other’s programs. One example is the co-sponsored luncheon at our annual sales conference, where we had a diverse panel of senior women leaders at Autodesk representing different organizations, geographies, and experiences. They all spoke very openly about what got them to where they are and what inspires them. Another joint initiative is a Global Speaker Series, which features topics relevant to sales.

What has been your experience as a woman in a leadership role at the company?

The GRE organization is led by a woman, and her leadership team is also strongly represented by women. This is the Autodesk that I work for. It is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. I have great examples of successful women leaders that I see every day. Having been on leadership teams where I was in the minority both from a race and gender perspective, Autodesk has been a sea change. I have experienced a willingness to support and mentor me, and to talk through issues.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received and how has it helped you in your career?

“Show up!” You can’t play if you are sitting on the side.

When I’m in a new situation, I ask questions, talk to people, and try to craft a sense of the whole so I can plot my place in it. This leads to different ways of doing things as I operate knowing the whole picture.

When I moved to Botswana to handle sales at a distributor, I spoke to everyone I came across. I doubled the amount of resellers we sold to merely from my willingness to talk to them, explore credit options, and understand where they were at. When I moved to Autodesk’s Singapore office, I raised my hand for things—including the Site Involvement and Belonging Council and AWN—with the objective of getting a sense of the pulse of the organization. This has been fun, inspiring, and fulfilling and gives me fuel for my day job.

You’ve lived and worked in many different places, including India, Africa, and Asia. How have these experiences shaped your career and who you are?

I moved to a new country for the first time when I was 4. Seven countries later, this exposure to people, cultures, food, and thinking has opened my horizons in a way I am grateful for every day. Yes, people are people and our commonality is so obvious, but our uniqueness does deserve acknowledging. These early experiences with diversity have also made me conscious of when this is not a given.

What’s something most people would be surprised to know about you?

I have a twin brother and we were 4 when we left India for a tiny town called Morogoro in rural Tanzania. My father is a groundwater hydrogeologist and got an opportunity to work for the Tanzanian government. My mother is a professor of anatomy, but because Morogoro didn’t have a medical school, she taught at the veterinary college instead. We went to a small international school and learned to speak Kiswahili and English concurrently.

The families here were from Finland, Denmark, Chile, the Netherlands, Australia, the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Germany, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India, among others. This became our normal: Several languages and skin colors roaming as a united pack on the campus after school, visiting the farm animals, and popping in at various homes over the course of the evening. We saw wildlife on weekends at nearby national parks, camped in the Serengeti, and drove past Mount Kilimanjaro. It was idyllic!

We then moved to Sierra Leone in West Africa. This was before the civil war and I got a true representation of paradise on earth. The people, the geography—it was all exuberant. I went to a local Catholic school and wore a wool beret to school in the warm weather. I even got to know a few chimpanzees fairly well.