Challenges Faced While Growing Up:
Like most women who are starting off, I never had a vision of where I could reach when I started my career. At the age of 16 when I wanted to help my father sponsor the higher education of his 3 children, all I knew was that I had to start earning right then. I started taking classes for junior students and that gave me enough means to sponsor at-least my not so expensive education of that time. I decided to pursue the Chartered Accountancy course for my higher education.
However while I was still in the process of completing the course, I landed into a well paying job. Although those around me advised that having secured a good job, I should quit pursuing the gruelling CA course. However, I had my long term goals very clear in my mind. It was tough to prepare for such a difficult course and work alongside. I still remember those days of leaving home at 5AM for tuition's and then directly heading for a 10 hour job and returning back to books in the evening.
But I kept at it with tenacity and managed to clear all exams in first attempt with an All India Rank! My first income at the age of 16, first job at 21 and cracking my first big merger deal for a US client at 26 - life taught me a lot early on. Having started my career at a large Indian bank as an Operations Officer, I was responsible for billions of physical money in cash form in the branch - Reconciliation and Custody all at the age of 22! And since then everything about my professional life has been a lovely roller coaster. Like they say you do not need to be great to start but to be great you need to start - I got started really early and never looked back.
Challenges Faced Being A Woman In The Industry And Your Thoughts On Diversity & Inclusion:
Most of my career has been in Investment Banking which is notorious for not having a great diversity. The grueling working hours in the initial few years in this industry was indeed challenging.
However back then I was single and not having other family responsibilities helped me sail through some intense years, which also laid a great foundation for a successful career, hence no regrets. The challenges that I faced being a women, started soon after I decided to pursue a professional life as there weren't too many such precedents in my known family circles back then- hence being an outlier as well as an example at the same time proved challenging.
At work there had been some instances of unconscious biases but I have never lingered too much on those thoughts. As I moved up the corporate ladder it started getting lonely as there weren't too many role-models or mentors of my gender, who could guide me. Perhaps these challenges helped me become a passionate advocate for Gender Equality. I take pride that the Balance ERG (that I had helped initiate outside of UK) has scaled up to cover 43 countries with over 50,000 members. It gives me satisfaction and sense of achievement that the Balance network has been able to influence some important policy changes: including maternity leave, flexible working-hours and infrastructure support for working mothers.
This has ensured that women do not have to choose either work or family during the most critical time in their career and life. I have also pioneered the 'Take Two' returnship program; for women who have taken a break but want to return back to work. I feel elated to be known as a transformational coach/mentor for many aspiring women. Leveraging the power of conversations, I have helped ignite desire in many women to live their life with passion and purpose. I have also received few industry awards like All India Women Achiever - 2019 by Business Rankers and D&I Business Leader by Community Business, as a recognition for my efforts in this regard.
Integral Part Of Your Lifestyle:
My passions or interest are not constant; they keep evolving as I explore various things and open myself to various experiences of life. However, the underlying elements of my passion are invariably constant. Things that fascinate me either have the elements of adventure/agility, progressive/spiritual wisdom or are creative in nature.
Apart from work and spending quality time with my 9 year old girl; I indulge in playing lawn-tennis, writing poems, short reads and soulful conversations. Being a full-time professional, it is difficult to pursue all of these in equal measures but these passions are what keep me alive and complete my being. So I always try to find time for these, as our work or job is only a part of our life and not our life as a whole. I do not feel the need to balance, as my work is also my passion. It is more about integrating these well.
Advice You Would Give To Others Who Are Looking To Either Restart Their Career or Want To Move Up The Corporate Ladder:
An important insight that I have discovered as a leader is that while early years of leadership may see us leaning the stereotypical leadership styles, but as we grow, what truly determines whether or not we enjoy each moment of our journey is the understanding of our own leadership style. Taking the time to know ourselves and staying true to who we are, lays the foundation of authentic leadership which makes our journey more enjoyable.
Second is healthy impatience - We are familiar with what impatience feels like the feeling of being enveloped in a pressure bubble. Patience, on the other hand, is considered to be a powerful virtue.
What if one could combine the forward momentum from impatience with the compassionate space created by patience?
The unique state born out of this union would be healthy impatience. I love to enjoy the attainment of one goal and then move on to the next without lingering around the success of one goal for too long. I believes in dedicating 20%-30% of my time to endeavors that make me uncomfortable so that I can create space for exploration, expansion and evolution And lastly, value your time we all have limited time but we can always plan and chose what to focus on and that way we can achieve almost all goals that we set out to achieve. I look at time as an investment that I am making and gauge the return on investment much like an astute investor!
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