We caught up with Priyanka, the COO of Manupatra and lawskills.in for a quick chat about returning to work. She had some real advise for women out there today.
Reboot: How long have you been working?
Priyanka: Since 1995 ..that’s 23 years !
Reboot: That’s a long time! So, tell us, how have you managed the work-life-balance – as in how did you manage being a mother as well as build a career. Do you think the two are mutually exclusive and can’t be on the fast track together?
Priyanka: More often than not they are mutually exclusive.They can both be on a fast track together if you have solid support ( professional care taker / family that assumes the role of a primary care giver] at home and you are not a helicopter mom!
How I have managed both (I will not say balanced ) is purely by trying to be true to both the roles. I cannot short change either. There are days when I may cheat on one ..but I know I need to make that up sooner than later. You have to ensure work gets done at your own initiative. How when and from where you are doing it is inconsequential. But to have your employers have this faith in you is in your hands, and that comes from consistent hard work and being consistently dependable.
Personally I have been lucky in how things worked out for me. I was part of a start up Manupatra which I joined in June 2000, the month it was conceived. My life was “Manupatra’ till my daughter was born in 2006 . In the 6 years I was so entrenched in the project that in retrospect it seems I became a fixed fixture in the scheme of things.
The day I proceeded on maternity leave , my CEO gave me a Blackberry (it was launched around that time). The BB was my work tool for next 3 months. My daughter was born on in April and I did the appraisal exercise for the team same month. While I was not completely off work for the first 3 months , I was not killing myself. I was facilitating work remotely in whatever way it was required. Fill in the gaps , provide information, leads, maintained the communication channels, set perspective for various groups etc.
I worked from home thereafter for next 9 months ; then I started to go into office half a day ( with my daughter and full time help tagging along and one of the conference rooms becoming a make shift play and rest room.) and half day work from home. In last 6 years I have got back full time , with no tags .
Reboot: Wow you’ve definitely worked hard. Because no matter what you say, when you have just had a baby and your boss gives you a blackberry, you are not sure if that’s a good thing! So, let me ask you this – do you think that in order to excel in the professional space, you have to give up some special or important moments with your family.
Priyanka: Oh yes, so many times. I personally feel there is no so called ‘balance’ between home – work. Every day the scale tilts towards either one. When you leave work don’t feel guilty about leaving for home and when you leave home don’t feel guilty about leaving for work !
Reboot: Did you take a break at all then? And how did you make your way back?
Priyanka: While I had looked forward to a break and had thought that maternity would do that for me, on the hindsight I feel I was fortunate the break did not happen. Meant a lot of hard work, juggling and long hours ..stretching yourself..but been worth it .
Reboot: That must have been tough. So, what would you say to a woman who is at home right now, looking to get back
Priyanka: GET BACK TO WORK !! You don’t necessarily need to get back into an office space. Get back to work , from anywhere. There are multiple remote, virtual , freelance, self owned business work options today. Whatever route you choose, you will need to invest yourself more than 100% . Be conscientious and over time it will work out for you.
Reboot: Lastly, what advise would you give to women who are planning to take a career break
Priyanka: Try and get back to work as soon as you can. Else the inertia sets in. And then follows low self esteem, bludgeoning of confidence. While you are off, try and still do something creative and productive related to work. Keeps you relevant , in touch with working ethos.
So here are many pointers for you women, but do remember that investing in yourself and staying the course bears fruit! We thank Priyanka for taking the time out of her busy schedule to speak with us.
Reboot Editorial Team