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10 strategies women can employ for success at work

Varad Kamini, VP and Head – Marketing and Communications, Datamatics Global Services, on how women can reach their full leadership potential. By Kermin Bhot.

Varad Kamini has come a long way from being a 19-year-old young bride to the corporate honcho! But it didn’t come easy. One thing that kept her going was her desire to create her own identity. She had not just big dreams but a big vision too! With her hard work and commitment, she has duly earned her seat in senior management. Today, she is the only woman at Datamatics who is part of strategic and business meetings at the senior level. She has received several national and international accolades for her work and as a woman leader. “Don’t expect anyone else to build the life you want for yourself,” says Varad. “Some genuine people will come along the way to cheer you up, but you must remember it’s your game. And you need to embrace it, to win it!”

In a tête-à-tête with Kermin, she shares how women can take charge of their professional lives.

1. Don’t blindly follow social scripts
“Women today really need to undo a lot of their upbringing, especially when it comes to being a ‘good girl’. That’s what we are taught to be, but in an office environment that gets you nowhere. So break out of the mental boxes society has prescribed and find a middle ground. You need to see yourself as a Changemaker and a Caretaker. Be tough, be kind, as the situation demands, and earn respect through your hard work. Gender is just a factor, don’t let it stop you!”

2. Take control of the reins of your life
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a father who encouraged me to take life impacting decisions from a young age; he let me make mistakes and learn from them. Life isn’t easy for anyone. I wasn’t even a graduate when I married, and started handling my father-in-law’s business when I was 19. He passed away when I was 20 and I handled the business for a few years. Later, I branched out into the corporate world after pursuing further studies. It’s only when you step out of your comfort zone that opportunities present themselves. At one point I was working, studying, pursuing journalism, and raising two small kids. I was pursuing it all relentlessly. To achieve your career goals, you must keep challenging yourself. Eventually, it does pay off!”

3. Know your goals
“Know what you want to be and where you want to be. If you have a goal then you’ll find a way to get there. It’s okay if your goal posts keep changing. But you need to have them to give yourself direction. Initially, I qualified as an interior designer, and through sheer luck, I got a project with Emirates Airlines as a PR manager, and I fell in love with the job. Once I knew that corporate communication was my calling, I set out with a plan to get there. I worked my way up, raising the bar for myself with each move. So get thoughtful about your life! Define what you want and what achievement looks like to you. Create a kick-ass action plan and just go for it.”

4. Do what’s needed to get the job done
”Even we women believe that we are expected to be communal, collaborative and giving. But thanks to my former boss, I had to break away from this social cast. He once told me, ‘Varad, it’s nice that people like you, but honestly I don’t care. What matters is that they deliver on time.’ It took a while to adapt myself into the new cast. What matters is the result. For that, you need to tailor your behaviour to the occasion. If it requires you to let go of prescribed social codes, so be it. There is nothing like a ‘woman leader’, just a leader who has the required traits to succeed. Whatever you do, be so good that none can ignore you!”

5. Stop trying to prove to others
“Women often think they need to prove beyond all doubt that they’re just as good as men in the office space. We feel the need to prove that we’re strong, that we can do anything and everything. So we push ourselves tirelessly. But we need to change this thinking and be generous to ourselves. Don’t compete with another man; compete with another leader you admire. Be yourself! The corporate world appreciates people who are genuine, gender no bar!”

6. Work-life imbalance is normal: expect and accept it
“Don’t burn yourself out to have a prized career and a perfect home life. At best work-life balance is a myth. Expect the chaos and messy moments now and then. You’ll be donning several hats in a day; each role will expect the best out of you. On those days, remember that as long as you are able to keep a close watch on the big picture, you can afford to let go off small disruptions. Also, try managing your energy flows better. Take up the tasks that energise you. You might just find balance in the imbalance!”

7. Find out what is a priority for you
”While trying to befit yourself as an ambitious professional and a responsible family member, there might come a time, when you will ask yourself, what the heck I am doing in life? At that juncture realign your goals to your immediate priorities and aspirations. Just don’t lose sight of what is truly important for you, and don’t ever let that go off your plate. If there’s a conflicting interest, find a way to work around it. That workaround is important too. Follow your instinct and you will do fine!”

8. Make yourself a priority
“Women rarely ever see themselves as a priority, and that isn’t a good thing. Don’t put yourself on the back burner all the time. It’s a tough ask, but you need to do it for yourself. Know what motivates you and remain true to who you really are. It’s alright to be selfish sometimes and focus on self. We have a larger obligation to ourselves.”

9. Don’t let the guilt get you down
“Women either try to overstretch themselves or deal with guilt. It’s especially true if we’ve placed our needs/wants over another’s. But we aren’t superhuman, and we should acknowledge that. The idea is to find a healthy way to cope with guilt without bringing ourselves down. Don’t ever feel guilty about being passionate about your work–your kids are observing you and are surely getting a great role model in you. This will better shape their future as they will learn to appreciate the value of hard work and respect duly earned!”

10. Raise your children strong
“Whether you have a daughter or a son raise them the same. This will help create a better future as this will lead to gender parity, even in their thought process. A good education is not an option, but a must. Alongside my professional ambitions and commitments, I’ve done all I can to create a strong foundation for my kids. Now it is up to them to scale up. I keep reminding them that they need to be in control of their life and not let environment impact their conduct. Their value system must remain intact, no matter what!”

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