Article (July-2018)


Never give up!

Sunaina Mattoo Khanna

Designation : -   Chief People Officer & Head- Transformation

Organization : -  Bajaj Capital Ltd., New Delhi


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Sitting in a classroom during my MBA days, we would often made to feel that we are going to be future managers and we must behave, think, act and dress always like the ones. That would often make me dream of a big cabin, a laptop, and mobile in my hand (as mobiles were a recent thing in 1999) and a big team at my disposal to get my job done. I guess that is how every MBA is made to feel even now while in college.
After passing out with distinction and as a college topper, I had even very high hopes of getting my dream job. Finally, the Placements started and got a placement in one of the brands in beverages and cold drinks based out of Pune. As I had already spent 2 yrs away from parents in Pune, so they asked me to come back to Delhi as Delhi would have ample job opportunities available. I thought that was a good idea as I had already started feeling home sick.
Now was the time to apply for job interviews. Every weekend I would earmark my dream companies and profiles and during the week, I would start sending my resumes. Job portals were not a very popular medium at that time. I decided to take it easy till the time I find a profile which really interests me and a Company where I would have ample opportunities to grow. It took me around 7 months post MBA to land up at Bajaj Capital. Everything was perfect to my imagination - Good office, superb brand, suitable profile and a very friendly boss. Everything was so perfect... However success doesn't come easily. I had to literally do clerical work at the beginning including filing, punching of circulars and just screening candidates and not interview them as I was not knowing much about business and culture. We were just 2 of us in HR Department because importance of this department was not prevalent at that time and it was seen as a department that would only manage personnel records and act as a door keeper when a candidate enters or exits the organization. I never thought that any job is big or small but was also not keen on doing this kind of work where there is no value add from my side. I had an option to quit but I decided to hold on at least to complete one year and then move on. These clerical jobs increased my learning about Company, its business, people and policies which I would have otherwise taken months. While screening candidates, I quietly started telephonic interviews before passing them on to my boss and she would further get the candidates interviewed by BOD. After few months, BOD saw a significant increase in the quality of candidates and asked my boss about what she was doing differently now. My boss enquired about how I was screening the candidates. It is then when I confessed that it was not mere CV Scanning that I was doing but also interviewing candidates over the phone. That's how my value add in each area of HR got visible by BOD and promoters.
10 months into the job. Now I was little better off as I have been given some free hand to execute things the way I wanted to. One morning I got information that my boss had met with an accident while coming to office and was severely injured. She was advised bed rest for 3 months before she could join back. The next day CEO called me and said that now that you have to manage the show for next 3 months, do let me know if you need any help and proactively allocated one resource under me. It was like pushing a non-swimmer into a swimming pool and asks her to learn swimming.

I decided to revamp the entire operations and also build on people policies as I strongly felt that these were not at par with best market practice. My reporting Manager who was CEO and promoters saw this urge in me and extended full support. They would themselves spend ample time on these agendas and help me close on lot of areas like Rewards & Recognition programmes, automation of HR Ops, using technology while hiring and performance management system. In the meantime my boss didn't join back and decided to take a break in her career. It is then when Management decided to let me take a lead in driving people agenda in Bajaj Capital. 7 years of constant work around HR and people got us the first accolade in the year 2008 where we got ranked as one of the top 25 great places to work in India by GPTW Inc. and we got the recognition consecutively for 4 years. Even this year we got certified as Great Places to work. Since then there was no looking back.
I never felt any discrimination as far as gender biases or preferences is concerned but yes I had to face lot of struggle while dealing with more experienced and seasoned Business/Functional leaders who would be 15-20 yrs senior to me. Making them adhere to HR Processes and policies was a challenge but with the complete backing of BOD and CEO, we managed this challenge very well.
Being a female worker has its own challenges in terms of maintaining work life balance especially when you are also a mother of a toddler who would not understand why his mother leaves him for the entire day and why she is not around when he needs her. This at times has led to lot of stress but with ''Never Give Up'' attitude and with the support of my Colleagues and team, I am taking up exciting new projects and managing well with the best of my capabilities. Especially with the changing role of HR now a days, it is really exciting to see that people policies are driving businesses across. Hence role of an HR person is equally or more important than any other function.
1. My advice to freshers would be that don't join a Company unless it meets your criteria and don't take up a profile unless you are really interested or passionate about it. No stop gap arrangements please.
2. Being less experienced shouldn't stop you from taking up challenging projects; you can equally do better if you are giving it your 100%.
3. Never give up. Whatever happens, it happens for betterment. Every small or big task has some learning in it. Don't try to find faults in the system rather improve system within you.