Grit and persistence are the two key attributes for forward progress. I would like to share my personal stories on how grit and persistence helped me along my career journey.
I was born in Delhi, India, as the youngest of four daughters. We had very supportive parents who defied the norms of India society by giving us the best education. My family always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, which included traveling across the world to the US to continue my growth.
I wanted to complete a PhD in computer science before joining the industry. I joined a direct PhD program in the US. The educational system and the environment were entirely new to me. I had to take a qualifier exam, which was the first step to getting accepted into a PhD program. I had Naysayers who tried to pull me down during this time
· “it is very difficult to pass the qualifier,”
· “you are from India, and the system here is entirely different,”
· “Why don’t you just take the M.S degree and be done with it.”
All these comments instilled a fear of failure in me. However, I never gave up on my goal. My goal gave me a focus and purpose. Despite all these critics, I kept going and earned my PhD.
When I started my career, I used to be the only female engineer on the team. During my first job, despite being the primary engineer on the project, I lost an opportunity to be a team lead as I did not ask for it. I was disappointed, but continued focus on delivering the project. This experience taught me a very important lesson of expressing intent during career discussions. When I returned from maternity leaves, I had to re-establish myself due to original projects being canceled. These setbacks did not dampen my spirits; I persisted and never gave up on my goal to be an engineer.
I believed in building relationships and working across teams for furthering projects. In the process, my colleagues grew to learn my strengths, and developed trust in my skills. My management journey started, when my manager observed my ability to collaborate and influence across teams and offered me a management role. I was an engineer at heart, and management was completely new for me. I saw a management role as a challenge laden with risks, and an opportunity to grow beyond my technical skills. Stepping into management opened up a whole new world of essential skills of influencing, building relationships, building high-performance global teams, and execution. Over years, as I have progressed along my leadership journey; I am continuously learning.
My career journey wasn’t smooth and had setbacks and challenges. Despite being on a succession path, I did not get a promotion to the Director of Engineering. I was discouraged but kept focus on my goals and contributions. Each obstacle and challenging situation made me stronger and increased my will to achieve my goals. My leadership journey started when a manager I worked for, was looking for a strong leader to establish and lead a brand new organization. She knew about my strengths and contacted me for the “Director of Engineering” role in her organization.
Over years, I learned that personal advancement comes from continually learning and developing oneself. Technology is changing at a fast rate, therefore, we need to continually learn to advance and keep up with the change. I always look for opportunities to learn new technologies and domains. A lot of resources are available today in the form of conferences, youtube videos, and free webinars for learning. Personal growth also comes from giving back to the community via mentorship and sharing experiences.
As I reflect back, at the time I started my career, many women had to experiment and forge their own paths, learn from their own experiences and progress. I used every opportunity to learn and advance. Every obstacle and challenge made me stronger and increased my passion to achieve my goals. In my case, Grit and Persistence played a very important role in my journey. I encourage YOU to discover attributes important for your own advancement. Enjoy your journey and make wonderful memories along the way.
Agenda can be found here:
Written by: Dr. Anita Jindal (Women L.E.A.D Toastmasters)