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’.