Hitha Palepu, CEO of Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals, on tricks to get a raise

Not to be dramatic, but navigating the ~professional space~ often feels like entering a deep, dark cave without a flashlight. There’s no manual that describes the who, what, and how of networking, and I’ve never seen a guide to taking giant leaps or dealing with the consequences of a not-so-minor office mistake. If you’re an ambitious gal with lofty career goals, it’s best to soak up all the advice you can when someone is generous enough to get real about their own wins and failures. What is that? Do you currently not have a direct line with market leaders? Cool, we’re here to bridge that gap.

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

The New C-Suite 2022 honorees didn’t reach their top spots overnight; in fact, most of them have been grinding for a while. In this brand new column, we talk to a different honoree each month, dig into their corner office know-how and learn their tips for handling heavy workloads.

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First up: Hitha Palepu, the CEO of Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals. Right now, her company is working to bring to market a safe and effective injectable aspirin product – a feat of accessibility that could mean huge things to people around the world. Here, Hitha goes into 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 check my phone and quickly scan my emails and social media (I set a 5 minute timer so I don’t have to scroll endlessly on TikTok). As soon as the timer goes off, I play a superhuman “get ready” meditation and get out of bed.

Do you maintain a healthy work-life balance these days? If so, how?

I am a work in progress! A few things I’m consistent with is drinking my Athletic Greens every morning (it helps me make better food choices for the rest of the day), using the Forest app to basically keep me off my phone so I can focus concentrating, and my strategic/writing work as I slowly walk my walking path.

I rediscovered the fun of coloring and love having a coloring sheet and gel pens 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 changes.

What has been your scariest career hurdle and what have you learned when you made it to the other side?

Failures are the norm in the biopharmaceutical industry. Projects are much more likely to fail than succeed, and my first major product failure in 2013 was frightening, especially because we had invested so much in the program (financially and with time and team building) and I didn’t know if our company would survive. But because we survived those and successfully developed other products, I am now able to face challenges with much more clarity and perspective. I’ve become a stronger problem solver and leader because of the many programs that failed, and I’m thankful for that (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?

Periodically (you choose what’s best for you – monthly, quarterly) review what you’ve done in that period (what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve spent your time on, ways you’ve contributed to larger projects) and list them. Whenever possible, try to quantify these items as they relate to your team or company’s bottom line (e.g. you completed work $X under budget or saved so much time, etc). When you go into your performance review, you should have a solid list of accomplishments that have also measurably contributed to the team and company. These numbers will help support your case for a pay rise.

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

I’m a work-in-progress here too, but what’s worked for me is to focus on and prioritize just one health habit—and that’s mostly sleep! I’ll clear my calendar of anything unnecessary, dig out my fancy pajamas and bath oil, and indulge in those special cliche rituals to help me relax and want to go to sleep earlier. I find that sleep and water (bathing, drinking lots of fluids) are what I need most when I have a burnout, and they help me establish better health habits and boundaries to recover.

Who is your career idol and why?

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

What is a career development tool you would 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, providing 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 support women of color.

What about self-doubt… If you don’t feel confident in yourself, how do you get out of it?

We’ve all been there! When I have such a moment, I go to my “hype file” album on my phone (with screenshots of DMs, emails, and texts that are incredibly supportive or kind and cheer me up) and use these messages to remind myself of who i really am.

Workplace culture has changed dramatically in recent years, what with the pandemic, corporate reckoning on racial inequality,he great resignation, stop quietly and more. What is another change you would like to see in the work culture?

I’d like to see remote asynchronous work normalized. I’ve built my businesses and teams this way, and it’s been successful, providing a culture of respect and accountability that makes me and my team members feel professionally fulfilled and allows us to live full lives.

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

Read a romantic novel. I’m such a fan of the genre, which is so diverse and clever and constantly keeps me guessing, while also allowing me to escape into a world where women are loved for their masses and made a priority.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Portrait photo of Annabel Iwegbue

Annabel Iwegbue is assistant to the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. She covers everything about lifestyle, beauty and astrology. You can check out some of Annabel’s work here and also find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Hitha Palepu, CEO of Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals, on tricks to get a raise

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