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Move proactively, when Maslow comes
Stories of Role Models
I was born in Chennai. We had to move to Trichy when I was in 9th.
It was my first challenge because now I would have to write a board exam for Tamil. My Tamil up to then was good enough to decipher movie posters and simple jokes. No more.
With support from loved ones, I did OK. I made myself safe.
I finished my 12th and even got an admission to BITS Pilani. Yay!
Alas, of all the people who loved and supported me, my grandma deserted my ship.
She could not see her peythi disappearing to a far-off desert, changing 2 trains and taking a bus to get there on her own.
I did not like it, that I had to stay on in Trichy. But, I knew for sure I was loved.
Tick mark to Safety. Tick mark to Love. If you’ve heard of Maslow's need hierarchy, you know that satisfying the ‘need for belonging’ comes up next.
Surrounded by family, Graduating in Computer Science and MBA, both in Trichy, went by in a blur.
It was now time to step out. Find a job. My family was good with anyplace, not more than an overnight train journey back to Trichy, so I decided to come to Bangalore.
I joined Microland.
Early on, I was the one in our family, who would go around switching off unused lights, to conserve energy.
When I moved to Wipro next, I found a meeting of minds.
From Chairman downwards, everyone conserved. When you left a conference room after a meeting, it was entirely natural for the last person out to entirely switch off the room lights.
I learnt later, when I was in HP, this is an identifying trait for Wipro Alumni ;)
I belonged. I spent 22 years in the IT industry, working for Wipro and then HP. The companies i worked for, pretty much taught what I know today about work and business.
I learnt to trust myself more and more for my decisions and take pride in them. Performance feedbacks, nodded their yes, every year. It egged me on.
Maslow please note - Tick marks on belonging and self-esteem also.
What remained on this hierarchy was self-actualization. The rest of my story is about how I got there.
I am wired to be restless and once I master a role, I start looking around for a change. HP provided me ample opportunity every 2 years or so, to try out new things.
I decided to move on, in 2013, and do something beyond IT. Perhaps something more hands-on.
I joined hands with family friends and for 2 years we worked on redefining how kids learn science.
For my next project, I knew what I had to tackle. I knew from personal experience how my parents and grandma had once felt about sending me away to a strange city.
Yet, coming from all over India, big city is where the opportunity is. Every year 1.3 million graduates arrive into metros, seeking the keys to success.
I decided, I would provide curated paying guest accommodation to girls arriving new to a city and peace of mind to their anxious parents.
Another 2 years went into making this work. I now had a team of 17 in Bangalore.
Yet, entrepreneurship was turning out to be about chasing funds for growth. I wanted my adventure to be more about serving others in even more direct ways.
Proactively, I wiped my slate clean. I did not have to prove anything to anyone.
I sought a volunteer role in the Wadhwani foundation. We helped young people find employment, with skill augmentation. Soon, it turned into a full-time role.
By the time 2019 came around, Pollinate head-hunted me. I joined them.
Pollinate helps marginalized women turn into self-employed entrepreneurs. They sell clean energy products in their community, with initial seed funding and entrepreneurial savvy, coming from us.
Take Rupali for example. She hails from Kolkata. Her life came to a standstill when her husband deserted her and their daughter.
She pulled herself up with her grit and by holding hands with us.
She found her customers in her own backyard. They trusted her.
Her electric fans did not need an electricity connection. They made the humidity more bearable, even for those who had previously coped only with grins.
Today Rupali thrives on her self-sufficiency. I rejoice in how we are useful to so many Rupalis around the country.
I have come to realise that self-actualization is not about doing great things by myself or for myself. It is about being an enabler in the larger circle of life, to the best of my abilities.