As part of our ‘Women in HR’ special interview series, we want to highlight the personal stories, professional challenges, and career aspirations of women leaders in Corporate India. In this story, All Things Talent speaks to Gauri Das, Head of Human Resources at India Factoring and Finance Solutions Private Limited, as she shares her inspiring journey from a small village to the boardroom, her views on mentoring and nurturing other women and advancing their learning and career goals, and how a right mentoring relationship can be a powerful tool for professional growth.
My job hunt was tedious at first since I lived in a nuclear family and there was no one to support me with childcare. However, my determination did not waver, and I finally found solace with a family daycare.
Q: You have been empowering and transforming individuals, helping them become better versions of themselves for 15 years now. Tell us about your journey, and how it helped you become the better version of yourself. What have you had to sacrifice in the course of your career?
A: I was born in UP and have lived across seven different Indian states already. I spent a lot of my early years in a small village in Madhya Pradesh surrounded by trees and mountains. My happy childhood came at a small cost of no good schools. I remember studying in a Hindi medium school where I sat on the floor to read. I had a taste of life in large cities when I moved to Indore to pursue my engineering. The two learnings here were:
- Academics wasn’t the challenge for me, but communication was. I had to work hard to make up for my early years of schooling.
- I came to the realisation that I wasn’t meant to work with machines, I was indeed a people person.
One of my professors pushed me in the direction of a career in HR but life had some other plans and I moved to Assam immediately after my engineering. However, my soul still craved the fast pace of big city life that could support my big dreams. I did find work in Assam in the interim and was given the opportunity to support the HR function. The next move was shifting to Gujarat where I joined an institute and was then blessed with a baby in 2009 which called for a career break.
My husband found a job in Mumbai and that began a new chapter in my life. My job hunt was tedious at first since I lived in a nuclear family and there was no one to support me with childcare. However, my determination did not waver, and I finally found solace with a family daycare.
My first opportunity in the big city was with an FMCG company where I set up an HR function, but it, unfortunately, got shut down soon. I continued to persevere to find the next right thing and then, BFSI worked out in my favour. There are three P’s that helped me define my career – Passion, Perseverance, and Patience.
Q: As someone passionate about women empowerment, how have you found it best to promote and nurture women’s careers?
A: I would like to support this cause by:
- Changing the mindset of women. Many times women lack self-belief. They consider seeking help as a weakness. That should change. Women of all backgrounds and professions can sometimes find themselves being perceived as weak, no matter how hard they fight against the stereotype. “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have,” goes a famous saying.
- Making women financially independent. Financial freedom is a great strength and gives them courage. When women have the financial resources, the next step is to actually make financial freedom happen. Financial freedom for women is about asserting their rights, their wishes and working towards it. Get comfortable with financial decision making and the rest will follow.
- Bringing in financial, social, and political equity so that we are not only diverse but inclusive as well. Women empowerment is all about empowering women to lead a life without discrimination and with all the entitlements to live to their fullest potential. However, this right to equality is a theoretical concept until and unless it is coupled with an opportunity to exercise these rights in all spheres of their life. This requires changing mindsets, the beliefs that women are inferior sex, that they need to be protected and sheltered, that they are incapable of decision-making in any sphere of their life be it education, career, or family and resources.
“Women empowerment is all about empowering women to lead a life without discrimination and with all the entitlements to live to their fullest potential. However, this right to equality is a theoretical concept until and unless it is coupled with an opportunity to exercise these rights in all spheres of their life.”
Q: You are also leading a Leaning Circle called Leaders Lifting Leaders. Through initiatives like these, how do you ensure that women enable each other instead of competing? What needs to change in your opinion?
A: We envision a world where people of every gender can pursue their dreams without bias or other barriers holding them back. We believe that our society and economy would be better if women and girls were valued as equal to men and boys.
We work to create a safe and inclusive space for women professionals to come together regularly to support each other, share their challenges and advance their learning and career goals. We do this by creating advancement opportunities for each member in areas of:
- Personal Branding
- Networking & Community Building
- Learning & Skill Development
By coming together through this community, we are uplifting each other and not competing.
Q: What is one piece of advice to all women who are juggling between home and work?
A: Women should get rid of guilt and superwoman syndrome.
Q: How can young women find mentors? How do we ask for mentoring?
A: The right mentoring relationship can be a powerful tool for professional growth.
- Know your goals (both short and long-term). One strategy to create effective, easily achievable goals is to work SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound.
- Who do you look up to? Whose job would you like to have in the next 5, 10, or 15 years? Is this person inside or outside your workplace? Who is your immediate role model where you work?
- Keep a running list of the jobs and people you are visualizing. Have an elevator pitch ready. Be clear of your goals and why you think this person is the right mentor for you. Evaluate thoroughly before asking. Be upfront about your time-commitment, what you’re willing to put into the relationship and what you expect from them.
Drive the relationship and be a good mentee: Mentees should set goals to review with their mentors, agree on the amount of time they can invest, and suggest how they would like to work with their mentors. Driving the relationship may be uncomfortable at first but doing so will keep the focus on the mentee’s needs.