Source | Jobsforher.com | Kaajal A
In our continuous effort to bring you stories of inspiration and grit, JobsForHer recently had a tete-e-tete with one of our most dedicated ambassadors and second career woman, Neeraja Ganesh…
1. Hi Neeraja, tell us a bit about yourself and when you started working?
As any other traditional Tam-Brahm (Tamil-Brahmin) girl, my parents brought me up very conventionally. There was absolutely no talk about a job for me. It was always about getting married and setting up a house and being a good wife, daughter-in-law etc.
However, the one thing that they did not do was stop me from pursuing what I wanted to do. They let me go to the best of schools, enjoy my time with my friends and be an independent thinker. So, when I wanted to take up a job when I was doing my Advanced Diploma Course at NIIT, they allowed me to!
But it was made clear that marriage would take a higher priority if Mr. Right came along; and, if he did not want me to continue working, I would have to give up the job! I agreed since I wanted to make the most of the short-term job opportunity that I was given with my first company, Sonata Software. At that moment, all I wanted to do was make some money to buy myself some beautiful sarees!!
It took really long for Mr. Right to come along. So, after working for 2 years, I switched to Manhattan Associates as a Software Programmer, for a much higher salary. As a result, I was making much more money and buying many more sarees every month! (chuckles)
And then, there was no going back… .
I wanted to continue making money. So I requested my parents to fine-tune their search criteria for Mr. Right to somebody who would allow me to work.
And guess what, THEY DID!
And that’s how the first hurdle, which could possibly have stopped me from working altogether, was overcome!
2. Ha ha! Fantastic Neeraja! So, did you ever take a break in your career?
Yes, I did!
As several other women do, I also decided to quit my job when a baby came along. It was purely my decision and I was very happy to do so. (Don’t ask me how many sarees I had already acquired by that time!!)
But, my family asked me to request for leave only and not quit my job. And, my employer was kind enough to consider my request.
3. Ah, and for how long were you away?
I was away from work for 10 months after my daughter was born. But, I guess I was becoming a pain sitting in the house beside my daughter and doing nothing other than just being with her, so I was politely asked by my family to consider getting back to work! Both my mother and mother-in-law offered to help with taking care of my baby.
THAT is how I got back, but the guilt of leaving my daughter at home and being away from her from 9 am to 6 pm was killing me.
The only reason I did not submit my resignation letter was because my manager told me that he had taken special permission to get me back into that project as there was no other role available for me after such a long break. And, I did not want to let him down by just walking out.
It’s been 13 years since then, and I haven’t stopped working…
4. Wow! That is a long committed period of time! What challenges did you face in restarting your career?
A statement that was once made by my manager when I was absorbed back into the project after my break, was that I shouldn’t take half days or too many days off, and remain committed to my project delivery schedules, as is expected of any other employee. And I followed that.
However, a male colleague of mine in the team had also become a father when I had my baby. And his son’s age was almost similar to my daughter’s. I could see his irregularities at work, and how he would call in to say that he’s coming in late, or taking the day off as his son is not allowing him to get to work… (And his wife was not a working woman!). And I would feel guiltier about leaving my daughter at home and having committed to working full time!
Although I was particular about taking on roles which wouldn’t need me to stretch or travel outside Bangalore, this decision started affecting me when I wanted to venture into different projects.
However, I’ve had my priorities in life SET, and hence, decision-making was always easy. Since my child and family were my first priority, I expressed my preference without hesitation for roles that would not require me to travel, even if it meant settling for a lesser challenging role. I had no qualms in making this decision, numerous times.
5. How did restarting your career affect you and those around you?
My office realized that I was able to deliver quality outcomes just like (or better than) before and that convinced them to give me some really juicy and critical projects. Of course, I also took decisions at times to do short outstation trips to meet stakeholders, or attend to any additional work over the weekend.
But, these decisions were completely based on my priorities and only when I felt I would be able to do justice to both home and office.
I have changed companies, had different types of managers, different kinds of stakeholders and varied project scenarios. But, what has continuously helped me in doing justice to both home and work is to ALWAYS PRIORITIZE.
Hence, there have been times when I have asked for and accepted extremely challenging roles, putting in long hours; and at other times, I’ve been very clear about doing a role which keeps me going, yet allows me to be home with my family in the evenings.
However, none of this would be possible without a support system and I had remarkable backing from my family; especially my mother-in-law who managed the house and looked after my daughter in my absence. And my husband who worked from home on days that I was away at work so that either of us was around for our daughter.
6. Our ambassadors as you know are already so inspired by you. But what advice would you give to all the other women reading this, who also wish to restart their careers?
Thank you Kaajal! However, I, too, feel EMPOWERED in being able to utilize my experiences – both personal and professional – to affect a difference in the lives of the women with whom I interact within the JFH Ambassador Tribe!
Here’s what I think really works:
1.Prioritize first, and take decisions based on your priority.
2.Re-prioritise as priorities change over a period of time. And NEVER regret decisions taken earlier even if the outcomes of those decisions were not what you were expecting them to be, as it was the right decision at that point in time, and circumstances might have changed since then.
3.Be confident! Know your strengths and weaknesses, and state them up front with all your colleagues and managers. Play to your strengths, and the weaknesses will take care of themselves.
4.Never compare your career growth with your peers, as YOU need to run the race at YOUR PACE. There will come a time when your peers will slow down as it would be their time to take care of other priorities too. Over a period of time, all of you will be running together. But each of you would have enjoyed the race – the running, pausing, stopping, and sleeping time!
5.Be open to every opportunity you come across and build strong networks. Today, I am where I am only because of someone I met somewhere!
If Neeraja’s resolve to stay the course of a career has inspired you to carve your way back into the work world, then come back to work NOW!
Neeraja Ganesh is currently working as a Senior Manager with Capgemini. She has previously worked with Sonata Software, Manhattan Associates, and ANZ —- respectively. She is a Bachelor of Science and has done her Advanced Diploma through NIIT in Systems Management. She is married and a mother to a 14-year-old.