I have been a mother for 18 years now. I have been working for 27 years now. So, logically, I have been a working mom for 18 years! Let me confess, I had decided to quit my job when the baby came along. My family advised me against it and asked me to bargain for a long leave, instead. I was on 10 months of leave and would have continued longer (until the organisation would have remembered that Neeraja was on leave), but my family gently coaxed me to go back to work to regain and retain my sanity! Hence, many of the nuggets of wisdom that I would be sharing with the young girls here are from that phase of my life.
How many times have we heard someone say “She was at the right place at the right time”? How many times have you told yourself that “she” just got lucky. Wouldn’t we all want to have all that luck and know what is the right time and which is the right place for us to just show up?
I would rather go with what Chris Grosser (who now works at Tesla) says. His resume starts with his quote “Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.” Does this not seem more to be in your control than the earlier statements?
So, how does one create opportunities? My response to it is – “Treat every interaction as an opportunity”. Whether it is a social event, a professional conference, a chat on a WhatsApp group or attending a webinar, you get to interact with someone and that’s a potential opportunity for you.
Let’s discuss this wonderful opportunity that I now have to write this series for Aspire For Her. I am not a writer. Did I just get lucky to have been called by Aspire For Her and given this assignment? Or did someone at Aspire For Her see me somewhere and felt that I would do a good job of it?
Let me trace back to where it all started. My daughter, Sneha, got bitten by the writing bug when she was 12. I think it was when she participated in a couple of writing competitions and was declared a winner in one of them. She took the victory to heart and started writing more pieces. Like any other mother, I wanted to ensure that she gets the best of resources available to improve her writing. I started following authors, publishers, events, competitions, courses and anything related to writing on social media. Since she was too young to go to the venues where these events were held, I went along with her. I could have left her at these events to enjoy herself and retreated to a corner to engage myself but I sat through all the storytelling and story writing sessions. I guess that’s where it all started. I felt an itch to write. I started by covering the events that I went to, and slowly moved onto writing for online publications and guest blogging. Last year, one of my writings won the Orange Flower award. Recently I participated in a blog hop and my writing was one of the pieces chosen to be part of the anthology. And now, I am writing this fortnightly column for Aspire For Her. Would you now agree with Chris Grosser that I created these opportunities for myself?
Fast Forward to March 2020. A week after Sneha’s last 12th std exam got postponed. I was talking to Madhura, founder of Aspire for Her. We both are part of a Senior Women leaders WhatsApp group and via introductions done on the group by the members, we both connected over a call for me to know more about Aspire For Her. As the call was ending, she enquired about my family and I saw Sneha moving about and called her to introduce her to Madhura. Madhura took that opportunity to tell Sneha about the ambassador program that Aspire For Her was going to launch in the next few days and asked her if she would be interested to join. And, as they say, rest is history. This is a perfect example of an interaction that Sneha had with Madhura which opened up an opportunity for her. Now, you may ask – what’s the big deal here? The big deal is about how Sneha treated my request to come over and introduce herself to Madhura. I know of many youngsters at that age who either shy away from meeting strangers, or have an attitude of “I don’t want to talk to mom’s friends”. “What will I say to someone who is so much older than me?” or “There is nothing common between us” are the usual reasons (or excuses) given to avoid the conversations. Many don’t even show up or mingle with the same age group unless they know them from their schools, colleges or neighbourhood. So, a simple interaction led to an amazing opportunity for Sneha during the COVID-19 lockdown, to not just be an ambassador for Aspire For Her, but to learn industry relevant skills which will serve as a big differentiator for her in the coming days, be it for college admissions, job interviews or when she starts working post her education.
Therefore, I urge all of you to stop saying “Lucky You” going forward.
As Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube says – “Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect box. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. Opportunities – the good ones – are messy, confusing and hard to recognise. They’re risky. They challenge you”.
Make this very moment the right time and this very place, the right place! Today is an opportunity to get better. Don’t waste it!