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TEDx Speaker | Mentor and Consultant | Head - Education Initiatives | Neeraja Ganesh

Neeraja Ganesh

Neeraja Ganesh

"Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It Neeraja Ganesh

Neeraja Ganesh, a name that has altered circumstances for the better, has taken a unique way of living and leading. Let's examine what sets her apart.

The road to transformation

I have always been competitive. Be it school, college, or the workplace, my multiple skills were quite evident in the various projects that I worked on. From speaking engagements to communications that included quite a bit of writing, I was fulfilling my passion to create something better each time. Creativity somehow got embedded in me.

My journey in the corporate world was one where I proved myself, but the fire inside me was to do something different that would be totally out of the box. My last role in the corporate space was as Director, Capgemini. Since I quit corporate in 2017, I have donned multiple hats.

Today, I head the Education initiatives at Aspire For her, a social startup that brings multiple skilling and employability enhancement programmes to its community members. I also freelance to conduct leadership development and mindset behaviour change programs for organisations. I always wanted to make an impact in others’ lives, and the difference that I am able to make to society now is most satisfactory.

However, the shift from a corporate to this kind of professional entrepreneur journey was not intentional. There were circumstances that came by in my personal life, and the shift happened. I decided to pursue my passion for performing impactful work. There was a lot of voluntary work I did, and the strengths and management skills I developed while in the corporate world were used in all the initiatives that I led, be it to upskill financially underprivileged students, women who had taken career breaks, or women who had a financial impact due to the COVID pandemic. The impact of all these initiatives was way different and was very satisfying.

Overcoming Hurdles….

Sure.  We've heard the Edison story many times, right? How does someone perceive Edison? The inventor did not look for problems that needed solutions. He looked for solutions that were in need of modification so that they could get better.

I don't believe there is anything called a failure in anyone's life, and I truly follow that philosophy. If you are going to ask me, when did I fail? Where did I fail? I may not have much to say, but I have felt that I needed to do things differently, and I have done them to create an impact. This is what makes one truly successful, strong, and helps to leave a mark!

I have always felt that in life, learning could come from any situation. Life itself is a big lesson. In fact, learning is mandatory. Throughout my corporate life and even after, one of the things that I've always done is move out of my comfort zone. I've always picked up projects where I might have little knowledge of the domain. I didn't know the processes, but that's where I pushed myself to learn, adapt to situations and challenges, and set things right.

Also, when it comes to leadership, my approach is different. I have always empowered the team to take decisions and implement them, being available for any support and guidance that they would need. And if they were not able to come up with solutions, I would step in and help them out. I believe the way I have grown to where I am today, whether it was the projects that I took up in the corporate space or in the Not for profit space, the more they were out of my comfort zone, the greater would be the zeal to succeed in them. Leaders are not bosses. Leaders are enablers. They are in a different league.

The ambition to write

I love writing. And when you pen down words, they speak your mind. One of the writing projects with which I was closely connected was when Aspire For Her, a platform started by Madhura DasGupta Sinha in March 2020, started a blog series for their community members who were largely girls in the age group of 18 to 25. I started writing a monthly blog that would help them in their careers because they were just on the brink of starting them. When I was writing the blog for young girls, I would observe my daughter, who was in the same age bracket and share experiences I learned from her life.

It’s important for the readers to resonate with the stories and hence, in my blogs, I narrate stories from the experiences of women from different age groups. I saw the women enjoying reading those blogs, and keenly looking forward to the next one. That’s when I decided that this should become a book and should reach a wider audience.

I am eager to complete my book, which will bring out many stories from my life. The book has topics that come from my work experiences like the one which I have titled “The time is now. Stop waiting for the ideal moment”. Take a bit of action regardless of whatever challenges you're going through in life. And that's the philosophy that I believe in. In another chapter of the book, I speak about treating every interaction as an opportunity.

Stories are the key...

Yes, I am a great believer in stories. When we present ideas and concepts in the form of stories, they will always create an impact. Like this story that I am going to narrate now. I hired a lady who had lost her husband to COVID. She had two kids and had never worked in her life. She had her education in a small town but never thought of working after completing her education. She had been a housewife for 15 years when her husband passed away. Aspire For Her was keenly upskilling such women and she was also doing one such course. I saw a spark in her. I found her thinking to be creative and just by hand-holding her by teaching her better presentation and communication skills, she transformed into a successful woman at work.

When I narrate this story in the context of being empathetic or giving opportunities to people, It becomes extremely powerful and people sit up. And I am sure, they also move to take an action to look at candidates differently. That’s the power of storytelling!

My Mentor….

Today, mentorship has become very fashionable. We talk about mentorship programs, have platforms that have mentors, and mentees seek them out. There are also organisations that run mentoring programs for their employees, hence there is a lot offered to women now. However, when I was growing in my career, there was no formal concept called mentoring, but as I stated earlier, I have work experiences that are akin to mentorship.

To give an example, I once worked with three people on a project launched at the global level. Once it was implemented, my colleagues moved to other projects and I stayed back in the project team to ensure it ran smoothly.  When a senior advised me to move out since there was no growth in the same project, I felt extremely bad about it. I felt that I had done some phenomenal work and he was not even praising and acknowledging that. Giving away the project to someone else was like giving away your child to somebody else because I had been a part of that project from the inception stage. And you will never feel that somebody else will look after your child as well as you can. But once I moved out, I realised what he had meant. I learned new things and was able to grow from being an individual contributor to a team leader. The minute I moved to another business unit, I had a different set of people to manage, a different set of managers, and a totally different set of stakeholders. This is where I grew and honed my leadership skills.

Somebody once told me "You've got some exceptional leadership skills,". That is when I started becoming a bit more aggressive about my career. So that's how I look at mentors in my life—with pieces of advice that have come my way. Not active mentoring, but through the journey, throughout.

Today, there are plenty of coaching and mentoring opportunities available and  I believe everyone can have more rewarding careers and better career growth if they seek out these opportunities.

As I always say, instead of complaining that opportunities do not come to you, start creating opportunities for yourself.

To know more about Neeraja Ganesh please view the links below:

TEDx Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/neeraja_ganesh_be_yourself

Aspire For Her Link: https://aspireforher.com/mentors

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