Priya Prasad

"dream and dream with open eyes – see the world and life as a big canvas and aspire to paint it with your own choice of colours."

Who am I…?

I am a mother of two boys and a HR professional for more than 17 years! Well, I was talking to a colleague this afternoon, and we were discussing how fortunate are the people who get to pursue their passion as their career choice. So, while HR was certainly not my first career choice, it happened by design and destiny… and I am super glad that I chose HR as my profession. 

I am an individual who loves nature, is an artist at heart, who seeks beauty in random things in the universe, strives to give her best and wants to explore the world. The list of my hobbies beyond work is huge, and I hate the fact that at times it’s a struggle to strike a balance between motherhood, work and pursuing my hobbies. At work, I am perceived as someone approachable who strives for closure, is open to ideas, has an eye for details, and questions the status quo.

Early Years…

I was raised in a joint family of almost 30 members in a small town called Ranchi (later it became the state capital of the newly formed state of Jharkhand). I have wonderful childhood memories of a house filled with more than a dozen kids, primarily lots of girls. I was the second child of my parents, with an older brother and a younger sister. 

With limited means, we did have a decent education. Despite my academic abilities, I was well-versed in all girly skills such as knitting, cooking, stitching, art, and so on. With no expectations from anyone, I topped the standard in 10th and ranked second in college in 12th. That was the time when good students were supposed to be either doctors (if a girl) or engineers (if a boy). So, I dreamt of becoming a doctor. In retrospect, I’m glad I couldn’t! But I also wonder why no one ever told me or motivated me to be an engineer. Gender bias was something prevalent by default in our family. And maybe that pushed me to prove that even girls can do better than boys! I was always engrossed in my studies, which worried my extended family – who would marry her? However, my parents always believed in me.

Breaking the norm…

Well, my parents were in a hurry to get me married since all my cousins were getting married one by one. So, they started looking for an alliance for me. Meanwhile, I started with my MBA degree with one guiding principle from my brother: to move away from home (by then he was settled in the USA). I took the cue and moved to the closest metro city, Kolkata, for my MBA. Thus, I was the first young girl in the family to move out of the city.

I got married to a government officer within 6 months of my MBA degree, with the condition that I would be allowed to complete my studies. Those 2 years of my life were an absolutely different experience of living my life independently in a big city, experiencing life with my own lenses, away from an over-protected environment.

Professional journey… 

After completing my studies, I moved to Mumbai as my husband was posted there. I had to leave my campus job as I was already married for almost one and a half years. I joined a boutique recruitment firm and worked there for more than a year. Then I found out I was expecting my first child. I decided to take a career break as I was tired of travelling more than an hour one-way. The break helped me to relive my childhood hobby: painting and creating artwork! By the time my baby started crawling, I started itching to get back to work. So, I joined an IT company and enjoyed my stint as “Resource Pool Manager” with a couple of quick promotions. I’m grateful for this job because it provided me with a professional mentor; I still remember my very first corporate lesson – “While we idolise leaders and learn what to do to succeed, learning what not to do is equally, if not more, important.” After four years working with them, I moved to a printing organisation in a corporate HR profile. I had my second son by then, and, incidentally, my husband was transferred out of Mumbai. I decided to stay back as I was working. But managing two small children alone while at work was crazy! I decided to quit again to be a full-time mom and stayed back in Mumbai so that my elder child could complete his academic year.

 

It had been almost eight months since my husband moved back and I decided to get back to work again. I joined a bank-led general insurance firm at an evolving stage and had a great career with them, working for more than 6 years. I got to work on almost all the aspects of HR. I got well recognised for my work and got rewarded for my high-performance multiple times. If I look back, those 6 years literally transformed my career. I aspired to do more and switched to a bank-led retail broking organisation as Lead – HR Business Partner, with which I have been associated for almost 4 years now. Currently, I’m head of talent management (Talent Acquisition, Performance Management, HRBP, etc.). At work, I’m trusted with a lot of responsibility and authority, and that drives an element of ownership in me. Driving the cause of diversity, equity and inclusion is something very close to my heart (maybe because of my childhood experiences) and I’m proud of the fact that being an HR professional gives me an edge to put my thoughts on this perspective. It has been an extremely rewarding journey here as well.

All throughout my professional journey, I grabbed almost all of the opportunities coming my way. I never stopped thinking and planning my work diligently, and I always focused on the outcome, never missing the sight of the final result. That meant I had to work a lot, but in exchange, I gained a lot of experience and knowledge. I still have a long way to go, so for me, learning never stops. One more important thing is choosing your battles wisely and setting priorities correctly. This really saves a lot of time.

Reflections… 

On the personal front, while I changed my last job, my husband again got transferred to a distant location. We decided to stay back for the career opportunity I have in Mumbai and for our growing kids. I have been managing a teen and a pre-teen boy alone for more than 3 years, almost single-handedly. Perhaps having too much responsibility at home pushed me to give it my all in everything I did! I strive to excel not only at work but also at home. The pandemic somehow added to the craziness. But with the new normal of working from home, it really worked well for me. It meant that I could take up more responsibilities at work and pursue my hobbies more diligently. I started painting a lot, enrolled in classical dance, cooked a lot, started running again and yes, I did try reading in between – well, it’s all about striking a balance and time-management!

There is one thing I am passionate about creating awareness for and that is female health issues in India in my own small way, after going through a health scare of having fibrocystic breast disease with excisional biopsy of both sides to rule out any anomaly. And recently, I have taken up a cause to drive awareness towards women with MRKH syndrome. It somehow gave me a purpose in life.

Choices we make…

Life has been crazy but blessed! It’s all about how we perceive it and how we “make the best out of waste”. We might not have control over the situation, but we can certainly control our own behaviour and our reactions. Growing up in a small town, getting married early (at the right age), having children (at the right age), taking career breaks at my own will, and then getting back to work and staying in a kind of long-distance relationship (twice) might have been my destiny, but how I chose to fight back and give my best is my choice. And if given a choice to undo any of these things, I’d not like to change any of them even a bit. At the end of the day, we are the sum total of our life experiences. I had the choice to get married, raise children, and settle down in life like most girls my age… I chose to challenge the situation with whatever resources I had.

Many times, I felt like I was lagging behind my classmates in my career because of the decisions I made, but when I look back and reflect, I realise that my accomplishments as an individual, a professional, and a mother far outweigh whatever I sacrificed. As a result, I believe it is critical to make timely decisions and never regret the decision-making process rather than make the right decisions. I believe that if you choose to genuinely work towards whatever it is you want to be with all your commitment and honesty, your intent is correct, and you are fortunate to have the right environment and people around you to help you make it happen.

To sum up, dream and dream with open eyes – see the world and life as a big canvas and aspire to paint it with your own choice of colours.

 

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