Article (July-2018)


Shattering the glass ceiling

Simin Askari

Designation : -   Vice President-Corporate HR

Organization : -  DS Group, Noida


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My journey as an HR professional has been fascinating. I have imbibed new learning from all my workplaces, which in itself have been very diverse and each experience has added to my knowledge and application of HR practices in a modern, global and novel context.
I started my career as a sales and business development professional working in the IT and media sectors. After working for a few years I dwelled into an entrepreneurial venture, which dealt in manufacturing and exports of leather garments and accessories. Initially I was responsible for backend support and managing buyer requirements. However, over the years as the business grew, it was imperative to have a focused approach on the HR function. My inherent people skills backed with my educational background helped me slowly transition into a seasoned HR professional. I actively took over to talent management, handling basic processes such as payroll and compliance management as well as complex issues like employee motivation and retention.
I ventured in to the corporate world again about ten years ago and was heading the HR function for a large diversified organization. The organization had interests in diverse businesses located at several international and domestic locations. As the head of HR for the group, I worked on developing the HR strategy for each of the businesses including designing the HR policies for the new ventures. My entrepreneurial stint gave me a 360-degree view of the business and I was able to view the HR function from a financial and business perspective, rather than just the prism of the HR function.
Over the years, I have learnt to be flexible and adaptable and to align high level outputs to operational excellence without compromising on quality and creativity. I still retain a high level of excitement for my job and keep myself up to date with HR trends that influence corporate decision making.
My biggest learning through these years has been that HR as a function is interdependent on many variables, which are both tangible and intangible. People remain at the core of HR thinking, but it has to align with business goals. Then it has to wrap itself with resources, talent management, growth, future planning, strategic thinking and empowerment. We can hire the most qualified staff but if we do not give them freedom to exercise their ideas or suppress them in hierarchy, we will stifle their independence. Yet, independence does not mean freedom from responsibility and to combine all this with an eye on the big picture for the long term is the biggest lesson for HR. HR is no longer a mere support function! Analytics and HR reporting are important aspects of the function that are essential in helping businesses maintain a healthy bottom line.
Every function in a global organization faces challenges and HR is no different. The key lies in how we manage them and if we can overcome them with implementable solutions. The first challenge of course is the co-existence of people of varied experience and technological skills. The millennial are far advanced with their tech expertise whereas the older professionals are less familiar with the digital spectrum but they may be in a leadership position. To ensure flawless working and team spirit, matching experience with youthful innovation becomes central for a modernizing HR function. As more and more young people enter the work force, keeping them involved and encouraging them to bring their new expertise to the table is a task, which HR needs to handle with fineness.
Many a times people have commented on my position in the organization and talked of the "glass ceiling" which seems to be a barrier for women to cross. I have a different view on the subject. The glass ceiling is a mindset - and it overcomes both men and women.

What we women need to do is to have our own career goals and aim to achieve that first. That way each of us shatters our own glass ceiling. Ambition is not a negative emotion. It gives us focus, commitment and the desire to succeed. This combined with excellent people management skills, empathy, empowerment and professional knowledge will ensure that the sky above us is clear!
I strongly feel that for a working professional maintaining work life balance is of utmost importance. Work - life balance is all about logistics and support systems. This is an issue not just for women, but for men too whose spouses have careers of their own. I am a mother of two children and I have had a long and fruitful career and I built it on setting out the right priorities and working on systems at home to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Of course, there are always obstacles and personal demands on your time, but if you have planned ahead, you can pretty much handle everything. Women professionals tend to let their careers take a back seat. I feel they should have perseverance and commitment to building their own career. There would be many instances in life where pursuing a career may seem less relevant, but a little perseverance is all that is required to overcome these difficulties. Women have the capabilities to reach the top echelons in an organization and nothing should be able to stop them from attaining that golden position.
As an HR leader my vision is to inspire enthusiasm, belief, commitment and excitement in not just my team, but across the company…. to challenge people to outdo themselves. My advice 
to my employees is to keep an open mind and update themselves with new learning and knowledge. Remember to enjoy the job and have interests outside their expertise. This will keep one mentally agile and in touch with market trends…i.e. always a step ahead!