She was one of the recipients of an award in a particular category, amongst the many other women who were receiving the award in other categories. Each woman came on stage and thanked “someone” and said that she had been able to get the award because of that “someone”. She, who I consider to be my Role model, was in two minds. She wanted to say that she had worked hard and hence, she deserved the award but that would be saying something very different to the rest of the women. She wondered whether she should tow the line or say what she wanted to. Finally, when she went onto stage, she said “I accept this award as a recognition of the hard work that I have done. While there are people who have supported me to be able to do the work, I have worked hard and am glad to receive the award”. There was a huge applause and every woman who walked onto the stage after her, took the credit for the good work done and didn’t pay tribute to someone else!
So, when I was thinking of what to write on the topic “The woman I am”, my thoughts also went on the path of talking about my mother, my daughter and everyone else because of whom I am the Woman who I am today. But then, this incident came to mind and I decided to write about myself.
I grew up in a conservative family as a very quiet, meek and timid girl. I was a plain Jane and my school test scores were average. I did what I was asked to do (which was not too much) and went about life. The first time I took my own decision was when I chose the subjects I would study at my undergraduate course. I had by then realised that I was good at Math and only Math. Hence, I did not want to take any other subject which was not Math! I looked around and found a combination of Maths, Economics and Statistics. I am talking about late 80s when such a combination was a rarity and no one ever knew what one could do by studying these subjects. Taking this decision made me experience the difference – The difference in the journey and the outcomes of taking a decision based on what I loved to do. I enjoyed my three years at college as these subjects were my pet subjects, and I topped every year at college!
As someone once said “All you need is passion. If you have a passion for something, you’ll create the talent”.
I knew that my parents would want to get me married as soon as I was done with my graduation. However, it was taking a while for them to find the “Mr. Right” and hence, I decided to study a bit more. While I could have gotten into a post graduate course in Math or Statistics as I had the top marks, and most of the students from my class did that, I decided to go for a course in Computers as that was the “happening” thing at that time. Knowing that I had limited time before I was married away, I thought of doing a course which was selling like a hot cake then. Everybody around me told me to go for the Post Graduate degree and do this Computer course along with it. As the course was only for 3 days a week and for 2 hours a day. But, I wanted to give it my whole and hence, I chose to do only this course. I knew I had the aptitude for this course and signed up for the four semester course. While the search for the groom continued, I completed my first semester. I decided to do my 2nd and 3rd semester in parallel as I was in a hurry to complete the course and get to a job. Again, everyone around me advised me against it as it would be tough, and I might spoil my grades in both the semesters. But, I had only one vision in front of me. Complete the course at the earliest and get a job. I went ahead with two semesters running in parallel. I did extremely well in both the semesters and before the end of the 3rd semester, had a contract job in hand.
As someone once said – “Create a vision that makes you wanna jump out of bed in the morning”
I had my 4th semester to complete along with my contract job. I was assigned to particular shift timings at work as were others as well who were selected from my institute for this assignment. But the shifts did not work for me as I had to hang around in the Computer institute for long hours waiting for a spare computer so that I could practice my assignments(as we didn’t have the luxury of a computer at home in those days). Well, I could have either messed up my studies by focussing on the job as it was my first job and a contract assignment and we were told that if we did well, we would be considered for permanent employment. Or I could have told them that I was not able to work in the shifts and come out of the job and focussed on my studies. But I decided to speak out my mind in the new company to my manager, stating that it was difficult for me to commit to a particular shift. She understood my need and gave me a dedicated computer so that I could come and go based on my institute hours as long as I finished the work on time, without errors. The rest of the team continued to work in shifts. I completed my 4th semester with flying colours and also did well at work and was offered permanent employment.
As Stevie Wonder said – “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”
The years when my parents were searching for a groom for me was when most of the boys were going to the USA as the software industry was booming there and one could make a lot of money by earning the dollars. I being an only child to my parents, made it clear to them that I did not want to leave them and go out of the country. It was a tough search criteria for my parents, it took them 4 years to find one such groom during which time they had to hear quite a lot from the relatives as to why they were accepting a criteria like that. I have been married for 24 years now and in these years, have, led the most happy life, both personally and professionally. Being around for your parents, and having them around you gives you the peace of mind that automatically makes you succeed in the other things that you want to do. I knew it very early on that if I had gone abroad after marriage, while I would have enjoyed my life in the foreign country and my professional career would also have done well, my parents would have been lonely here. Today, when I see some of my friends and family who went abroad and are unable to come back to take care of their parents due to multiple priorities that keep them there, I knew my decision then, though very different to what the rest were doing and also, one that didn’t necessarily look very appealing at that time, was the right one.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger said – “Trust yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks”
While I can write about many other phases of my life and decisions that I took, I would like to end by talking about how my career has shaped up for me. 25 years in a corporate setup, after which I headed a not for profit foundation for 18 months, and now I have a day job at an educational institution along with taking up freelance assignments. People often wonder how I managed to carve out a career like this. How did I find opportunities of this kind that took me to where I stand today? I attribute it to “Taking action”. It does not matter whether it’s a small assignment, a voluntary role, whether the organisation that you are contributing to is big or small, or the people that you work with have far less number of years of experience than you have. It’s an opportunity that’s come your way and you do your very best. Taking action is what I see missing in most people. Most people have enough and more reasons and excuses to not do something, but I give my heart and soul to every opportunity that comes my way. And that’s how my career has shaped up to where it stands today. An example of it is how I began writing. I started writing because I realized that my messages when I address audiences during conferences are making a large impact on them. I wanted to reach larger audiences and hence, started writing. It took me to winning the Orange Flower Award for writing. I connected with my fellow award nominees and came across the blog hop! Here, I am participating in my first blog hop with many more seasoned bloggers while I still don’t have my own blog site(my daughter has “lent” her blog site to me to publish this blog!).
TREAT EVERY INTERACTION AS AN OPPORTUNITY.
As someone once said – “Opportunities don’t happen, you CREATE them”.
That’s the woman I am, the only child to my parents, mother to a daughter, wife to a loving husband, a daughter in law, a sister in law, a cousin, a friend, a colleague and a mentor to many.
Written by- Neeraja Ganesh (M/O Sneha Ganesh)