Confessions of a Working Parent

Just in this one context, I very well know I am not alone.  I also know I am neither the first nor the last working mom to go through an emotional roller coaster.  I just wanted to take some time and pen down my thoughts that are more confessional than anything.

Going Back to Work

Abiding by the maternity laws in California, I went back to work when my baby was four weeks old.  I have heard from many other moms that it was the hardest thing for them to do – going back to work leaving an infant baby at home, either with a grandparent or with a nanny.  If you ask me, I think it was the best thing for me.  I got back to sanity, and frankly, reality a lot faster that way.  Was it tough?  You bet it was.  Tearing myself away from my baby every morning, expressing milk and bringing it back (when I could just nurse my baby if only I was home!), balancing between work and the sleepless nights, and just dealing with the massive tsunami of guilt is not hard.  I still remember the day I just sat in my parked car in my office parking lot and cried my heart out because I just couldn’t handle it anymore.  But, I did, thanks to my husband, my mother, my family, and my friends.  Build and rely on your support system.  You need it.

Business Travel

That first business trip I had to sign up for made me feel weird.  I had to leave my baby for an entirety of four days! If going back to work was a nine on a scale 1-10, the business trip seemed like a 15!  Oh, but did I tell you that it was just plain awesome to sleep through the night in a quiet place?  And did I also say how awesome it was to wake up to nothing in the morning?  No chores, no kids, no breakfast/lunch duties.  That happiness lasted for two mornings in a row.  Day 3 brought that guilt tsunami back.  Thankfully, my business trips are four days long most times.  My husband also makes sure I get to video chat with kids every evening.  Those little things count.

Volunteering at Kids’ School

Schools fill the academic year with an incredible number of activities.  Teachers and school staff do a fantastic job of ensuring students get a well-rounded experience every year. Some of the activities where a parent volunteer’s help is greatly appreciated are – copying, classroom assistance, field trips, art projects, clay projects, math olympiads, yard duty, fundraising activity volunteers, among others.  I typically sign up for offsite activities – things I can help out without having to be necessarily in the school during the day.  Printing, emailing, procuring donations, placing online orders, etc. are some of the volunteering activities I prefer.

And then there is Project Cornerstone: ABC Reading that I enjoy the most!  This activity involves attending one 1hr parent meeting and spending one hour in the classroom reading a book to the children and helping them learn soft skills (how to stand up for themselves and others, how to brighten their and others’ day, how to make the school a safe and happy place, etc.).

Impromptu Activities at Kids’ School

I will give an example here.  I got a call from my Kid1 at 3 pm on a Wednesday, asking me if I could pick him up from his GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) class and take him to the GATE showcase in a different school.  He was just told to introduce his team in the showcase, on stage.  I just couldn’t drop everything I was doing in the office and go to him.  I requested another parent volunteer to help me out.  Was I a bad mother?  I don’t know.  But did I feel like the worst mother in the world?  You bet!

Just About Every Day!

I see some Stay At Home Parents spend their day with the kids at school, helping them out with almost everything and the massive tsunami I mentioned earlier, hits me again.  The thought that I probably am not spending enough time with my children crosses my mind.

But…

If you are like my Thing2, you will giggle at that title🙂 Having said all that, I love being a working parent.  I would never trade my life.  I enjoy learning a lot of things on the technical side myself.  I also love to be a parent once I’m back home in the evening.  I cannot see myself trading one for the other and still being happy.  To those folks that have traded one for the other and found happiness, I tip my hat to you!

Love.

ABC – Always Be Curious!

If anyone tells you that you are born an introvert and gregariousness cannot be learned, look them in the eye and say, “You couldn’t be more wrong!”

Born in a conservative family in a small town in rural Southern India, I was always very happy with my solitude.  In fact, at one point I was anti-social to the extent that any social interaction would trigger a severe migraine (literally!).  If you’ve known my for the last 5-6 years, I’m sure your eyes are opening wide and your jaw dropping.  Yes, you can learn to be gregarious.  I did!

Picture it.  2009.  That was the time I didn’t know the definition of “social media” and wasn’t really keen on learning either.  I was happy being the only marketing person at that small startup. 

During the course of my MBA program, I attended a Women in Business event hosted by my business school, Santa Clara University.  The theme of the event was “Personal Branding”.  And when “social media gurus” that spoke at the event spoke about establishing one’s own brand identity, brand value and brand equity (yes, these are some very frequently used B-school terms), I couldn’t be more intrigued. Twitter was one of the first social media channels that became my experimental pad.  It helped me learn how to be social.  It taught me the easiest way to engage in a conversation where I still learned the most.  It helped me get rid of the “introvert” in me.  These are all reasons why I highly respect and value my Twitter network today!

Just like the three basic principles of real estate are “location, location and location”, the three basic rules for our growth (personally and professionally) are “network, network and network”.  Rate of your growth is directly proportional to your network. 

My recommendation to you — identify your personal and/or professional development goals.  Do a little research to understand the best ways you can connect with peers and experts that can help you learn and grow.  And then, just do it!  Engage with others.  The biggest revelation (the A-Ha! moment) for me was when I grasped the fact that everyone around me is so generous to help me learn!  Everyone is here to help, IF you are open to learning!

Stay curious.  Be eager to learn.  Know you cannot be correct always.  Keep an open mind.  Have a question?  Think it’s a stupid question?  It’s alright.  Ask away!  You will be happy you asked!  

Always ask yourself, “Why?”  Always Be Curious.  Those are the ABCs of my life.  I’ve been extremely lucky for establishing a massive support network that helps me learn, every waking moment.

If I can do it, you can too!

25 years.

As we all celebrated Mother’s Day earlier and Father’s Day today, I couldn’t but thank my mother for being the strongest of the sails to steer me and my sister through the roughest of the storms.  She has been technically the Mother, but stepped up to be our Father as well!

Twenty five years ago, in January, I had celebrated my last single digit birthday.  May 01, 1989: few days into my summer vacation and I was excited to spend that month with my entire family.  You see, dad’s job kept him away from us for more than three fourths of a month…and he told me he took the entire month off from work!  But we all know that “Man Proposes; God Disposes”, right?

05/05/1989.  That day.  That dreaded day.  I woke up at around 7am with what sounded like the loudest thud; with my father collapsing on the bed near my feet.  I was stunned and had no idea what was going on.  I think I slowly started to grasp the reality when I saw my mother and my uncle panic to keep him alive.  When the doctor-slash-family-friend uttered the words “purchase ice”, I had no clue what those words meant.

About ten minutes after, my uncle took me to the post office to send telegrams to the extended family.  I vividly remember my uncle’s handwriting on the telegram forms that said “Bhavani passed away; please start immediately”.  I stared blankly at that sentence as he wrote it over and over again, for about 25-30 times.  I still had no idea what was going on.  But the way we were born and raised to not question the adults, I couldn’t dare to ask.  I was hoping someone would explain something to me!

About an hour later, we got back home.  And what I saw there, brought me to the harsh reality with a shocking jolt!  Only then I fully understood what the heck was going on.  My father’s lifeless body was carefully perched atop two large ice blocks.  My mother was sitting near his feet; shocked and speechless.  My sister sat next to mom, holding her tightly and trying to contain her emotions.  But I didn’t know how to react.  I was too scared.  That’s when I realized I could become truly speechless even though I wanted to say something…or at least, shed a tear.

As hours passed by, my father’s cricket-team of a family (they were 11 siblings) slowly trickled in.  He was the 8th of the 11 kids.  My youngest uncle fainted when he saw my dad lay there, lifeless.  My oldest aunt, who had raised my dad as her own son, fell over my father’s body and cried for well about an hour.  My oldest uncle hugged his little brother’s body and cried like a baby.  To see their sibling start the “race” at a mere 42 years of age, was too shocking for everyone to comprehend.  The next day, they “prepared” him to take the cremation grounds.  I realized then–I would never see him.  Ever.  Those would become the few glances I’d get that would be my lifelong memories of him that I’d have to live with.  And that’s when I cried.  Uncontrollably.

Through all this chaos, the one person I looked up to, before letting out any of my emotion, was my mother.  She stood there as a rock.  She focused on what needed to be done, while letting out an occasional tear or two.  Whenever I saw her and whenever she spoke to us, all I could feel was the sense of determination; determination to raise her two new-teen and pre-teen daughters.

And for the next twenty five years, she stayed strong for me and my sister.  She never let us feel that void left by dad.  She went out of the way to make sure that we never said “we could’ve had xyz if dad were alive” or “we could’ve done xyz if dad were alive”…and so on.  If you are even closely aware of how hard it is to raise girls in India, especially by a single mom, you will know why I am so proud of my mother and why I respect her the way I do.  To give up everything when she was only 35 and to raise two girls, working hard for every single rupee she had to earn, to go to that extra mile to make us both engineers, to get us married in a grand fashion…and so much more that she did–this life is not enough for me to count every single thing that she did for us.

If my sister and I are here today, we owe it to our mother.

We couldn’t have asked for a better mother, father, friend, guide, teacher–all wrapped in one form, her–who could easily step into any role as and when we needed her.  Ma, we love you.  Happy Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Friendship Day, Teachers’ Day…and many more, to you, Ma.

 

Mother: The One Irreplaceable Person In Your Life

Every one of us goes through the phase in our lives where we (a) know better than mom does and (b) wish mom hadn’t said/done that to embarrass us. However, we all have also realized that we wouldn’t be here today, without that one person cheering us all along…from the sidelines or on the other side of the phone (or world).

Mothers are the most amazing blessing we will ever be blessed with in our life.

On this Mother’s Day, and any other day, I raise my glass to toast for the two amazing mothers I’ve known throughout my life–my mother and my sister. They are the two most beautiful women in my life that have inspired me, guided me and supported me through every step of my life.

Thank you, mom. Thank you, sis. I love you both.

Panel Event: Moving Up The Ladder

Today, I had the opportunity (thank you, Cindy!) to share my career transition and all the hurdles I crossed so far. I was very honored to be on the panel along with some very fine professionals such as Ramon, Elena, Vijai and Komal.

I wanted to share with you some of the golden nuggets that my fellow panelists shared today.

Get out of your comfort zone.
Ask questions.
Negotiate; because you don’t get what you deserve but you get what you negotiate.
Show initiative.
Establish credibility.
Connect. Learn. Influence.
Know when to exit (job/company/business).
Own your career.
Develop soft skills; you can’t acquire those from books/schools.
Career setbacks can become your growth opportunity.

And last, but the most important nugget – Network! Network! Network!

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From South India to South Bay!

Santa Clara University.  These three words mean a LOT to me.  They mean more the three letters they gave me in my resume – MBA.

Born and raised in a very small town in southern India, I come from a culture and a community that is nowhere similar to the culture and community I currently live in the Bay Area of California.

In my first quarter at MBA at Santa Clara University in Fall 2006, there wasn’t a single day that I did not think that I was making a mistake.  I felt that I did not (and maybe, could not) “fit in”.  If you know me or have met me in the past couple of years, you will not believe even a single ounce of what I’ve said here so far.

So what changed?  I did.

I opened up my mind to fight the challenges I faced throughout this transition.  I fought those stereotypes that many people used in order to identify me.  I got out of my comfort zone.  I did things that I wouldn’t have normally done, such as – ask a Product Manager or a Product Marketing Manager out for a coffee or lunch, so I could learn what a day in their life looks like.  I learned to ask questions, and a lot of them.  I became less afraid of asking questions, even if I thought they were stupid questions.  One of the industry experts that spoke at an event told me there were NO stupid questions. I always remembered that – no one will help unless you ask!

So, today, why do I revisit this stage from my past?  Santa Clara University.   Those three words.  And few more: Women in Business Conference.

SCU hosts the Annual Women in Business Conference and I am very honored to be a panelist in one of the workshops this year where we get to share our experiences with the attendees.

If you are in the Bay Area this weekend and can spend your precious Saturday with us on-campus at SCU, I cordially invite you to register and come by to share your experiences with us and the current MBA students at SCU.

A New Chapter…

When I read this blog the first time, I felt that it couldn’t be any truer.  I tweeted that link and got at least half a dozen RT’s and “+1s”.  But when I look at myself today, I am extremely proud and happy that I am the perfect counter example for this statement.  You see, my pet peeve #215 is a “blanket statement”, because there are always counter-examples for such statements.  I digress.

Today, I bring my Symantec journey to an end.  After almost a three year run at Symantec, I resume my journey at Citrix.

These few years at Symantec have been nothing but phenomenal for me.  I’ve been given many opportunities to make mistakes, learn and grow in my career.   I moved from Citrix to Symantec in mid-2011 to join Symantec’s App Virtualization and Streaming group.  From there, my journey led me to a network security product and then brought me to Enterprise Mobility when Symantec acquired Nukona.  These two years of my Product Marketing life with Symantec App Center have been beyond fantastic.  I entered one of the hottest topics in the industry, worked on strategic activities at Symantec, met the most elite folks in the community (huge thanks to Twitter), made some long lasting friendships and learned more than a lifetime’s worth!

I also want to take a moment to thank the three managers I had while I was with Symantec – Brian Duckering, Chandra Rangan and Travis Grandpre.  They are some of the best folks I’ve ever worked for.  I loved working for each of them!  Thank you so much, guys, for being the best managers that you’ve been to me!  I wouldn’t be here today without your support, motivation and more important, your confidence in me.

Along with these inspirational leaders, I had the opportunity to work with many many more fantastic people while at Symantec.  My Sales and SE teams have been the best!  The regional teams, integrated marketing team, education team, regional product management and product management teams — each team had their own way of inspiring  me in every step of my career at Symantec.

With a sad and a heavy heart, I leave my family that I’ve built at Symantec to join Citrix’s XenMobile team with Chandra and Ahmed.  I am very excited to be part of the X(Z)en team and look forward to many such successful milestones at Citrix.

The excitement (and the journey) continues.