Batting for work from home

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Having begun working out of her home in 2008, Soraya Rebello’s debut book ‘Paving The Highway To Success From Home’, documents her learnings, while also providing an understanding on how to become successful and stay happy while doing it

DANUSKA DA GAMA | NT BUZZ

Born and raised in Goa, Soraya Rebello, after completing her MBA rose to the position of HR manager, before moving around to various parts of India working independently as a consultant for corporates.

And when challenges came her way, instead of giving up on her career, she chose to find solutions, to strike a balance between home and career, supported by her husband Vishal Pathak.

Having begun working from home in 2008, she is currently head of CSR and corporate communications for an energy company in NCR, Delhi. Her work encompasses improving the lives of marginalised communities, women, and children. Besides this, she closely works on environmental sustainability projects in the areas of clean energy, waste
management, and afforestation.

Excerpts from an interview

Q. From working in HR to teaching and then starting off on your own…take us through your journey.

I first worked with pre-opening and operational hotels; both Indian and international brands. When I reached the peak of my career as an HR manager, I realised that my husband and I were expecting a baby. The daily travel from Porvorim to South Goa became cumbersome, and since there were no sabbatical policies back then, I discontinued
my assignment.

On my hunt for something lighter, satisfying, and enriching, I later took up teaching. It was one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever had and someday I would like to get back to it. However, once my daughter turned six months old, I felt I had time to pursue my HR career and so I started my own HR consultancy company out of home. The working from home also made sense since my husband moved
cities every two years.

Q. There’s no success without the ups and downs, especially when you’re a woman. Tell us about your woes and win-win times.

The challenges that any woman faces is striking a balance between the house and office. This is extremely difficult to maintain especially when you have children or are on a transferable job. Also the guilt factor of missing out a school function or not spending enough time with your children is something that is very difficult to get over. This is something I battle even today. However, working women meet very interesting people and the learning is infinite, be it through bosses, peers, subordinates or customers. Decision making, crisis handling, people management, and innovation are some of the qualities you master once you reach the leadership levels.

Q. And women are go getters. We want to excel in everything that we get our hands into, isn’t it?

As a woman you wear multiple hats and always strive for perfection, but that is exactly where we women go wrong. We should never try to be perfect or flawless; else the mental battle is draining. Also, women who travel cities for work have to be really careful about safety. I wish we lived in a safer country. I believe that a woman can create a positive energy at the workplace.

Q. How easy is it working in an environment that is male dominated, in a country where patriarchy is predominant?

Well nothing is easy. I am not certain whether more females to males is the solution, but the one thing I am sure about is that performance is above all. If you are contributing to the vision and goals of your organisation no one can step on your toes. Secondly, one has to be brave and bold enough to speak up for their rights rather than bear injustice; sexual harassment or unfair practises. I also believe that for women to succeed they should become men, not literally, but they should have the strength to challenge situations and take up difficult assignments believing that they can do everything.

There will always be male counterparts, especially peers, threatened by you, but if you know the tricks of good relationship management, it’s a smooth sail. I have had more male mentors than women in my life. I was brought up in a family where the son and daughter were treated equally and that helped a lot. It is only when I moved out of Goa that I realised that it wasn’t the same everywhere.

Q. You’re also mother to a growing daughter.

My daughter is now 13, but between the age of 0-4 years was one of the  toughest times I had to face. We moved to Kovalam when she was an infant. I was then on consulting assignments and at times travelled between states. My heart would break to leave her behind. There were times when she would be ill and I was out of town.

Guilt consumed me, but my husband would keep me motivated and assure me that I had nothing to worry about and everything was under control. I owe everything to him. At times the mother and mother-in-law pitched in. A supportive family is the biggest blessing. Even today there are times I miss a PTA meeting, her stage performances, etc, due to work schedules, but we make sure that at least one parent is attending. My daughter supports me incessantly, but sometimes guilt can really lead to depression, but we, mothers shouldn’t let it take over us. We need to love our dream and yet attain that balance. We shouldn’t shy off from asking for help when needed.

Q. Work From Home (WFH) is now the new normal but your book talks about how it was initiated some time ago and worked well.

WFH was prevalent in the western culture and even Europe to a large extent. I have done research on how women could have a career and a family simultaneously, before starting off my own company in 2008. I knew well how it saved on costs and how much work life balance it gave. That is when I extended it to my employees and it worked well. I invested in technology and we had some great HR policies that facilitated remote working.

Q. It took the pandemic to push you to pen a book?

I was a little tired of seeing articles and experiments on WFH on every publication. There were tips on how to enhance it. Well it is a good thing that WFH is now being accepted in India. However, with enough experience I wanted to show the world what a wonderful reality it can become, bringing in more diversity, creating more jobs especially for the specially-abled, help women strike a better work life balance.

There are multiple benefits that not only individuals but organisations can also derive if they initiate WFM policies. Many jobs can be performed without having to report to the office daily. Organisations will not only get better talent but will also save on costs.

Q. Was ‘penning a book’ on your bucket list?

I remember writing my first poem when I was 14. It was published on the Navhind Times (smiles). However, writing has become a passion for me ever since I started travelling alone on work trips. I believe writing captures thoughts and the best experiences of your life, putting them on a platform for everyone to benefit from. It’s another form of what we call ‘sharing’. I do a lot of niche and experiential travel writing as well on my blog. (www.traveldiariesbonvoyage.wordpress.com)

Q. Who can learn from your book?

I would encourage corporates, start ups and individuals to incorporate the teachings of this book ‘Paving The Highway To Success From Home’. Students pursuing a management degree should also read it as it has important takeaways from the field of human resources, emotional quotient and marketing. Real life examples make it an interesting read. It isn’t only about working from home, but also about understanding how to become successful and stay happy while doing it. My earlier book ‘Skills for Life’ was an educative book for children, adopted by many institutions. In fact, it is a charity project that I was very determined to initiate as I saw how children in rural India are deprived of a good education.

(The book is available in print and e-book versions on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To get a special author discount send a mail to [email protected])