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Life lessons from a corporate career (or lack of it)


Last weekend, I was part of a panel that was supposed to interact with students of the EPGP program of IIM Bangalore- they were visiting Singapore as part of their ‘international immersion’- these were students with around 10 years of work experience, most of them were in their early 30s, some married with children. It has been 25 years since I graduated from IIM in India- I have not been a part of corporate life for 12 of those 25 years and was wondering what I could tell them that would be of interest to them. As I was ruminating over the past 25 years, I thought I could share with them some valuable life-lessons. Here is what I shared:

 

I began my career in ICICI in a conventional manner- I had not only just graduated from IIM, but had just got married as well. I was posted in Mumbai while my husband was in Chennai.  I went to Mumbai, ready to stay there as long as it took to establish myself and hoped that things would ‘work out’ on the domestic front.  As I was filling out my forms in the HR department, I asked the HR manager if I could possibly be posted in Chennai as it would make my life much easier.  ICICI was a project finance company in those days, not the retail bank behemoth it is today.  She said that ICICI had recruited me to be a part of the organisation and as there were projects aplenty everywhere, if being in Chennai would make me happier, then they would willingly send me to Chennai- off I went to Chennai having learnt my first lesson even before I had worked a single day in ICICI- ‘If you believe you deserve something, don’t hesitate to ask for it, for fear of rejection. You might just get what you asked for’.

 

I spent many happy years in ICICI, which in those days was a good place to work in, as a woman. It was perhaps, one of few places in India, where women seemed to have broken through the ‘glass ceiling’- there were many women role models to emulate and life was good. After almost 6 years, I asked to be moved to Bangalore and I moved.  The move did not work out as well as I had hoped- I had just had my second daughter and was forced to think of a change.  It was a big decision for me as I did not want to work anywhere else- I had assumed I would continue to grow and blossom in ICICI like many women before me- it was not to be. That is when I learnt my second lesson- ‘your first job is just a beginning- do the best you can, but be ready to move on; you will not only change many jobs in your lifetime, but perhaps many career paths as well- be prepared’.

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Renuka Vaidyanathan, an erstwhile finance professional, opted out of the corporate rat race and now likes to think that she wears many interesting hats. She is an events’ organiser in the cultural space and also writes every now and then about people, places and events. She is an avid advocate of 'green living' and dabbles in some sitar-playing as well, albeit as an amateur.

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7 thoughts on “Life lessons from a corporate career (or lack of it)

  1. Kritika Srinivasan

    Thanks for this post Renuka. While I read through the whole things, what particularly struck me was your last point – dont try to excel in all domains. I think this is something all women are guilty of – taking on too much and trying to be perfect in every role and every aspect. It struck a chord with me becasue I just finished working on the cover story of the PE issue that is even now going to print – Take the Pressure Off Parenting – and one of the best ways to do that is to not pressurise yourself to be the perfect parent, or even the best that you can be. I think we would be more relaxed parents if we enjoyed parenting more and we would enjoy parenting more, if we were more relaxed about it!

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  2. Vish A Viswanathan

    Well written article, Ms. Renuka.. You have articulated the thoughts and experiences of many (men or women), very well. Many of your points resonated well with me as I can relate them to my past experiences. I am sure this post will be of benefit to many who have or will encounter such decisions in their life. Thanks and keep up the great writing.

    Reply
  3. Mathew Thomas

    Dear Renuka. It was enlightening to read the blog. I have asked few of my friends and colleagues to go through this blog. Very well written. Shall surely follow to see more from you. Thanks

    Reply
  4. Devika

    Very inspiring and very well presented too! I echo your sentiments in that I too am a banker’s wife and have worked in around 12 educational institutions in various capacities as teacher, vice-principal, principal, lecturer and now into a government sector administrative role. True, the best is yet come….. that thought is the one that keps us going and makes life worthwhile! Kudos

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  5. Aparajita Bose

    Yes, of course! We, women, blossom the most when we take the pressure off ourselves – the pressure to be ‘outstanding’ in every sphere, whether it’s work or home. I’ve seen menfolk NOT taking things too seriously and hence NOT getting over-stressed. Whether we are playing roles of mothers or career women, or giving back to society through different kinds of service, when we do it all, without trying to excel in every field to prove ourselves better than menfolk, we are only being just to ourselves.
    I LOVED the article…….many well-expressed thoughts put across in a short article!

    Reply

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