KITES AND DOLLS
I was a child of the ’70s and ’80s. And you would recall that back then, fun and entertainment comprised of outdoor games with children from the neighbourhood.
As a child I loved playing various games. Whether it was cricket or hop-scotch, kites or dolls. In fact for cricket, I had to really persuade my (elder) brother and his friends to allow me to be included in the team. I was very happy and it didn’t matter that I was amongst a gang of 10-12 boys. This whole gender issue never even crossed my mind – that I am a girl and cricket or soccer is not something for me; Or that I am the only girl playing amongst so many boys.
Initially there was resistance. Resistance was also because, seeing me play the sisters of other boys also joined in. This probably challenged the supremacy that they thought they enjoyed. I wonder if my brother got bullied for being unsuccessful in stopping his sister being the trigger to this.
Winters used to be ‘kite flying’ season. And how I pestered my brother to teach me how to fly kites. Only after I agreed to help him prepare the strings (preparing good quality strings was a skill and hard work). I had to also agree to be the buddy who helps in releasing the string skilfully.
As I grew up, I used to be very eager to assist my father in the DIY kind of stuff at home. He used to lovingly call me his ‘assistant’. From fixing electrical fuses, to leaking tap, to other such jobs, I always assisted him, holding the tools and observing how he fixed things. These are experiences which were very helpful in the years when I lived alone overseas. DIY, irrespective of gender, is a norm rather than exception there.
As a child it was all fun and games and excitement. Today as a grown up when I reflect, I realize that it is through those experiences as a girl child, my parents nurtured my personality. As a result, I have never looked at any task or responsibility with the filter of ‘but as a woman can I do that?’. It has always been about skills that are needed to accomplish any goal. From driving cars in challenging terrains to doing small jobs of fixing the washing machine or plumbing jobs, I just pick the tools and go for it. From being the emotional support to the family, to being the bread-winner; From being an ambitious career woman to being a homely person who loves to cook and play a good host when friends and family meet up. None of my interests were driven by my gender or related stereotypes– they were driven by whatever I liked doing.
What choices we make as adults is an outcome of the filters that we learn (are taught) to use as children. That’s when parents and teachers can help and guide us to choose gender neutral filters.
Manni Gupta, VP, SOPRA India
- Tell us something about your journey of life so far?
I started my career in the IT industry in the year 1984, when Personal computers were launched in the Indian market and have therefore seen different facets of growth and fall in the IT Industry.
I had mostly worked for product development companies .My first job was in the R&D department of Usha Services where I had worked for 10 years on product development. I went on a sabbatical leave to Dubai for two years and got an opportunity to work for a Microsoft Solution Provider which gave me a rigorous experience of working directly with the customers.
I joined PCL Mindware on my return back to India and had a new experience of working for Japanese customers, setting up the Product Development lab, leading and managing the development team for various modules .In 2002, I joined Momentum Technologies, as an Architect. I then took a leap into the management role, managing product development for a startup in North America and moving on to the role of Geography Head (North America division).
I became part of Sopra post acquisition of Momentum Technologies. Being a flexible and an open person, I moved on to various roles in Sopra with a key focus to continuously learn, evolve and innovate in every responsibilities assigned to me. I always believe, “Change is good and provides opportunity to challenge your limits and in the process strengthen your capability”
- What do you believe has helped you in achieving all this success?
Success comes after tremendous struggle, hard work, conviction and perseverance. Over the years I have developed a strong belief in myself which I have garnered through fighting back in life with whatever challenges life threw at me.
- What was the biggest challenge in your (professional / personal )life that you overcame, which transformed you to the person you are ?
The biggest challenges we faced as a family were where we were attacked by 3 devils at the same time. The financial, relationship and the health challenge. The devils were so fierece in their attack that all efforts put by us were not yielding positive results. While we were struggling to fight wholeheartedly to diminish their impact and duration, I was at the same time attacked by the fourth devil which had a direct impact on my profession. It was a nightmare and our life was completely deadlocked and trapped by fierece devilish attacks of 4 devils with no escapeism. All efforts put were in vain. Each day was a difficult day where I had to fight not only with what was happening in my life, but with my own self , to keep myself going , not to surrender and accept defeat .
Creating my own happiness and experience has enabled me to develop the inner strength and capacity to serenely enjoy life regardless of its ups and downs. My beliefs are, “Suffer what there is to suffer, Enjoy what there is to enjoy I learnt to hold my anxiety level rather than lamenting at that time the harsh winds of adversity were blowing. The powerful determination to change everything has enabled me to open the way forward.
- How did that change you ?
I strongly believe that, “ No matter what our present situation , no matter how things have been in our lives , if we persevere earnestly, we enjoy and benefit beyond measure and lead lives of deep fulfillment”.
“Before comparing yourself with others, win the battle with yourself. Strive to be better today than yesterday, and better tomorrow than today”. This guidance brought an ultimate change in me.
- Do you think you are risk-savvy person ? What are the risks that you have taken in life and have paid off ?
I believe in the philosophy: “When we encounter hardships and obstacles we become stronger and rise up to the challenge”.
At various phase of my life I had taken many risks. Few of them that I feel worth sharing are:
- My first travel to Germany came at a time when I was expecting my first baby. This was my first trip abroad. I learnt tremendously and gained good exposure in CeBit fair in Hanover. I wouldn’t have got an opportunity to learn unless I would have taken a risk.
- My travel to US for six weeks when my daughter was 6 months old. Leaving her behind was a great risk not from the perspective that she will not be well looked after, but for my own inability to stay without her. On the brighter side, I launched the software product which was developed by my team and received many accolades.
- Before joining Sopra, I had worked in firms which were within 8kms of my residence. Then taking up the Sopra offer, for which I would travel 50 kilometers everyday, seemed like a big challenge. However, I took it up with full courage and this has been one of the best decisions till date. Growing along with the organization, from a 70 people to 1500 outfit and also being part of a huge integration exercise have been the biggest rewards.
And there are such many more…
If I look back I feel happy, because if had I not taken those risks I wouldn’t have been where I am today and instead at some phase of my life I might have quit the job to take care of my family. However, my belief in my abilities to manage both my personal and professional lives well has allowed me to come so far in life.
- Who is the person you look up to as a mentor, for professional advise?
My husband is my friend, philosopher and guide, who has always motivated and encouraged me throughout my professional career. My husband has always encouraged and motivated me to take up challenges and develop my potential.
- What gives you strength and courage?
I am an early riser and get up quite early in the morning irrespective of what time I went to bed. The early mornings are my “me-time”. I love nature hence enjoy long walks. I have kept a personal trainer who is there at my place dot at 6:30am and has enabled me to discipline my mornings with an hour of yoga/stretching exercises. I have also joined Nichrien Daishonin Buddhist practice early this year. The regular practice has enabled me to attain a boundless and eternal state of life, shining with the light of happiness. I have gained the courage and strength to transform myself and everything in my life through the faith.