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(7 min read) The women of IBM are doing some amazing things to change the world, so let’s celebrate them! This March to celebrate women’s history month and #IWD2020, our incredible female IBMers are sharing their stories with you. Today, learn more about the Tech Re-Entry program from Priyanka Mohapatra, Business Development Manager with IBM Global Markets!
Want to learn more about the incredible women at IBM and how you can join them and work at IBM? Head over to our Careers Page to learn more!
Tell us about yourself!
This is the basic question I have faced ump-teen times in interviews! I am a smart person armed with a good sense of humor and wit. For me, everything in life has a purpose. I am an explorer, born to analyze and understand. My love for life makes me do crazy things like visiting new places every 3 months, learning some basics of the local language and then testing them on locals. I watch movies practically every day, read books (I finish one book a day and Harry Potter is still my favorite!), and listen to music wherever and whenever.
But I am serious about my work, my ambitions, and the way I can achieve my dreams in my career. I am an Aquarius, so one might say I am serious, yet eccentric. My fascinations and aspirations are both in balance, I’m a dreamer, yet my feet are firmly planted on the ground.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how have you tackled them?
You must rise to the challenges in your life. I love my challenges. They mold me and give me the ability to see the right path. I can recount many challenges in my career. One of these was going back to work after my baby was born and, to really things spice up, my husband went to London to earn his MBA (at my insistence).
I was an Account Salesperson, frequently traveling around India. I would catch an early flight at 4:00 AM and return by 9:00 PM. With a baby under 2 years old and a demanding career, I would say I tackled it very nicely. I had a serious discussion with my manager and we decided that I would work from home the majority of the time and travel to clients for meetings and presentations.
I also created an ecosystem at home with a day-time nanny and a full-time housekeeper to run the house. And when I was traveling frequently, my mother would help too. This is a challenge so many women face. Don’t feel bad or too proud to ask for help. Working mothers are not superhuman. You don’t have to give up on anything, just shout for help and people will come. As Albus Dumbledore said, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts, Harry, to those who ask for it.”
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? How do you find a balance between these things and your work?
I have a love for life and love trying new things. I love to travel to new places and make it a point to travel every 3 months to reenergize myself. Before joining IBM, I traveled to Egypt for 12 days. As part of traveling, I also love trying new cuisine, not only eating but cooking too. I make a wicked chicken Moroccan stew!
Making time to visit my family and friends. I love throwing parties, especially with a theme. When one thinks about finding time for all these things, it seems tough. But it’s all about finding the time and planning. I start planning travel at least five to six months in advance. My need to make beautiful memories drive me to find ways of doing it.
Tell us about your journey with the Tech Re-Entry Program. How did you get involved and what was it like being a part of this program?
My journey with the Tech Re-entry Program was quite eventful. I went through at least five rounds of intensive interviews, starting with the business unit head and then with HR. Never have I had such a volley of questions directed at me. After a nail-biting period, I finally had the internship offer from IBM!
This 6-month period was one of the best times of my life. I went to work on a role that I had never done before. The basic nature of my work always entailed farming accounts, but this was the first time where I was hunting for leads, opportunities. I never knew I could do it.
IBM’s training and the people working here are its best assets. The guidance I received every step along the way is enough to help me do my best work. I did cold calls, gave presentations to customers, negotiated with one on pricing, and trained on the latest technologies. I earned eight learning badges during this period. The entire 6 months, I was motivated, shown ways to improve myself, and given guidance by my colleagues.
How do you think a program like Tech Re-Entry could benefit job seekers who might take a more non-traditional path in their career?
Companies like IBM have understood the fact that good talented people are just wasting away because of a break and they are doing something fantastic about the situation. I left my job in November 2016 to travel to Sweden for 2 years to join my husband. Leaving a fantastic career behind, I never dreamed it would be so hard to get a job back. Being back in India and failing to get a single offer was very demoralizing for me. With IBM’s Tech Re-entry Program, I not only regained a career despite a break of two years but got a remuneration matching the market. I was always a self-motivated person, but all this has made me realize that with companies like IBM, I can be a “take charge of my life” person.
What advice can you give allies who want to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Do you have examples of how this has worked for you? What has been your experience with inclusion in the workplace?
Inclusion in the workplace ensures out-of-the-box thinking and makes sure that talent is respected. In every good environment, there are some awkward situations. My advice to my allies is not to back down from awkward scenarios, educate people on how inclusion can give them the right edge, and how they would benefit. Good ideas will always face flak from many, but one’s fortitude will determine the way forward.
My experience as a person who was part of a diversity program is a dream come true. I have always been a hard-working person who carves its own path in the road called destiny and am just glad that IBM has given me the opportunity to re-start not only my career but have also given me a platform, a voice to tell women all the over the world that taking a break to focus on your life is not bad. You always have an option to make a change.
Why did you choose IBM?
We chose each other to go into a very fulfilling journey. My choice was based on one simple reason – RESPECT. They respected me, my ability, my experience, my enthusiasm and mostly my choice of taking a break for my family. This respect is enough for me to take a chance. Also, it’s a pleasure to work with like-minded and very smart people of the world. When I think of all the innovations done by IBM and all patents, I feel the need, the hunger to prove myself here.
What is one piece of advice you would give your early working professional self?
Take life in your stride and do your very best. The way you are going is perfect, don’t be scared to balance your career and life, IBM is there in your future, it’s in your genes.