Anoushka Gungadin: A Multifaceted Leader

“Often I am the only person who looks and sounds like me … however I believe I belong to every one of these places because I have something significant to contribute and plenty to learn”: Anoushka Gungadin shares a snapshot of her leadership journey.
Anoushka Gungadin
Women & Leadership Australia
6 mins

Anoushka Gungadin is the Executive Vice President ANZ, HeraMED Limited, Council Member & Audit Risk Committee member at Deakin University, and Non-Executive Director at getmee. 

Her multifaceted and global experience has given her a deep understanding of different cultures, societies, business environments and leadership.

Anoushka is speaking at our upcoming Canberra Women’s Leadership Symposium in May and in this Q&A, she shares some of her valuable insights into the importance of cultural intelligence in leadership.

How did your early life experiences shape your career path?

Anoushka: I was born and raised in Mauritius, a multicultural multilingual island, from an Indian family, the eldest of 3, the only girl.

My upbringing contrasts with that of my ancestors. My grandmothers were never educated, my dad was also not educated, my mum had to stop after primary school to look after her younger brothers who could go to high school. However, my brothers and I have defied this narrative, all achieving postgraduate degrees.

At home, I was treated no differently from my brothers, shielded from discrimination, while observing the struggles of the women in my family within the confines of a patriarchal Indian household. Yet, these same resilient women raised me, determined to break the cycle for future generations. My mother and grandmothers all went through arranged marriages, not very happy ones… today I have a blended family of 6, each one of us born in a different country, sharing and celebrating a lot of cultures, heritage and languages in a colourful household.

And a lot changed in my family over the last 2 generations.


I was raised with the belief that I can be and do anything I want and that belief has carried me through life, through the joys and the challenges. This belief was instilled in me at home, in particular by my mother. This belief has been my guiding light through life's ups and downs, shaping my narrative.

In hindsight, I can say that my earlier years laid a strong foundation for my life and career and taught me the value of curiosity, perseverance and empathy.

Overtime, I have had the privilege of meeting incredible people from different parts of the world who are my chosen family. I am richer for each and every one of them.

Later, I lived and worked in Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia, across industries and in executive roles in companies and Boards. Often I am the only person who looks and sounds like me… however I believe I belong to everyone of these places because I have something significant to contribute and plenty to learn. I know that I am very good at a few things, I leverage my strength and I learn and work with others in areas I am not good at or do not enjoy. Who I am, is not my gender nor my colour, I happen to be a woman, a brown woman.


Could you elaborate on the importance of cultural intelligence in today’s globalised world, and how it can benefit leaders and organisations?

Anoushka: Cultural Intelligence (CQ) refers to the ability to engage, work, live, and adeptly navigate diverse, unfamiliar, and multicultural environments. Recognised increasingly as a pivotal skill for leaders, teams, and organizations, CQ equips them to thrive in the modern economy for several compelling reasons:

  • In today’s interconnected world, businesses are operating across borders. Leaders and teams must be able to navigate diverse cultural contexts effectively to build relationships, negotiate deals, and collaborate with colleagues and partners from different cultural backgrounds.
  • With an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, cultural intelligence is essential for creating an environment where the whole team feels valued and respected.
  • Leaders who possess high CQ can foster a culture of inclusivity, which leads to increased employee engagement, creativity, trust and innovation.
  • Communication transcends verbal exchanges; understanding ‘what is not being said’ is crucial. By understanding cultural nuances in communication styles, body language, and decision-making processes, leaders and teams with high CQ can avoid misunderstandings and conflicts that may arise due to cultural differences

We are excited to hear you are currently working on a book! What inspired you to write this book, and what key insights or strategies do you hope to share with your readers?

Anoushka: As the world continues towards globalisation and drawing from my own journey, I wanted to leverage my experience to equip leaders and teams to grow their organisations through CQ. Through research and conversations with potential clients, decision-makers, and leaders, it became apparent that the market was not yet primed to adopt CQ as a strategic approach; rather, there was a pressing need to raise awareness and provide education on the topic.

Thus, the idea for a book was born, a place to compile and share my research. I since interviewed more than 20 leaders globally to share real world experiences and collect their insights from across countries, industries and companies.

2020 hit and the world underwent unprecedented changes, requiring a significant overhaul of the book’s content. The book has been going through extensive updates, edits, and rewrites to reflect these dynamic shifts and the new world.
Through this process, the book brings to life insights, lessons, and strategies from both research findings and first-hand experiences.
This book is truly a super long pregnancy and is a labour of love that I hope will equip us to realise the potential of our human intelligence and lead with CQ.

How do you balance your professional life with personal commitments and maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Anoushka: This is a big one for a lot of us, juggling the demands of family, career, and caregiving. Raised in a traditional household where my mother was the home maker and my father the provider, I initially found myself striving to meet the high standards of motherhood set by my role model, my mother, while balancing my own career and single parenthood.

I, on the other hand, love my work while also being responsible for raising my young family. Overtime, I have realised and accepted that I am also a great mum like mine. While our visions for motherhood were similar, our approaches differed—and both were equally valid and relevant. I have designed my career to have flexibility that integrates with my life and family. It took a while and not without guilt, which very rarely, but still, raises its ugly head.

Central to being able to successfully integrate my life and work is the ability to confidently say no to commitments that don’t align with my top priorities: my family, my work and my health (physical, emotional and spiritual).

Though initially daunting, saying no has proven to be incredibly liberating.

I have one life and it’s short, no matter how long it is, it has to be lived purposefully and consciously. I try to practice this daily, fail often but am committed to keep trying daily.


Given your multidisciplinary background, what advice would you offer to individuals aspiring to pursue diverse career paths or transition between industries?

Anoushka: I recall when I had just arrived and started working in Australia, my career path which I had experienced as an asset overseas, was not seen in the same way here. I did not spend my whole career in one particular field and because I did not swim in one lane, recruitment firms struggled to find where I fit within the Australian professional context.

I remember talking to [a recruiter] who was trying very hard to find my fit and I told him, you won’t find a box that I will tick, because I do not fit in any box, I am out of the box.

Fast forward 10 years, with the borderless world, rise in technology and AI, focus on innovation, I believe the future of work will need individuals who can look at a situation with much broader lens.

It’s ok not to fit in, not to have worked out everything about your career ahead of time. The future of work means most of us are going to have multiple careers. In fact most of the jobs of the future don’t even exist today.

The world is ready and needs ‘versatilists’ which is quite different to being a ‘generalist’. Versatilists operate between deep and broad knowledge and lead with strategic insight. Dr Jeyaraj, an organisational psychologist, describes versatilist as ‘applying depth of skill(s) to a progressively widening scope of situations and experiences, gaining new competencies and building relationships in the process as well as assuming new roles.’

The best teams in the modern world will be multidisciplinary, cross functional and with a diverse mix of specialists, generalists and versatilists. My advice would be don’t be too scared to make a lateral move, before another vertical move. Enjoy the journey on the way to the unknown destination.


Don’t miss the opportunity to hear first-hand as Anoushka Gungadin shares more of her insights at the upcoming Canberra Women’s Leadership Symposium. Book your tickets now to be inspired by her incredible story!

We also had the chance to speak to Professor Michelle Ryan, Symposium Speaker. Read her story here.