B TECH MATERIAL SCIENCE ENGINEERING, 1991
LEADERSHIP, PERFORMANCE AND LIFE COACH, MINDFULNESS TRAINER
I grew up in Delhi, in the railway colony. One of my fondest memories is holding my father’s hand and watching the Railway Band play music at the spring carnival every year. When I was very little I actually wanted to be a bandmaster! Later, of course, my love and aptitude for the sciences drew me to engineering. Seeing many of the smart kids in the colony go to IIT, I decided to give it a shot. My father was from Gujarat and my mother from Rajasthan. I enjoyed rich cultural traditions from both sides – summer holidays spent with cousins. At home, there was a focus on building a solid work ethic and finding my own way. My dad was the guiding light and my mother a loving presence. We had to be disciplined and follow rules - be home by seven and sit down to study. In hindsight, all the hard work really paid off. I was fortunate enough to clear JEE but at my rank, I was offered material science, a super interesting field but I didn’t know much about it. I joined IIT Bombay thinking I would give myself a month, to see if I wanted to study material science. At the end of 2 weeks my father came to visit. By then I was in love with the place, and could not imagine studying anywhere else.
The first year was challenging as it was a common curriculum for the entire batch and there was relative grading. Your grade was dependent on the grade of the smartest person in the class. There was a lot of levelling up as I came from a different board and hadn’t studied some curriculum topics in my 12th grade. Coming to terms with the reality of being around people much smarter than me was challenging. At the time, it felt overwhelming, but down the line, those grades don’t really matter much. There is so much more to success. A lot of things we had to put up with would be unacceptable behavior today. There was catcalling, ragging, judging and objectification. To be 15 girls in a batch of 300 put us under the spotlight. Thank God I had a good group of girlfriends - we supported each other through it all. I have to add there were loads of friendly and helpful boys as well, who helped normalize things and included us in fun activities on campus. On the positive side, we had many opportunities. All we had to do was say yes! Be it on the basketball court, sports track, or the drama club. There was a perennial shortage of girls, so all were welcome. Almost the entire girls contingent played basketball to make up the girls team, no matter the ability. I was a badminton player and there was this one time when my wingmate Maneesha and I beat the boys on the badminton court. It created so much hungama! And of course, IITB is where I met my life partner, Rajeev. We met on the badminton court and had so much fun being part of the IIT Bombay badminton team. We would study together, hang out with friends and go out late night to the campus canteen. He’s the one who got me through one of my toughest subjects – Physics 2.
I went to IIM Lucknow after my B.Tech. and started my career in finance at ICICI Securities in their equity research division. I covered commodities and visited steel plants and aluminium factories. I remember writing a report on Hindalco when they went for their ADR offering. I learned a lot and enjoyed every moment of it. Rajeev’s work gave us the opportunity to live in different parts of the world. I reinvented myself wherever I went. In UK, I became a research fellow at Aberdeen Business School. In the year 2000, we returned to India at a time when business television was taking off. CNBC TV18 was looking to hire a markets anchor – someone to report on the stock markets for television and I was keen on the job. Their CEO, Haresh Chawla, also from IIT Bombay, interviewed me and I joined CNBC as Associate Editor. I went into the deep end of business television, learning all about crisp, incisive communication and story telling. I was the only anchor with no prior journalism experience but I learned fast. I had to. It was an exciting time, covering live markets for prime time business TV, interviewing the top brass of corporate India, creating innovative programming content. A few years later, in 2012, I attended a self-development program which made me reflect on intentional living and explore my true passion and area of contribution. I realised that I was coasting along but I was certainly not the best version of myself. I wanted more. And that’s how my journey into coaching began.
I’m obsessed with the question of how people thrive. Martin Seligman’s PERMA model posits five areas as critical for happiness: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. My focus is to address the knowing-doing gap in these five areas. I use principles of psychology, neuroscience and mindfulness practice to help people bridge that gap. I worked to get my certification in coaching. It was a humbling experience to once again be a newcomer in a field and start by clocking coaching hours. A coach helps you learn about yourself, your personality, strengths and weaknesses, and relationships. A coach partners with clients to help them achieve their dreams and aspirations. A coach helps script and create success. What may feel like a stellar achievement to one person may feel like abject failure to another. Hence setting realistic expectations that generates the right kind of energy is a big part in the game. For me, success is not wining a race. Rather it is scripting and living a beautiful life. It revolves around the idea of making the most of life’s opportunities whilst holding one’s limitations and shortcomings with tenderness. It requires our experiencing self, one that lives and breathes experiences, and our evaluating self, one that judges experiences as good or bad, to work together in tandem.
I have taken many risks in my career and ventured on roads less travelled. This allowed me to explore new fields, learn new skills and embrace interesting opportunities. Most importantly, it allowed me to take time out to spend with my children when they were little. We lived in 6 countries over the last 25 years and I have ensured the kids never came back to an empty home. The years in television were very hectic and I was fortunate to have help from both our parents – they would fill in when I had to be away. I have been extremely fortunate to have a supportive family that has always encouraged me to pursue my career. My kids are now grown up and working. They push me to set challenging goals for myself. Life has come full circle!
As a young girl, I remember being hypersensitive and emotionally vulnerable. I would get very upset if I didn’t meet my expectations. I was easily overwhelmed and stressed. Luckily, I had the good sense to reach out for support – be it from family or friends, It made all the difference. Talking about your problems not only helps find solutions but also helps build deeper friendships. Lean in!