The New C-Suite Column: Hitha Palepu Knows a Trick That’ll Get You a Raise

Introducing the New C-Suite ColumnTyler Joe

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Not to be dramatic, but navigating the ~professional space~ often feels like entering a deep, dark cave without a flashlight. There’s no instruction manual that lays out the who, what, and how of networking, and I’ve never seen a guide to taking big leaps or dealing with the fallout from a not-so-tiny office mistake. If you’re an ambitious babe with lofty career goals, your best bet is soaking up all the advice you can whenever someone is generous enough to get real about their own wins and fails. What’s that? You don’t currently have a direct line to industry leaders? Cool, we’re here to bridge that gap.

Enter: The New C-Suite Gives Good Advice column.

The 2022 New C-Suite honorees didn’t get to their tip-top positions overnight. In fact, most of them have been grinding for quite a while. In this brand-new column, we’ll be chatting with a different honoree each month, digging into their corner-office know-how and learning their tips for juggling heavy workloads.

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First up: Hitha Palepu, CEO of Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals. Right now, her company is working to get a safe and effective injectable aspirin product on the market—a feat of accessibility that could mean huge things for people everywhere. Here, Hitha gets into the weeds on the apps that help her crush her to-do list, why everyone should have a “hype file,” and other specific recs.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

I look at my phone and do a quick scan of my e-mails and social media (I set a 5-minute timer so I don’t end up endlessly scrolling on TikTok). Once the timer goes off, I play a Superhuman “getting ready” meditation and get out of bed.

Are you maintaining a healthy work-life balance these days? If yes, how?

I’m a work in progress! A few things that I am consistent with is drinking my Athletic Greens every morning (it helps me make better nutrition choices the rest of the day), using the Forest app to basically lock me out of my phone so I can focus, and doing my strategic/writing work while walking slowly on my walking pad.

I rediscovered the joy of coloring and like to have a coloring sheet and gel markers on my desk and I color when I take my 5-minute breaks from deep work sessions—it helps me stay in “create” mode and reduce context switching.

What has been your scariest career hurdle, and what did you learn once you made it to the other side?

Failures are the norm in the biopharmaceutical industry. Projects are far more likely to fail than succeed, and experiencing my first big product failure back in 2013 was scary, especially since we had invested so much in the program (financially and with time and building a team) and I didn’t know if our company would survive. But because we survived that one and went on to successfully develop other products, I’m now able to handle challenges with a lot more clarity and perspective. I’ve become a stronger problem solver and leader because of the many programs that didn’t work out, and I’m grateful for them (although I’m still sad about some of them!).

Let’s talk $$$. What tips do you have for negotiating a base salary or a raise?

On a regular basis (you pick what’s best for you—monthly, quarterly) review what you’ve done over that period (what you accomplished, where you spent your time, ways you contributed to larger projects) and list them out. Wherever you can, try to quantify these items as they pertain to the bottom line of your team or company (e.g., you completed work $X under budget or saved this much time, etc.). When you’re going into your performance review, you should have a solid list of accomplishments that also quantifiably contributed to the team and company. These numbers will help support your case for a raise.

When you approach moments of burnout, how do you overcome them?

I’m a work in progress here too, but what has worked for me is to focus on and prioritize just one health habit—and it’s usually sleep! I will clear my calendar of anything non-necessary, dig up my nice pajamas and bath oils, and enjoy those special cliché rituals to help me relax and want to go to sleep earlier. I find that sleep and water (baths, drinking lots of it) are what I need most when I’m experiencing burnout, and they help me reestablish better health habits and boundaries to recover.

Who is your career idol, and why?

Vice President Kamala Harris, who I had the great privilege of writing a book about! She’s someone who continually defies the odds or the negative narratives about her and has accomplished so much on behalf of those who have always been underestimated.

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What’s a career advancement tool that you’d recommend to young professionals?

Coaching has been the best investment I’ve made in my career—having someone actively work with me on my biggest goals and provide guidance, accountability, and pep talks has helped me achieve some of my wildest dreams. Platforms like Topknot offer group coaching at an accessible price, and communities like The Cru are very diverse and supportive of women of color.

What about self-doubt….When you’re not feeling sure of yourself, how do you snap out of it?

We’ve all been there! When I’m having one of those moments, I visit my “hype file” album on my phone (which has screenshots of DMs, e-mails, and texts that are incredibly supportive or kind and hype me up) and use these messages to remind myself of who I actually am.

Workplace culture has gone through a ton of change in the last few years, what with the pandemic, the corporate reckoning on racial inequality, the great resignation, quiet quitting, and more. What’s another change you’d like to see in workplace culture?

I would love to see the normalization of remote, asynchronous work. I’ve built my companies and teams working this way, and it has been both successful and offers a culture of respect and responsibility that has allowed me and my team members to feel fulfilled professionally and lets us live full lives.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

Read a romance novel. I am such a fan of the genre, which is so diverse and smart and constantly keeps me guessing while also letting me escape to a world where women are loved for their multitudes and are made a priority.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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