Shoba Rao has been a long standing member of the Saratoga Toastmasters for about 10 years taking up Club President and Vice President of Education roles as a part of this journey. She is currently serving as a club mentor for Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters, a newly chartered club in our District. We discussed her motivations to become a Toastmaster and the various lessons that she learned.


Q:  Many congratulations on being awarded the Division Director Award for 2019-2020, could you share your journey to success with us?

A: My goal always has been to make an impact and help more people to become leaders. When I was Area D1 Director for 2018-2019, I aimed to give my full commitment to my role and the same commitment continued into my subsequent role as Division B Director. Awards are based predominantly on quantifiable measurements like Club Officer Trainings (COTs), Pathways adoption, and membership growth. They are based less on qualitative measurements such as leadership skills, mentoring, and innovation, yet I still focused on providing the Area Directors (ADs) the necessary resources for qualitative goals, which in turn helped us achieve the quantitative goals.


Q:  What have been the lessons you have learned so far?

A: There have been multiple challenges that I have faced as part of my various roles. As a Division Director, I faced the regular challenge of having some underperforming clubs in my Division, and I worked with the Area Directors to help them. Sometimes if the environment wasn’t conducive for change, we had to figure out a different approach to build an environment that would be able to influence them. An important lesson learned, which is not new to Toastmasters, is to acutely listen to club members while serving them.


Q:  You are also serving as our District’s New Club Mentor Chair, can you please talk about your role and the events that we can expect this year?

A: As New Club Mentor Chair my responsibility is to pair the right mentors with each club by figuring out the functioning style of the club, compatibility, and nature of members and mentors. Luckily for me, the pandemic hasn’t affected the process very much since we can remotely connect the new mentors and the new clubs. We can also help them identify the hiccups and provide any help needed for the smooth functioning of these new clubs.

If anyone is interested in mentoring a club, please fill out the form on the mentor a club page. In case of any questions, please feel free to reach me at


Q:  Any final words of advice for new and current Toastmasters?

A:  When you join Toastmasters, you likely have a goal in mind, so focus on that goal. For example, if your goal is to improve your public speaking, then focus on giving speeches, participate in contests and diligently work on your goal since “You decide how much you want to get out of Toastmasters.”

Be clear about your goals, be it becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster or just growing your network. No matter what goal you have in your mind, don’t measure your progress only by completion of Pathways levels but instead measure by how much you have improved and whether you are learning something new. Remember it’s not just about completing a checklist but gaining something for life.

I would advise you to take up whatever role comes your way in Toastmasters as you’ll get something out of every role, which in turn will allow you to not only improve your skills but also enhance your life.


Written by Raji Bandanapudi of Intel Innovators and Toastmaster Insiders