First published on WomenInspiringWednesdays
How does anyone summarize more than 3 decades of life experiences to capture the essence, lessons and spirit of all that it entailed?
How does anyone share multi-facets of the 4M madness (an MBA from IIMB, Marriage, Medical issues (of self and in the family) and Motherhood) – many of which are relevant to very many women?
How do anyone summarize the ~15 years of corporate work experiences which encompass diverse aspects of business, process, domain, technology, team-work, customers, partners, travel, culture, leadership, mentor-ship and everything that define your career trajectory and make you what you are?
How does one say all that is to be said, read, understood and feel inspired in one blog post?
Well, here’s an attempt… Read on..
I’m Nischala Murthy Kaushik, and like to describe myself as a working mother, marketer, digital artisan, content crafter and blogger / writer / columnist. The penchant for ‘new’ and ‘novel’ experiences has fueled my life and career taking me across diverse life-stories. Most of these stories had a good dose of action, drama, villainy, emotion, humor and romance – just that the supporting cast changed every time based on the context, but I continued to play my part – which was obviously the lead role! And I still continue to play the lead role. This is my story!
As I crafted this piece, I wondered what story I should share here? One which was simple, powerful and universal to the trajectory of any / every woman’s life and career. Going down memory lane, each of the 4M’s has been a defining moment in my life; and has been a great experience of self-discovery, learning, strength, resilience, growth with its share of highs and lows. I’d love to share some of the key lessons which stayed with me at every point in this journey – with the hope that it compels you to ponder, wonder or meander in your mind or heart!
M1 – MBA from IIMB
I gave myIIM MBA entrance exam with very little preparation, and was sure I’d not get through. But I cleared the written exam, and sailed through the interview process. I also almost didn’t enroll in to IIMB because I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do. I had my reasons, or so I thought! Fortunately, my mother influenced my decision, and I did enroll into the MBA course. MBA from IIMB was defining for me because it exposed me to some of the best and brightest brains in India (both in terms of teaching faculty and student interaction) – Not to mention the learning was phenomenal.
What stayed with me?
- As women, investing in formal (higher) professional education is always a worthwhile investment. If you get any opportunity to enhance your knowledge, skills or professional networks – don’t let it pass. If you are serious about a long term career, a portfolio of diverse formal degrees / qualifications always works in your favor
- Mother’s always know what’s best for the kids. Listen to your mother with open ears and an open mind – especially after you turn 30.
- Networks and bonds which you form with people as part of your education / learning journey are usually stronger and tend to stay for life. And these networks usually help you through many a rainy / stormy day – So invest in them, nurture them and treasure them.
M2 – MARRIAGE
Marriage is an important event in any woman’s life. It is defining because the man, themother-in-law and the maid become important influencers in your career / life choices after that!I’m no different. Also in my case, that also involved a move abroad.So finding my feet in a new environment took its time, but with a “can do” mind-set and a willingness to walk the extra-mile, things fell in place.
I was also clear that I would continue to pursue an active career. Fortunately for me, there was a job opportunity abroad which I gladly accepted. In addition, I also enrolled into a local university and earned study credits for subjects of interest, along with a foreign language (German).
What stayed with me?
- As a woman, it is important to be clear on your personal career objectives and share it up-front before you get into matrimony. If you don’t say it out loud, chances are they’ll never know.
- Marriage, as with any life relationship involves give and take. You have to be prepared to do both – in your marriage and career. The sooner you accept your reality, acknowledge your circumstances and unique constraints and find creative solutions to keep going, the better off for you are in the long run. The more time you keep looking at closed doors, the longer it will take for you to open new windows and possibilities.
- As women, it is important to explore ways to expand your knowledge and skills – no matter where you are. This is especially true for many women who have to re-locate to a new city / country after marriage. Once you settle into marriage, explore ways to enhance your knowledge, skills and professional profile. Get a certification, organize an event, learn about a culture, hone your culinary skills – Key is to find ways to stay relevant for today and prepare for what tomorrow can bring your way
M3 – Medical issues (of self and in the family)
I’ve experienced up close and personal going through rough patches with my health, and going through medical crisis / emergency in the family for extended periods of time. Both are extremely trying – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, professionally and socially. Key is to be able to find ways to address current issues at hand, but also look into the future.
What stayed with me?
- Health is wealth – There is only so far you can go – if health does not favor you or your loved ones. So make health a priority in life – when the going is good.
- When you have good health, try to make as much wealth – Wealth can buy you (access to) good health – to some extent, and a lot of other things.
- Life’s too short and unpredictable. So for the people who matter, spend time, say what you have to say and make it count while they’re around.
M4 – Motherhood (Not once, but twice)
Here’s the thing about becoming a mother – You’ll never be fully prepared for it. And no matter who you are / what you do, it will transform your life, thoughts, emotions, priorities, interests, lifestyle, actions, needs, … everything! No life experience can be as intense as that of being a mother, and the journey taught me a lot about myself, people and the world.
But looking back, I started writing during my maternity leave. It wouldn’t be wrong to say while I gave birth to my baby, she gave birth to the writer in me. Simply during those days when I was confined to the 4-walls of the house, I had to find creative ways to keep myself intellectually stimulated and relevant, and blogging gave me an excellent canvas to do it. There’s been no looking back after that.
What stayed with me?
- Career choices after motherhood are very unique and personal to every woman. So accept your reality, get clarity on what you really want and slowly but steadily find ways to make it happen.
- Work life balance or Work life integration or work life resonance or work is life or life is work – All mean different things to you and me, especially as women at work. So find your mantra for your context
- Too many times, the biggest issue for working mothers is around (inflated) expectations and (continuous) judgment. Both are unnecessary – including self-judgment every day and unrealistic expectations every day! Accept that you are not a super-mom, and honestly I don’t even want to be one. I’m okay making reasonable choices and trade-offs – at work, at home and as a mother. As long as things are within boundaries, it’s all good!
- Once you are a mother, there will be phases when you need to take career breaks / apply the career brake. That is true for most women. In my experience, what really makes a difference are a few things
- Being clear on whether you want to work or not
- If you want to get back to work, set a timeline for when. Plan the how?
- And while you are on a break (for whatever reason), find ways to stay relevant to your subject and connected to your industry / people who matter!
- As mothers, we tend to be too accepting of everything. While acceptance is good, it can make your too comfortable – which is not good. Key is to push yourself out of the comfort zone by not accepting things.
- Lastly, remember that focus on your priorities, flexibility in how you can operate and going with the flow are really what takes you to the destination – as a working mother. No short-cuts here!
As I sign off, I hope you find your way through the madness in your life..