Writing

Do the new

dothenewin2016

Careers are a maze and more so for women managing multiple responsibilties. The good news is that change is so constant that everyone needs to manage transitions all the time. Workplace, skills, business models, companies are all undergoing severe changes and the best way to thrive in this environment is to do the NEW!

Here are six things any woman with her career on her mind can embrace in 2016.

Go SOLOMO: Going Social, Local, Mobile is way of life for career seekers now and 2016 will see more and more businesses go mobile, serve local and use social (media) including Instagram, Pinterest and of course Facebook and Twitter.

However, use of SOLOMO should only be contextual and one needs to understand that it is a double edged sword –  a great tool to establish credibility or the one to erode it as fast.

Brand Yourself : You are who they think you are. Investing in authentic sharing, proactive learning and ongoing engagement is a professional mantra for all – whether you are a home business owner, a blogger, a corporate professional or someone on a career break. Brand You can be a source of inspiration to people around you and the best career investment you make.

Find a Mentor: We cannot succeed alone. Best professionals and entrepreneurs have great mentors. This was never more true. Someone who can share authentically and anchor our interests can be a mentor we need to manage the existential dilemmas, the complexity of decision making and more so empowering us with energy and enthusiasm, we need to follow our heart. Ideally, a mentor is someone who can represent a diverse, broader range than yours and is ideally not directly related to your line of work.

Share your Skill: There is no joy is hoarding what you know. The best professionals today share their skill with others who need it and more so with ones, who may not be so fortunate. Whether it is marketing or finance, cooking or programming, share your skill and find a professional bloom. Goodwill is an asset you cannot buy otherwise.

Do the Design and Tech: There is no denying the ever growing significance of technology and more so design thinking in our lives. As users of iPhones, Uber, Paytm, AirBnB, design thinking is helping your stakeholders by making things simple and easy. That mantra applies to professionals, service providers, freshers, people on a learning curve – basically everyone.

Build a New Skill: Learn something new which is not part of your traditional Learning and Development cycle. A skill unrelated to your work or your resume. Have a cubicle job, learn golf. You are a yoga enthusiast – learn how to code. You are a finance professional – learn how to run a restaurant. A diverse skill will help expand your horizons and also help connect to people outside your professional ambit.

Are you going to try some of these in 2016. I am! Which of the items from the list is your favorite? I will tell you mine next time.

This article was first published in the January 2016 edition of Mother and Baby magazine.

Hacking your job search

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Finding a job that fits is a major task and executing your job search well is of utmost importance to be able to find one. In any case, there are more people looking for jobs, than the jobs themselves. So thriving in your job search matters.

Here are a few tips:

Mind your Ps and Qs

Does your profile reflect a lot of grammar and punctuation errors?
Do you use SMS language?
Is your upper and lower case all mixed up?

Badly edited profile and grammar mistakes are a turn off. Even the most qualified candidates are likely to be rejected on these grounds.

What are your skills?

Do they reflect in your profile?
Does what you do best feature in your profile?
Is the list comprehensive?
Most hiring professionals use skills as a filter and also use it to match it to the opportunity at hand.

Eye for detail

Does looking at your profile give the employer a sense of confidence?
Is your bio and summary positive and professional?
Did you fill it up in a hurry or did you take your time to convey your real strengths?

Your state of mind is reflected on your profile and it is a prudent investment to do it dilligently and professionally

Are you checking often?

Most sytems can tell a recruiter if you log in often or check your mail often. Logging in regularly and responding to emails in less than eight hours is a great way to get to opportunities first. Even when you are not hired, you are being watched. Not checking your emails or not responding quickly is a sure shot way of not getting any opportunities.

Staying relevant

Are you applying to relevant jobs?
Do your job applications look like carpet bombing?
Are your skills and competencies up to the market standards, especially if you are looking for a flex friendly option. Gold standard in skill and capability is a must. The job market is true to the adage – survival of the fittest.

May you be the one!

Super Achiever Advantage You Should Build Early Into Your Career

Work hard, work smart: There are times in your life you work really really hard and there are times you need to work smart. But every achiever needs both. Success is in knowing the difference.

?Know your stuff and do it quickly: Top the list of being the best person for the job, and you won’t have to anything but success. Quality over quantity, speed over anything else.

Your constraints are you opportunity: ?What does not work for you from one perspective, is also your biggest opportunity. An unhappy client is an opportunity to convert them into your biggest believers. A poor skill can be your best skill and a hard taskmaster as a boss can be your best training ground.

Value your downtime: Investing quality time to unwind and reflect is a lifelong gift that will become your springboard to leap. Slow down to race up and work hard to party hard. YOLO!

Chase excellence, dump average: No super winner got anywhere with averages on the table. Chase high quality in whatever you do, give quality and expect quality. It is the game changer.

Send the elevator down!

send the elevator down_sheroes

I happened to be in a room full of women leaders from corporate India recently. Each of these women represented career success and were role models in their fields. Their names appear in business dailies and their success often celebrated and rightly so. They have worked very hard to be where they are and have navigated their way through their choices and actions to be here.

Throughout our interaction, I kept wondering how each of these super achievers help other women – a lot of us in the mid-career, early stage or are on the way bracket to find career success.

After all, real women lift others up!

There are millions of women in India, who probably have a career or want one or need to find a way to get one.

What is it that super achieving women can do to get a large number of women on the career track?  I share some thoughts:

Acceptance: Building acceptance that folks are allowed different versions of success in work and life. It is alright to have more than one way of being right.

Authenticity: Being a super achiever is all about being who you are and real achievers help others move in that direction.

Creativity: Channeling individual creativity to think of solutions and different ways of doing things can be a driver for inspiring more women at work.

Intelligence: There is innate intelligence in every individual and having someone reflect that reality back can be uplifting. Honor every kind of intelligence – be it the ones making cupcakes or writing code. By doing so we free up the range to pick towards one’s native fit.

Kindness: Be kind. Everyone has a battle in their life and we often don’t know what that is. Being able to cultivate kindness as a way to work with others can result in huge impact.

Move it: When you are in charge or are in driver’s seat, you have a unique opportunity to pave way at a framework level and initiative policy level changes.

Every working woman can make career an uplifting experience for many others. Just imagine!

Send the elevator down. ?

Ten #TakeCharge Career Values

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Agility: Speed is the need, as businesses cycles get shorter, customers more demanding and businesses change every few weeks. Responding constructively with minimum dissonance in the environment.

Action: Something lingering in your head, an idea you are carrying around, a conversation that is pending – act. The best way to put yourself out there and enhance the quality of your experiences.

Authenticity: Taking your career to the leadership track means building authenticity in your ideas, conversations and actions. In the age of real time media and online social scores, authenticity is career enhancer like no other.

Accountability: The holy grail of leadership. Would you be willing to put your neck on the line, when things don’t go as planned? Would you be the person, who steps up for others in the team? Being accountable and owning your steps is a career value, which cannot be undermined at any time. Great leaders own up!

Discipline: 4 am work out schedules, 9 pm board meetings and a promise to eat healthy – all in a day’s work for achievers. Building reporting and performance discipline, setting time bound processes and visiting every opportunity to improve. A career rule that has withstood the test of time, age and stage.

Personal Clarity: Why would you do what you do? Why would you want to be what others think you should be? What matters more to you in the larger scheme of things? What makes you happy? What leads you to joy? Being clear on what makes you rock as a person, is a deep insight on what your career should look like. Go deeper!

Kindness: Kindness is a GPS value. It helps align our hearts and soul to the universe. Without kindness, we wouldn’t be able to make a difference to the world we live in. Kindness for all, at all times and without any pre-conditions – is a mark of true leader.

Love: One that stems from a place of purpose, things that make your heart sing and move you in the direction that calls out for you the most. Doing things you love is life’s ultimate reward.

Simplicity: Genius makes it simple. Simplicity is a sign of high quality and processed thought. Simplicity takes away casual, and replaces it with mindful, clarity. A simpler roadmap is more likely to be achieved than a maze of opportunities, strewn along the way.

Teamwork: Is your presence on teams an uplifting experience for all? Does it inspire them to bring their best and go backer enriched. Does it seem like a fun project to work on? Would working with this team, leave everyone empowered, experienced and yearning for more. A question every careerist needs to ask herself, as she sets out on her roadmap to success.

Gender Diversity at Workplace Takes a Leap Forward with Sairee Chahal’s SHEROES platform !

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“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world”- said Hillary Clinton once. Sairee Chahal, Founder and CEO of SHEROES agrees and says  “Power is where money is and money is in hands of those who run business and commerce,” in her talk with Techstory. Unfortunately, in a country like India where the potential of women has always been ignored by the society for a long time, often women find it very difficult to enter the workforce which also means that they are not an active part of GDP creation, jobs and not financially empowered. Not being a part of the economic engine implicates diminished status of women’s individual as well as collective power.

As per the data by SHEROES, India is home to maximum number of women graduates in the world. However, a whopping 48 percent of the top performers of the class leave workforce by mid-career. It also implies that growing organizations have access to a limited talent pool – something similar to phenomenon of fishing in the same pond  and totally neglecting the fact that lesser women in workforce means higher gender imbalance in social structures and families.

“I just could not live with a growing number of women having to give up on their financial independence and potential growth. What moved me further was the fact that we live in time filled with possibilities. We can use all technology at our disposal towards creating large-scale social and economic impact. It is also an opportunity to help millions of women build flourishing careers” says Sairee.

At Sheroes, Sairee works towards bringing about gender balance and gender diversity by mobilizing resources and people to create solutions that are pragmatic and sustainable. Sairee founded the company with a core founding team, which includes a diverse set of individuals. These are men and women who fall in line with the vision and bring a range of diverse skill sets to the table.

SHEROES.in, launched in January 2014, is a career platform for women. It addresses the basic under served need to help women choose careers as they go through various life stages and also helps them excel in any choice they make. It offers jobs across various types and formats – corporate, flexible including part-time, work from home, projects, freelancing, contract and entrepreneurial options like franchising, reseller, channel programs etc.

“An average woman has anywhere between 4-8 career stages and each of these stages needs a different kind of access – in opportunity, mentorship and resources. SHEROES fulfills those needs by offering mentorship, jobs and career resources – right from the time they begin their careers, in between as they navigate through family and other needs, and later as they climb up the leadership ranks” she smiles.

According to the data, there are only 5 percent women in leadership and about 17 percent in workforce which in fact are highly disappointing figures. But on the bright side, this latent potential offered by the female workforce cannot be ignored by businesses, organizations or the country and SHEROES is doing its best to change the scenario.

SHEROES today is the largest platform of its kind anywhere in the world and growing at 100 percent momentum. Through this platform, over ten thousand women have found opportunities, a million community service requests have been managed, and 4000 companies have been served already. Company’s community of women professionals can be found over 1300 locations.

“We know that the work we do makes a difference and can be life changing. It is the impact that inspires us every day and challenges us to do more, do better, and do faster” Sairee affirms.

But the journey of the company to where the company stands today has not been a cake walk. When she started off, Sairee had  an interesting challenge – a strange idea, unconventional founder, no sugar daddy but lot of user support. For quite a while, everyone kept thinking that the company was actually an NGO. But for every challenge there comes more opportunity, with every non believer, many believers are attached and that is how SHEROES has grown every day.

“You have one life and each moment will come only once. If you are a woman entrepreneur, there might be times you feel you are not among the startup crowd, bounded by young technology professionals, mostly men in their twenties and here you are – an absolute misfit – no pedigree, no network, no similarity. On the other hand, you want to pay attention to things like health and family. But that is the time to tell, acknowledge and appreciate the differences. Start by focusing on your strengths and build on them. Diversity in the entrepreneurial world can only be a good thing. So bring out that awesomeness, focus on your best and learn all the time from what is good in others” is what Sairee says to all the women out there.

Currently, SHEROES is inching towards a million user mark and is already a ‘go to’ for companies looking at gender diversity, women led channels, flexible or work from home workforce.  The company hopes to enroll ten thousand companies to its platform this year and will be adding more value-add-platforms for the community.

Also, the company is all set to organize its first summit at a huge level across three cities: Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Join this journey at the first edition of theSHEROES Summit:  India’s largest OpportunityScape for women.

And at last but not the least, Sairee Chahal urges all women to ” Do what you want to do. Go all after it. What people think is their business, not yours. You do what feeds your soul and life. Be on a learning curve, there are some tremendously smart and talented people doing brilliant stuff. Stay open to learning always”.

This was published on Techstory.in here.

Why Indian venture capitalists must stop discriminating against women founders

Sairee Chahal VCs not funding women run startups

I am a mother of a seven-year-old and a serial entrepreneur. I started my latest company Sheroes, an online portal that helps women of all age groups find jobs and career resources, last year. While I was trying to raise funding for my startup, these were the two questions most investors asked me:

“Do you have male co-founders?” and “Is this your husband’s venture?”

The answer to both the questions is no. I funded my startup myself.

In theory, the startup and venture capital (VC) world is gender-neutral. But the reality is very different. Men in their 20s populate the Indian startup scene. They dress and look alike, share similar interests and possibly similar education background. There are many talented people who do not fit this mould, and are sadly excluded from the elite club of well-funded, successful Indian entrepreneurs.

According to several investors, women entrepreneurs—whether they are married or unmarried—are bad bets. Some of the reasons behind their disdain are: they lack aggression, they have no tech background and they might have children.

Most prominent Indian VCs feel that women are not pitching businesses worth investing in. This is only partially true. While many women set up businesses that cater to a very small market and are not scalable, it is not the entire picture. Out of every 10 pitches an investor hears, only two are worth taking forward. And this rule applies to both men and women entrepreneurs.

Rise of sheconomy

The spending power of Indian women is steadily increasing and they are changing the way corporates operate. Sheconomy is here to stay. A plethora of businesses are now built, run, supported for and by women.

Limeroad (an online shopping portal for women), Zivame (lingerie shopping website), Popxo (fashion website) are a few new, scalable and innovative models in this space in India.

Don’t wait for the Valley

The sexism is not the fault of VCs, but the patriarchal society we grew up in. Most teams at VC firms, especially in India, are led by men. Women are at associate or secretarial levels. Having few women at organizational levels sets the tone for gender exclusivity.

While we admire the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley, we don’t have to import the mistakes the Valley ecosystem has made—sexism, among others. (An informal study of the Valley’s technology firms found thatthere are only about 15% female engineers across almost 200 companies.)

India is home to a very large number of entrepreneurial women. Many women in India leave their jobs after getting married or having children. According to a study conducted by my company, women find it harder to come back to their corporate jobs—especially if they had high-paying, senior profiles—after such breaks and prefer starting their own companies.

The VCs have to realise this. This is a potential opportunity.

For many years, I have been hearing about plans to set up a women-only venture capital funds in India. Such funds exist in the US also, but usually the investments they make are very small.

I believe that such a separate fund in not the real solution. We need to build an ecosystem which is actually gender neutral and pro-choice.

This was originally written and published here on Quartz.

Work and the Joy of Creation

Fleximoms founder Sairee Chahal says work can earn you wealth beyond mere money; it can rejuvenate, recharge confidence and self-esteem and, incredibly, be a change agent.

“It’s all about the work you are willing to do,” said poet and award-winning Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander, at President Obama’s swearing in ceremony in 2009, reading from her poem ‘The Praise Song for the Day’ which highlights the virtue of work. In the context of women and work, nothing could be truer. By definition, work is not only “anything, which is produced as the result of labor” but among other things is as much an “act, deed, service, effect, result, achievement and feat.” There are clearly, two aspects to this definition: work as productivity and work as defining an individual or being an achievement.

Work as productivity

Productivity is linked to remuneration. Overall, there is enough research to prove that work-for pay has been a male domain. Thus it is clear that whether by design or by default traditionally women have been distanced from the ‘world of work’, especially of a remunerative nature.

Yet, it is said a woman’s work is never done. But is it ever valued? Why has the unpaid work done by women at home come to be undermined / ignored? The answer goes back to the advent of modern day commerce which moved the means of production into hands of men. This was a major factor in alienating women from the workforce. Did you know that women form 2/3 of the world’s workforce but occupy only 1 per cent of the assets? In this process, women have become the temp staff (workers with little stake, ownership or rewards) in the global economic engine!

How can this change? Women need to build and display greater ownership of the world of work and perhaps rediscover that work is more than just a means of earning an income. The ownership of the world of work will come through owning accountability, responsibility, as well as the risks and rewards that come with it. I know quite a few mothers who only want to ‘marry daughters up’. It is almost like having very little faith in the ability and ambition of our daughters to think for themselves, to dream and achieve big. Why won’t we tell our children and especially our daughters that they can wish for anything they want, a large wedding, a business, a Tiffany’s stone as long as they work towards those goals? Recent research by Dr Catherine Hakim has thrown up uncomfortable questions about the choices and preferences women make: she says there is proof that women choose to undervalue themselves despite equal opportunities…

Work as a yardstick of self-worth

Which brings us to the second critical aspect of work: as a means of defining self-worth. “Work is an expression of who you are. So who you are is what needs to be worked out,” says spiritual mentor Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev. Work can therefore imply or be:

  • A sense of purpose: Work has the ability to put purpose into our lives. Thus, for instance, empty-nester moms can find a new raison d’être in work, and housewives can find fulfillment in using and honing their inherent skills.
  • Ideation: The human brain has the potential to create, envision, and share. Ideation is the biggest joy of work.
  • Contribution: Work makes us contribute to a larger whole and brings in parts of millions of contributions to us. Not being part of this circle of creation is a sore loss.
  • Circle of Support: Work creates a circle of support, a network of peers, a range of experts to learn from and an eco-system of interdependence – one that is hugely social in nature and essential to individual development.
  • Wealth Creation: Work provides that essential access to a system of wealth creation. Wealth is also the single largest factor in determining the access to resources and level of development.
  • A Change Agent: Work allows each one of us to be our own change agent – to change what we don’t like, build on what we do etc in a continued effort to better the best in us.
  • A Tool for Sustainability: Global economic development needs women to display greater participation in global socio-economic affairs. One of the objectives of the global sustainability movement is equitable distribution of access and resources and bringing more women into leadership positions across the spectrum.
  • Enterprise: Entrepreneurship is empowering. Being able to choose a dream, create it, mould it, execute it, risk it is the ultimate path to embracing fearlessness. Not having enough women making this choice not only leaves us as a poorer society in terms of output but also leaves women poorer for not having experienced one of the most significant life changers – the joy of enterprise.

Let us give ourselves the power to create, lead, make, sculpt, change, build, acquire, dispose, envision and grow. There are seeds to be sown, ideas to be propagated, rewards to be harvested and future generations to mentor. Let us get to work!

This piece originally appeared in Accenture Vahini

Book Review: Lean In

The most remarkable thing about Lean In is successful-women batting for the ones on their way up! And the message to the world is:

Fire walled indifference of corporate growth is dead.

Compassion, empathy and open conversation is sexy and in fashion. 

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When I heard about Lean In for the first time, the first thought I had was that even if the book has some garbled text filling it up, it is a great idea to have someone like Sheryl Sandberg take up the women and work conversation. Making this point of view heard in corporate corridors and homes is a significant push to the women and work agenda.

In case you haven’t noticed, the political correctness of the majority of highly successful women in corporate world is massive. The ones in the corporate world actively speaking and promoting more women at work is a small group of people. Success for a generation of women meant, fitting into the testerone driven norms, whether it is was travel or working hours. Sandberg not only challenges that reasonably but opens it up for conversation. There are no verdicts, only encouragement to look at facts and needs.

The narrative makes it amply clear that a lot of learnings and leanings in the book arose from Sheryl’s personal journey. Though to the media and the corporate world, she comes across as a high-flying executive, the experience of raising a family while raising a company is a humbling one. Children level out many things irrespective what your rank is and the turmoil faced by millions of women finding a fit between personal-professional aspirations is very similar. It is this context that makes Lean In a very appealing read.

Elements of personal story telling and anecdotes from her own experiences with family, children, peers, colleagues ease the read of an otherwise prickly topic.

Sheryl herself is a great example of how gender diverse teams and women professionals in leadership roles can be great for startup and business success – Google, Facebook, Yahoo all seem to have found a high degree of resonance in the idea. If you are a startup founder or a corporate executive, pick this one up!

The book is an easy read, well written and cleanly edited. Sandberg keeps a reasonable voice and tone through the book and if you have either heard her speak or read her earlier, the book surely comes across as a personable read. The research is intensive but relevant and is detailed in appropriate proportions.

There are only two things Lean In misses – measure of success as an individual parameter and family as a stereotypical unit.

While we know that the corporate ladder is converging into a maze, Lean In approaches the whole conversation from the point of view of someone who is geared to stick it out in the glass walls of the corporate set ups, discounting the growing tribe of women entrepreneurs, SMBs, franchise owners, artists, creative professionals and such like. The fact remains, that measure of success and the significance of the big corner officer are not the same anymore for a large number of people, across the world. An increasing number of women and men are defining success that helps them find better work-life fit. A customized approach to work-life balance as opposed to the race for the ladder approach, the corporate world has advocated all these decades.

Lean In gives a sense of family being a stereotypical unit although nowhere it is articulated so. The feel through the book is that this is a book for the working mom, with career ambition with a family and husband around.

Without particularly saying so, Lean In offers little to single women, single moms, the flexidads, the hobbyist, the creative alternator, people not so big on corporate ambition.

Irrespective, Lean In makes it clear that making your voice heard matters and acting on your conscious decisions works wonders! A simple and powerful idea shared well.

This review was published in Next Big What

Finding CTO – Notes from Grace Hopper

A few weeks ago I got a frantic call from a friend in one of the top executive search firms. Her firm had been mandated to fill a CTO position for a technology major. The board wanted that position to be filled by a woman candidate, as a measure to enhance gender balance in the company’s leadership team.

Turns out, the firm mandated with the search had done long lists and short lists of qualified, senior women in technology in India and their match was still nowhere in sight. The person needed to fulfill three criteria – having managed scale in business, having worked at cutting edge of technology and having been in leadership roles for more than 5 years. And there seemed very few who would clear the three conditions and be a fit. Puzzling indeed.

This is exactly what took me to the Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference in Bangalore held recently. This is the second edition of the conference in India, which is focused on Women in technology industries and run by the Anita Borg Institute. Some of the key themes that the event focused on were career tracks for women in computing, work-life balance, women entrepreneurs, creating sustainable communities, experience sharing and recognition of achievers.

The truth is India has a fair percentage of women who choose the technology track. Although the relative number of women in engineering colleges, architecture, medical colleges is still low, most companies are accomplishing almost equal hiring manadates, at least at the junior levels.

The IT industry has a pretty neat uptake record for women – almost 40 percent at entry levels, which averages out of less than 5 percent by the time it reaches the CXO track.

Every startup or growth phase company I have met in recent months has categorically asked us if they can find a fleximom CTO, a product manager, a UI expert, a big data expert or even a technology sales professional. Most of these are vast professional tracks with sparse female talent.

This is more than a head hunter’s dilemma. And one Grace Hopper is not enough. What is a recognition of the issue, can’t be deemed as redressal.

Land up at any start up event, land up at a technology conference, land up at a leadership summit and the proof will be there for you to see. Stuff that is driving business growth in technology – UI/UX, product management, product management, technology sales, artifical intelligence has fewer women who will lead the way.  Hands on deck, yes! Front runners – no. The three things missing the Women in Technology puzzle – scale, cutting edge and leadership.

An article in Forbes spoke about copying the Silicon Valley model of success in India. The truth is, Silicon Valley has a great model in place but is it flawless? Do we want to build the same model that favours the ’24 year white male stereotype’ ? No!

India has a chance to lead the way in women in technology story. Here is why.

We have a chance to do and we have tons of talent, we can’t ignore. We need not replicate the stiff corridor culture of the valley.

How will we do it?

Well there are no easy answers. To begin with I would say, wider horizons, day hackathons, flexibility with formats, easier career transitions, more online channels, more broadband connectivity, more role models, more ease with failures, more startup support and less sexism.

This article was originally published in Women’s Web

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