Aparna Goenka is a Trustee - Advaith Foundation and Director – Scholarships, The Samhita Academy. The foundation is a charitable organization that promotes philanthropic ventures in the field of education and research, and she has been with them from the inception in 2005. The foundation provides comprehensive residential education programs for the children from economically deprived sections of society and is currently operational in Bangalore & Coimbatore. Prior to that, Aparna has had a successful corporate career and worked at Infosys and Microland. She was a part of the Information Systems Group at Infosys with expertise in areas of Finance & HR. We were totally awed by her Restart Journey and are confident it will inspire many of you.
Q. Tell us more about yourself and your Corporate Career.
A Marwari from Calcutta, now a hard-core Bangalorean (don’t you crib about traffic!!) - I grew up and did my schooling and college in Bangalore. After graduation, my first job was with Microland. Joined Infosys after a couple of years and spent more than a decade there. Infosys is my life – met my husband there, had both my children while working there. My years at Infosys taught me work ethics, process and program management and other logical thinking skills, still being used in my everyday life. I took a break after my younger fellow was born – although it was more to spend time with my 8-year old who needed a full time mom.
Q. How was the experience of being a Full-time Mom?
At that time, being in a very senior position at Infy, with several offers to switch departments – I was at my peak. However, I believe, leaving at that point was the best decision of my life. My time at home being a full time mom for more than 2 years was thoroughly enjoyable - home keeping and kids. I completely switched off from everything and focussed totally on my children. However, the need for intellectual stimulation was a gap bothering me.
Q. How did Advaith Foundation happen?
The urge to do something while kids are at school or napping got me involved in an NGO - Advaith Foundation. Although writing software for them was the task, I ended up running the place and am currently the Trustee & Director. It was interesting, something new, part-time and off course in the social sector. It was not difficult getting back – your years of experience are yours to use when you want, how you want. Surely, learning the new dimensions from scratch was the next logical step, but being open to it, not being embarrassed to ask basic doubts - was what worked. Currently, I’m doing my Masters in Special education. For me switching fields was not an issue, in fact, it was this challenge that drove me to achieve greater levels – for me and the organisation.
Q. How did you manage to strike a good work-life balance?
All the while, focus on my primary responsibility – my kids and family, remained. I worked hard, smart and long hours to maintain my commitment on both sides. I prioritised activities, delegated, used free time effectively, asked for help when needed, and created backups on either side to support unplanned needs. Staying focussed on the task being done at the moment – at work or at home was what drove my efficiency. Most importantly I explained to my family the need to do something for myself, and that their support was required to make this work for all.
Now after another decade, and since my elder son has left for undergrad studies, I have co-founded a lifestyle and health start-up 'Your Bucket list Dreams'. I’m still a hands-on mom, still studying, still heading the NGO and also learning the nitty-gritty of entrepreneurship.
Q. Wow! You wear multiple hats. What keeps you going?
To me, it’s been a journey of passion. I was very passionate about my work at Infy and I continue to remain that way with whatever I do – at home or at work. When what you do comes from your heart – nothing is really so difficult. Doing different things, doing things differently, at different times of your life, with different people is what life is for me – full of excitement and fun.
I feel my personality is much more rounded and I have a superior and vast set of experiences. I keep learning and feeding my soul – doing certifications in various subjects that interest me. I also take off to travel, read, watch my favourite golf or football game and go shopping – our birthright.
Q. That's True! What would you like to tell Women who are trying to return to the workforce after a break?
Moving with times is what we need to do. Stay aware of the world around us and pick up opportunities that come your way. Waiting for the “right” thing or holding on to go back to where you left off, will not necessarily happen. Contributing to the society (and economy!) in whatever role or domain should be the pursuit. This is how I see – putting good use of your education and experience in any profession. Today across the globe, every occupation has equal participation from women, work from home options, flexi hours, and alternate roles – things which were not available in my times. And why are they doing this – simply because we are better at what we do. Don’t ever feel guilty about taking a break – it was needed and most important at that moment.
Stay happy, look after yourself, your health, your needs and your aspirations – after all you are the universe of your family.
Aparna signs off by quoting this beautiful line by George Elliot - 'It is never too late to be what you might have been '.