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Mastering the Art of Saying No: Mrinalini Nayak's Road to Corporate Success

Mrinalini Nayak, APAC Recruitment Marketing Manager, at Korn Ferry, is well aware of the fact that while her grandmothers could not or would not do certain things and her mother could, she now has the opportunity to do things even better, with more freedom, choice and control. And this is something she uses as fuel to keep aiming higher.

The Art of Saying No:

This was the first time we had someone tell us during our interviews that their favourite word was no! And while we often put a negative connation to it, it is such a healthy practice to develop. Women often find it harder to say no, but Mrinalini has developed the courage to put her foot down whether it is personally or even professionally and it is heartening to learn that more often than not she has been praised for her honesty and courage for being straight forward. So many of us tend to waste so much of our time on things we shouldn’t say yes to and this thus isn’t just a matter of personal preservation but can also significantly impact our productivity by eating into the time we could have spent on things that rank high on importance on our own to-do.

In line with this chain of thought, it is no surprise, that Mrinalinis comfortable in making her voice heard and negotiating for the value she brings to the table. That being said, she is realistic when making a demand and advices others to be mindful of the same. For example, when she re-entered the workforce after a three-year break to raise her daughter, she chose not to be extremely picky. She made herself open to multiple options and opportunities and was willing to prove her worth again. Rigidity and limitations would have only stunted her growth which is why she was open to the idea of trying new things and taking risks. This process re-instated her belief in the fact that one must not wait for things to be perfect to begin; you must begin, and things will automatically start falling in place on the way.

Gap Years and Upskilling:

Hindsight is often a powerful tool and while Mrinalini has no real regrets, the one thing she does wish she had concentrated on during her break from work, was upskilling. And this is why her advice to people who have lost jobs or been forced into a break with the current crisis, is to use this time for personal reflection of your goals and upskilling. As she rightly said, it is all a circle, what goes down has to come up and so someday this will be over and you will be working again and if you spend your time well now, you will be grateful for it when you have the chance to bring value with the new found direction and skills. Of course, she is humbly aware of the fact that chosen leave of absence is not parallel to being laid off, but we believe these tips still apply.

Given that Mrinalini had taken a break from work for motherhood, we discussed with her whether the current increase in remote working would result in enabling more women to enter the workforce and also avoid gap years. Research is showing us two sides of this coin, while one talks about it as a positive sign for women given the increased flexibility in working from home, there is another side which talks about the increased burden at home for women with the current situation which may result in them being unable to climb the ladder at the same as pace as men.

Mrinalini acknowledges that both sides of the argument have some meat to them and it all boils done to the support system in the household. An equal partner at home equals equal opportunity at work. Just as Puneet and Kirti had pointed out, Mrinalini agrees that a lot of the onus falls on the home. She confirms that she did her homework before re-entering the workforce on whether her house could manage with her absence else, she didn’t think it would even be fair to the organisation she joined. And a supportive partner in her husband and a pillar of support in her mother in law is what made it possible for her.

Women in leadership:

Talking about the potential increase in women in the workplace, we even dove into the subject of women in leadership. We spoke of the numbers where women still make up just 6.6% of CEOs at the companies on Fortune’s list. Women of colour make up an even smaller percentage of this group. While acknowledging these statistics, Mrinalini also threw light on the fact that things are changing. Citing the example of one her clients, HPE, she told us how the company is deeply invested in the wellbeing of employees. Inclusivity and diversity are woven into the DNA of the company where every employee feels accepted and empowered. And so, while we still have a long way to go to reach the mark of equality, we are moving in the right direction.

And while nothing speaks louder than numbers, we loved chatting about the vision of change and what it would truly mean for organisations and the world to have more women in leadership roles. Mrinalini talked about how women have a different way of viewing the world and thus an increase in participation from their end would mean the advent of new ideas and perspective. She also made an interesting point about how women are more open not only to the participation and growth of themselves but also of all other communities (including minorities/ under-represented communities) and thus they might be the answer to a more open and welcoming culture at work and as a result in the world at large. We also spoke of how feminine characteristics such as empathy and intuition would bring welcome positive changes. Talking of emotional intelligence, women tend to score higher than men in areas of empathy, interpersonal relationships and social responsibility.

Embracing compliments:

Speaking of gender specific traits, Mrinalini confirmed from her experience that women are not great with compliments. We tend to brush off praise and accolade and often lowball our abilities and that is something we must alter. To start that change, we are here to tell Mrinalini that she is a seasoned professional recognised for her strong leadership and flawless delivery and she doesn’t look old enough to have a teenage daughter! We hope she acknowledges this sincere praise with pride as she deserves to. One of the first steps at Pink Thread is thus to celebrate women for their achievements, especially when they forget to look back and do so themselves, ever so often.

On the other side of the lockdown:

We ended our conversation talking about coping with the current crisis. Mrinalini is eager to learn how the internet is changing our world and our daily lives. She thrives in fast paced environments at the crossroads of technology and business, which is why we know that she is going to come out on the other side even more accomplished and we are here to cheer all the way.

More power!

Mrinalini Nayak is the APAC Recruitment Marketing Manager, at Korn Ferry on behalf of HPE. Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm.

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