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indra nooyi: who’s talking about her mom?

4 Jul

Indra Nooyi’s comments about women not being able to have it all have gone viral in recent days. Here is the link to the original video if you are interested. The first 25 minutes or so are her talk. 

I wrote yesterday about men having the same problem as women about not being able to have it all. You can read the blog post here.

Another aspect to this discussion is the perceived lack of support from Ms Nooyi’s mom, and I want to comment about that here. There are a lot of comments on the internet about how mothers and mothers-in-law are the most unsupportive. I beg to differ.

Ms Nooyi talked about her mom sending her back out to get milk, before hearing any of her news. What is implicit to me here is that her mom was living with her, and presumably running the household. She was living there for the sake of her daughter, not her son-in-law. And when Grandma is running the household, she is the CEO of the home. If they are out of milk, she is worried her grand daughters will not have milk for the night or the next morning, and it is her responsibility to find the best delivery person. If it happened to be Indra, then so be it. (Maybe she asked the son-in-law earlier, but he was unwilling. Ms Nooyi could just as well have called on her husband to run the errand.) Grandma is not comprising on her granddaughters’ care for any news or any reason. Who knows, the store might be closing in a few minutes or it might be close to the granddaughters’ bedtime! Any good CEO of a company would do exactly the same.

As Ms Nooyi said, we need to build or enlist “co-opts” to help us get better balance between parenting and Career progression. Even Sheryl Sandberg has mentioned having a lot of support from her sister and mother in raising their kids. But we cannot take that support for granted, or feel entitled to it. 

Grandma has already done her round of raising kids. But she is doing a second round for the sake of her daughter. And she needs all the support she can get to do an awesome job as the CEO of home!



women can’t have it all… but, can men?

3 Jul

PepsiCo’s CEO Indira Nooyi explains women can’t have it all. As a career mom myself, I am very much in agreement with her. Here is a link to her talk, the first 25 minutes or so in this video.

I will not add my views here about how much I agree with her. There are many blogs and articles everywhere doing that. What I do want to talk about is the men. Can they have it all? Don’t they face the same challenges as do women? Don’t men have to make the same choices between attending to work and attending school events? The difference is, perhaps, that they are expected to trade-off work for family time. For the few men who want to have successful careers and also be there for their families, there is very little sympathy and understanding. Men develop coping mechanisms by delegating the family tasks to the children’s mothers. That may reduce guilt, but it does not salvage the aching loss of missed opportunities, less bonding with the kids and a sense of having missed-out on the kids’ childhoods.

My comment here is simple – No one  can have it all, be it men or women. Any person who chooses to be a career parent, needs the support and backing of a network of willing caregivers. And corporations would do well to encourage their employees to have better work/life balances. Employees with less guilt and more emotionally fulfilled lives are likely to be more stable and collaborative in the work-place as well.

lean-in by sheryl sandberg

28 Aug

I just finished reading “Lean-In” by Sheryl Sandberg, and I totally loved this book! I only wish I had read it when I was starting my career, oh, about a dozen years ago. But I guess Sheryl was in her “not feminist” phase at that time :-p

What I loved about this book… a lot of common sense advice, in an easy-to-read format. The book is not too long, and she quotes extensively from latest research studies. There are about 40 pages of fine print foot-notes for those who are intrigued by the details of the studies.

I first heard Sheryl give a talk at some event, can’t remember where/which one. That was when I first heard the “Lean In” concept. It really spoke to me, and I started repeating it like my mantra. In my interpretation, it simply means to do more. And not let narrow imaginary walls hold me back.

A lot of my views around Lean In have formed through reading Sheryl’s interviews elsewhere. I think her views came out more clearly in those sometimes, when she could be more informal. Some of the great ideas she highlights in her book:

“Rubin likes gold” moment: 

Sheryl Sandberg talks about this incident in her book “Lean-In”. Secretary Rubin was appointed the co-chairman of the board of Goldman Sachs. At the end of his first week, he noticed Goldman Sachs was heavily invested in Gold. When he asked about it, he was told it was based upon his advice! Apparently, on his first day, he had commented “Gold looks interesting”. That got translated into “Rubin likes gold”, and someone down the chain invested millions of dollars in gold!

Mentors are not Prince Charming:

Sheryl has an interesting perspective on “mentors”. Women are often told, “Get a mentor, and you will excel.” That is another take on a Prince Charming coming-in to rescue you. Instead, Sheryl advocates “Excel, and you will get a mentor.”

I so agree with that. No matter what advice the mentors give, at the end of the day, we ourselves have to execute on them, and we are responsible for how it turns out.

Find a suitable partner:

Sheryl talks about finding a partner who will lean-in at home more, allowing you to lean-in more at work.

I can’t emphasize this enough. I think it’s very important for couples to support each other in their passions. Somehow, we never think about this aspect when dating or looking for a relationship. But it’s really important, right up along with their FICO score 🙂 (that’s from Suze Orman, and a future blog post)

Oh, and through-out the book, she refers to Dave as her “partner”, not as “husband”. I thought she was just being politically correct, being from California and all, you know. But a colleague pointed-out to me… that’s her “partner”, as in “equal partner”. Wow! What a thought!!

Lean-In when you are going to have a baby

“The best time for a woman to take-on a new and challenging job is right before having a child. If she finds her new role challenging and rewarding, she is more likely to be excited about returning back to work.”  Another brilliant idea!

“Career loving parent”, a nice alternative to “working parent”

Work-Life Balance:

If you’re getting burnt out at work, check to see if you have any vacation left. Why would you think about quitting a job if you’re not giving it a fair shot?

She also talks about going public with her policy of leaving work at 5:30 to be with her kids. Yes, I remember reading about that. And I remember thinking… if she can do it, and be successful, so can I.  Oh, and that’s a rant I have heard from many parents… even single dads, who felt compromised at their work-place because they had to leave sharply at a certain time, even in the middle of a meeting.

Final thoughts:

“We cannot change what we are unaware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”


“seek and speak your truth” ~ sheryl sandberg in “lean-in”

26 Aug

I’m reading Sheryl Sanderg’s  book, Lean-In. I have mostly agreed with her advice all along. Today, I read the chapter titled “Seek and Speak Your Truth”. She talks about being authentic at work. Encourage others to tell you when you are wrong, and thank them publicly for doing so. Let people know privately when something is not working for you. She talks about blurred lines between work and home, and how we cannot be different personalities from one to the other. So far, so good. Then she talks about crying at work.

Sheryl says she does not advocate crying, but if it happens, it happens. She says its ok to share your personal life. She recounts examples of people – make and female – receiving sympathy and support when they got teary-eyed at work. Here is where I disagree with Sheryl. In my empirical experience, extreme display of emotion do not bode well at work. I know one executive who became teary-eyed while giving a “kick-butt” talk to the team for meeting their goals. The team was all shocked about why this person was getting so emotional, they wondered if he had it all in control, and the executive was soon history.

There was another case when an employee let the manager know about an ongoing divorce. The manager, out of “kindness”, did not provide appropriate feedback during the focal, severely impacting the employee’s opportunity to grow within the company.

I think the only kind of “personal sharing” that works is “after the fact” kind. One senior executive publicly shared about his child’s severe illness in the previous year, after the child was completely cured. He overcame the challenge, and then shared.

Of course, neutral, everyday sharing of where you went for vacation or the next car you are planning to buy, will most likely not impact your professional life very much.

What do you think? Have you seen or experienced any instances where people shared their personal life at work? How did it turn-out for them?

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