Fathers

Millennial parenting is one of the most challenging roles taken up by our generation. We have set high standards of life both for ourselves, as working parents and for our kids as well. We want to raise our kids by giving them the best of luxuries but at the same time we want to ensure that they are grounded and imbibe robust moral values that define them and their humane characteristics.

There are no second thoughts that both mother and father play separate roles in raising the kids.  From my formative years, I can recall umpteen incidents of how my mother who donned the role of a house wife, taught us the basic life lessons of care by making me and my siblings as the caretakers for my old grandmother.

Fathers and their contribution to parenting has always been highly doubtful. It is therefore that many men fear fatherhood and its accompanied notions as a provider, somebody the family looks up to for need fulfillment. But there is definitely more to fatherhood than it meets the eye.

I recently lost my father and our grief found soothing refuge in stories and incidents from our childhood to adulthood, as my siblings and I firmly stand tall on our feet. My perspective on fatherhood is based a lot on how my father raised my sister, my brother and I without any difference.

A young growing teenage cousin of mine recently told me how she has started travelling to her college all by herself by boarding the Delhi metro. Her idea of independence was relatable enough. I was in class 7th when we finally got our first bicycle. As soon as I learnt how to ride without supporters, I was casually designated the work of buying biscuits and namkeens for guests who would visit unexpected. The joy of peddling and speeding a cycle for taking the clothes for ironing to the local press wale bhaiya was unmatched. It was obvious that by the time I was in class 12th I had graduated to a bigger cycle and I was using it for going to the tuition to any part of the city by throwing caution to the wind. It was to say the least instilling confidence and exposing us to the outside world.

In the year 2007, cabs were not even in the picture and one fine morning my father was at work and I needed to go watch a movie with friends. The only mall and Cineplex in town which was not very close to our house did not deter me. My father obviously after the discussion and debate around, “esi kya picture hai wo” (what is the big deal with that movie) guided me how to take a local bus and an auto and reach. As I look back as a parent, I am sure he had his apprehensions but with time and age he let us be. Parenting is about letting your kids free and independent but making sure you control the reins because I had to return home by 4 p.m.

I was in class 10th and my brother’s school fees needed to be paid. As usual mom was busy at home and my younger sister was at school. My father gave me those Rs.700 and asked me to do it and left for his office. With the social science book in one hand and money clutched to my heart I stood two hours in the school bank and paid the fees. Little did I know back then, that this was how he ingrained in me responsibility and trust. Ever since that work, the mundane bank work was solely on me and as a young perky teenager I was always up for it (without a cellphone to keep me entertained. Imagine!).

My father had his own ways of imparting life skills. He was not strict per say but we knew we had to turn off the television and sit with books every evening while he would return from work. He enforced the importance of studies as much as possible. It was our summer break, I must have been in class 8th and our neighbor kids, I and my sister decided to marry our bride doll to their groom doll. We secretly planned everything but as destiny had it, papa spotted the doll wear and cancelled everything. As much as we detested him then as we grew up we realized his intention was always to keep us away from gender specific games which in anyway could influence us. I could therefore relate when Pankaj Mishra’s character gave that aaloo paratha speech to his daughter in the movie, Gunjan Saxena. As a feminist father he pressed more on a progressive thought process.

This one is my favorite and maybe I have loved my dad most for this memory. Back in 2005, Harry Potter books were a rage. My siblings and I bought a small piggy-bank and started saving to buy and own the 5 books in the series. One afternoon he questioned us about the piggybank casually. Exactly an hour after we had detailed our little dream to him, we got to know that he was at “The Book Corner” a famous book shop in Meerut, ready to buy the sets for us. The next half of the day, we had all the five books in our hands, glee in our eyes and cheers in our hearts. Back in the days, when resources were limited, this instinctive and emotional spending would be considered a waste by many. But not by my father.

I can go on and on and pen down so many similar stories that define our special father daughter relationship but I know each one of us has such relatable heartwarming stories which make us value our parents even more. As my daughter grows I see many such traits in my husband and I hope both of us make her childhood days’ worth a beautiful memory she loves coming back to.

What is a good resume?

The role of a lecturer is multifaceted as compared to what one thinks when pursuing masters to get qualified to be a teacher. During one such day at my institute I was assigned the work to shortlist resumes for the interview round for the post of an Asst. Professor. The senior teachers and the head of the department gave me some ten pointers for selecting the desired resumes. As I sat down to read over 100 resumes, I realized what it was to be on the other side.

When I was finished I had segregated some 25 resumes. It took me less than 1 minute to go through each resume. I discovered some common mistakes that candidates usually make. Therefore I decided to cover in detail the nitty-gritties of an eye catching resume.

According to Investopedia, “a resume is a formal document that is created by a job applicant to itemize his or her qualifications for a position. Most often a resume is accompanied with a cover letter where the applicant expresses an interest in a specific organization or a job and draws attention to the skills which are most relevant to the job applied”.

When I was pursuing B.Tech I prepared my first resume for a small internship program. When I compared it with some of my classmates’, I realized there were so many ways of making a resume. It is said that a good face is a reference letter and when some of my batch mates put a picture on their resumes our seniors advised us against it. We were told that a resume of an engineer is supposed to be plain without any fancy borders and our projects and coding skills should do the talking.

Over the years I continue to update my resume for the lack of any one standard definition of a good resume. However, there are some basics that need to be addressed and are as follows:

  • Update Contact information

After the resume shortlisting, I was asked to make the relevant calls to the candidate and inform them via email for details of the next round. It was annoying when some of the emails bounced back owing to the wrong entry or when I heard the typical, “the number you have called does not exist” dial tone.

It is thus important to recheck and update the current contact information before applying to avoid missing out on a great opportunity.

  • Educational Qualification

This section is assumed to be the easiest to put in a resume. The trick is to make it as concise and to the point. If you are applying as a fresher then it is advisable to list your percentages or CGPA. It is very important to write the year of passing to make the information relevant.

During my college, some students opted to mention their marks in every semester. A 4 year course has 8 semesters and elaborate mark details are suitable only when they are asked, otherwise they appear of no use to the recruiter.

  • Work Experience

For recruiters who are looking for experienced employees, this is the section they directly come to. This is not to say that one should detail out everything that one has done in their career. Always stay relevant and list the work that relates to the current job profile you have applied for.

Follow a proper chronology; start with the current job and its descriptions preferably in pointers not more than 5. As you graduate to previous work descriptions, keep reducing the pointers to 2.

During my M.Tech I applied for internships for the android app developer position. I listed the two mini android projects that I had developed in the coursework. I further mentioned about the other projects I had submitted in B.Tech, highlighting my openness to learn other technologies as well.

  • Skillset

Some recruiters demand a clarity with the skills of a candidate. For engineering job profiles the hard core skills include one’s expertise with coding or knowledge of a specific development environment. Be precise and specific.

Soft skills for engineering positions do not need a separate mention. It is best to highlight traits like leadership, team-ship, flexibility and creativity through extracurricular involvements.

  • Hobbies and interests

This is mostly the last section in the resume. Many recruiters go through this section to get to know the candidate. If you have some fine hobbies like reading, singing, gardening or photography then make sure you mention them. Avoid lying just for the sake of creating an impression.

I once went for a walk in interview and we were asked to submit our resumes to the person in charge. The guy looked at me and exclaimed, “Just one page, is it?” I am still not very sure about the number of pages but I can add it is always a good practice to make changes as per the role demands. Once you align your resume with the expectations of the employer it is easier to get through to the next level.

Another interesting feature that I learnt while applying for jobs online was the use of ATS (Application Tracking System). This software selects resumes based on certain keywords which are commonly fed by the recruiter.

As the technology upgrades it is a good approach to get your resumes built using standard resume builders available on the internet.

Some of them that I came across were following:

  • Linkedin
  • CVMaker
  • Resume.com
  • Kickresume
  • Cakeresume

As one progresses on the professional ladder one realizes a resume is just a piece of paper which initially validates employee’s professional skills. In the end what gets us through is our clarity of facts and the practical knowledge. Thus be informed and updated with the job market and ensure a robust first impression by putting an impressive resume on the table.

Good Luck!

Campus Placement: My first job

In one of my blogs titled, “For speaking out loud” under the tag Soft Skills, I had written about the jitters felt thinking about the placement day in engineering. On one hand there was joy and happiness for the senior who was placed while on the other hand we all were anxious for our own placement. My friends and I, made sure we gathered as many useful tips as we could from his experiences.

We were in the final semester when we received the news that TCS, Wipro and Accenture; the major IT giants were soon going to visit our campus for the recruitment. The selection process was divided into three steps.

1. Written Round

2. Technical Round

3. HR Round

Students without any backlog and minimum 60% were eligible to appear for the written exam. Not to forget that the first three toppers of the class were exempted and had the privilege to be shortlisted for round two. Few of my closest friends were in this list and I had the same thought that Farhan and Raju had when Rancho topped the class in 3 Idiots (a Bollywood flick); jab dost fail hota hai toh bhot dukh hota hai but jab dost top krta hai toh aur bhi zada dukh hota hai (when your friend fails it hurts but it hurts even more when he tops and succeeds).

So for the selection in TCS, approximately 500 students appeared for the online written test. The test included quantitative, qualitative and aptitude questions. Most of the companies test the students for their basic mathematical and analytical skills. The idea is to judge the students based on fundamental problem solving which is not aimed at any particular engineering discipline. Some of the best sources to prepare for the written exams are as follows:

  • Freshersworld.com
  • Geeksforgeeks

One can go through previous year question papers and most of the time the pattern of the questions is very similar.

The confirmation mail from TCS after the final selection

The result of the written test was out the very next day and more than 200 students had made it to round 2. The technical round gave major goose-bumps because it meant being face to face with the panelists. As directed we all dressed formally and reached college on time. The atmosphere of anxiety and nervousness clouded the campus by-lanes. However, the area outside the rooms designated for the technical interviews was eerily silent. One by one the students went inside one of the 7 rooms and gradually the quiet murmurs outside transformed, replicating the same scene when a student comes out of the viva room and the others crowd him to extract the questions.

The questions posed by the TCS guys were generic and not specific to any stream. They were varied; some were asked the working of a pendulum, some came out with sheets where they were asked the algorithm for quicksort, many took over 45 mins describing the working of an electrical motor and some of us even answered questions about the resources needed in software development. Thus, if you were lucky and had the panelist from your core branch then questions were familiar otherwise the general engineering questions from Physics and Chemistry made many scratch their head for first year lectures. And just for the record, unlike internal exams you cannot say this is out of syllabus.

Mandatory weekend outings during the training days

This is not to say that clearing the technical round is just luck. I have detailed my experience of TCS on a particular campus placement day. In some colleges the students were asked about their core strengths and simultaneously grilled from that subject. The idea is to prepare two three core subjects thoroughly and brush on basic first year fundamentals.

The final round was the HR round which for most students mean almost selected. There are some basic questions that are commonly asked by the HRs. Going by the general perception of the HRs which is more towards the negative, in the final round, HRs come off as good people only, it is only later as one progresses on the professional ladder that this employer becomes less likeable.

Prepare for the HR round:

  1. Introduce yourself: This is the question mostly asked to break the ice, it is advisable to prepare it beforehand. Highlight your strong points. Emphasize on leadership and team building traits by quoting projects and extra-curricular involvements.
  2. Choice of location:  Are you comfortable being posted anywhere for the job profile?

Answer with thought. If you have liabilities back home, do not sign up for it. TCS trainings are usually conducted in Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Chennai, Trivandrum for a period of over 3 months and then one can be assigned projects anywhere across the country or maybe offsite.

I still remember my father’s reaction when I told him about Coimbatore as my joining location. He said, “Do you even know where it is on the map?”

3. Are you willing to work on support based projects?

On questions specific to role definitions be attentive. If you are looking to learn and enhance your skills in a particular domain then answer accordingly. As for a fresher who needs exposure, companies like TCS are a brand name and will be a good highlight on the resume. Gradually with experience one can look out for the relevant job specifics and switch.

I got placed in TCS and so did 100 more students from our college. We were notified through emails and the joy was unmatched.

TCS will always be a positive addition to my resume. I still remember how when I appeared for an interview for M.Tech, TCS always got me the right attention.

Last day at Coimbatore training center

I will agree that the engineering job prospects are not as rosy as they were some ten years ago but students continue to opt for the degree and land up in good IT companies through campus or off-campus and several other outside options.

Some options to apply for software jobs are as follows:

  1. E-litmus
  2. Amcat
  3. Cocubes

I ultimately called it quits at corporate, realizing teaching was my calling but I still look back to the campus placement days and feel mixed emotions of excitement and the fear for the unknown.

Motherhood: A privileged choice

In the last week of August the world woke up to a pleasant news. Indian power couple, actor and producer Anushka Sharma and celebrated cricketer Virat Kohli made an official announcement about their pregnancy. Pictures of a beaming Anushka with her baby bump and Virat spooning her, were all over the news.

The announcement

As a reaction to this news, a clever tweet by a young Indian girl stole the thunder away from the power couple, if only momentarily. The tweet read “Can Virat handle the captaincy once he is a father? Will he be able to focus on the job? Career ending move this”. The satirical 240 words became viral quickly after and were appreciated by women all over, who are constantly troubled with these irrelevant questions whenever they decide to embrace motherhood.

Even before the buzz around this tweet could settle down, we witnessed new posts by Kohli where he could be seen practicing in the nets, declaring his happiness of being back on the field for the IPL Tournament in UAE. Meanwhile Anushka has also started posting her pictures in awe of the natural process of bringing life in this world.

It was then that it struck me that no matter how much we fight about the unequal division of responsibilities or the societal expectations with respect to motherhood and parenting, ultimately the biological role division cannot be ignored.

The nine months ensuing the birth of a baby are the most important days in a woman’s life. A woman has to slow down and take good care of herself. This is not to offend the ones who carry on with usual vigor. She has to give her body a congenial environment to nurture the being inside. These are some of the motherly roles that cannot be done away with, one of them being breast feeding. But the social responsibilities of child rearing are definitely man made and conveniently thrust upon women in a very unequal manner.

My mother embracing motherhood with pride

This reminds me of an interview of our home grown Hyderabad tennis champion Sania Mirza with a senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. While the occasion was the release of a biography of the tennis star, Mr. Sardesai ended up asking Sania when she was planning to settle sown – aka – have babies and retire from the sport. Trained in the art of answering problematic sexist questioning, an agitated Sania lashed out at the journalist asking him, why he didn’t consider her settled, despite all her achievements. Sania did mention later that being a woman she was used to such questions and no amount of Wimbledon wins is ever sufficient for the society, unless the woman decides to have a baby.

Sardesai realizing his mistake did apologize soon after on national television, but his problematic question is a mere reflection of the embedded belief systems of our society. It is a notion ingrained in us that a woman is incomplete without motherhood and that motherhood cannot be enjoyed unless it is a full time job.

The interview

The problem lies in the outlook. When we look at the concept of bearing kid/s for a woman as a sacrifice, we often override her freedom of making the choice of motherhood; of wanting to be a part of the process of continuation of life. I feel that motherhood can be spoken of more as a choice and a privilege.

Modern parents now consider parenting a carefully considered decision taken only by mature couples. Some of us fear parenting as the end of personal space and freedom. The obsession around one’s babies often gives the impression of loss of personal life. After bearing a kid and having closely observed parents around me, I have realized the conflict is based more on the outlook towards parenting, parent roles and work division. It is only when you give up the need to obsess over this new member that that parenthood begins to feel like less of a mental load and more of an intimate and joyous experience.

Sania proved the journalist and the society wrong on both counts. She did have a baby boy later in 2019 and has ever since been the epitome of working moms balancing both her career as a professional tennis player and as a happy mother. Unknowingly so, she inspires mothers like me and many more regularly.

A rare glimpse of sane motherly moments

I intend to look at motherhood with less guilt and with more pride – one that comes with free choice and privilege. I am a mother to a toddler and my life around my kid each day gives me immense happiness. Am I making choices everyday – Yes? Am I sacrificing my personal life at the altar of her upbringing – No!

Be an impressive presenter

The month of October is almost ending and one can feel the nip in the air. My fast paced mornings are gradually slowing, I owe it to the balmy winter sun. The days are lazy and sun sets earlier paving way for longer nights. One such evening I shuffled my movie playlist and watched Rocket Singh-Salesman of the year.

There is a particular scene in the movie where the protagonist is asked to sell a ball point pen and he convinces the consumer to buy the lid of the pen, ultimately making the consumer realize the indispensable need to buy a pen. No, this is not a movie review!

I am going to discuss the power of effective salesmanship.

Salesmanship that I discuss with you in this write up is about selling ideas. As an engineering student both at the undergraduate and post graduate level, I have observed that presentations are a pivotal part of the degree.

The B.tech curriculum begins by introducing professional communication in the first year. Several parts of the coursework like seminar labs focus on improving the speaking skills of the students. In the final year, students appear for more than one project presentations. In the Masters, a student has to submit a minor project in the first year and in the final year an elaborate sessions of presentations are lined up right from the selection of the dissertation topic to the final result demonstration culminating into a power-point presentation on the submission day. This process of project justification before a panel of teachers becomes arduous and meticulous if one plans to apply for a PhD (A doctorate). I will however limit my experience sharing until M.Tech.

It is therefore obvious that possessing decent presentation skills by any student is indispensable. However, this skill is never taught religiously and it is assumed that a student who has knowledge will be able to defend the topic he / she presents.

One can blame it on the lack of individual attention given by the teachers or a weak foundation laid from school, owing to which many students develop a cold feet when it comes to standing and speaking confidently in front of a bunch of teachers.

I will agree that public speaking is an art and not everyone likes to be in the limelight. However, if you are lucky and evade opportunities to present in college, based on any of your own reasons, the workplace you will still demand you to display this skill set.

Let me throw some light on the usefulness of this trait at my workplace. As a lecturer and Asst. Professor in an academic institute, it is imperative to be a good presenter, after all it is you who signed up to stand in front of at-least 40 students every day. The teachers are often appointed to host any college level event and participating in training sessions or FDPs is mostly compulsory.

My husband as a speaker- Family that speaks well stays well

I spoke to few of my industry friends to know more about this and how a student with polished presentation skills always has an edge. I was told, in the corporate, initially the team-leads and managers conduct training but as time progresses newbies are expected to share and present ideas pertaining to their assigned projects. Sooner or later even the ones with inhibitions learn and work on themselves to survive in the job.https://curlzspeak.com/2020/10/30/be-an-impressive-presenter/

I would like to mention some of the basic points to give a good first impression before the presentation even begins:

  1. Dress up well and according to the event.
  2. Smile because it emanates cordial vibes.
  3. Keep notes handy to avoid fumbling midway.
  4. Prepare slides with pointers rather than long paras.
  5. Practice thoroughly preferably in front of a mirror.
My sister as a stand up comic-Not all presentations have to be serious

Let us discuss how to deliver a great presentation:

  1. Confidence: This is one of the most sought after trait for public speaking. I have attended so many sessions where a confident speaker is taken more seriously by the audience.
  2. Tune in your jitters: It is completely okay to be nervous when one is addressing to a large audience. The best way to get over it, is to channelize it into enthusiasm and assume that the audience does not know much about the topic. Trust me, it has worked for me many a times.
  3. Engage the audience: it is a good practice to prepare presentation slides with images and graphs. The pictorial representation is easier to build on as a speaker and it grabs more attention of the audience.
  4. Alter voice modulation: I know we are talking about academic presentation skills but it is important to change the tone and pitch in between. The monotony of a power-point presentation can be done away by pausing and putting out questions midway. For example, during one of my research paper submissions which talked about fingerprint and biometrics, I asked my audience if they had ever paid attention to the patterns on their fingers. Instantly most of them started looking at their fingers and compared it with the diagrams I had described in a slide.
  5. Give relevant updated information: The academic topics during presentations appear too technical and most of the time the panelist lose interest. It also happens when the speaker tries to cover too much material especially in a technical jargon. A good approach is to research current news around your topic and include it in your delivery to get more validation.
Yours truly in her elements

The internet is at our feet today, use it to your advantage. Participate through events like toast-masters, watch chat shows, read good books. Keep hustling.

It does not matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, when your job demands you will eventually learn what is needed because that is exactly how everyone grows professionally.

And lastly, get over your inhibitions and take risks, as Rocket Singh says, “Risk toh Spiderman ko bhi lena padta hai, main toh phir bhi salesman hoon” (Even Spiderman has to take risks whereas I am just a salesman)

Decode the coder in your baby. Really!

This week I got myself some “me” time and used it to catch up with Netflix. I watched the movie, Serious Men after being reminded that I had read the book, based on a novel of the same name by Manu Joseph.

The premise of the movie was how a man who was raised in a poor slum, craves for a respectable and high class life. In his pursuit to change the lifestyles for his future generations, he spins a web of lies risking his son.

Somewhere deep inside, the movie did hit a chord. Ever since I became a parent, I have not been able to resist the temptation of comparing my kid to those of others. I may not be the only one who aspires to see her child excel in life. In lieu of this aspiration, we as a parents end up giving them everything that can fasten their growth.

So when I came across the unavoidable advertisements on the internet and TV screens about emerging opportunities for kids aged from 6-14 to learn coding, the parent in me was delighted. I will sheepishly admit my selfish motive here. During my engineering, coding would often give me restless nights and days. I was friends with some of the brightest coders of the class and it took me a while to get a hang of this hard skill. Therefore my joy at such commercials with parents flaunting about buyers fighting for their kid’s coded projects was beyond usual ecstasy.

I sat down to explore the working mechanism of these classes, assuming my baby was still too small to get admission. It stated a rough structure of 50-150 classes with one on one interaction between the student and teacher. Buzzwords like chatbots, machine learning and space activities were eye catching to say the least. The package would amount to 1lakh with instant support from teachers and relation teams to deal with any uncertainty.

This is the biggest loophole of modern parenting. In the name of interactive and fun learning, they are selling us their business. While I am at the age of 30 making efforts to limit my screen time, here I am looking for ways to turn my child into a screen Zombie. Really!!

My brother is not a big fan of Indian parenting, for he believes it is overly protective and suffocating. His idea of parenting is based on his leisure reads and not so successful parenting he has witnessed around colleagues and their families. He reiterates letting go of the clutches. The idea behind letting the kid into not so common territories, is that a child in his developing years has the power to grasp most and can quickly learn any skill.  He casually cites Taimur who is already learning Spanish at 4. I however will refrain because I am yet to throw my 2 year old in a pool and see for myself, if a baby is actually a natural swimmer as touted by everyone on the internet. This can be tricky!

I will however admit that this lockdown has been hard on parents. On one hand, there is the luxury of being around with your baby 24*7 and therefore make up on all the lost time, but at the same time it is about managing home and work with a baby/children by your side. The biggest challenge for most of us has been to keep our babies busy. The younger ones especially demand lot more attention. I think this attention at a tender age is what molds their minds. The growing years for a child have the most impact on their developing brains.

As a parent, we know what is best for our kids and comparing them with other kids will only restrict their personal growth journey. It is thus the responsibility of us parents to see the hidden picture behind such business models and make our own decisions.

The idea of childhood should be more about exploring and developing interests. It should be about giving our kids a blank canvas where they can paint anything and everything under the sun.

Coding is hard and it takes time and effort to get it right. A simple drag and drop from a panel for a small child is in no way generating curiosity. It is perhaps mentally pressurizing for the kid. In the long run, it is turning us parents over-ambitious by giving us never ending hopes.

The current scenario of education is no doubt unprecedented. Home schooling has become the new normal. The demand for academic guidance has risen and it is thus easier for various online edu-techs to come up with innovative business ideas. I have no personal grudges against them. I will agree if somebody tells me that a Byju’s class may be helpful to a class 9th student, or the teaching opportunities presented through Unacademy might be a boon to those who are home bound, or the technical courses at Udemy may be aiding in refreshing concepts for friends looking to enhance their resume or the Vedantu app could possibly be the go to query solver for many young students.

My only concern is obsessive parenting and falling prey to herd mentality without considering the aptitude of your child.

While I am at it, my husband comes to me with a news clip reporting DU cutoff is 100% this year, he casually slides in his parental concern, “Where do you think our kid will stand a chance?” My reply to him is simply this, “Our child will do well in life irrespective of her place in this usual mad race for success, as long as she knows what she wants and puts her 100% into it.”

Financial Independence for Mommies

It is often quoted that children’s mind are like ‘wet cement’, whatever falls on them makes an impression. One such impression was made on me by my school teacher. One day in school, while our chemistry teacher was reprimanding for not studying well for a test, she told us about the importance of being an independent woman. She said to achieve this independence, we had to be sincere in academics. This is true especially for women who hail from humble backgrounds – a good education for most is one of the only ways of securing their idea of success. She pressed on the point that she drove her own car and no one could question her about the money she spent on fuel! She was financially independent and therefore free from the clutches of external accountability that comes with an “allowance”.

Over the years, the value of money has only increased. This is not to say that money is the only driving force, but it is definitely one of the most important weapons to secure freedom.  

This week’s piece therefore is my take on the value of being financially independent. An economically sound women can lead a happy life when she can live on her own without the support of any external aids which are mainly friends and families. Independence can mean different things to different women, but the basic would mostly be the right to live life on their terms and conditions. Unfortunately, the comparative analysis of gender role distributions with respect to money have always been more in the favor of men.

Let us see how.

I will take care of the money, you don’t have to worry!

This is the most heard line by a 90’s kid where the parental duties were pre-defined. The father of the family was always (more often than not) the bread winner and his roles were directed towards ensuring financial security for his loved ones. The mother on the other hand acted as a balancing wheel of the vehicle and was in-charge of the household. This deep rooted perception prevented most housewives from contributing to the financial needs of the family. The lack of exposure in money matters led to women being more reliant on men for their money based needs. It also put men under the undue pressure of necessarily having to be the provider – irrespective of their choices or interest. But that is a discussion for another blog.

Back to women!

This brings me to the anecdote of an ex colleague, who I remember as a fiercely independent minded and inspiring woman. Her parents gave her the best education and after completing her professional education, she started working at an IT company and was doing well for herself. Some years later, she got married and because the husband had a transferable job, she decided to call it quits. Ten years in the marriage, when she had settled in her comfort zone with an earning husband and a doting five year old daughter, life had other plans. Her husband expired untimely and she was caught off-guard. I remember her telling me that even though her husband had planned well for the future and had all insurances in place, she had no clue how to avail them. It took her a while to gather herself and sail through some of the toughest years of her life. Eventually she got on her feet and today with her daughter who has completed her graduation, she is leading a good life. She also advised me how important it was to be financially informed.

 It is unfortunate that women take the money seriously, only after they are confronted with tragedies!

Maybe this is how the world was twenty years back? Have things changed? A little maybe, but not much. Till date women, even the ones that are in jobs and taking home hefty packages are dependent on their husbands for financial planning.

The women who stand out as more financially independent are either the ones that were raised in business families (where they learnt the tricks of trade early on by being around their Dads), or my young unmarried friends who are leading self-sufficient lives without a care for the society that continues to deem them incomplete without marriage. Another set is that of single moms, who for the lack of any other option, have got their finances figured out perfectly to lead a normal life without a life partner by their side.

To those of us who do not fall in any of the above categories, there is a reason why we should pull our socks. It is the same reason that makes men who as young boys learn to drive through causal lessons from their friends and fathers. These men then take on the compulsive role of ferrying everyone around and are assumed more responsible. Too bad we don’t get any credits when we do the same with cooking. But I digress. The reason is that this “skill-set” is important and we do not have an option to not know this. Women also need to work with the same psychology. In liberal times like today’s women are in no way less than men, professionally and emotionally – perhaps more sound. It is therefore imperative for us to learn to make ourselves more active in finance management and move on from mere grocery shopping and monthly budget management.

To my fellow mommies who have happily embraced motherhood, it becomes even more important to plan our finances after the addition of a new member. Involve yourself with your partners to know where and how the cash flows. Learn how to invest your savings for your baby as well for healthcare. Leaving your kid(s) home for work might be a personal choice, but do not stop exploring ways to make money. Most mothers discover their entrepreneurial streak when they stay away from work for an unexpected period. Be daring and ambitious in your endeavors. Mothers who contribute to the family finances are seen as strong willed individuals by both the kids and the husband, as they work for improving the quality of life.

I zeroed down on some basics to begin with:

1.  Make sure you have a say in the home budget. Beyond kitchen

2. Partake in family decisions about big purchases and loans

3. Plan your personal annual budget

4. Learn to file your own IT return

5. Insurance policies – Get all papers in one place. Know what you own.

6. Make financial goals.

All information on the above is just one click away- Google it! Don’t squirm. Just click.

The inspiration to earn can vary from one woman to another but one of the motivations is mostly – to be financially secure. This security becomes even better when it comes with the knowledge and ability to manage of your finances.

Toppling work-life balance in Corona times!

Social and emotional intelligence are crucial soft skills. Are the ones in the top management displaying these traits enough?

I am generally good with dates and rarely miss out wishing friends and family. But the current times are not as conducive for my memory. As usual technology comes to the rescue. A social media account, this morning, notified me about the birthday of a dear friend.

My thought bubble concocted a happy imagery of his day beginning with his kids jumping over the fluffy mattresses, dressed in their baby panda night suits Afternoon must have been spent cooking and baking together, while the evening I assumed was a fancy sit out arrangement with high tea. Finally in the night, once the kids were off to bed, both the husband wife with their wine glasses cozied up to each other and watched a rom com to mark the end to a perfect birthday date.

Unfortunately, for my friend, the birth day this year was unexpectedly busy. I am not saying it has to be the mattress advertisement that I was imagining but it was even far from a normal day. His day started with attending a conference call with an unplanned international client. The remaining day was all about drafting emails, coordinating zoom calls and updating senior management about the progress. So much so that his meals were at the same desk where he had set up his work station.

My friend is a part of the computer based internet-enabled tech world and has been religiously working from home since April. Clearly embracing this working style as the new normal. The positive part of the lockdowns, being locked with families was interpreted as spending quality time with dear ones. But did that really happen for anyone?

This pandemic period has faded the working class concept of 9 to 5.Let me add that this conventional timing has extended to 09:00 am to 09:00 pm and beyond. The work from home arrangement was meant to be a reprieve from these strict timings but lo and behold it has given rise to the never ending work hours. Which clearly means, no one gets to hear these soothing words anymore, “Let us all call it a day and see you tomorrow!

According to an article published in Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence is one of the most sought after soft skills that a leader should display. The inter-personal and intra-personal skills of the top management play vital to the success of an organization. Yet in these tough times, sustainability of the business is prioritized over emotional well-being of the individual work force. The employees give in to the demands for they fear being laid off and derive sadistic pleasure when they witness many of their peers struggling professionally.

The question then we all should ask is, “Why is it so difficult for the employers to show empathy for their employees?” I sat down to research about these behavioral traits and stumbled across a broader term, social intelligence. As per a write up on Socialigence, “Social intelligence is described as the ability of a person to tune into other people’s emotions and read the subtle behavioral cues to choose the most effective response in a given situation”. This attribute was best displayed by the HR managers during the pre-Covid era (another world all-together) where several casual attempts for rejuvenation were laid out to ease the mental pressure on the employees. In the current scenario, companies are exploiting the idea of “more is less”, all at the cost of invading the personal time and space of its employees!

I will statistically back up my writing by putting out the findings made by LinkedIn’s Work Force Confidence Index which said, every two in five professionals in India worry about their long working works while working remotely. Over 36% of the 994 workers who responded to them, agreed to an imbalance in their personal and professional lives. The fear of under achieving in a WFH setup dreaded the 27%. The number of women workers has dropped to one-fourth, prioritizing childcare at home. The report also notifies rising cases of depression due to social isolation and feeling of loneliness in workers who lived all by themselves. Sigh!

A positive spin on the scenario is the action of Jacinda Arden, the Prime Minister of New Zealand who enforced total lockdown as early as the 4th day from the day corona cases were first reported in the country, curtailing the rise. I am sure she received criticism for taking the extreme step. This was especially done at a time when the other part of the world belittled the growing menace. We need more leaders like her who value human life over amassing fiscal revenues and profits.

How India struggles with work during the pandemic

As a counter argument, some said Ms. Jacinda was successful because the population of New Zealand is considerably low compared to a developing nation like ours, India. This was also one of the reasons implementing a lockdown took us longer. Once it did happen, the financial stability of the common men went for a toss. It was only then that the empathy and sensitivity of those who fired tons of employees in a jiffy to retain their businesses, was revealed as dis-ingenuous. The current times have highlighted this lack of emotional intelligence in the human race. How did we as a society fall apart so easily?

The pandemic continues to be a threat for an uncertain period. The future of the working class dangles mid-air. While money will always be a primary concern, one should not overlook the rising stress levels in employees. There is a need to alter policies in favor of the employees. Strategize and invest in the mental well-being of your people.

And for all of us grinding under the pressure, remember – “this too shall pass”.

What’s a healthy baby?

Chubby babies are great. But dare you grow up to be that!

The media obsessed Taimur and Inaaya

She has just turned seven months old. That’s lesser time outside than she spent inside. Husband and I step out for the mandatory vaccination ritual. As I enter the cubicle, the fellow assistant carries her away for the body weight and height check. The doctor is gearing up to perform his medical precision, with a syringe that has the vaccine oozing out its mouth, signaling the accuracy of the procedure. The needle pinches my little one and she cries out loud, making her displeasure known. The mother in me cringes at her pained plight but secretly thanks God that it is her and not me, for needle pricks are one of the most terrifying forms of treatment ever.

The doctor assigns the date for the next vaccination drill and turns to me to check if I have any query. I am reminded of a short chat with a neighbor the previous afternoon. Assuming that my baby must have been bored looking at the same face since morning, I stood with her on my shoulder in our balcony which is structurally aligned to the next flat, so much so that we often end up borrowing cheeni ki katori (sugar bowl) over the chajja (parapet wall). Our quiet me (us) time staring silently into the peace is interrupted by a salaam from a neighbor. The septuagenarian lady pours her love for the baby and asks me, “kitna mahine k hai baccha” (how old is the baby?). My response to her gets me an instant worried feedback “dubla hai” (she is thin).

Too early to worry

My kid is about 1.5 years old now and I have lost count of the number of times I have been subjected to such unsolicited comments. It usually starts with a casual compliment about her eyes; then gradually escalates to the body weight. Be it a close friend who questions me about my diet and advises me to double my calorie intake or the extended family that make jokes on how both husband and I, have put on weight and neglected the baby. There is always this conversation. There are also some upfront comments from friends asking, as if, as a matter of right, “why is the baby so weak?” Ugh!

Child rearing is a very personal journey. I am yet to come across any parent who sleeps without worrying for their little one. Each child is different and parenting is a challenging task with new hurdles in each phase. For a first time mother, the delirium of breastfeed over a formula feed or vice versa is a vicious circle. Yet, in our society passing innocuous comments is deep rooted. People who make such fleeting comments believe in passing on their hearsay parenting wisdom without being asked for.

Body shaming is real. It starts at infancy. A child who in his/her childhood is considered socially acceptable with his/her pudgy hands and drooping cheeks aka cute, becomes heavy in the eyes of the same society, when he/she is 10. The parents are asked to increase his/her physical activities. Suggestions of enrollment into athletic classes and keeping a check on the food intake start to pour from all corners. If this child happens to be a girl then her posterior frame becomes a public property for local aunties to comment on. Is it not sad that as a society we have set standards for the body – which also conveniently keep changing for every stage of life!

Playing is fun as long as it is not forced

It is not a surprise that young kids especially girls grow up and develop image issues. It starts as early as primary school days and goes on forever. This is the sad reality of our society where most people in the name of concern and friendly banter often cross the line.

Thankfully, my doctor is sane. He puts out the medical science in simpler words. Every child has a body type that is mostly determined by the genes that he/she carries. Some kids eat more but never put on enough weight while some others grow up just fine despite limited and fussy intake. The red flags during the early years of a child are iron, hemoglobin or calcium deficiency. Compulsory calcium supplements for bone development and a check on overall nutrition is therefore important. As long as the birth weight of a baby doubles in the first six months, and triples in the first year, there is nothing more that should worry a parent. Major milestones of development; crawling, sitting, walking and running need medical intervention only if delayed beyond the average timeline; the reasons and cure then, known best to the doctor.

Only if Google had the answer !

Doctors will repeat this over and over again. You may choose to hear this if it’s your own baby. Perhaps ignore when calling out the little one of your neighbor’s. Because – Why not! (Society evil grin)

Accept

A simple piece of advice that I’d like to give to my daughter is to grow up mentally strong and fiercely independent. She should strive for a healthy and active lifestyle. The body shaming comments – which, let’s be real she will face in one form or another – should not cause any dent to her personality. She should treat any individual more for their personal beliefs and ideas and not for their mere physical appearances. Not to mention – all body types are normal and fine. Body shaming is wrong at all levels, let us not make it sound okay, even it is for a baby.

Internships- Be a trained professional

It was a regular day in one of our college days, we were busy chatting about the new movie that had released that weekend. Our plans to bunk the second half of the classes for the same movie were interrupted when the professor entered the class and announced a surprise test. Thus began the question and answer session.

We were all seated in tandem and I am sure most of us started calculating the time it would take for our turn. I remember this one particular scene so vividly. The teacher questioned this guy, “Give an explanatory example defining the concept of deadlock”. While the tense atmosphere clearly stated that we all were racking our brains trying to recall printer, process R1, process R2 for the accurate bookish definition, a student had a better answer. He said deadlock is when you apply for a job and they want work experience and for the experience, you should have a job. The grim silence in the room erupted with roars of laughter and the lecture ended.

This I believe is one of the major flaws of some of our professional courses; lack of exposure to work environment!

When my sister went to pursue law, her summer breaks were about interning at reputed law offices and learning the legalities in the law chambers. The grind of applying for 4 to 6 weeks of internships made her improvise her resume year after year, until she finally got placed in a well-known organization.

On the other hand, as an engineering student from the CS/IT branch, our breaks in summers and winters were more about learning coding and their application into developing software under the headline ‘project’. These coding classes were not any different than what we could have learnt back in college but the lack of professors in helping us trouble shoot the codes made us fall for learning options outside the classrooms. The projects that most of us learnt and prepared were devoid of capturing innovative ideas. Some conventional projects that had been presented then by the students and that I continue to evaluate 10 years later as a teacher, are online shopping and online examination system. Sigh!

This is not to say that things were always so lack lustrous in our study circle. I have studied under some genuinely student oriented teachers who made efforts in introducing us to the updated technologies. One such teacher in my M.Tech assigned us projects to develop an android app which could run effectively on any android mobile device. Thanks to the teacher I and my batch mates got our creative juices running. Later our resumes fared better in grabbing job profiles for having the practical knowledge of ADT (Android Development Toolkit). Therefore, as an engineer from the Computer Science field, I think the syllabus needs to evolve with the change in technology.

Some of my batch mates who had ambitious future plans opted to apply for developer positions in smaller IT companies, where they believed chances of learning are manifold. Their strong hold on coding skills can be attributed to the variety of projects they had worked on during the course through internships.

The other day I was watching a YouTube video about the fear of coding in students. The speaker presented a survey detailing the inability of the students to crack coding jobs in the industry. To those students, I instantly felt the urge to educate about various other possibilities of the CS/IT engineering branch. The job market is full of different profiles apart from developer posts that they can apply for, but blame it on the lack of knowledge, most students take a back seat and doubt their technical potential.

The lab sessions and lab file submissions

This by the way is what internships can teach us. A four year course is merely laying down the foundation, it should aim at generating curiosity in the young minds and should not make engineering degree the be-all and end-all.

I got in touch with some of my students who are now well settled in jobs. Since I had never undergone any internship program, except for the on job training at TCS, I approached them for a different perspective. According to them an internship or a short stint in the real job market has many advantages. Working under industry mentors makes students understand the real demands of the industry. It helps one to find their area of interest. For Ajay, coding always gave him sleepless nights but he discovered his love for graphics and design while interning. Another student Shweta wrote to me about her understanding of SRS (a software document signed in the beginning by both client and the developer) when she prepared a running project amidst deadline pressures. Raghav responded how a short time with a digital marketing team generated his interest in the same and he went on to learn and master SEO and got a job owing to his work experience. Prakhar stated that had he not interned, he would have never explored the crucial role of the testing phase in the software development lifecycle.

Training days at TCS

Many students will report their biggest grievance of college life, the unrealistic attendance criteria, it restricts them to apply for internships which need physical presence. However, there are many students who work on freelancing projects. I had a student in one of my classes who prepared good quality posters for the literary fests based on his knowledge of Photoshop software. He once mentioned to me about his earnings from working on online projects, right at the comfort of his hostel room. The figure he made out of his work was an added incentive which is why many students opt for internships remotely.

I am listing down some of the websites and portals which can help in finding good internships.

  1. Internshala.com
  2. Linkedin.in
  3. Letsintern.com

Several websites that offer technical know-how with clarity are:

  1. Geeksforgeeks
  2. GitHub
  3. W3Schools
  4. Codeacademy
  5. Quaster.substack.com

Apart from these the students can apply at the summer training programs offered by top colleges across the country.

This blog is my attempt as a mentor, to educate students about the idea of exploring their professional potential through internships. As Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”


%d bloggers like this: