Starting points are pretty varied in India.
You are a man in your 50s who is coming in as the CEO of a new division.
You are a retired woman in your 60s who is ready to start a new adventure.
You are a young married couple getting some international exposure in your roles.
Each starting place comes with its own challenges; you must learn where you fit in Indian society and what rules apply to you. It takes time to learn these and some are easier than others.
But hands-down, the hardest of all the starting points is the young unmarried female manager.
Everything is leveraged against her. Indian management is still dominated by men (although this is slowly changing). Socially, most people are more concerned if she is going to get married soon than if she is capable of doing a good job. Because she is young and female, it is an uphill battle in nearly every relationship for her to get respect from people reporting to her without coming across as extremely rude and conceited.
So, I’m always amazed when I hear of a woman who made it work.
This month’s Working With India podcast features Jessica Kumar. She came to work in northern India as a young woman in her early 20s. She worked as a team-lead in several functions and got deeply involved in the culture and work life of India.
Here’s why you need to listen to this podcast:
- Jessica is one of the few outsiders who completely embraced language learning and is fluent in Hindi. (She shares some great tips.)
- She has perhaps the best advice for anyone trying to find their place in Indian society, regardless of their starting point.
- She’s married to an Indian, and intimately knows the ins and outs of a joint family (though her first exposure might surprise you).
- If you don’t listen to her story about how she learned a cultural lesson the hard way, you are likely to repeat it yourself.
Here was my favorite quote from the show: “If you pick a particular role or way people see you, it generally sticks for life.” Listen now to understand what she means.
You can listen in the player below, or subscribe on iTunes.
(A quick note on the audio – we had to switch to a phone about 10 minutes into our conversation, so you will notice that the sound quality changes all of a sudden.)
Here’s where you can find more from Jessica:
- Her blog – globalnomadism.com
- The article she references in the show:
- Some of her articles elsewhere: