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


I moved to Levi Strauss, which was as different from ICICI as chalk is from cheese. From wearing stiffly starched cotton sarees and hobnobbing with CEOs in ICICI, I was now wearing Jeans to work and crunching away numbers in a cubicle in the corner. Those were happy days too- I was a busy mother and working woman; life could not have been better. That did not last-  after some tumultuous changes in jobs and locations over a two-year period from 1999 until 2001, I found myself in Singapore, with two school going daughters and no job on the horizon. I decided to take a complete break from work for a couple of years and concentrate on my home and daughters- little did I know then that the two year sabbatical would extend indefinitely and I would find myself doing things I had never done before.  That is when I learnt my third life-lesson- ‘Don’t hesitate to reinvent yourself- multiple times, if required.  Life rarely turns out the way you planned, but if you are willing to reinvent yourself, your new avatars could be as fruitful as your first, in different ways’.


From being a project financier and corporate planner, here I was, doing event management in the cultural space, starting to write, dabbling in a bit of photography and gardening, learning to play an instrument and being a mother, more than anything else. I was enjoying my new experiences, some of which I had never indulged in before.  While I did not have a primary income, I did have a secondary income from the investments I had made over the years. Which brings me to my fourth life lesson- ‘Start saving early- it will stand you in good stead in your later years’.  I have talked about fiscal prudence in an earlier article and again wish to re-emphasize the importance of fiscal prudence in your life.  I was always more of a saver than a spender and my beginning in ICICI had made me aware of various investment and saving avenues. I had invested (wisely for the most part, it would seem, in hind sight) in a variety of instruments- deposits, bonds, shares and real estate. And they were giving me a steady return when I had no primary income (by way of a salary) to call my own.


And that brings me to my last lesson which really is the most important lesson, by far- it is something I read about some time ago: how we operate in four domains during the course of our life- work, home, community and self. ‘Try not to be a master of all domains at all points in your life, but pick the ones important to you at any point in time and excel in them’. In the ultimate analysis of life, you cannot be a winner all the time (no matter what those leadership articles tell you)- something has to give.  If you prioritise your domains and excel in them according to your stage in life, it will perhaps give you the most satisfaction.  I tried to excel at work and home (to the extent possible) in the beginning of my career, then my focus shifted to my home and self and now with my children grown, my focus has again shifted to self and community and I am trying to do what I can to excel in these two domains at my current stage in life.


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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!

  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.

  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

  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

  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!


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