Vimala Thangaveloo: embracing difference and empowering others

Vimala Thangaveloo is an Executive Coach and empowers culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women experiencing mid-career challenges to confidently own their voices, so they grow their careers on their own terms. 

Her journey of resilience through the solitude of being “the only one” in many work settings has imbued Vimala with a love for the diversity of human experience. She treats each person’s attributes as pieces of a higher ‘mosaic’ – inspiring her to launch her business, Mosaic Working. 

Vimala’s mission is to inspire, engage, and uplift individuals and organisations, steering us towards a more just and equitable society. 

I grew up in Malaysia. My grandparents came to work from India to Malaya – as it was known then – to work in the British colonies as labourers. 

Growing up I was told not to bring up difficult topics and race was considered difficult. Malaysian Indians are underrepresented in the corporate and the public sector and we didn’t challenge that. I was told to not rock the boat, and study hard. 

I qualified as an attorney and got a job in a multinational company. I’ve been privileged to have lived and worked across many countries. In all the places that I’ve been I avoided talking about how I was different. During the pandemic I was working in Europe and spent a lot of time alone in my apartment and thinking about where I came from. 

I started reaching out to black and brown women and talking about my experience of being a woman of colour in the corporate world. Whether we were from Calgary or Melbourne or Perth, there was such a similar thread in what we had gone through – needing bundles of resilience, having to prove ourselves over and over again.

Vimala Thangaveloo - Executive Coach

Over the years I’ve seen first hand how language and vocabulary can exclude people. Many times, comments made with good intentions can have a negative impact – we now call these microaggressions which is a word we didn’t have when I was starting my career.

The impact of these microaggressions is profound and can still affect me today. That feeling of having to be hyper vigilant and uncomfortable in my own skin created a passion in me to help and empower other women who’ve had similar experiences, because of the colour of their skin, their ethnicity or any other personal attribute. 

While I work with individuals, I believe organisational leaders need to get better at communicating for inclusion. 

For example, I had a client whose manager would only ever talk about football in the office and no other topic. As a new migrant trying to come to terms with a new culture, my client was lost in the conversations and therefore excluded from interacting with that manager. 

Being a great leader is not about diminishing Australian culture, but it’s about having a conversation in a way that’s relatable to others. So yes, talk about the footy, but also think about the many other things in common that we can talk about.

I recently worked with a client who faced a significant career setback, leading to a loss of confidence and self-doubt. Through coaching and reflection, she overcame the negative stories she had been telling herself, rediscovered her worth, and secured a fulfilling job at a reputable company. This example highlights the damaging impact of self-criticism and societal conditioning, particularly for women, and emphasises the importance of self-compassion and empowerment in navigating career challenges. 

One of the things I do in my coaching is to break those negative thoughts because when we experience obstacles it’s easy to get into a victim mentality. This perpetuates the feeling of helplessness instead of asking what steps we can take or what we can learn from the experience. I encourage my clients to write down great questions and then answer them to find a way forward. 

A saying that I’m fond of is “great jobs and opportunities are not like slices of pie”. With pie, when I have a slice, there’s less for you and everyone else. 

We’re not dealing with a limited supply. I believe that when one of us succeeds it’s not at the expense of others. It raises all of us. 

To me a just and equitable society is one where we all rise together instead of guarding the limited supply pie.

Get in touch with Vimala 



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