Introducing Ruchika, a highly experienced and ambitious woman who has worked in the banking industry for over 25 years. Throughout her career, she has proven herself to be a committed and inclusive leader, excelling in various roles. With a strong focus on her goals, Ruchika is a driven and dedicated professional who has achieved significant milestones in her corporate journey.
Childhood is the door to our future. How we grow up has much to do with our childhood experiences, learnings and exposure. It pretty much paves the way for how we will shape up as adults.
When we look at Ruchika’s life, we can see that very well. Ruchika grew up in a household where she was the youngest among four sisters. While she had the love and guidance of her parents and older siblings, she also had a lot of independence in making her own decisions and not being controlled and monitored all the time.
It was a big family with parents, grandparents and sisters, which meant a mix of personalities in the household. Different kinds of people lived there, and each had to learn to coexist with the others, which was a great learning experience for Ruchika and kept her in good stead for years to come.
In a world where the female child was not given the pride of place, Ruchika grew up in a family where the girls were cared for and showered with love and affection. It was her father who took the lead in this. While both parents wanted the girls to be independent and confident young women, the father added that extra bit, making their childhood special and memorable.
Certain things which are normal coming from a woman become extra special when they come for a man and that to a father. So it was Ruchika’s father who taught the girls how to apply nail paint and who would trim their hair on the weekends. And that meant that the girls were extremely close to their father and grew up not bound by gender roles and norms. In their world, everyone was equal.
Such was the closeness between Ruchika and her father that she ensured that when it was time for her to get married, he helped her choose her wedding dress.
Certain decisions in your life are not the result of what has been said to you but of what you have imbibed. The culture and values of a family help children make critical decisions. So in Ruchika’s family, the parents made it abundantly clear to the daughters that they had to grow up to be independent women able to fend for themselves. They had to experience life from different angles and learn from each experience.
Learning cooking and other household chores was never a priority. The parents wanted the girls to focus on their academics and excel. Their father also encouraged them to get into sports. The undercurrent was that you have to do something in life you can be proud of.
Coupled with this was that Ruchika had three role models in her sisters, who were equally ambitious. Such was the upbringing that the conversations among the girls were centredaround career goals and ambitions. This environment initiated the thought process in Ruchika, and by the time she was thirteen years old, she was clear about her life and life goals.
She knew she wanted a career but needed to decide what line to choose. She could see many doctors, engineers, lawyers, chartered accountants and company secretaries around her. Using the process of elimination, she decided that since she loved numbers, she would opt for being a Chartered Accountant. From then on, she identified the path she had to follow to achieve her goal and made her dream come true.
Challenges and Roadblocks
Regarding challenges in life, Ruchika feels that we all have to face challenges at all stages of our lives, and she is no different. Different life stages present different challenges; it is just that one has to learn how to cope with them.
Since she grew up in a family where girls were given all the possible liberty whenever she faced a challenge, she never attributed the challenge to her being a girl. She always felt that everyone faced such challenges.
But when she now reflects, she feels that there were certain situations which she had to deal with only because she was a girl. For instance, for her CA coaching, she couldn’t go to the best tutor because his classes were held at hours when it was difficult for a girl to travel. They were either early in the morning or late in the evening. She had to rule out that option since she depended on public transport and the city wasn’t too safe. But then, she wasn’t likely to let that hinder her progress. She chose to work even harder to compensate for the best classes.
Then once she got married, there was another trying situation. As per convention, she was required to take on her husband’s last name as hers, which meant giving up on her maiden last name. She wasn’t comfortable doing that. She firmly believed, and rightly so, that her parents were the ones who had played the crucial role in making her the way she was, and so she couldn’t leave their name out of her name. Her maiden name had given her her identity and foundation, and it had to be part of her name. She discussed this with her husband and decided to keep both the names, the maiden and the married. So today, the two most important families of her life are a part of her name, which gives her a sense of fulfilment and fairness.
The next challenge came when she gave birth to her daughter. Like every mother, she didn’t want to leave her child with anyone and wanted to be there for all her needs. She didn’t want to part with her at all. So when the time came for her to join work after her maternity leave ended, she wanted to quit. However, once again, her husband stepped in and suggested she join back and test the waters. The option of quitting would always be there, but she had to see how things could be worked out. And once she joined back, she realised that she had missed her work and there was no way that she could or would quit. Though difficult, she handled everything from her job, family, and social life.
Also, whenever required, she switched jobs and never looked back.
She does admit that all this was possible because of the support of her husband and family, who encouraged and motivated her at every point. Even her father-in-law encouraged her to stay on her path by sharing articles about successful women with her.
Life moved on with her giving more than a hundred per cent to her work. Then there came a time when she was working on a challenging project, and there was a lot of pressure on her to see it through. She had to put in a lot of time which started affecting her health. And, of course, her family life was also getting affected. At this point, she again contemplated quitting because she felt too much was at stake. But then she realised that running away from a difficult situation was not her. She was the kind to face challenges head-on and not retreat. So, therefore, she decided that rather than quitting, she would get to the root of the problem and fix it. The root was her physical inability, so she decided to build on her physical strength by learning yoga and making it a part of her life. Not only did this lifestyle change help her physically but mentally and emotionally as well. It helped her calm down and balance different aspects of her life.
Today when she looks back, she feels this was like a turning point in her life from where she never looked back and only moved ahead.
As far as challenges due to her gender are concerned, Ruchikarealises that certain decisions of hers were due to her being a female, though, at that time, it hadn’t seemed like that. The decisions did not affect her career but were taken because she was a woman. She feels that certain things are so deeply embedded in our psyches that we don’t realise they are the reason behind some of our actions.
For instance, she remembers that she never ever opted to move out of the country whenever an opportunity arose. That was because somewhere, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to uproot her family to move to a new country. And all the time, while her male colleagues were going ahead, she did not feel left out because somewhere, she knew she couldn’t do it.
Another thing which she now realises is that as a woman, she wasn’t in the habit of asking for something, like a new role or an opportunity. She never felt the need to talk about her work or promote what she was doing like her male colleagues. She always believed that her work would speak for itself. That she feels wasn’t the right thing to do. Because she did not communicate sometimes, she went unnoticed, something that did not happen to men because they constantly communicated.
She now realises that it is essential to voice your needs and communicate your desires because unless you do that, how will anyone know you are willing to take on a challenge or do something new? She feels leaders always understand and accommodate, but one has to express one’s desire which she didn’t.
Balance in Life
Regarding balance in life, Ruchika feels that there is no turning away from the different roles in life. Each one of them needs time and attention and is equally important. And more importantly, she feels you cannot switch off from any of them. While at work, you may need to take calls from home if there is an emergency and vice versa. But you cannot do everything altogether. Therefore the best way is to know when to do what.
According to her, the golden rule is to prioritise and then decide. Whenever whatever is essential needs to take precedence over everything else. But the process is continuous and ongoing. There is no way that you can have boundaries between your personal and professional lives. The two will merge and collide at various times because both have to do with you. The two makeup one world and cannot be treated as two.
Also, she feels that one must always communicate and, at times, over-communicate. If there is an issue at home, let your bosses know so they can understand your state of mind or absence at a particular time. Similarly, if there is a crisis at work, the family must be brought into the picture to understand your situation and position. Most people will rise to the occasion and understand and support you if you do that. Therefore it is essential to reach out to people when you need support.
Ruchika does not measure success in terms of monetary or physical rewards and recognition. For her, success means being able to fulfil your dreams and scale heights that you thought to be unattainable. Her only competition is her own self, and if, in her eyes, she has done what she wanted to, then that is success for her.
Looking from that lens, she feels she has been highly successful. Not only does she have a happy personal life but an extremely accomplished professional one as well. She has been able to get whatever mattered to her and was on her list of priorities.
Highs and Lows of Life
Ruchika feels highs and lows are part and parcel of everyone’s life, and she is no exception. But we all have to find our coping mechanisms to deal with them. She has devised quite a few.
She has days when she is in a bad mood and feels she won’t be able to give her best to anything she does. In fact, she could be reactive, which could hurt people. So in such situations, she tries to avoid whatever she can, especially when it is work-related. If at home, she just withdraws and retreats into her shell until she feels better.
However, she does have an antidote for this: music. She loves music, and when she is low, she listens to it, and that has an uplifting effect on her. Music transcends her into a different world, and she returns rejuvenated and refreshed.
She feels that yoga, too, has a calming effect on her. So when feeling blue, she gets into her yoga zone to come out of the low point.
And then there is her family, which includes her husband and sisters with whom she can share anything and everything. And when she does that, she feels lighter and sorted.
She also resorts to self-introspection to understand why she feels like she does. She has conversations with herself to comprehend and understand a situation.
She feels introspection, analysis, and action are the best ways to get out of such situations.
Ten Years from Now
Ruchika has been working for almost thirty years and feels that work is in her bones. She will never be able to hang her boots and not do anything. Ten years from now, she may want to take a break, relax and travel for a while, but she will find something to do.
She has many dreams and feels she may pick on one of them. One of her dreams is to give back to the community.
She dreams of setting up a school for children as she feels being with children is very refreshing and can keep one on one’s toes. The mind can stay alert when you are with children.
She also has a desire to do something for the older people. She feels that old people are lonely and need company, and she would be happy doing something for them. She could even do something for the environment.
She also feels that she would like to put all her corporate experience and knowledge to some use and leverage it to help others. She thinks that nowadays, we all have long runs in terms of age, so there is a lot one can do.
So right now, she doesn’t know what exactly she will be doing, but she knows she will be productive and constructive in some way.
Learnings of Life
There are many lessons that Ruchika has learnt in life, and she happily shared some of those with us.
Ruchika feels that whenever stuck in a situation, it is critical to have a conversation about it as that will enable you to express your views. This is especially true in a work situation. If you keep things inside you, they will keep piling up and not enable you to think clearly and may cloud your judgement; therefore, getting them out of the system is crucial. She says that sharing a point of view shows that you have a thinking mind and are willing to contribute to finding a solution to a problem which can work very well for you in your job.
She feels it is critical to be confident about one’s abilities and never doubt oneself because people will treat you accordingly. Confidence can take you places.
Also, one should never hold back from asking for something. She says that if you want something or there is something you think you can achieve, then make it known to people because you will only get it if you ask for it. This is true for both personal and professional life. You need to communicate with people and ask for what you want.
Many people are good to us in life and pave the way for our success. Ruchika believes one must never forget that and help as many people as possible. As she says, we must pay forward.
She also feels that one must always have room for other people’s opinions and listen to what they have to say. One may disagree with a point of view, but that is due to a different perspective. She feels that no perspective can be wrong; it is just how people look at different things. She says that when you listen, you are not only giving the other person the opportunity to speak but also allowing yourself to learn something, and that helps both.
World and Successful Women
Ruchika has never let other people’s opinions about her affect her. She has never considered them important enough. In her life, she has been her own competition. She identified her goals, created her path around them, and worked to achieve them. She does seek advice when needed and feels good when appreciated, but people’s views about her do not matter to her.
She feels happy and accomplished knowing she has done well on her goals; people appreciate her and see her as a role model. She’d much rather focus on her work than on people’s opinions.
Ruchika feels that people switching to different careers in their mid-lives is highly refreshing as it shows their open and flexible mindsets. She believes that so many are doing this because, probably, when they made their career choices in their youth, they did not have too many options, so they chose from what was available. With time they realised it wasn’t something they wanted to do.
In today’s world, with so much awareness and information, people have unlimited opportunities to explore and find their passion. They are doing that and finding happiness and fulfilment. Today, success is not only measured by material things. It goes deeper than that into joy, contentment and peace of mind. People no longer have to follow the beaten path.
However, she adds a word of caution to this. She feels that giving up a career for a passion is okay, but giving it up because you must make some hard choices is not the right reason. She feels it should not be done to make life easy or because you cannot face challenging times. Therefore before making such a switch, it is imperative to understand the reason behind it. She sees that sometimes women exercise such an option, and that is not the right thing to do. She believes staying on course and facing tough times is critical because that will lead to true happiness and contentment. Running away will only bring short-term joy or peace.
Advice for Young Girls
Ruchika is pleased to see young women thriving in today’s world, taking responsibility for both their achievements and setbacks.
But she does have some pearls of wisdom for them. She feels that every individual must believe in themselves. It is vital to be comfortable in your skin and not worry about what others think about you. She advises that you accept your strengths and weaknesses and work accordingly. She feels one must not copy others and be one’s own self. She believes success will come knocking at your door if you have that attitude because you are true to yourself. But any success will take time.
She also advises young girls to speak up if they feel something is wrong, especially if they sense that there is some gender bias. She says it will require courage, but it will be worth it because it will either help you correct the problem or will help you understand the situation.
Another thing she feels strongly about is that one must never be a pushover in life and do things just to be labelled as nice. She thinks if you find something you disagree with, you must call it out and never make light of it. Such actions will help you grow, forge relationships and sometimes break your biases.
She also feels it is good to find mentors at your workplace who can help you grow and evolve. They can guide you, coach you and prevent you from making mistakes. Therefore, the sooner you seek them out, the better for you.
Woman, a Woman’s Worst Enemy
Based on her experience in the corporate world, Ruchika has some intriguing thoughts on the commonly used phrase. She believes that in a world where women are outnumbered and have to work harder to be noticed, they may become slightly more competitive than usual. It’s natural for women to feel envious or competitive when trying to establish themselves in a male-dominated environment.
Also, some people believe that women have a choice when it comes to work, in that they can quit whenever they want to, as they have husbands who can support them. So sometimes, because of that belief, women may become less collaborative towards other women to prove that they are equally serious about their work.
Also, she feels that women never connected socially until a few years ago. They would finish work and head home to handle their other responsibilities. As a result, they never got a chance to interact with other women and vent their feelings and emotions, leading to misunderstandings. But now, this is changing, and jealousy and competitiveness will reduce with more communication channels. She believes this happened only because of women being in a smaller number, and it could have been the same for men had they been in a similar situation.
Also Read: Time for Multiple Careers …
Can a Woman Have It All?
Yes, she does believe that a woman can have it all, but it is crucial to define the all. She feels women must be clear about when they want what; they must prioritise things in their life. Everything cannot be equally important all the time.
Also, a woman has to make choices as she can’t do everything simultaneously.
Thus knowing your priorities and making the right choices will give you the all and make you happy.