Column: On Work-Life Balance

DQI Bureau
New Update

People have often asked me whether I would recommend stepping off the

corporate ladder. My invariable answer is, it all depends on how you define your

priorities and how you view success. For me, at work, bigger or more is not

necessarily better, rather building a repertoire of experience and enhancing

reputation is.  It is more important

to me to lead a rich and varied life that offers a steep learning curve and to

give my all to differing priorities through points in time. I believe, to quote

a term coined by Charles Handy in his classic book Age of Unreason, in leading a

“portfolio life”.


The “portfolio person” is someone who draws on a number of elements, as

in an investment portfolio, in his or her work-life. It is no longer a balance

between rest-of-life and work. It is one response to the era of rapid,

discontinuous change that characterises today's work environment. It is

certainly uniquely applicable to career women or men who may at some time

redefine their priorities and choose to pursue a different trajectory in the

corporate world.

I took my first step away from the corporate world when I left Ashok Leyland

to study for my PhD in Organizational Behavior in the US (I didn't complete it

though). The second was when my first child was born. And the third was for a

year to work with an NGO after Talisma, the company I helped start up, was taken

over by a private equity group.

The first break was an academic one, so it wasn't really an issue flipping

back in. My second path away from the corporate career track was actually the

longest-about seven years. This was the pre Internet era, when corporations

did not or could not provide for anything other than a full time in-the-office

role.  So I redefined the playing

field and ran my own consulting organization.  I chose assignments that were intellectually challenging and

at the same time met my desire to lead a life that provided flexibility, shorter

work hours and little or no travel.  I

became a start up specialist and worked on long tern assignments with some

leading organizations from very different industries-Levi Strauss, Cargill

Seeds, Akzo Nobel Paints-that provided me a very broad breath of experience

and perspectives.


'portfolio person' draws on a number of is no longer a

balance between work and rest-of-life"

I then started out in an industry that was completely new to me-IT-when I

joined my friend Pradeep Singh's organization, Aditi Technologies. I also got

my first shot at full-time entrepreneurship when we started Talisma, India's

first CRM product company. It was an exhilarating time that offered some

fabulously intense learning.

 But by late 2002 I decided to

take another break. I took the time out to work for a non-profit organization

that worked with underprivileged children and pursued my outdoor interests in

hiking, long-distance cycling and photography. This too was extremely

fulfilling. At the same time, I gained a whole new perspective on life that I

might not have had if I had not stepped off the corporate world. Joining

Accenture in January 2004 marked the start of another move up the learning curve

of dealing with complexity and scale and rapid pace as we grew Accenture in

India dramatically in the last 3 years.

Looking back at my journey so far, I cherish the varied experiences that have

provided a rich texture to the fabric of my life.Â

I changed the balance of my work portfolio as life changed.

I strongly believe that as long as we approach what we do with passion and

commitment, life is rich and energizing.