We all go through our lives and careers, looking back on our learnings, from time to time. As I thought about my own journey, I thought of a few incidents that made me pause, think, and do things differently, from then on.
Here are four such stories from my life and the lessons I learnt, that have shaped my thinking and my career.
Lesson 1: Test, test until you succeed
I was in school, and my younger sister asked me for help to make a working model of hydrolysis. Together, we spent the whole weekend meticulously building the model. It turned out great, and my sister proudly took it to school. The teacher looked at it admiringly and turned it on. But nothing happened; it didn’t work! Because, we never tested it. We had become so engrossed in building something cool, that we forgot the painfully obvious act of testing it. It has been decades, yet I still feel the pain of putting my sister through embarrassment and a poor grade. This experience taught me great respect for testing.
Today, as a marketer, my success depends on constantly testing what works—subject line, creative, segment—everything. Over the years, I have become a strong advocate of quality and processes. I like to put processes in place to minimize errors, empower my quality assurance teams, and expose all my team members to testing, so that that they can develop a deeper appreciation for quality. Now, I always remember that one good test is worth more than a thousand opinions, including my own!
Lesson 2: Teamwork above everything else
My husband and I went for a family kayaking event organized by my husband’s employer. It was a beautiful sunny day, and there were about 25 odd kayaks, with a husband-wife duo in each one of them. This was the first time I was kayaking, and I was really excited as we started. However, soon we realized that we were not making much progress. Neither of us trusted each other’s rowing skills, and we kept doing our own thing. Our rowing was completely out of sync, and we were constantly arguing. Finally, we made it to our destination—15 minutes after the last of those kayaks had already reached. It was embarrassing, to say the least! There we were—2 reasonable smart individuals who just could not get a kayak moving in the right direction. Why? Because, we were not a good team!
It was a great lesson in the value of teamwork. Since then, while we have made huge strides in becoming a great team as a couple, I have become a vocal advocate of collaboration and teamwork at workplace. I have seen seemingly impossible goals achieved, just because of outstanding teamwork. This experience among many others solidified my belief that it doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you don’t know how to collaborate and bring out the best in others, to accomplish great things together.
Lesson 3: A little kindness goes a long way
It was my first day at a new school, in ninth grade. I was feeling overwhelmed and self-conscious, as one of the teachers walked me to my new class. When I reached the classroom, 40 unknown faces turned towards me. The teacher in the class asked me to come in and take a seat. However, as I scanned the classroom, I realized that none of the seats were available for me to take. I was rooted to the spot, nearly in tears, as one of the girls at the back stood up and said to me, “You can share my chair.” A feeling of immense relief and gratitude flooded through me, as I walked towards her. Through the years, that little act of kindness has always stayed with me.
I have learnt to appreciate the value of nice gestures and small acts of kindness at workplace. I have seen people fill up with emotion at seemingly smallest of acts. It reminds me that at the end of the day, regardless of all our differences, we all are human, and we want to be treated with respect and kindness. I have built great relationships over my career, just by understanding the value of “treating people as people”. A little kindness really goes a long way—yes at work too!
Lesson 4: Believe that work is a choice
When I got married, I took a break from work as I moved to the US to live with my husband. While I loved my first few weeks as a “free bird”, that feeling soon gave way to boredom. In a few months, I went from a happy housewife to a frustrated job seeker. A bad economy and work visa challenges kept adding to my woes, and rejections started piling up. I tried to divert myself to community work and other pursuits, but all I really wanted to do was to get back to work.
At the end of a very long year and a difficult move back to India, I finally got a job. That year made me realize how important work is to me and my identity. I have been much happier at work ever since! Whenever I am struggling at work or thinking about taking a step back, I think back to that year, and that always puts things back in perspective! I have realized that believing that work is a choice can be a very empowering thought—it makes you happier and more purposeful in all that you do at work.
These are the lessons I learnt from varied life experiences. Which stories from your life do you think about, when you think of defining moments or incidents?
The views expressed here are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of her current, former, or future employers or any organization with which she is associated.
Neha Verma is a Senior Manager within Customer & Marketing at Deloitte Consulting India Private Limited. Neha is focused on growing marketing capabilities and is experienced in delivering omni channel marketing and campaign solutions for clients, to drive their branding and revenues. Neha is passionate about “elevating the human experience” by orchestrating engaging campaigns across channels such as Email, Search, Social, Display and others.