What skills can fuel HER career path? | Part of series “Looks & Cooks to Voices, Choices & Joys”

WD-Skills-New

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Columnist / Byline In:  Economic Times | Huffingtonpost |  Wipro NewsCred Marketo |  Finextra | Inc42  |  Business2Community | ProBlogger  | Famous Bloggers | TheNextWomen|Nasscom | SheTheTVPeople | PaulWriter |  WomensWeb |  Sheroes PeopleMatters |  YoWoTo | 12Most.com  | ParentousThe Change Blog | Women Inspiring Wednesdays

Blog:  Nischala’s Space, Thoughts, Expressions [ Top Marketing Blogs in IndiaDirectory of Top Indian Blogs and Most Widely read Indian BloggersDirectory of Best Indian BlogsAlltop]

Twitter:  @nimu9 [Featured among Must Follow Indian Women on Twitter (2014), 50 Indian Women to follow on Twitter (2012)]

 Industry Associations / Mentorships: SINE (Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship – An IIT Mumbai initiative) | TLabs | Inc42 | SheroesIndia | BackToTheFront

Interviews and Media Mentions:
Newspaper Interview | Twittering Heights (Deccan Chronicle)
Featured in | 101 inspiring women aka rockstars
Featured in | Passionate Bloggers you should follow
Quoted in “Open letter to women looking for job
Quoted in “The best advice you’ll receive as young women starting your careers
Interview | My blogging journey – How it came to be?
Interview | A wise blogger
Interview | Secrets to Successful Blogging
Quoted in “Are entrepreneurs born or made?”

Speaker Sessions, Panel Discussions and Events (Real and Virtual): 
Career Investments that every women at work should make” ; Speaker session at Intel
Navigating careers in large organizations” ; Tweetchat hosted by Wipro
Making your network your net-worth” ; Panel Discussion hosted by BTTF (Back To The Front)
MyDigitalStory” ; Tweetchat hosted by SheThePeopleTV
The Art and Craft of Content” ; Speaker session at Wipro
Importance of Mentorship for women” ; Sheroes Summit

Other events / conferences that I’ve graced : Surge (Feb 2016), IAMAI (Jan 2016), TIE – Women Entrepreneurship (2015), EuroFinance Cash Management Conference (2014), Sheroes Summit(2014), PaulWriter -The Futurist CMO (2013)

Online Initiatives for the case and cause of Indian #WomenAtWork

Over the recent past, my conversations with women at work (at different phases / stages of life) has gone as below..

She: Hi.. Good evening

Me: Hello, How are you?

She: So you are a blogger.. Very nice

Me: Thank you

She: What is your blog about?

Me: My blog is called “Nischala’s Space, Thoughts and Expressions” in which I write about topics of professional interest – which revolve around women at work, marketing, social and leadership.

She: OK. Nice. I’ll surely read it. So, apart from your blog are there any online resources which can help me or any woman in her journey at work and life?

Me: Yes, and my answers are in this post. So read on 🙂

Listing them below in alphabetical order

Back To The Front (A Rize @ People Konnect Initiative)

Back To The Front aims to facilitate second careers for women by guiding them to incorporate work back into their lifestyle and reclaim their career. They  provide meaningful job opportunities by way of full time, part time, project based assignments and contractual assignments for women who have decided to get back to work. They also provide various customized programs to guide and coach through the entire process of on boarding to a fulfilling second career.

BizDivas (An Altavis initiative)

Biz Divas provides a platform for the women of our region to come together and raise a common voice for promoting women leadership across all walks of life. We identify invest and bring visibility to extraordinary women in business, corporates and public leadership. [Src: Corporate Website]

P.Inc

P.inc: Women Power@Work is an initiative supported by The Times of India that aims at bringing women who have taken a break from work, back into the workforce. The initiative, through seminars, training workshops and access to employers will provide career resources and a service support system to mid-career professional women enabling them to overcome challenges and return to working life. [Src: Corporate Website]

Sheroes

SHEROES is a woman’s career destination. With full time jobs, flexible jobs, mentorship & entrepreneurship opportunities, it’s the largest community for women

SHEROES welcomes women professional across levels, stages and sectors to pro-actively access the largest OpportunityScape for women. There is a diverse and large range of opportunities to pick from — these include opportunities with women friendly employers, flex friendly formats, mompreneur programs, partnership programs and more. The SHEROES Community gets access to career resources, information and community sharing. SHEROES Mentors engage actively to help women attain career success on their own terms [Src: Corporate website]

SheThePeople

Women across the world are actively joining the workforce, asserting themselves on issues and networking to become a strong force. In India over 60 million women are set to get online. From leaders, game-changers, board members, executives and entrepreneurs, sportswomen and politicians and every woman engaging in her goals, we are changing the conversation about them. We believe we are an active positive part of that change.

Companies and countries perform much better when they include and engage women in their workforce. Women in India, whether in farming communities or city centers, are taking steps toward becoming fully integrated and valued members of society. Many are setting up their own businesses, others are joining organisations that are ‘thinking’ women.

SheThePeople is their platform. A video story telling space that inspires women, strengthens their efforts, exchanges leadership ideas, fosters networking and reinforces their ability to contribute to growth. [Src: Corporate website]

Shenonmics

Shenomics is a success and leadership coaching platform for professional women. We help women build a success toolkit to thrive in their careers and their lives on a foundation of inner mastery. Shenomics offers practical tools, guidance and inspiration to accelerate your professional development by helping you hone the skills needed to shine as professionals and leaders, while supporting the inner work you need to live with purpose and passion. [Src: Corporate website]

WomensWeb

Women’s Web is THE place for the Indian woman who wants to stay engaged with the world, who believes that she has a place in the world, and ideas to offer. We focus on women’s self-development and pursuit of happiness, by offering information on career development, entrepreneurship, managing work and family, successful women, women’s health, social issues and personal finances. Our goal is to help women learn and grow! [Src: Corporate Website]

Now it’s great that there are so many initiatives, but “What’s in it for me as a woman?” might be your next logical question. To help you answer that, I’m drawing a comparative analysis of the offerings / services provided by each of them based on what I’ve read in the public domain

Job Postings / Opportunities Events / Meetups (online / offline) Mentoring Learnings and Inspiration (through content) Leadership Coaching / Training
BackToTheFront Yes Yes Yes Yes

No

BizDivas

No Yes Yes Yes

Yes

P.Inc

Yes Yes No Yes

No

Sheroes

Yes Yes Yes Yes No

SheThePeople

No No No Yes

No

Shenomics No No Yes Yes

Yes

WomensWeb No Yes No Yes

No

POINTS TO NOTE:

  • All the companies provide services beyond what is listed below.
  • Above comparison has been compiled based on my interactions with women at work, and what emerged as important factors
  • If there is any initiative which I have missed, please leave a comment below.

300+ years of women at work | What were her key career enablers?

Today is 8 March 2015. So Happy Women’s Day!

Anyone who reads me knows that women at work is a topic dear to me, and I hope my writings make a difference for the case and cause of women at work. Last year in 2014, I did a survey on women at work, and “women speaking to each other / sharing their stories” emerged as one of the top points on how women can support the case and cause of women at work.

As I looked in my network (real / virtual), I recognized that I knew several amazing women at work who were doing their bit and best to make it work every single day – with their grand dreams, grit, hard work, perseverance, focus and intelligence. So I thought “Why not capture the collective experiences and wisdom from these diverse women at different phases and stages of career and life?

So I connected with each of them and asked “What were the key enablers which made a difference in her life as a woman at work?” . Every single one gladly obliged to share her views and perspectives. So to all you wonderful women who feature below, Thanks for sharing parts and pieces of your life. I’m hoping it will help, enable and equip some woman somewhere in her career path.

Personally doing this exercise has take significant time and effort, but has been rewarding since I recognize that just getting diverse views and perspectives on the same question can be such a delightful and insightful read.

I’ll take-away a few insights beyond what is shared below:

1) For a woman to start and keep her career, the family / environment / ecosystem plays a very important role. So if you are a woman at work, say Thank You today to all those who made it happen. And if have a daughter, recognize the importance of your role and play the part!

2) Enablers are very different for women based on the stage and phase of life (single, married, mother, etc) they are in. So if you are a woman, acknowledge that the key enablers will change significantly based on your phase, stage, choices and context in life

3) In general, women at work are open to speak, willing to share and happy to contribute to the case and cause of women at work. So that is heart-warming, and I’m hoping it will get better from here. So if you are a woman at work, don’t miss any opportunity to share the nuggets and factoids of your career journey. You don’t know whom it can help and how, but makes a difference in the long run

Just one request – read / view on; and spread the piece. One share on Women’s Day for the case and cause of women at work is all I’m asking! Thanks again

Nischala IWD Final 1
Nischala IWD Final 2

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Connect with me on Nischala’s Social World
Columnist : Huffingtonpost | Business2Community | WomensWeb | Sheroes India | PeopleMatters | YoWoTo | 12Most.com | Parentous
Blog : Nischala’s Space, Thoughts, Expressions [Featured in Directory of Best Indian Blogs, Alltop]
Twitter : @nimu9 [Featured among Sheroes 20 Must Follow Indian Women on Twitter (2014) , 50 Indian Women to follow on Twitter(2012)]

Interviews and Media Mentions
Newspaper Interview | Twittering Heights (Deccan Chronicle, 2015)
Quoted in “Open Letter to Women looking for job
Quoted in “The Best Advice you’ll receive as young women starting your careers
Interview | My blogging journey – How it came to be?
Interview | A wise Blogger
Interview | Secrets to Successful Blogging
Quoted in “Are entrepreneurs born or made?”

12 months in 2014 taught me 12+ lessons as a Working Mother

As I look back on my career journey in 2014, I recognize that this year has been significant for me in very many ways. Firstly, I worked for one more year, so “+1” in my resume for number of years of work experience :). While there were some highs in this duration, this year was filled with rocky patches at work and my quest to find that elusive ‘work-life resonance’. What I realized along the way is this:

  • The ‘rocky patches’ at work will continue to exist , just that their dimensions and nature will change – but what matters the most is how you deal with it and how you let it affect your life– especially your self-confidence, self-worth and family / personal relationships.
  • There is no universal definition of ‘Work life resonance’. It is simply what works for you and what trade-offs are you willing to make for those choices. There is no right or wrong. You should be able to go to bed at night in-spite / despite your choices, and that’s what counts.

But beyond this, every month of 2014 taught me something which inspired a specific writing piece. In this post, I’m putting it all together to share my Reflections and Lessons as a Women at Work

January : It is the start of the New year. New beginnings. New possibilities. This year I did not start with goals or resolutions, but with questions . Asking yourself the right questions at the start of the year or at a critical phase in life compels you to think, ponder, understand – and many times burst your bubble so you can see things clearly. Click-over to this post on “Questions to Ask and answer for yourself”. As we end 2014, and enter into a new year 2015 – I strongly recommend you answer to yourself these questions too

February : This is the month of love, and as clichéd as it sounds “Self-Love is the best love”. And learning something new / interesting / exciting is a great way to love yourself. Click over to this post “Love thyself: Learn something new” to get inspired on learning something new

March: I realized that self-belief is key to keep and succeed in your career and life as a working mother. That inspired my post on “I believe in you, Do you?”. So the big question is Do you believe in yourself?

It was also the month when I truly realized the power of “Only Women” Social networks which inspired the post on women communities can be powerful peer-group support networks – which act as friends, guides, advisors or just punching bags to release all that is within your heart or mind

The other big take-away was about the importance of Saying NO and why women find it so hard to say No went into this post on “Women – When did you last say NO?” If you can’t recall when you said No to someone, try it today!

The other topic I felt strongly about is the need and importance for mentorship among women professionals, which went into a post called “Mentors for working women – Essential, but do they exist?”

April: As a working mother, I realized that I could not function without taking help – both at work and at home. But there is some science, skill and art in asking for help which inspired my post on “Asking for help : Are you an A+ or D-“

May : This was the month that I realized that as working mothers 3F’s were important for long term career continuity and growth. Focus on what is important, Flexibility at critical life phases and Flow to keep your work and life going. These insights went into my post “A Working Mother’ Career Continuum : Focus, Flex. Flow

June: This was a time when I realized that for more women to continue meaningful careers and to flourish at work, we need systemic multi-dimensional change and those thoughts went into my post titled “Do we need a Lean In movement in India?”

July: This was the month which marked the “rocky patch” at work for me. And I was unable to write. I did let it affect me in more ways than one. However, over the next few months, I found ways to deal with it

August : It was the month when I wondered about the need and importance for women to work. That inspired one of my most popular posts “ Why women should work? – Here are 30 good reasons” .Do read and feel free to add to the list with your comment

September : This was a defining month for me personally when I realized that so much needs to said and done for the case and cause of Indian Women At Work. Since I had already a significant body of writings on this topic, and felt strongly about it – I launched a new section on my blog for Women At Work. Do read, and if want me to write anything in specific, please leave a comment. I do plan to write more on this subject in 2015

I also tried to find mantras to live by as a working mother, and those thoughts came together on my post titled “Working Women : Mantras to Live By”. This was shared generously in several networks.

October: This was a busy festive month / season and as I tried to navigate through expectations of work and personal-front, I needed some guide to help me focus and prioritize on things which I need to do regularly. These thoughts came together in one of my first infographic titled “Sheroes Must Do’s : Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly”. I find it a useful reminder every now and then

November : If there a prize for the FAQ(Frequently Asked Question) that I was asked in 2014 by women in my network, it was this. I’m on a career break and want to resume work. What options, possibilities, opportunities exist? It is to answer this question that I put in significant effort in one of my most shared post “Know a woman (in India) on a career break and looking to resume work? You must read this post

It was also the month that the team at SheroesIndia invited me for their Delhi Summit. It was a wonderful experience, and I wrote about my lessons, insights and experiences here.

December: 2014 was also the year I finished 14 years of work experience, and so in the spirit of sharing what I learned all these years, I wrote a post “14 cherished lessons from 14 years of corporate work experience.

So that sums up my lessons as a working mother in 2014. What did 2014 teach you? Leave a comment to let me know.

First published here

“Time to use voices and leverage to be trailblazers in women at work conversations” says the US First Lady Michelle Obama, and I agree 200%

Several weeks ago, I came across an article on the White House Summit on Working Families which was held earlier this year (2014). Convened by the US president, Mr. Barack Obama the focus was on how to strengthen workplaces to better support working families, boost businesses’ bottom lines, and ensure America’s global economic competitiveness in the coming decades . According to the web-site, “The White House Summit on Working Families, hosted jointly by the Center for American Progress, the Department of Labor, and the White House Council on Women and Girls, will convene businesses, economists, labor leaders, legislators, advocates, the media, and ordinary citizens for a discussion on issues facing the entire spectrum of working families – from low-wage workers to corporate executives; from young parents to baby boomers caring for their own aging parents.

As I read more about the Summit, the speakers and discussion areas, I came across a video interview by the First Lady, Michelle Obama. If you are a working woman / mother, you should watch it! Her  openness to speak about the ‘real issues’ which plague working mothers, honesty, grace, articulation, style, humor and wit make it a compelling watch.

It was one of those videos which I found myself nodding all along – because I could connect with her observations, reflections, insights and perspectives.

In this post, I am sharing the key messages that resonated with me, and why?

1) Right time to Connect and Converse about topics related to women at the workplace

One of Michelle’s key message across the video is that “It is important for individuals in a position of influence to use their voices, power and leverage to discuss woman at work issues, and make positive changes within their sphere of influence” .

This is probably as relevant as in India as it is in the US. I agree that the time is right. If not now, then when?

Looking back at my professional experiences and my writing / blogging journey, that is probably one of the main reasons why I write about “Women At Work” on my blog. It is my way of leveraging my voice and influence to bring to the fore-front conversations, observations, insights and solutions on this subject. Trust me – as a working mother of two, this takes time and effort from my end, and compels me to de-prioritize several other things in my life to keep my blog regularly updated. But I feel strongly on the subject, and hence I make that effort in the hope that my voice and views can make a positive difference to some women somewhere in the world and at some time in her life.

2) Kids are the most important legacy we will ever leave

Again Michelle’s key message is that as a mother, children are among the top priorities in your life. She says that acknowledging and accepting your reality as a working mother (and all that it entails every single day) can be empowering because you can be open and up-front with your employer / team / workplace environment. This is important as it helps set expectations which holds you in good stead on the long run.

I couldn’t agree more. Children will be among the most important legacy any mother / parents leave, and hence it is important to do the best you can for their growth and development. As a working mother, I know I struggle with getting the priorities right in my head, and then living them every day. But I also know that the days my priorities are crystal clear to me, navigating through the course of the day (both at work and at home) becomes a lot easier.

3) Work Life Balance is fragile

I particularly like the way Michelle Obama mentions that work balance is fragile, and is thrown off with a broken toilet, a sick child, a sick parent, the day a baby-sitter is on holiday, etc.

Again, so very true. The number of variables that can influence the daily life of a working mother is mind-boggling that thinking about it can be truly unnerving.

In India when most working mothers rely significantly on paid domestic help / support stuff for day-to-day home maintenance it is indeed a very fragile thread that one treads on. And not to mention with the variety and rounds of infections doing the rounds, as a working mother I wake up everyday praying and hoping that my kids are healthy and can go to school. Almost all working mothers I know struggle to find the ways to keep that balance intact.

A few years ago, when I resumed work after my maternity leave, I was in conversation with a well-meaning work colleague who asked me about my long term career plans. Honestly, I said that my only goal was to show up to work every day, and give my best and make it count as long as I am there. Really, I couldn’t think beyond this because I really didn’t know if I’d wake up on a sick child, on a baby-sitter calling in sick, or anything else. The reality is that it is impossible to think long term when you are a mother of a small baby. The other fact is that kids grow up and their needs change, so these are passing phases. So if you are a working mother, it is important to hang in there and try to have career continuity if you are keen on a long term career

4) Women at Work issues are real and affect both men / women

This is so true! Women at wok issues affect the lives of men, women, children, workplace and society at large, and hence it is not only a “woman’s issue” really. Time has come to get men into the conversation, and to get them to think, speak and act – to support the women in their lives.

For a lot of men I know, women at work issues are really “women’s issues” – by virtue of their DNA, conditioning, upbringing and life pressures. No, they are not! Simply because that woman can be your daughter(-in-law), sister(-in-law), mother(-in-law), grand-mother, friend. And the decisions, choices and trade-offs made today (by both men and women) affect the life of women at large in the long run.

So the time is right to do what needs to be done.

5) However strong you are, being a working mother can make you vulnerable

Again in all honesty, Michelle confesses that she is a strong woman, but “the minute your kids come to the world, they rip your heart out of your chest. Every child is different, and you don’t know how you are going to feel when they come into the world”.

I think any mother will echo with this sentiment. Again, I speak from personal experience here – There are several moments in the course of every single day when you feel vulnerable as a working mother- flooded with emotions of guilt, self-doubt, concern, anxiety wondering if you are doing the right thing, worrying how things will work out, wondering if your kids will turn out okay. The sooner you learn to accept your “vulnerability”, and find a way to deal with it – The better things get with time.

6) Never take education and opportunities for granted

I couldn’t agree more. I think as a working mother, it is so important to value your education, knowledge, skills, opportunities and support. Never ever take anything for granted.

7) Employers need to do their very best to support the case and cause of women at work

In the start of the video, the discussion is around the fact that “Less than 5%, only 24 CEO’s of US Fortune 500 companies are women” which means there is ample room for making things better. And that holds true for India too.

Another note-worthy point was about how working “part-time” on part time salary is really not a wise choice because you continue to work full-time for a half-time pay.  Again relevant for India too

She sums it up beautifully when she says “It is important to get employers to understand the lives / needs of working mothers. Employers need to understand that as working mothers your kids well-being is so important. If children are not healthy, whole or happy , you are going to carry that worry to work and there will be an impact on work”

Again, I couldn’t agree more. I surely do think that employers / organizations need to do more to extend the required help / flexibility to ensure working mothers have career continuity and success.

These were the messages which stayed with me. What about you? Leave a comment to let me know…

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Know a woman (in India) on a career break and looking to resume work? You must read this post…

There are so many Indian women who end up taking a career break. If “What options, possibilities and opportunities exist?” is your question, you’ll find answers in this post..

She is well educated

She was a career woman

She was financially independent

She loved her work

She loved the professional identity

She really enjoyed having an active work life

As she traversed the journey of life..

The inevitable happens

Marriage or Motherhood or Ill-health (of self, spouse, kids, ailing parents / in-laws / relatives) come knocking at her life

And then it happens..

THE inevitable CAREER BREAK

Sometimes it is by choice

Sometimes it is by lack of choice

Sometimes it is the cause and effect of the circumstances

She has no escape

Whether she likes it or not, she has to take that CAREER BREAK

For some it is 3 weeks, for some it is 3 months, and for some it is 3 years, and for some it is 30 years, and for some it is a lifetime!

Here’s the thing that I learned when I interact with so many women who had been / are going through a career break |

Women on Career Break

In this blog, I’m listing down the very many resources which can help (m)any women across India – who are on a career break and are looking to re-enter into active workforce.

I personally believe that many kinds of resources help.

One is surely a list of job postings. Anyone can choose from the available listings based on your skill-set, priorities and terms with which you want to work on.

Beyond that, a lot of planning and mental / emotional preparation goes in for many women to re-integrate into the workplace – Whether it is upgrading of knowledge / resources or a trust-worthy community who shares experiences and perspectives or mentorship to answer questions (however basic they may be!) – They all make a difference

For ease of navigation, I’ve logically grouped these into 3 categories:

CATEGORY 1 : COMMUNITY INITIATIVES

P. Inc – Women Power@Work is an initiative supported by The Times of India that aims at bringing women who have taken a break from work, back into the workforce. The initiative, through seminars, training workshops and access to employers will provide career resources and a service support system to mid-career professional women enabling them to overcome challenges and return to working life. P.inc aims at being a one-stop solution in empowering working women with everything they need to regain their jobs.

ReLauncher – An initiative and a professional returner program for women professionals with the aim of helping them with their non-linear career needs.  They offer two kinds of value added services. The first is enricHER, which helps women professionals enhance their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and master the art of giving interviews.  The second is ‘Freelancer and SelfstartHER’ which helps professionals create online presence and support to establish them as entrepreneurs

Sheroes – SHEROES welcomes women professional across levels, stages and sectors to pro-actively access the largest OpportunityScape for women. There is a diverse and large range of opportunities to pick from — these include opportunities with women friendly employers, flex friendly formats, mompreneur programs, partnership programs and more. The SHEROES Community gets access to career resources, information and community sharing. SHEROES Mentors engage actively to help women attain career success on their own terms

Reboot – Reboot is a Network of and for Women Professionals. It is a platform for Women Professionals and Corporate India, to come together. Reboot, will help you figure that: help re-build your confidence, help you with resumes and interview preparation, in short, be with you through your transition, your journey. Reboot is a network for women professionals, who want to get back into the workforce as well as those who are already there and now want to explore flexible and smart, effective and efficient options of work.

FMC (First Mom’s Club) Rebooted – Stories / Narratives of inspiration for women (mothers) who have re-invented themselves to manage the elusive work-life balance : Managing and Balancing work and motherhood

Womens Web – THE place for the Indian woman who wants to stay engaged with the world, who believes that she has a place in the world outside the home. We focus on women’s self-development and pursuit of happiness, by offering information on  career development, entrepreneurship, managing work and family, successful women, women’s health, social issues and personal finances. Our goal is to help women learn and grow! While the site shares a lot of diverse content, many of the posts speak about ‘real issues’ from ‘real women’ on how to navigate your career path in case of a break

CATEGORY 2 :JOB POSTINGS

Sheroes Job Bulletin

PInc Job Bulletin Board

RelaunchHER Job Board

AVTAR I-WIN (Interim Women Managers) – AVTAR I-WIN is India’s first staffing service, providing Interim Women Professionals for part-time, flexi-time career options with corporates.

Work from Home Options for women – Work from home opportunities for women. An ever growing community of well qualified women, who are as dedicated towards our work assignments, as to our families. Women in the group are experienced and are from almost every domain. Currently 6000 + in number and are still growing.

FMC Job Bazaar – Periodically, FMC conducts a “Job Bazaar” which provides a marketplace ecosystem for women to share their profiles and job postings / requirements.

CATEGORY 3 : ORGANIZATION / CORPORATE INITIATIVES

Vapasi from ThoughtWorks – Aimed at IT women who are on a career break and keen to resume active work, this program spread over four weeks will help women sharpen your programming skills

Micorsoft Women in Tech – Initiative aimed at bringing in more women into the Indian IT industry. Through this program, Microsoft will attract and retain women talent in the industry. Along with partners, Microsoft will train and mentor one million girls and women in the next 12 months.

Tata Group Second Career Internship Programme (SCIP) -“A career transition management programme for women professionals who have taken a break of 6 months or more for any reason, and wish to re-enter the professional space. The programme provides opportunities for such women to take on flexi-hour assignments with various TATA group companies. Tata Group companies provide live business projects requiring approximately 500 hours of engagement spread over 6 months on a flexi time basis. There is no placement guarantee at the end of the project. However, SCIP consultants have the option of exploring full-time employment on mutually acceptable terms with the respective Group Company if the same exists.” The programme offers live business projects with flexible schedules and project-based employment to women who have taken a career break of six months to eight years. Women are taken on as consultants in departments such as HR, marketing, finance, legal, manufacturing, communication, engineering and other corporate domains, for six months. After this, those who are ready for full-time jobs are absorbed.

Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) Career By Choice – is based on the insight that there is a need for a gradual transition as women on a career break to step back into the working world. To ease this transition, HLL designed a comprehensive programme that balances a woman’s personal and professional needs. Career By Choice allows women to structure your work around your life and the other way around!

IBM ‘Bring Her Back Program – Meant to attract back women who have taken a mid-career sabbatical. “Any woman professional with the requisite skill-set can apply, and anyone with, at maximum, three years of personal sabbatical qualifies for the programme. Began in 2011

SAP ‘Stay in Touch – The company ensures that women employees return to work after a sabbatical or maternity leave.

Mahindra Satyam :  Start Over programme – which reaches out to women who have taken a career break.

Axis Bank – India: ‘Re-connect’– offers jobs to former women employees who have left the system in the past 10 years, in select states. The bank now plans to take it national. Began April 2014. To know more, click  here.

General Electric, RESTART at GE John F. Welch Technology Center – Hires female technologists and engineers returning from career break at this largest of GE’s global research centers. Send resume or CV to restart.jfwtc@ge.com

Goldman Sachs Returnship – Programme for women returning after a break. To know more, click here

Google India : gCareer – An opportunity to work with Google for qualified women professionals who have taken a break from active working life for a year or longer. Began in Jaunary 2014. See this article for reference.

CapGemini – As part of the exclusive, women-only campaign, CapGemini is inviting resumes from enthusiastic and talented women—currently on a career break—who are looking to get back to their careers. Click here to know more

Women Scientist Programs – for providing opportunities to women scientists and technologists between the age group of 30-50 years who desire to return to mainstream science and work as bench-level scientists.

While it is heart-warming to see so many initiatives for the cause of the Indian women at the workplace, I believe we still have a long long long way to go ..

NOTE: I have not personally used all of these services, nor do I know the exact current state / status. However, I have read / heard/ know of women who have used some of them. Also, the description for this list is mostly from publicly available information

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Did you find this useful? Please share it with any woman who many benefit from this

Did I miss any specific initiative in this list? Please leave a comment to let me know

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Women at Work | Round-up of articles to read today

The regular readers of this blog know that I’ve started a new section on this blog around the topic of Women at work / working women.

Here’s the thing | Being a working woman, I regularly read on this subject – simply because it enable and equips me to appreciate and understand multi-dimensional issues, and possible solutions. I can safely say that there is a lot of literature on this subject, and a lot lot lot more is required. Many times when I read something, I wish someone had shared it with me much earlier. The thing about reading is that “timing sometimes makes all the difference“. So on this blog, I’ll be  periodically sharing a round-up of articles for your reading – hoping that the timing is right – for both you and me

I’ll structure them into 3 sections

Section 1 – Worth a Read | News, Views, Opinions and Perspectives related to women at work

In work reviews, women are criticized for personality rather than performance First she studies, then she gets a job, then she performs. And lastly, you are criticized for your personality! How much better can it get. An interesting article which highlights the differences between how men and women are appraised

Women company directors: can quotas change the status quo? A Forbes article on Quotas and gender diversity language in corporate governance codes do result in a higher percentages of women directors

Gender Inequality’s Latest Victim: Flex-Time Requests Very interesting read since it highlights how flex-time requests are viewed for men and women, and how a woman’s career is impacted, even though flex-time is her crying need today.
 

Section 2 – Worth a Share | Resources to enable, empower and equip women in your work and beyond

Book – Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology BY Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya is the voice of hundreds of great women and aims to motivate and inspire thousands more to join the innovation economy–and better the world.

Pink Petro initiative Very interesting initiative as the 1st online social media platform built by the energy sector for “women, girls and diversity advocates

Springboard An ecosystem where influencers, investors, and innovators meet to build great women-led businesses. Their 562 women-led companies have raised $6.5 billion, including 11 IPOs.

 

Section 3 – Worth a Thought | Writings which compel you to think, reflect and introspect

Why do you think women should work? What are the top 10 / 20 / 30 reasons? Here’s an answer

Are you a mom looking for a business idea? Here is a fantastic list of 25 ideas

 Why is it so hard for working women in India? A perspective on multi-dimensional issues

Quitting your job to find your passion?An honest encounter of a working woman, the considerations / deliberations when you quit after a decade of work life

 

NOTE: If you think this post could enable / equip / empower another woman as she navigates her path at work and in life, please share. Thanks for reading me!

Enjoy your weekend!

 

 

Launching “Women at Work” | A new section on this blog…

If you’ve ever read or followed my blogs, you’ll know that Women at Work is a topic very close to my heart.

Why? Because I’m a woman, I work and I’d love to see more women at work finding their spot under the sun.

I dream of a tomorrow where

  1. The workforce includes at least 50% women by default
  2. Women are given “right, fair and equal” opportunities, exposure, experiences and environment to blossom and reach their true potential
  3. Globally, there is at least 30% representation of women in business, politics, policy, education, reforms and everywhere where it counts
  4. She is not “discriminated” against in any way in any phase of life (especially for her gender, physical appearance, social standing, or choices of life)
  5. At work, she is compensated and progressed for her knowledge, skills, competence, performance and results
  6. She never experiences abuse of any kind at the workplace – physical abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, financial abuse or social abuse
  7. She can “truly” exercise her choices – with respect to education, choice of career and employment, choice of her life partner and the decision to be a mother ; and also have a satisfying career on her terms
  8. She does not face the “glass ceiling” (which exists even today for women) as a part of her professional career
  9. She has “true” freedom and control over her personal finances
  10. She believes that she can aim for the stars, and reach the sky – if she sets her mind on it
  11. The law of the land / policies / processes will protect her for her rights and interests; and not tilt in favor of power, position and money

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve written on various issues / subjects related to women at the workplace on my own blogs and in my columns on n WomensWeb and SheroesIndia.

I’m also at a point in my professional career where (young) women [There! I said it! – I’m now part of the older generation 🙂 ] come to me for advice, suggestions and general career guidance – from fundamental questions to “Should I work?” to more complex questions around “Is entrepreneurship right for me?

I generously share my perspective with the hope that it enables, empowers and equips them to make the right choices and decisions, and try to play a small part in “rightly” shaping their career trajectory

Here are a few facts I learned along the way

(1) Women at the workplace – Issues exist, and are complex – Every one of us is unique, including the woman. So there is no “universal set of problems / questions” and no “One size fits all” solution / answers. A lot depends on the women, the kind of person she is, her aspirations, her upbringing, her mental conditioning, her supporting ecosystem, her education, the kind of career choices she has made and the company she is currently employed with.

(2) It is tough for working women – in India and all over the world. So firstly, kudos to all those women who brave it out there every single day by showing up to work, and working through the day! Things will only get better from here is what I believe.

(3) Things are changing and evolving for the better; but a long way to go – It is a crucial point in time for women at the workplace. Many women are now educated, confident and aspiring to make a mark at work, but multi dimensional issues exist, and impede the career progress and growth at various points in her career path. From corporate policy, to power equations (at home and work), to legacy (of systems, people, processes, culture) and how things have always been, to general public safety, to workplace dynamics, to the era / society we are living in.. It is a complex complex complex equation.

(4) Conversations make all the difference – I’ve been through lots of good, bad and ugly experiences as a part of my professional career. Let’s face it – by law of averages, that it is how anyone’s career will be. For a long time, I stayed silent. I did not share or speak about my issues until I realized that it was the biggest disservice I was doing to myself, and the cause of women at the work place. One conversation may / may not change things. But it is a start. It can get people thinking. It can show you a new perspective to an old problem. It can open doors / possibilities which you never knew existed. And if it does not really help you directly, it will help hundreds on women somewhere down the road. And trust me, that one conversation is worth your time and their time. So speak up!

(5) Where you reside influences your decisions and impacts your choices more than you realize – As a working woman, you can’t ignore the influence of your immediate living environment on the challenges you face, the choices and decisions you make.  Every country has its own legacy, history, evolution, growth story, political scenario, policies, laws, educational framework, economic growth, culture, “ways of living” and employment guidelines which influence the mind-set of the “community at large”; and this creates unique set of country-specific-issues when it comes to the topic of “Working women and the issues they face”. India is no exception.

Given that its a subject so dear to me, I’m starting a new space on this blog called Women At Work in which I aim to share observations, insights, lessons, perspective, opinions, resources and stories of / for / by women at work. This space aims to be a hub of information for women / working women / working mothers on things which can help you be productive on a daily basis, bring you a smile on a gloomy day, share information on resources that can keep you going through your career journey or which can help you navigate through office politics and power.

You’re worth it
You deserve it
You’re meant to fly..
Will you?

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
And I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
BY Robert Frost

As I sign off,  I hope you find your space and spot – under the sun, at the workplace and at home.

50 Things I wish I’d truly understood (as a WOMAN) when I started my corporate career

A lot of times I get asked questions around what it takes to be a career woman in the corporate world. Invariably, my answers vary based on whom I am speaking to. Simply because a lot of things make up that elixir – Desire to work (or need to work for some women), Passion, Dedication, Commitment, Hard-work, Experience, Qualifications, Personal Brand, your professional networks and advocates and the kind of person you are.

While a lot is written and discussed on this subject, some critical points often get missed out. In this post I am sharing 50 things I wish I’d truly understood when I started my corporate career, albeit many of them are less spoken! While I have burnt my fingers many times on many of these points, the aim of writing it is to probably help you / some working woman in her career journey.

1)      The word CAREER starts with CARE. So take full responsibility to CARE for yourself, your professional growth and success

2)      Have career goals and objectives – Both short-term and long-term. You will go and grow only as far as you want to!

3)      Plan your career in line with your goals and objectives. Have a Plan A. Plan B. And Plan C. Many women are guilty of having no real career plan

4)      Know yourself – Discover your strengths and weaknesses. Be aware of them, accept them (including the fact that you are a woman) and find ways to improve and improvise.

5)      Believe in yourself. If you don’t there’s a chance that others also won’t

6)      Value yourself if you want others at work to value yourself

7)      Learn to say NO – at the workplace and at home. And No means NO. Make sure you understand it, and those around you understand it too

8)      Find a mentor. Having one early on in your career can sometimes be the only factor in determining how long your career will span, and how far you will go

9)      Invest in professional networks. They will hold you in good stead on the rainy days.

10)  At work – Show up. Own up. Speak up.

11)  You are the “CMO” (Chief Marketing Officer) of your work and career. Promote yourself and your work. Again, a lot of women lose out because they don’t get due credit and visibility for what they’ve done

12)  Read the news / Know what is in the news – General knowledge is always good

13)  Invest in your physical health and wellness – This will be one of the most important variables if you are serious about a long term career

14)  Learn to use technology for your benefit. Make an effort to know what you need, understand the power of technology and find ways to make technology work for you.

15)  Stay relevant in your field – read, take examinations / certifications, participate in community discussions, etc.

16)  Build your personal brand image – At work and out of work. Brand YOU should stand for something unique and reflective of you

17)  Communication is critical to success – Invest in enhancing you oral and written communication skills. This can sometimes be the most critical aspect of your career growth

18)  Presentation skills – Both creating presentations and making presentations is a must-have skill. Invest in learning

19)  Learn to negotiate. It does not come naturally to most women, but it can be learnt over time

20)  Learn to ask for help . It is OK to ask

21)  Make a personal resolution to learn something new periodically. Learning is one of the best ways to love yourself

22)  Find ways to improve productivity at work and home. Small things make a big difference

23)  To have a fair chance at success as a working women, learn to prioritize your work

24)  Knowing when to shut-up and when to speak-up is a personal asset. Speaking when you shouldn’t and not speaking when you should can become a liability

25)  Choose your battles wisely – at work and at home. You have finite energy and time, and not every battle is worth a fight

26)  When in doubt, use common sense, presence of mind or the Buddha Expression. They almost always work!

27)  Every now and then ask yourself the difficult questions. They will burst your bubbles and show you the clear picture

28)  Develop a daily routine and stick to it. For at least 3 months before you make any changes.

29)  Periodically, think and measure your ROTI (Return on Time Invested) for the things that you do – at work and out-of-work. If the returns don’t justify your time and efforts, pause and reflect and change course

30)  Give yourself some “ME Time” – every week to do at least 30 minutes of something you love. This will rejuvenate you

31)  Understand that while emotions define most women, control on your emotions will define your career path and its longevity

32)  Have “genuine” interests outside of work. Cooking, Dance, Writing, etc. Whatever! Find something and do it every now and then

33)  Have friends out of work. They will be critical to keep you going through the rough tides, and will provide the much needed ear, shoulder and perspective on those dark gloomy days / nights

34)  At work, it is about business. Don’t take / make everything personal

35)  Office politics is real and here to stay. Find a way to deal with it

36)  If you are at cross-roads / in a tough situation at work, make sure you speak up and share it with the right audience at the right forum. Even if it does not directly help you, it will indirectly help all the women who may face a similar situation in the future. One small voice can be the start of positive change, right?

37)  While earning is important, managing your finances and investments is even more critical. Save regularly, invest wisely and review your personal finances periodically. If you can’t / don’t have the time, hire professionals to do it. It is a worthwhile investment. Again, a lot of women are guilty of being clueless about where all their money went

38)  “The most important career choice a woman makes is who she marries” BY Sheryl Sandberg. This is 100% true. Understand its depth and accept its reality

39)  Work-Life Balance is elusive, and somewhat of a misnomer. Bottom-line, it is your work, your life and your balance. If it works for you, then all is well

40)  There is great inspiration and power in the “All women social networks”. Find one or two that interest you and become a member. Listen, Express and Share.

41)  If and when you become a mother, there will be a time-period (ranging between weeks to 3 years or more) when there could be a career break / you need to apply the career brake. That’s OK! If you are serious about a long term career , positive and objective, things will fall in place over a period of time

42)  Focus. Flow and Flex are the three foundational pillars for a working mother’s career continuum. They all play their role in the career graph of a working woman

43)  Once in a way, take up the cause and help another working woman. Just imagine the difference it can make if 1 working woman supported 1 other working woman for sometime

44)  No matter how complex, formidable, complicated and unique you think your situation is / maybe, remember that there is at least one other woman in the world who has faced a similar situation and found a way out of the adversity. So it is possible. Believe in it

45)  Every now and then, connect and speak with a working woman who is finding her way amidst the jungle for her spot in the sun. Personally, I always take away some wisdom, nuggets or insights from every such interaction, and they help me tremendously

46)  Try to stay positive no matter what! It does you more harm than good, and easier said than done. But worth a try!

47)  Have an open mind to try out unchartered territories at work.

48)  Age and Karma almost always catch up on you – no preferential treatment for women here J

49)  Your happiness is in your hands. You are the “Chief Happiness Officer” of your life. Play the part, and play it well J

50)  Thank (often and in your own personal way) your parents, your education, your teachers, your friends, your colleagues, etc. who all played their bit in shaping your career. Nothing takes you from good to great as fast as gratitude.

On that note, Thank you for reading me. And have a great day and a long prosperous career ahead.

Originally published here

The Working Mother’s Career Continuum: FOCUS. FLOW. FLEX

The Working Mother’s Career Continuum: FOCUS. FLOW. FLEX

Let me start with the wishes. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to you and your mother and all the mothers who made a difference in your life! Mothers are indeed the reason you and I exist, and most often the reason why we are what we are today and possibly / probably the BEST thing that happened in our lives (If you don’t believe me, ask your mother / someone who lost their mother!)! Take a moment to say THANK YOU for the fact that you have your MOTHER in your life.

Ever since I became a mother, I have a new found respect and admiration for any / every working mother.

No matter where she works

No matter what her work entails

No matter where she lives

No matter what her circumstance is

She is a STAR!

Not for a day.

Not for Mother’s day.

But for every single day!

Let me start with the facts | It is TOUGH… Really TOUGH to be a working mother. It tests you at every level in very many ways almost every single day, and you have to find a way to pass. You can fail for a day or two, but then you will to get up, move forward and find a way to pass. No grace marks really! First, there is sheer physical exhaustion in getting through each day at work and at home. Then there is mental stress (again both at work and at home). Following closely are the the emotional pangs (of guilt, fears, anxieties, worries, concerns about your role as a mother and your children). Next are the expectations of the family, spouse, work, the education system (both from the children and from the parents) and last but not least, is the collective impact of the society we live in (in terms of continuous judgment, expectations, day-to-day operational issues / constraints / dependencies, etc.). Every single day is a tight-rope balancing act. You fumble a little, lose focus, lose balance and the entire equilibrium is disturbed. And yet, as working mothers you have to find a way to make it all fall-in-line.

Now first is the much-debated decision of “To Work or Not” after you become a mother. There is no right or wrong. It is a personal choice and depends on your personal context / situation and circumstance. Some mothers find that full-time-motherhood is their calling and give up everything else. Some are forced to become full-time-mothers by family pressures. Some mothers have to quit for lack of any alternative / support systems. Some mothers have to work due to financial commitments and liabilities / to put food on the table / marital discord. Some mothers find alternate career choices (not corporate careers) and make it work because they passionate about something / because full-time-motherhood is not their cup of tea. And some mothers find their place in the corporate world. There really no-one-size that fits all and yet, it has to fit RIGHT for YOU!

A lot of times I am asked for my views on what it takes to be a working mother. In this post, I’m sharing my opinion based on my personal experiences in a corporate career, and what I’ve seen in other working mothers.

As a working mother, if you are serious about your career and want a fair share at success, your career continuum should have 3 foundational pillars

(1)    FOCUS

As a mother, to have a career, you have to be focused

As a mother, to have a fair chance at career success, you have to be super-focused

 The one MUST HAVE mantra for any / every working mother is FOCUS. Without focus, you will really not be able to survive or thrive at work.

Following are the things which you should be focused about:

(i)                  Your work tasks for the day – Know what you should get done for the day, Plan for it and Just do it.

(ii)                Your career objectives for the year – Ensure you define / know them and work towards achieving them. You will only go so far without knowledge / clarity on your career objectives

(iii)               Your career goals for the long-term (say 3/ 5 / 10 years) – Be clear (somewhat) on where you are headed in the long term. If you have a view on the end, chances are you will reach there. If you don’t, chances are you will spend enough time in the journey without reaching anywhere. And if that is what you want, it is fine too. But make sure you acknowledge this to yourself.

 

(2)    FLOW

As a mother, to have a career, you have to flow today

As a mother, to have a long-term-career, you have to keep flowing today and tomorrow

By flow, what I really mean is “career continuity”. I cannot emphasize how critical it is to be in touch with your work and to keep going no matter what. Sometimes you may be compelled to take a break / brake. Sometimes, you may have to choose “not-so-great” options / career paths / alternatives, but in the long run being in the “flow” makes all the difference.

Why? One, you earn (whatever little, it does wonders to your own self-confidence and independence). Two, you learn. Three, the “gaps” in your resume will not really go against you. Four, you stay in touch and enhance you knowledge, skills. Five, you are at the table, so more visible than when you are within the confines of your home. Six, you have more opportunities to network and build professional relationships.

As a working mother, there will be times in your life when you have to take career breaks / put a brake on your career. The issue for most mothers becomes that they don’t really decide on the duration of this and plan around it. Consequently, it gets harder to get back to active work. First, it is your own inertia to get back to work which is a huge impediment. Then there is the lack of ‘relevant’ knowledge and skills due to the time away from work. Lastly, there is the issue of lack of a commensurate compensation in lieu of the career breaks.

Following are the things which you should know about “Flow”:

(i)                  It is better to be in a state of flow than being stagnant for too long – especially if you have a corporate career / harbor entrepreneurial ambitions. If you flow, chances are better for you to move ahead, right?

(ii)                Ensure that you are focused on “being in flow” with respect to your work / career. This will be the most crucial with respect to career longevity and growth

(iii)               While flow without focus (i.e. a definite end goal) is good in some career phases to give you career continuity and longevity, make sure you “time-box” these phases.

(iv)              While flow is important, once in a way make sure you pause – for career reflection, introspection, insights and course corrections. Being in a state of perpetual flow does not help either

 

(3)    FLEX

As a mother, to have a career, you have to make flex work for you today

As a mother, to have a chance at success in your career, you have to make flex work for you almost every day

 No working mother ever managed without a little or a lot of flexibility. It is the only realistic way to manage the elusive work-life balance.

 Following are the things which you should know about “Flex”:

(i)                  “Flex” is great if you have “Focus” and are in the ”Flow”

(ii)                There is no universal definition / agreement on what “flex” working is. Make sure you know and understand what it means to you and to the people / organization you are working for / with. The lesser the gap and mismatch of expectations, the better your chance at success

(iii)               DO NOT abuse / misuse the “flex” work option. It does more harm than good if you are caught on the wrong foot – Both for your own career and the larger cause of “work flex” options for other working women / mothers.

As I sign-off, my mantra for working mothers

Be focused

Ensure you flow

Make “flex” work for you

 

What are your views of the career continuum of working mothers? Leave a comment to let me know