It was the year that I was expecting my third child. I had climbed my way up to become the Brand Manager of an MNC, from a Sr Executive. I was single when I joined the MNC, got married had two children and was about to have the third.
Things were super rosy and I had breezed through life, getting the jobs that I wanted. The promotions to came by working hard and proving my worth, especially by managing several incidents well.
The company was on a retrenchment drive as the economy was on a downturn, oil & gas prices were rising and in a controlled price market, volume was the key driver. It was also a time when there were too many stories of children being mishandled both by their domestic maids and childcare homes, which had me concerned.
I had the knack of fighting for a balanced work life – which had been one of the organisations’ core values too. There was also especially for me, an opportunity to leave with a compensation package. I had an opportunity to work for a small company to hone my Research skills and enabled me to have more time to supervise my young children better. Things unfortunately went sour fast with that organisation.
But I thought to myself – I was from a reputable MNC and have the necessary experience from a Broadcasting company to boot. So I confidently applied for Public Relations and Brand Managerial jobs at large corporations.
During these job interviews, what crossed me out as a capable Manager, were these questions,
“Oh, you have a two-month-old baby? Are you nursing? This job requires long hours and frequent travel…” and I can see the interview going south the moment these questions were uttered! What made it worse was that these questions came from women!
It didn’t matter that I had gotten married, had two children, whom I nursed, while I got promoted from a Sr Executive to a Manager, in a job that was demanding, in an MNC with frequent travel. All they saw was – TWO MONTH OLD BABY!
WHACK! That was when I hit the glass ceiling – HARD!
It took me a good six months to finally land a job, with another MNC as the Corporate Communications Manager, with the first foreign Islamic Bank in Malaysia. Since then, I had seen several more Glass Ceiling manifestation and learned how to manoeuvre them.
The Glass Ceiling that I had hit throughout the next phases of my career, thought me several key survival skills.
Past Glories Belong In The Past
It didn’t matter what glorified achievements one has, you still have to prove your worth all over again, each and every time. It’s true whether you move to a different organisation, or stay in the same organisation and promoted or moved to a different unit.
Past glories serve to enrich your experiences, knowledge and skills, not to bask or laze in. This has been true in each of the eight organisations that I have had the pleasure to work for.
Adapt to Thrive
Things will never be as one expects it. Adapting to the different needs will ensure that you not only rise in your experiences but become valuable to the organisation. In one of the organisations I worked for – I was transferred from Corporate Communications to Customer Care.
It was like chalk and cheese, whilst had vast experience in the former, I had zero experience in the latter. Having a mindset to thrive – I was promoted a few years later.
Believe in Your Capabilities
No matter the disbelievers, always just aim to do your best and the to do better than before. Compete with yourself, always! There will always be a way to do it, leverage on your past experience and dig deep!
After I successfully turned around Customer Care – I was tasked to handle Call Centre, which is as complicated as can be for those uninitiated! And I had to resolve a thick wad of audit issues to boot! By this time I had learned to leverage and build a team I could trust – believed that I can turn it around with the support of my capable team.
Learn New Things, Innovate
The only way to do this is to read and experiment, talk to people and have a curious exploring mind. Look for the next new thing, find out whether it’s practical for you. Managing Customer Care by email was getting passe – it was slow, lengthy and draining.
I set up a team to handle quick fix, simple complaints via Social Media and out-sourced – keeping the team relevant
Find your Mentor
This is the most important aspect of getting ahead – and it doesn’t have to be another female lead! Find a mentor that can especially give you the in-roads, a heads-up so that you can hold your head above the swells.
Build Your Circle of Trust
Like attract like – increase your vibrations to attract that positive supportive colleagues, peers, subordinates to have a pulse in the organisations. While it is good to have your head in the clouds, you need to have a firm grip on the ground.
Feed-back from all levels are essential to manage a large team. When one loses grip on both, it is time to go.
Most of all – one needs to have faith. Even though you have done everything to break and rise above the glass ceiling, at the end of the day, life happens.
When all hell breaks loose – maintain your faith that tomorrow is another day and when you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up!