Tell us about yourself
I come from a traditional North-Indian family which believes in living life with simplicity and being content with what one achieves after having given their 100%. My parents and elder brother have been instrumental in introducing me to the values of hard work, believing in honesty, respecting everyone and appreciating whatever nature provides and have played a crucial role in building up my confidence. I’m also extremely lucky to have a loving husband and in-laws who have always supported me in my personal and professional life.
After finishing school from the small coastal town of Daman, I graduated from India’s top Architecture college – Sir J. J. College of Architecture, Mumbai. While in college, I wasn’t very inclined to build a professional career as I had never seen any full-time working woman even in my big and extended family and had no clue how it was like to be one. Staying in a hostel and out of parent’s protective wings did however help me in becoming independent and prepared me to take on challenges in life without hesitation.
Even though I was always working after college, the thought that I could do well as a professional started taking shape when I joined Edifice Consultants – a leading Architecture and Design firm headquartered in Mumbai. I joined their Pune regional office as a Designer (Front End). Over a period of time I realized that the work I was doing was professionally known as “Design Management” which was a new kind of role in the industry. As a design manager I oversaw development of design concepts, guided project management teams across interiors, architecture & landscape design projects, managed legal & commercial contracts, and led all client interactions of prominent projects for marquee clients like Syntel, Tata Chemicals, Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital and Taj Gateway.
Working on such big projects with a diverse set of stakeholders and with sometimes conflicting agendas helped me in understanding my key strengths – People Management and Problem Solving.
After Edifice, I joined Total Environment in Bangalore as a Design Manager. Since TE is an Architect-led developer firm that handles both design and construction in-house, I was gradually asked to take up additional responsibilities and in less than a year from joining I was promoted to head TE’s Project Management Office. Currently I manage a young team of bright and talented individuals whose job is to manage the entire gamut of design, co-ordination and construction related activities to ensure that Total Environment’s projects consistently meet their high quality standards.
Apart from my professional work, I am very fond of motorcycle road-trips. My husband and I love to go on long rides with a 3,000 km road-trip across Himachal, Ladakh & Kashmir that we did in 2013 being one of our most memorable one.
Are you working on any current projects or initiatives?
Even though I have not been able to spare a lot of time for this, but working at the grass-root level to bring about change in my immediate surroundings be it cleanliness or working with local municipal bodies to get things done is what I like to do. My inspiration for this work is my Dad who continues to work on these fronts after retiring from his Government job.
Being a practitioner of Art of Living and a follower of Sri Sri Ravishankar’s teachings, I have realized how important it is to stay healthy, lead a healthy life style, to be spiritually inclined and to be always grateful for what one has. My association with Art of Living has had a very positive impact on me and how I perceive events and situations in life. I always share these experiences with people I know to bring about a positive change in their life as well. I firmly believe that a healthy society starts with a healthy individual.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
I believe that the biggest challenge for anyone is their own mind-set. I believe that if one is ready to work hard with honesty and integrity and takes the time to empathise with other people’s fears and motivations, there is no problem that can’t be solved and no goal that can’t be achieved.
I don’t think I have really ever faced any big challenge in my professional life. It maybe because of how I’ve been raised by my parents, I’ve always seen obstacles as an opportunity to grow, to learn something new and as an experience to build my character. This has made me more courageous to try out new things and if something does not go the way I expect, it mostly gives me the learning to make myself better.
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
I was always an average student in school and had never dreamt of a career as a working woman or of managing an entire department in a respected company. To be honest, I’m deeply satisfied with whatever I have been able to achieve till now.
I have had the good fortune of graduating from J. J. College and working with great companies that have given me the freedom to express my views and disagreements and supported me without any kind of discrimination. I’ve made many friends and have worked with some of the best designers, managers, entrepreneurs and individuals and I feel truly blessed to have worked with them.
I believe that I’ve been able to work out the work-life integration part and have been able to juggle multiple roles at home and work, however I would leave that to the other people in my life to judge…
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
This is a difficult question for me to answer because I’ve always kept myself grounded in the present. I like to keep things simple and do not worry about the past or plan too far into the future.
My company builds beautiful homes, a personal corner of the world that our customers can call their own and retreat at the end of the day to recharge, refresh and be ready to take on the world come another morning. Today I’m in a position which affords me an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, not only to my organization and colleagues, but also to the lives of our customers by ensuring that my company’s vision is transformed into reality. I don’t think there is anything else that I would be doing right now.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is Smriti Irani. She is an excellent orator, keeps her strong views and presents them in the most powerful manner. She withstands the outrage with valor and she is the youngest cabinet minister in Narendra Modi’s government.
Her dynamic personality of being self made is what inspires me.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m at a very exciting phase in my career and I’m thoroughly enjoying my work. In the immediate future I would like to continue doing the good work and help take my organization to greater heights.
I know that at some point in time I’ll definitely get into public service working on issues at the grass root level and applying my experience of getting things done in a corporate setup for the public good. I don’t however have any fixed timeframe in my mind yet.
I’ve grown fond of travelling – not the touristy type whirlwind trips, but taking the time off to learn the culture, history and lifestyle of the places I visit. Mostly these trips will be astride a motorcycle where I can feel the wind in my hair and absorb the landscape, one mile at a time.
I also have an online store called EasyCover.in. From the time I remember, anything and everything in my family had to have a cover – proper handmade covers where the ladies of the house showed their creativity. Covers not only took care of the item from dust and general protection, it was part of the interior set-up of our house I’ve grown up seeing my mom creating these art-pieces all the time and learning to create these was part of my school years. For the last few years I’ve been making these for my home and have experimented with making covers for the newer set of things that have become part of our life. I future, I plan to take this interest area more seriously and bring in my Mom herself to run the show.
This article was provided by Puja Kohli, our Bangalore Committee Lead.