Women On Top
Sukanya Dutta Roy: “Career Is Not An Option, But A Necessity For Both Genders”
We don’t need just one day to celebrate women. Here at Hauterfly, we celebrate the smarter sex EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Nonetheless, we join in the party today, on March 8, International Women’s Day, to applaud some seriously badass women we know and love. These #WomenOnTop have conquered multiple worlds with ease — from corporate and social to entertainment and education. These personal essays give a glimpse into the journey of women who may not have always had it easy, but made it anyway, and shattered multiple glass ceilings along the way.
Not only is she the Managing Director of the Consumer Good Business of Swarovski India, but Sukanya Dutta Roy is a published author too. She co-authored a book of short stories called Eighteen Plus Duets, anchored by Apurv Nagpal, hers christened The Breakfast. When she’s not busy running the jewellery giant, Sukanya travel, gardens, and mentors other young women to be like her — sometimes even surpass her achievements. If you can start fighting gender stereotypes at a young age, the world is your oyster — as proven by Sukanya.
Climbing The Corporate Ladder
My professional journey is quite a trail blaze for Bengali generation of the 80s. I was one of the few students who took up a job in domestic retail during placement time. That was the first step for me in this industry.
Post that I think I just flowed with the fast-paced development in the retail industry, acquiring skills on the job. I had the advantage of being one of the early entrants in this industry, and hence had the opportunity and luxury to work hands on across all functions to get an in-depth understanding of the working on the floor, back-end, merchandising etc, all laying the ground work for leading the operations in the future.
I realised early on that I enjoy making a sale, and in retail, as an industry, the interaction with consumers is the highest and you can gauge the performance of your products or initiative the quickest.
The thrill of a sale, which gives value to the customer higher than its cost, makes it a fruitful transaction for both parties, something that always fascinated me and kept me hooked to retail.
Setting It Straight
In the professional sphere though, I feel that it’s the tone you set in your demeanor, your work ethics, and your performance and communication style. It’s the choices you make early on — do you avoid that tour because it will mean you will have to work late or travel late? Do you avoid that last-minute preparation of the next day’s meeting as you have to reach home? Do you bunk meetings which clash with the parent-teacher conferences?
I strongly believe that our professional attitude and working style decides how you are treated in an office environment, and define what think interpret they can get away with.
There have been instances, I am sure, when people have tried to sideline me, but I do not think that I have lost out on any major opportunities because of that.
I think I may have lost opportunities or not converted some job interviews because they have judged me as women, but once I am on board and they have been exposed to my professional capabilities, it’s never happened. So more their loss, in retrospective.
Mars Vs Venus
The same is not true personally, though. The discrimination starts before you even realise it. At home, when grandmother would prefer my brothers over the girls; at school, when the nuns would not let us go for external inter-school competitions; in college, when I was pushed to and resisted choosing Lady Sri Ram College over SRCC.
Luckily, I didn’t allow it to break me. It just egged me on to push harder, build a reputation that preceded myself — one that was not aggressive, but more driven. People should understand that career is not an option, but a necessity for both genders.
Man or woman, confidence, communication, clarity of thought, and focus are vital. The ability to play fair and not play the gender or the victim card in the workplace, to possess a sense of humour and be adaptable — these are pretty much the list of qualities anyone needs to succeed in life, gender no bar.
Mentoring By Example
Mentorship is very important as well, and unfortunately, I think I got mine very late in the day. A mentor can be someone outside the organisation or in a separate field, but someone who can make you push yourself to become better, stop second guessing on yourself and drive you to take reasonable risks and prune out the crazy risks. A person who has a mentor just navigates better and reaches the destination faster.
The biggest mistake I perhaps made in my career was the absence of any exposure working internationally. I think some stints on international assignments for a 2-3 year period adds to your exposure, giving you an edge once you come back to the home market. I do feel a tinge of regret on not actively pursuing that line of thought in my middle management years. Perhaps if I had a mentor earlier in my career, I would have been able to grab such an opportunity.
But I try my best to mentor those working with me. I count my personal professional success with team members who have moved upwards and grown. Any one of my mentees who have moved on to become higher placed than myself adds a star to my lapel.
Wind Down & Rise Up
Maintaining a work-life balance is just as important, too. For me, both are intrinsic elements of my being and both are roles that are essayed with ease. I do not see them as competing personas, and I personally have had no challenge seamlessly slipping into either.
The way you wind down, though, as you evolve, changes. In my younger days, it was all about partying over the weekends; when the children are young, it’s about spending all your free time with them; and now, I think, giving time to myself to expand my horizons, and updating myself with the latest technology are the most satisfying ways to wind down.
Developing yourself is a passion which is most demanding as well as most satisfying. I put varied activities under this one umbrella, which could include travelling, trekking, cooking, listening to Ted talks, or just watching back-to-back movies, all oriented towards relaxing the brain so that it’s ready to get back to work with new inputs.
In fact, I am an avid traveler. I like to live like a local wherever I go, I experiment with a lifestyle that’s not my own. I believe travel develops a person in the most real and relevant way, bringing on dollops of EQ, as well as building confidence. I am lucky that my job gives me the opportunity to travel a lot, which makes me want to keep moving forward.
Have an open mind, be positive, enjoy the journey while keeping a focus on the goal post, believe, be an optimist. Not all people have the mentality of the Indian crab. Kindness and good manners go a long way.
The line “tomorrow is another day” should be the anthem vs “if tomorrow comes”. Keep moving forward and tomorrow will come. You owe it to yourself to have some fun on the journey of life — after all, you are your own best friend.