An Engineer turned HR Professional - the odds were against me right from the start. I could see people's eyebrows go up every time I introduced myself. It took as much energy to make those eyebrows grow up in admiration rather than shock, as it took to build my career in an uneven battle field. While I would consider myself lucky that I chose HR as a career, where the gender balance is not as lopsided as it is in many other functions, I knew I needed a strong armor if I am to achieve my goal of being the best HR professional in the world. While I still have miles to go, there are two key things that have been real stepping stones to my career -
Magic lies outside your comfort zone
As women we are faced with unconscious bias on the minutest of things, which gradually makes us hold back from things we are more than capable of doing. One word that helps you break free of this bias is "YES". Yes to more responsibilities, yes to traveling, yes to longer hours and yes to more expectations. While the "comfort zone" option would have been to stick with the team that I shared a good bond with, where I had a flexible boss, lesser travel and more time at home, I pushed myself to move out and gain newer experiences, which were far out of that comfort zone. It is definitely like a deer blinded by headlights at first, but then the magic begins - the battlefield has lesser mines and begins evening out, people value your opinions and suggestions and leaders put their faith in you to deliver.
Never stop learning
The most powerful thing you can arm yourself with is knowledge. All my life was spent reveling in circuits and I suddenly found a passion for the people management function - learning as much as I could became vital for me to stand my ground. I spent enough time understanding the function thoroughly from its foundation to its various nuances and more importantly, I grew as the function grew and its meaning and applicability changed - as it evolved from a pure labor relations role to a business enabler role. Another aspect to this is to learn beyond HR, to understand the basic functioning of whichever business you support and the technologies associated with it. Learning is never complete and it has an even bigger role as you move up the corporate ladder.
These are two key things I would ask every woman HR professional to think about. There are times when we might feel like we are not doing all we can for one of our primary responsibilities - of raising our children and managing our household, but the key is to be patient - over time I grasped the power of organization and structure and their highly positive correlation to time and productivity. The more organized my approach, the more time I had to do things well, both at work and at home.
In today's context, with the start-up revolution in its full glory, people now more than ever are struggling to remain engaged at the workplace. As women HR professionals, I think we have a significant and unique role to play here. It is important for us to reflect on our strengths such as people relations, emotional intelligence, resilience and the ability to handle several things at once and thoroughly at that, and consciously hone these strengths to be distinctive and best-in-class HR professionals.