In 2014, Ambika Nautiyal became the first Lady Officer of the Indian Navy to lead the Indian Naval Marching contingent at Rajpath for the National Republic Day Celebrations. Her work of excellence in 2014 enabled her to earn the trust of Navy Head Quarter officials and, in 2016, she was nominated to unfurl the National Flag at the Republic Day Celebrations on behalf of then-President Shri Pranab Mukherjee.
Today, years of service to the nation, a corporate stint and an enriching experience of a family life later, Ambika Nautiyal is back on a college campus, this time to pursue an MBA and, mind you, she doesn’t plan to stop here. In an interview with SheThePeople, Ambika Nautiyal talks about her experience being an officer in the Indian Navy, working in the corporate world, how motherhood changed her life for the better, why chose to pursue MBA at this point in life, and how it feels living at a college campus.
Ambika Nautiyal Journey
Ambika Nautiyal grew up in a small town called Abohar in Punjab thinking she’ll pursue a degree in engineering and follow it up with an MBA. However, she sought inspiration from her elder sister, picked Biology as her major and pursued MBBS at the prestigious Armed Forces Medical College, Pune. Nautiyal, who joined the Indian Navy in 2012, was awarded the commendation medal for successfully managing a life-threatening emergency and preventing lifelong disability in 2017 after her dedicated work in conducting Health Camps in villages, delivering Health Awareness talks for women and children, and organising periodic medicals at primary schools for early detection of malnourishment and altered development cases.
It was during the second phase of her stint as a Navy officer that she started leaning towards management. “After graduating from AFMC, the first three years of my service were focused primarily on providing direct healthcare. It was after moving to Delhi in 2015, I started getting responsibilities outside primary health care, like managing medicine supplies and revamping medical centres. This is when I realised the importance of effective management and started thinking about MBA,” she recalls.
After serving for seven years, Nautiyal completed her Short Service Commission in the Indian Navy and relocated to Bengaluru.
Joining the workforce
What impacted Nautiyal’s growth most was her urge to explore new things on the go. Her innate ability to give her best to whatever was in front of her helped her rise above the odds, and rightly so. While she prepped hard for GMAT, the dream to land admission to a top B School seemed distant. It was also around the same time she found out that she was in the family way. She shares, “And then, life was filled with joy. As they say, you have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once. I decided to take a career break to raise my little one, Arjun. Observing his natural curiosity while taking care of him was indeed very fulfilling. But kids grow fast and attempt to ascertain their independence quickly. When that moment arrived, I decided to join back the workforce. I shifted my career direction and jumped into retail sales at IIFL Home Finance Ltd, to focus on paying back to the organisation that made me what I was, Indian Armed Forces.”
Nautiyal got the opportunity to provide quick and easy housing finance options to the members of the Indian Armed Forces. She developed a business model of creating a distribution network with the help of Indian Armed Forces veterans as Business Associates of IIFL to help source clients, disburse loans, and aid in collections. “This stint with valuable learning experiences in the corporate world. It also gave me confidence and provided the last bit of motivation to write the GMAT and pursue an MBA.”
Life came a full circle today for Nautiyal as she talks to us from India’s top management campus, IIM Ahmedabad.
Nautiyal’s experience of motherhood has been nothing short of fulfilling. She elaborates, “I can’t emphasise enough how my son helps me stay upbeat. Managing a 1-year-old along with job and MBA prep was tiring, but quite fulfilling as well. After a long day at work, playing with my son for one hour was just the right refreshment I needed before kicking off my MBA prep. Now, I feel even more motivated to work for a difference and create a better world for future generations. I really understood the meaning of the saying I had read before ‘You don’t inherit the world from your ancestors but borrow it from your children'”.
What drives her as a mother is the understanding of living in the moment. “As they say, kids grow fast; I felt this in the last two years. Motherhood has taught me the importance of giving my best, living in the present, and enjoying the moment.”
Life on Campus
Nautiyal is now studying in one of the best B-Schools in the country and, although it’s only been a month, her learning has been multifold. “I have learnt more in one month than my last one year on the job. It’s also been hectic and I do miss my family, especially my little one,” she says adding that she holds higher respect for all mothers coming from a place where she understands how hard it is to balance young kids and work.
Advice to women who wish to restart their careers
She advises that while planning is important, overthinking it will do no good. “When you see a good opportunity, go for it. Also, never hesitate to reach out to people you think have taken a similar journey as yours.”