Friday, November 4, 2011

Life Lessons from Women Leaders for the young women of Corporate India ! – Part 1

How does this sound ! The department you work for in your organization plans to host a whole day summit exclusively for women to address topics such as work life balance, wholistic living etc!. Yahoooo! This is what every working woman looks forward to know and learn right !!

It was Nov 4th 2011 and the whole day sessions at the women summit were absolutely brilliant - Those that no work life balance books or any class room sessions would teach us. There were real life lessons from women leaders with recipes for both the "emancipated" and the I accept to work within my social system lot. It was really great and I could not resist myself from sharing it with all my women friends(My blog title says so too !!) . In this part 1 post I will cover the morning session and in the part 2 the afternoon session. Here we go...

The session started with a welcome speech by Usha Shekar and Jayashree Sridharan who themselves were women leaders and who shared a lot of insights throughout the day. The morning session was on “How balanced is your Scale” by Priya Raju, an emancipated woman leader who has around 19 years of experience with working in top tier software companies. She currently works with few NGOs and makes human impact by giving back to the society..

The session started with an icebreaker. Try answering them keeping in mind with whatever organization you work for

1. Who are my top management – example CEO, COO, CFO and CIO.
2. What is my company’s Current Stock Price, Net Profit, Market Cap and Annual Revenue
3. What is the most recent noteworthy event in the past few months in my company in the news.
The key take away here was that women NEED TO BE AWARE of all this.

Next was a survey. Again try answering them from your side.
1. How many hours do you work in a week? Are you able to stay long & work at odd hours in the office
2. How many hours per day do you spend taking care of family?
3. Do you have a sense of guilt when you choose your career over parenthood/family?
4. Have you turned down opportunities because it required a transfer or travel?
5. Do you have a mentor? If yes, how did you find the mentor?
6. How much time do you spend every week networking with your colleagues?
7. What does it take to succeed in a company like which you are working for?

Have you answered? If not do answer :). It helps you introspect yourself. Only then have a look below at some of sample answers from senior management
1. Top Management in any company works on an average 55 – 60 hours !! Working at odd hours are taken from home
2. Max 1 – 2 hours on week days. Weekends are set aside for family. Support system is built strong for week days with extended family , cooks and maids.
3. Guilt is useless. Instead focus on quality time. Share interesting incidents from work with your children so that they don’t feel left out
4. Do not assume transfers or travels are impossible. Talk with your family and see
5. Informal mentoring works best sometimes. Also don’t restrict mentors within your organization. Find industry peers through networking
6. Networking is taken seriously. It happens through Golfing, conferences, get togethers, meeting old college friends etc.
7. Passion(Nothing comes stress free . If you have passion atleast you will enjoy it), Commitment, Hard work and an attitude to learn and innovate

What do successful People want – To sum up they want
Career Growth
• Opportunities to Work on their Interests, Passions
• Successful affiliation with other people
• Compensation !

Next was on Networking: To give a background to networking the topic Productivity vs Creativity was discussed – Both indeed are necessary but instead of just working hard alone and achieving, when you network you connect with people and get novel ideas. You get to know what is most important and most relevant too ! Now on to What, Why, How and Where of Networking
What is networking – It is to share information in simple words. In ancient days it used to happened near water pools and today it happens near the water cooler at office ;).
Why Networking – To identify experts, to copy solutions for challenges already addressed, to see who shares common interest with you, to identify mentors.
How to network – You could talk about where you work, years of experience, current happenings. If shy, you don’t have to be life in the party ;). You could just atleast move around and listen to others than talking with only people whom you know. Speak to one person at a time. Practice introducing yourself. You could talk about weather, sports stock market (Read Economist!!). Follow them through on requests made by others etc
Where to network – in sports clubs, become a member in clubs like cosmopolitan club, gymkhana club (Maniratnam is a member here ;)), volunteer in an organization, attend industry wide symposiums. Do we hear “Ooooff. I don’t have the time for all this ;)”
•Then you need to do a calendar analysis ;). Classify your work as non work activities and work activities. The non work activities can be delegated. Introspect work activities – They can be again classified as productive and time wasters. Remove the time wasters. Take breaks for max of 10 to 15 mins. Have a coffee or a lunch on a week day with an acquaintance. You get to network and so also do not need extra time for the same
Pay it forward – It is an act of kindness without expecting anything in return, good karma or simply only when you help others someone else will help you.
Power of reciprocity – collect indebtedness
In brief
• Learn to introduce yourself in 30 seconds flat. (Elevator pitch !)
• Talk about what excites you to impress others
• If you find someone interesting/worthwhile, keep in touch.
• Don’t hesitate to call people from your network to get some help or advise.

Now that you have learnt a bit on Networking how do you project your accomplishments with subtleness and class without trumpeting ;)

Few examples of Accomplishments that matter
• Can they reuse your knowledge in another project? Have you created reusable tools?
• Have you added a feather to your department/organization
• Do you have rare skills?
• Have you achieved productivity improvements? Can they be replicated?

Now we will see Steps towards building a Story Around Accomplishments
• What was your responsibility in the achievement?
• Think of it as a very brief story – which means, it should have a Start, a Middle and an End.
Quantify your achievement – For e.g. “Our tool increased productivity by 25%”.
• Did you blast through the numbers? Did you over-achieve?
• Did you win an award, get extra bonus or a much coveted promotion due to this accomplishment?
• How did your achievement help others? Think about your customers, management team, peers etc

Key Takeaways:
Guilt is useless and being a role model is indeed important
• Keep yourself abreast with latest happenings and releases, gadgets, stocks, movies, music etc
• Expecting too much understanding from employer will make us be branded as “High Maintenance”. Instead focus on the end goal of good world class project and then our reasonable requests such as flexi, part time etc will all come automatically (You could sit in the beach and still code,test ;)).
Assertiveness is a skill that is REALLY essential
• Feel less ashamed for competition. As you move upwards you need to COPE with competition.
Delegate what possible and save some time for yourself
• Overcoming all these challenges is IN OUR HANDS. You paint your future :)

Thanks a lot Priya for all the hard work and efforts and truly the session was of a unique class very rich in content and with a penetrating delivery style and brought out the “strong woman from within” each of us. In fact this is indeed another form of human impact in the society.

All – I know it’s a little long blog but still all of the points were insightful and hence!. Stay tuned to part 2 for Shoba Sridharan ‘s talk on “Wholistic living” and Archana Raghuram’s6 paradigms that balance my life”


  1. Such meticulous Narration. :) As usual Awesome Kavitha !! Its like Kavitha attend panna nooru paeru attend panna maadhiri :)) Thoroughly inspiring persons.. Looking forward to the Part-2 :)

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  3. Absolutely mind blowing!! Every word of it speaks for itself. It didn't feel long and trust me coz am writing this at the middle of the night

  4. Thanks Srividya for your inspiring comments !

  5. Thanks Divakar for your kind comments

  6. Thanks Saranya for your kind comments and glad to know it is of help to you too. Really nice to see you are finding your ME time in the middle of the night !

  7. Thanks a lot for sharing Kavitha. Many people were talking about Priya's session when I walked in. I was regretting missing it. Thanks for the detailed post.

  8. Kavitha, this is going to be my home page, until i nail all these down :) :)

  9. Thanks Archana for your kind comments. My friends have been looking forward to part 2 which would cover yours and Shoba's. I have to post that too..It was indeed a brilliant one.

  10. @Meera :)
    Great...The day you nail all this down you would see yourself a women leader in the industry :) Thanks to Priya Raju...Wish you the best..

  11. Good one but its too long ..hoping blogs are for all to understand . Since am still nt into corporate guess this dint interest me in the beginning but later found inspiring . Ps ( the blog looks like the minutes of a meeting ) meaning u ave written down the whole summit u attented . though long it gives me a feel attending the summit after reading the blog . Good job ... inspiring though !