More than means to an end

Last Updated 22 October 2010, 10:43 IST

There sure are more young women studying and working at the same time, than a decade ago. But only a few have discovered the tough yet effective path  to achieving career goals and laurels at an early age.

This has given rise to a new work culture among youngsters. The ‘study and work’ theory has been put to test by a few.

Nisha Menezes (28) was born in a middle class family in Bangalore and was raised by a single parent. Her formative years were spent understanding and preparing for the time when she would take over monetary responsibilities at home, some day. While her peers were busy exploring the novelty of their new-found freedom in college, Nisha had already taken up a part-time job. She worked as a sales representative for a salary of Rs 7,000 while she was still in her PU. “It was hard not to attend parties. I had work and attend French classes in the evening, says Nisha. “It started off as a job to keep me busy before I started college. But the next year, when I was accepted into a Bachelor’s course in Mount Carmel College, I began to juggle, multi-task and ended up being sleepless,” she adds. She then joined a call centre and continued working and studying for three years.

For Revathi Sreekumar (26), after completing a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology at Madras University, a follow-up Master’s degree was a distant dream.

Having set her sights on a programme in Australia, she managed to put together the tuition fees through a student loan. But that was not enough. An opening at the University of Brisbane as an assistant lecturer brought about a paradigm shift to her professional life, she says. “I was studying and working, worrying less and learning more. My stipend covered everything from room rent to pocket money.  But none of it was as important as the work experience I was gaining. The goal was to leverage my resume,” she says.

Revathi now works for a French Biotech firm in New-Delhi and has already contacted universities overseas for a PhD programme in Industrial Biotechnology.

Prema George (28), a senior HR professional at an IT company, left the beaten track at a young age. Having to support a mother and a younger sister, Prema began working at a call centre at the age of 19. She juggled a law course at Bangalore University and a night-shift at the call centre for four years, with little help, she reveals. “It is no walk in the park to earn and study simultaeneously. But it has given me more than just a confidence boost. It has changed my life. I have more than nine years of work experience. Colleagues are mindful of my opinion. I have never been more sure of myself. I recommend this  model to everyone I know.”

Nisha continues to work and study, even today. She is currently employed with the Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore as Sustainability Manager. During the day, she helps drive community investment and initiatives within the bank to help reduce operational impacts and protect the environment.

Her evenings are reserved for her textbooks for a distance learning programme at Cambridge University, UK.

“Admission to Cambridge University came through immediately as I knew my resume boasted of work experience and educational qualifications,” says Nisha.

But, when asked if she will ever work in the BPO sector again, she says, “The answer is ‘no’, but would I have done it any other way? Hell, no!”

But the highroad to success, as always, is dotted with several obstacles. The very road that taught  young women like Nisha and Prema valuable leassons, was not generous or kind in the beginning.

“I sit back and wonder how I got through those years with no sleep. But isn’t that the beauty of youth? And today, we all stand out for what we are — confident, individualistic and successful,” says a proud Nisha.

An everyday challenge for women is to prove to society, contemporaries, bosses and parents that the world of work is, in fact, central to their lives. Women have come a long way from being just apathetic workers or pliant consumers.

Some girls have become sole breadwinners. So, here’s to those girls who have carved a niche for themselves.

(Published 22 October 2010, 07:52 IST)

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