I still remember like it was yesterday, me heavily pregnant sitting in front of the computer for a Skype interview call from ISB with a blazer on...... not quite sure if my big belly would be seen over the video call. I followed a no ask no tell policy as I did not want to prejudice the outcome. It has been 7 years exactly since that day and I still stand out. Thanks to a really open-minded business school that took me in. They believed a woman can do whatever she puts her mind to, even with a baby (in her belly or in her heart). I started a full time 11 month accelerated MBA program with a 2-month-old infant. I accomplished everything that my classmates wanted to do, a good GPA, placement, internships and projects in between the umpteen feeding sessions, vaccinations, sicknesses and baby photographs. But there was one differentiating factor, I did not enjoy taking time off to party and socialize. My maternal hormones were so strong that I wanted to spend every waking minute with my child. So when I was not working I wanted to be with my baby.
I’ve been a happy go lucky woman with great credentials and an awesome support system, but in spite of all that, my return after my second child was not so easy. When in a full-time job, I was spending the majority of my time at work and if I was lucky I would catch a couple of hours with the kids every day and I felt guilty. When I was in between jobs, I felt guilty of not utilizing my education and experience. So either ways guilt seemed to be a major emotion here after my kids were born. The question was not, “which ball do you drop?” but “how many balls can you keep floating in the air?” And it's not just the question of giving quality time for kids and family. What about ourselves? Things like exercising, reading, shopping, and cooking, that give me a mood boost seem impossible with a permanent job. Even though the lucky among us have vacations and sabbaticals, it is hardly usable with ever-present deadlines and operations to keep running. A break here and there is a much-needed breather for all working moms and dads.
I was not happy whether working full time or on a break and I knew I needed to take the middle road. But what are the options in India for a management professional? I started researching...A dominant personality trait of mine is to take the road less traveled and this immensely helped in exploring my options. I heard about this platform called Flexing It from one my friends who is a fellow ISB’ian and a mom herself. I registered myself as a consultant the same day and started applying to projects.
I got a call from GEs top executive in India for help with implementing a few of their high priority strategic initiatives. Thanks to their visionary leadership, one thing led to another and I ended working in GE as a consultant for a year with really senior folks. That experience was an eye-opener for me. I started viewing my employing company as a customer more than an employer. I learned quickly and was really good at driving a solution while establishing a good camaraderie with the team. My work was appreciated by the team and my boss and it really taught me to look at myself as a management professional from a different angle.
It is important for a company to hire the best. I see many companies listing their job requirement with an “urgently required” tag and I tell myself that these recruiters need to open their minds to see that a permanent role is not the only solution. A professional with great credentials will give his/her best to the job at hand whether it is a permanent role or a temporary endeavor. We need to remove the stigma that is associated with the terms – ‘contractor’, ‘temporary hire’, ‘consultant’ etc. It’s better to increase your temporary workers' ratio rather than compromising your selection to fill the requirements urgently and having an inflated headcount. Being an employee of a company may not always be the best for you too. Sometimes the flexibility that a temporary role gives is far more valuable. It gives you a window to peek into the organization’s culture and pursue a full-time job if it suits your personality. I have worked in organizations where the work has been exciting but the culture, team or management was not a good match for me. A project based work would be the ideal dip stick for both the organizations and talent to gauge each other.
Where do I see the trend going towards for women especially
As Indira Nooyi rightly observed, “A woman’s biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other”. In addition, in India, a woman is expected to play the second fiddle as a breadwinner and own a bigger share of the pie in running the house and raising kids. They are also expected to relocate as per family demands. All these unspoken expectations are a big burden to an aspiring woman with young children. From birth, until the kids go to primary school the woman usually goes through a physical and emotional roller coaster. During this phase, many women want to stay in the workforce but are unable to commit to long commutes, work socialization, weekend projects and late night or early morning meetings. So they quit thinking that it would solve their issues, only to find that full-time babysitting is not exactly super. So we need options that will help us put our skillsets to good use and at the same time provide flexibility and freedom. These women are exceptionally productive since they know the value that an additional hour of daylight will bring them.
How flexing it came to help
In the last five years, I was hit with a combination of personal challenges ranging from childbirth, relocation and a bankrupt employer. In all this time the maximum tenure I was able to serve was around 2 years. This was definitely not because I wanted to job hop but solely due to the circumstances. Even now my relationship with my network of past managers and the team still remains exceptionally positive. I wanted a break from permanent employment until I felt that I could commit to it. Flexing It, a platform that enables management professionals to find projects is an exceptional initiative and one that is needed especially for women. It helps women remain in the workforce and be their own boss. It connects you to the right-minded employers and lets you bill for your expertise without much of the overheads of a permanent position. As more and more women use this platform, corporations both big and small will sit up and take note of this.
Anusha Krishnamurthy is a mid-management professional and a mom of two kids aged 6 and 2. She passed out of the Indian School of Business, CO2012 with an MBA in marketing. She also has a master’s in computer engineering from the University of Cincinnati, USA and a B.E from IRTT, Bharathiar University.