We caught up with Darshana Ogale- Head of the AppsTwo Business Unit, and Capgemini Diversity Chairperson, Capgemini India- to find out how she managed to strike the right balance between her personal and professional lives.
Here, Darshana talks about her sabbatical post maternity, being a woman in a corporate world, career growth, tips on how to strike the work-life balance and more.
As the Diversity Chairperson, please tell us about the various initiatives that Capgemini has taken in the last few years to create a better working environment for women?
Darshana: We are constantly striving to make Capgemini an attractive work place for women. We have introduced safety training programs across India, reviewed some of our policies like extended working hours, leaves, adoption and work from home, and recommended certain changes within the organization to address the concerns and issues of our women workforce. We have also introduced a Young Mothers’ Network to help women take on their job responsibilities efficiently post maternity. This network also aims to enable young mothers strike the right balance between motherhood and their career. We have also started leadership development and mentorship programs, focused on women executives as we would like to have more women leaders in the workplace.
Have you at any point in time felt at an advantage or disadvantage because of your gender?
Darshana: I returned to a full-time career after eight years of being a full-time mother! Of course, that meant I had to start all over again. I found myself working with people much younger than me, but had more experience than I had in terms of work. However, this did not stop me from wanting to learn more and proving myself. The advantage I had was that there was no need for me to take any more breaks. My children were already in school and it was easier to focus on work and build my career.
In the early days of my career, I refrained from taking up opportunities that required me to travel and be away from home for a prolonged period because my children were very young. Although this was a conscious decision, I felt disadvantaged to some extent. In hindsight, this also worked to my advantage because I was able to take on roles that not many people were interested in. This was way back in the early 1990s when most people were looking for opportunities that would give them a chance to travel.
Tell us about how you strike the work-life balance.
Darshana: Traveling has now become a part of my life. I spend plenty of time on airplanes and it does impact my personal life. However, I try to be organized; before any trip, I make sure that my home is stocked up with all the daily necessities, bills are paid and the staff at home is instructed on what needs to be done. This ensures that daily life is not impacted. Secondly, I try to ensure that I am not away from home over weekends even if it means that I have to travel during wee hours and head straight to work.
I also try and compartmentalize my professional and personal lives. I avoid carrying work home as far as possible. I spend extended hours in the office (if required), but once I am home, I prefer to completely switch off. However, I still have the habit of frequently checking for e-mail updates on my hand phone, but I'm making a conscious effort towards getting rid of it as it becomes an irritant for the family and an obsession if one is not careful!
The same practice holds true for my personal life as well. Once I am in the office, I do not call back home or make any personal calls as far as possible. Whilst traveling to and from work, I start focusing on office and home respectively and prioritizing my tasks accordingly.
What is your advice to young woman considering a corporate career in India?
Darshana: Be confident and self assured in whatever you do. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on capitalizing on your strengths and act towards improving your areas of weakness. Take criticism positively and objectively and learn from your mistakes. Be prepared to work hard and manage your time effectively. In your day-to-day work life, it is easy to get distracted by people, phone calls and e-mails. If you want to manage a work-life balance, don’t get distracted - focus on your work and complete it within or before the available time.
What sort of structures need to be in place to increase the number of women leaders at top firms and in corporate counsel capacities?
Darshana: Flexibility in working hours, the facility to work from home and crèche arrangements for children are some factors that motivate women to continue their careers after motherhood. Once they are in the workforce, they need leadership development programs and mentoring by leaders in the workplace to enable them to grow. A supportive family will be an added advantage because if things are smooth on the personal front, it helps focus on your career.