It gives me great pleasure to here today to celebrate women’s day at ICT. ICT is my home and I love coming back to it again and again.
Balancing career and home is important to all of us as without it we cannot be happy and satisfied with our lives. What is the end goal of our lives if not to strive to reach a contented and secure frame of mind atleast at sometime in our lives? This balance is required for all of us but for women in our society who are the pivot of their families and carry all the domestic load – physical, emotional, cultural it is more difficult. This does not happen automatically it happens because of the choices we make at various stages of our lives.
Today I am going to share with you a few of the choices that I personally made or were made for me in order to reach this contented and secure state of mind. I dedicate this feeling to two women who were the pillars in my life and guided me and helped me achieve it.
The first one being my mother, she came from a small village in Gujarat and was educated upto 10th standard in gujrati language and then she got married and shifted to the middle of Maharashtra Ahmednagar where everyone spoke only Marathi which she did not understand for the first 2 years. We are 4 siblings and with only my father as the sole bread earner it was tough for her to manage the house and children within the available income. She wanted to take up some employment but in those days options were limited and she always felt that if she would also be earning our lives would be more enriched. That is when she made the first choice in my life for me and my sister, she decided that we would be career women and she set out to educate us so that we could be good at it. The first thing she did was to parcel me and my sister and also our brothers off to very good boarding schools so that we could get a good education. This was not easy for her as her nest suddenly became empty but she was determined to do it. So at the age of 11 years she encouraged me to start thinking of my future life as a working wife, daughter and mother. She also felt that it is possible to achieve a balance in all our roles in our personal and professional lives if we think and plan for it, we cannot excel in one part at the cost of the other that would not make us happy.
She also taught me that work is worship and there are no shortcuts in life and to make best use of the opportunities available to us. From that time onwards I have never looked back and made all my choices keeping that in mind.
I chose to study Pharmacy as I liked life sciences field and did not get admission in MBBS and once in I chose to study hard and be very good in my chosen field.
I chose to go to the RnD stream when I was looking for employment as I liked the work and challenges involved as it excited me. I am still there after 30 years and still raring to go. In 1985, the job opportunities for women were very limited in our industry and we had to fight very hard to make our seniors accept the fact that we are serious about our work and it is not a stop gap arrangement till we get married. Later on for each promotion, we had to perform much better than our male colleagues to merit a promotion. The scenario has changed drastically today and opportunities are great for young women so go and grab them.
I chose to work very hard and diligently at my work place wherever I worked and strove to be a perfectionist in whatever I did even the smallest of jobs.
I chose to decide on any career changes based on long term gains and learning opportunities and not any short term views.
I chose to be an independent and self reliant women, there was no such word as I “cannot” do in my dictionary. I believe that I can do anything if I want to do it.
I chose a very mature and well educated life partner who could understand and support me in my dreams (although I may say that my mother drove me towards this decision and she was right as always). That is when the other woman entered my life – my mother-in-law. She had very similar life experiences as my mother and was very hard working, self driven and enterprising. She was the pivot in the family and welcomed me into her fold and made a unique place for me. She looked upon me to achieve the goals that she personally could not achieve in her life and encouraged and supported me throughout my life when my roles in the family changed from being a wife and daughter-in-law to the additional responsibility of being a mother. With that she helped me in making the right choices.
I chose not to take a career break when I had my children even though I had a full time 12 hours/day job and she helped me in taking care of my children such that they were not neglected.
I chose to delegate the day to day domestic chores to maids (sometimes there were more maids than family members in our house) and she supported me wholeheartedly in this and never made me feel guilty or defensive because of this. This also meant that all our maids, it was an opportunity for them to enrich their lives and meet their aspirational goals in life for their families.
I chose to prioritise my personal time for my children and developed a schedule for spending quality time with them on weekends and in the evenings. All children have some or the other problems during their childhood and adolescence and as mothers we are the anchors of their lives at that time and it was crucial for us to spend time and energy on weekends to support them to overcome their difficulties. I enjoyed doing that and have a strong bond with both my children today as adults.
I chose to help my children articulate their dreams and helped them work towards achieving them. My daughter chose to go into design field which at that time was a relatively unheard of career choice and she has stuck to it and has worked hard to excel at it. She is now working as the design head at a furniture design company and enjoying it. My son always dreamed of studying pure Physics at one of the world’s leading institutes and has worked diligently to achieve this. Post his graduation, he made a choice to study management and now works in the finance field with a multinational company.
I chose to step into an entrepreneurial venture (first in my family) as I wanted to do some good research projects which excited and challenged me and was fed up of the corporate ups and downs and politics. At that time, my mother-in-law was very worried but she still told me to go ahead and do whatever makes me happy and assured me that she will support me in taking care of my children and home.
I chose to work consistently with a long term vision and upgrade the professional standards at our company even if it meant a lot of frustration and fighting against the unfair competition to build our company brand. I chose to ensure that in the work we do we are very sincere and ethical no matter the outcome. This has meant that the company was very highly regarded for the work we do nationally and internationally.
When the relationship at my first co-founded company became sour with my partners, I chose to step back graciously and took a sabbatical for 30 months. This was a very difficult decision for me to give up my career at the company that I had co-founded and worked so hard and diligently to build over more than 15 years but it was best for the company and our investors I chose to do it. The 30 months of sabbatical were also intensely difficult for a very high energy and forever busy person like me - by this time, my children were grown up and studying at far off places and my old parents-in-law and mother had passed away. It was a lonely and restless period for me but I chose to think positively and used the available time to think, reflect, re-connect with old friends and my alma-mater and plan the way ahead. I also spent some quality time pampering my old father and will always treasure those memories.
In Dec 2016, I was finally able to exit my first company and was happy that my moral responsibility to give an exit to our investors was fulfilled and the company and my ex-partners were on the next growth trajectory. I then chose to set up a virtual R and D company and am now once again very busy and exhilarated building it up from scratch.
I chose (along with my husband) to stay with our parents as a joint family and that meant that in the first 15 years they took care of us and in the last 7-8 years we took care of them till we lost them to old age. It also means that we feel very happy that we were able to do for them what was required during the lag phase of their lives.
In the end, it is the choices we make that determine how and what we achieve in our personal and professional lives. These with some other skills like time management, delegation of day to day lower end chores, micro focusing at a time, learning to cook quick and nutritional meals really help us along the way.
I end with a quote from Eleanor Rosevelt
One’s Philosophy is not best expressed in words, it is best expressed in the choices one makes........ and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.