A lot can happen over a decade. A hopeful girl can turn into a confident career woman, work relationships can begin to feel like close family bonds, freshers can transform into leaders, and platforms can make their mark on the global stage. The past decade proved to be a great learning for me personally and professionally, and I would like to take this opportunity to share my journey with the readers here.
From being a young woman finding her ground in a new career path to becoming a mother and not letting go of ambition, I’ve had a lot of learnings along the way.
My journey and its lessons: Priyanka Khanna
My path from being a sales coordinator to Chief Revenue Officer, while navigating marriage, motherhood, and moving to a small town was full of challenges but it’s also evidence of how finding the right workplaces and empathetic and driven leadership can not just bring change but also empower employees to perform and aim higher. Some workplaces, which can be truly gender-inclusive, can support Indian women to build robust, lasting careers even while taking on big life changes, like marriage, transfers, pregnancy, motherhood, and childcare.
How it started
I first joined Shivaami — my current workplace, as Sales Coordinator in 2010. At the time, I was responsible for negotiating with our first few customers, doing paperwork, and sending out the final quotations. Being the first of ten employees hired for sales by the firm, I was given plenty of opportunities to grow in my role and take on more responsibility, even at a very young age.
Soon, I was leading my own sales team and seeking clients, but it was the early days of website design and internet marketing, with no paid products (this was before Google Apps or Google Workspace was a reality). And, despite the optimism of the time, the going was tough. I remember competitors willing to design websites for a mere 500 rupees, using templates, but we had a visionary leader who encouraged us to think big and stay the course.
The turning point
Marriage can be a turning point for women, however, if chosen right, it can also be empowering. The turning point in my journey came about when I got married and moved to Surat to set up a home there — a tier 2 city where I had no networks, friends, or colleagues. The move was daunting. But location became irrelevant when my workplace encouraged me to set up a brand new team to head operations in Surat. While around the same time, when my organisation was recognized as a Top Sales Contributor by Google at the global level, I was driven with more ambition. I was hiring employees, heading a thriving new team, and handling sales, customer service, and invoicing. While Surat developed into a remote operational hub, Mumbai transformed into a technology centre for the company. Even today, our business is growing by 20-30 percent month-on-month, and our presence in the city has grown to include many new branches, with a majority of women employees.
Personal milestones in this journey
As a woman employee who grew to be a strategic leader, I am familiar with all the life changes women must manage while climbing the corporate ladder. It would not be possible to make this journey if not for the unstinting support of leaders who turned into mentors, and teammates who turned into cheerleaders. For instance, I took advantage of our generous maternity policies, where every mother returning to the workplace is matched with another woman employee, who has been there, and done that, to feel confident navigating this new role and work journey.
As a woman and a leader, I make sure that all women experience the same supporting atmosphere I did, which is the first integral step of mentorship. What’s more, we expect new mothers to come into the workplace for only two hours a day, during the initial few months, while they adjust to the transition of managing a newborn and work duties. And, we take pride in showcasing the achievements of both women and men to clients who are happy to see teams driven by Indian talent, from smaller towns, who speak a variety of regional languages and represent the growing aspirations of Bharat and new Internet users.
Why it’s integral to have both future-friendly and women-friendly flexible policies
WFH (work-from-home) and hybrid teams may be more commonly accepted today, but I am grateful that my workplace demonstrated futuristic thinking by encouraging employees to work from their location, early on. Supporting women working virtually if they move to another location on account of marriage and other life changes was a big, practical advantage for women who could manage responsibilities both at home and at the workplace because of the flexibility on offer.
This also helps widen the space for the participation of women (who may be the first in their family or generation to seek employment and financial independence.
I have now moved back to the busy metropolis of Mumbai. Today, I am proud to be the Chief Revenue Officer, responsible for overall P&L and future business growth, and one of the youngest women business leaders in the space. I have been fortunate to be supported by the company every step of the way; as I continue to grow my skills, I am determined to pay it forward and support other women to enter the technology sector. We all know that women are underrepresented in S.T.E.M. fields, and I am always on the lookout for candidates who have a burning desire to succeed in the corporate world to mentor them.
“I am determined to pay it forward and support other women to enter the technology sector. We all know that women are underrepresented in S.T.E.M. fields, and I am always on the lookout for candidates who have a burning desire to succeed in the corporate world to mentor them.”
My advice for women re-entering the workplace
While change is slow to come and there will be a lot of challenges along this journey, my advice to women is to choose an organisation keeping in mind, work-life balance. Company culture is an important factor to keep in mind to ensure that your teammates and reporting managers are truly supportive of women’s inclusion in actionable ways and not in name only.
My advice for companies to create a more inclusive workplace
I encourage companies to deploy flexible, location-agnostic work policies to support the changing needs of women in the workforce, as they navigate the many demands of moving across cities, marriage, and motherhood. By offering flexibility, continuous learning opportunities and frequent breaks to employees, to design a future-forward workplace which is truly limitless and inclusive.
Suggested reading: Neha Mujawdiya’s Personal Journey In Accessing Basic Education Inspired Her Startup