F|Word

a b

Happy 2016!

Yes I have been gone for a while. Life (and Netflix) has kept me pre-occupied until now, that I am compelled to voice my opinion – though most would argue that I don’t need much compelling as my personality is opinionated. But what the Fudge, there is nothing wrong with being opinionated.

This issue has been nagging at me for over a week. It’s not just a personal issue; it’s a major societal issue, a burning organisational issue, a man issue, a woman issue, a human kind issue -which needs urgent attention.

It’s a male dominated industry I’ve been working in ever since the start of my career – Technology. The gender balance is skewed heavily in favour of men.  At face value there seems to be no issue, men & women collaborate towards organisations strategic targets, achieve success in their collective projects, all as one big happy team, but under the surface there is an infestation of subtle discrimination, gender biases, and sexual innuendos.

The biggest concern for me is not that these issues exist, but, the fact that women brush it under the carpet and laugh it off. Why? I can’t comprehend the reasons. Women should not be impressed at being showered with compliments from male colleagues – would those male colleagues compliment another bloke on their outfit, colour of lipstick or hair. No. Then why treat women different? We are hired for our capabilities and skills and that is how we should be perceived. I find it offensive when my male colleagues go out of their way to remind me of my femininity, regardless of good intentions. I am not at work as a feminine; I am at work as a capable and skilful professional. Treat me as such. With Respect.

The workplace needs to be gender neutral, de-sexualised. How will women be taken seriously for senior leadership positions when they are considered as sexual objects?

There is a threat to achieving the gender equity commitment that most organisations have embarked upon (50% gender equity ratio in leadership positions), if men continue to harbour unconscious biases. On the surface they may be OK to see women being promoted all around them to achieve gender equity objective, but are they really OK? What is being done to help males understand the rationale & science behind why gender equity is important? They need to be taken on the journey, or else there is a risk this becomes a statistical exercise causing resentment which inadvertently snowballs out of control.

This mindset, possibly unconscious bias, needs to change in men and organisations have an obligation to effectively implement this change. Men and Women need to take equal responsibility to neutralise these biases and appreciate our contributions & determination in the workplace – minus the biases, once and for all.

© as|fa 2016

Progressive|Strengths

Strength

Image Courtesy – Pinterest

Last week I got an opportunity for a deep dive to identify my top 5 strengths (Gallup’s Strength Finder Survey). I was a bit sceptical at first of allocating 3 hours for a workshop whilst already being over committed to meetings. There just isn’t enough hours in the day, my work day regularly extends beyond the 8.30am to 5pm commitment. I chose to participate, because it is important to take time out and invoke food for thought, there is always something to learn, which then creates a reason to write 🙂

The workshop was about leading with your strengths. By leading, it not does necessary mean leading professionally, use that as a universal application into our lives, not limited to our careers.

I wasn’t really surprised to discover my top 5 strengths. What can I say, I’m a pretty in tune with myself and have utilised my strengths several times over the course of my life. In saying that, a refresher is always a good idea as we tend to compartmentalise and archive things at the back of our minds. This was a good time as any for me to retrieve that archived box, review my strengths, especially as I’ve just stepped into a new role.

The workshop instructor advised that we should create ourselves two virtual buckets, one called ‘Strengths’ and the other called ‘Weakness’. We should then proceed to place the Weakness bucket in a locker and lose the key! Because all we really need to succeed is an element of fear plus the themes comprised within the ‘Strengths’ bucket. Why fear, you ask? Well, because fear, my friends, is a great motivator for success, let it not paralyse you.

So what are my strengths and what makes them stand out? Here they are:

Achiever – People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

No joke – I’m definitely the accomplishing type, be it a certification, degree or any locked in commitment. I have this strong desire to achieve visible progress by ensuring I’m in the driver seat of my own destiny. Cruising along life is certainly not for me (yet)..

Discipline – People who are especially talented in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure. Their world is best described by the order they create.

Not a fan of chaos & clutter. I need a place for everything and everything in its place, although I have relaxed my OCD behaviour somewhat after having kids. Those who know me understand that incessant need for organisation & order.

Harmony – People who are especially talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas agreement.

Yup, I don’t beat around the bush, my words come straight out of my brain and through the mouth, there is no filter, my friends will vouch for that. Do not yammer on with me, get straight to the point. Not a fan of conflict, but that does not mean I’m incapable of it, the Scorpio in me sorts that out..

Input – People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

I love books. Need I say more?

Focus – People who are talented in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through, and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritise, then act.

You can’t argue on this point – someone who can organise 8 mummies on a 3 day girls trip to Melbourne definitely requires focus, direction and follow through! Being in the project management profession helped a little too 😉

There you have it – my strengths. Can you identify yours?

I recommend that you acknowledge your strengths and make concious effort to use them appropriately as situations call for it. Sometimes you may have to underplay a certain strength and overplay the other, choose wisely. Take personal responsibility for your own strengths, own it, enhance it, control it.

© as|fa 2015

Ambitious|Women

Ambition

Pix Credits: Pinterest

Went to a lunchtime brown bag session the other day to absorb some career advice targeted towards ambitious women, presented by Heather McGregor aka Mrs.Moneypenny. She was drop dead comical. A woman that refers to her children as cost-centre 1 and cost-centre 2 has to be without a doubt, hilarious.

This woman is a multi-faceted, multi-talented, driven, accomplished, dynamic machine. You can check her out over here.

She gave us all ambitious ladies a helicopter view of the 10 main points covered in her book (of-course she is also a published author), which un-surprisingly is called “Careers Advice For Ambitious Women”.

I want to summarise the 10 point advise from Mrs.Moneypenny with all you ambitious sisters out there 😉

1) Accumulate Human Capital – I know this term sounds fancy, but its not really, in fact its quite simple. This relates to “what you know”. Your technical skills, education, certifications and competencies. This is all that you would put in your resume. Heather’s advise is to ensure that this capital is constantly developed.

Don’t just acquire your degree and let the framed artefact rust on your living room wall of fame. Keep adding to your knowledge, its infinite. Sometimes us women tend to get relaxed with our circumstances and qualifications but sooner than we realise, those qualifications get outdated and we may in some cases have to start all over again.

Keep up with the information age, make sure that you continually bridge the educational gap. Human Capital is necessary but its not enough – this leads to the next point.

2) Accumulate Social Capital – This advise relates to “who you know”. Now don’t take this the wrong way. This advice is not asking you to improve your ‘brown nosing’ skills or make friends for an agenda. Heathers direction was to build social capital by helping people and be part of a regenerative community.

She mentioned her dislike towards the word “networking”. She felt it was a calculating word and believed rather that the multiplication power of positive experience related to helping others was far better method of building social capital than any other prescriptive formula. Social Capital is necessary, but, not sufficient.

3) No such thing as “I can’t do it” – Its important for us to have goals and push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Set up your personal (achievable) goals each year and accomplish them. Challenge yourself. Be in constant competition with your own self.

Heather decided (in her forties) she wanted to learn to fly and get her pilots licence and guess what – she did it! We all don’t have to fly a plane, but we must let ourselves get stretched to the point where we harness our anxiety to achieve and kick some serious goals.

4) Saying ‘No’ is difficult – but it is an important life skill – There are 168 hours in a week. I don’t know about most of you ladies, but I like to sleep an average of 56 to 60 hours a week, otherwise my mind & body do not function. That leaves a 108 hours.  I spent around 70 hours a week travelling to work, working and travelling back home. That leaves me 38 hours of free will. Now I try to squeeze in what I can in those 38 hours a week – mostly that is time with my family at home. Get practising on saying “NO” to all those reasons that take you away from accomplishing your goals. You don’t need to attend every single social event (I’m very serious, you don’t need to). Make sure you allocate your time and prioritise what you want achieve out of your free time..

5) You cant have it all – You know those ladies that have perfectly balanced lives, look like absolutely picture perfect super models, who have Mr Perfect husbands, well mannered & obedient kids that finish their homework before reminders, a beautiful house impeccably clean and spotless. Wake up from this fantasy world! There are no such ladies or households.

If you are hell bent on trying to do everything, then everything will get done mediocre. We cannot expect ourselves to be household goddesses and kick-ass career women. Something has got to give, you cant have it all darling.

Try to understand your own ambitions. What is it that you want to achieve? Focus on your priorities. Its OK if you cant lick off your kitchen floor – it doesn’t have to be squeaky clean, that’s why we have the 3 second, 5 second (20 second?) rule!

6) But you have to do it all – Now lets clarify that point # 5 was not advising you to neglect your household. Everything still needs to be done, but you don’t have to do everything 🙂 Understand the art of multitasking and outsourcing! You must understand what your bare minimum outsourcing requirements are and get those gaps plugged.

Make sure you create an environment that harnesses ‘equal opportunity’ at home. Make sure your family chips into the chores that needs to keep your household running. Get your kids working for you in an incentive based plan 🙂

Work on your coping stills at work and outside of work. The earth will not shatter if something slips, understand that things will slip sometimes.

7) Financial Literacy – The key part of career aspirations is understanding financials. Get familiar with the language of the boardroom, understand the financial metrics that challenge the executives. Be on top of your own finances at home. Do you know exactly how much $$$ are required to run your household?

8) Do more than work and family – Heather referred this to building the ‘third dimension’. Involve yourself in communities and charities, not only is this rewarding, it also will add to your social capital, and build your human capital by acquiring new skills!

9) Getting Noticed – 5% of time on self publicity – Personal presentation is important. How do you present yourself, how do you look? Are you carrying around a Fushia pink handbag in one hand and gossip magazines on the other? What perception is that giving out to your career counterparts. Ask yourself these questions and remember to pay extra attention to your hair because everyone else will!

10) Who is on your team? – Remember the ‘third dimension’? Well, ask yourself who you have supported both at work and outside of work and who supports you? Go on and mentor someone, take someone under your wing. Incredible things happen when women support each other. Its a circular behavioural pattern. It is also important to have a support network of people that will back you up without hesitation. Take stock of who is on your team 🙂

I encourage women out there to take over the driving seat of your own career. Step on the pedal. Accelerate. Be Bold. Take risks. Support one another. Most importantly, back your self with confidence.

Parting with a funny quote from Mrs.Moneypenny – “Remember, a man is not a financial plan” 😉

© as|fa 2015

Sydney|Siege

SydneySiege

Never in my 18 years living in Australia have I heard of a hostage situation eventuating. I don’t associate this country with terrorism. Australia has always been naturally beautiful and exemplary safe – so to be in the midst of a siege transpiring right in the heart of Martin Place – a location that has been part of my life since 2002 – was distressing.

Lindt Cafe @Martin Place is a regular meeting spot for us at work as it’s in close proximity to one of our major office buildings. I’ve had countless coffee catchups in that Cafe – never in a million years would I have imagined that something so terrifying would transpire in such a pleasant location.

Monday 15th December 2014 – I was in the middle of preparing for my 10 am meeting when I got notification that the meeting was cancelled – call it force of habit but I skimmed through the news on my phone and it took some time to register what I was reading – hostage situation in Martin Place at Lindt cafe! I ran to the TV to confirm – millions of things were racing through my mind. At that point the severity of the situation was not known – it was anticipated there could be multiple perpetrators – potentially multiples attack points. I quickly started taking stock of all my team members – calling them one after the other to confirm their locations and requesting all to stay indoors – soon after I started messaging my friends in the city ensuring their safety. I was not prepared and had to act on impulse.

I must say my mind was tense all throughout the day – at 2 pm I made the call to get the first train back home. It made sense to be with my family. We were lucky not to have our building under lock down. The environment in the train was tense – everyone was on the edge – while the train was crossing the harbour bridge, all passengers looked across to circular quay – I don’t know why we did that – there was no indication of anything sinister taking place.

I had a feeling that some of the hostages may be from my organisation – it was the norm to have catch ups at Lindt and sure enough, when I came home and started watching the TV coverage – it was identified that 4 hostages were from my organisation – all 4 from the technology tower. Though I had checked up on all my team members and work mates – it was intense knowing our colleagues were impacted and had to suffer this dreadful ordeal.

That day was pretty much a stand still for most of us – I was glued to the coverage – mostly in shock and still trying to comprehend the dire situation. At the back of my mind,  I was optimistic that the police force would be able to control the situation – I held a glimmer of hope that those innocent civilians would be freed without any consequences. As I slept that night – I hoped & prayed that this does not turn into a tragedy. Not on our soil. Not just before Christmas. My eyes opened at 5 am and the first thing I did was check the news – 3 dead, including the culprit. My heart sank.

The details of all the hostages have now been made public – it was an untimely death for Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson – innocent lives lost at the hands of a madman.

In the wake of this tragedy, we all have united to show our support to the families of the departed as well as the surviving hostages. Sydney has come together like never before. My hope is we all understand that terrorism has no religion and we stand united to condemn those individuals & groups that resort to instilling fear – Sydney will not tolerate these acts – we are stronger than this.

Praying for the families of Katrina Dawson & Tori Johnson – may they conjure up every ounce of courage to go through the grief – we are all with you.

Rest in peace Katrina & Tori – the entire city smells of flowers just for you.

“The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said and never explained”

© as|fa

Note: A special thank you to all my friends that were concerned about me and checked up on my well being ❤

Career|Success

Quotes-on-success-List-of-top-35-success-quotes-10

The opportunity to be involved with ‘Future Female Leaders’ community within my organisation presented itself and I grabbed it with open arms. I was thrilled to be nominated and pleased that my leaders considered me a candidate for future senior leadership roles. It presented a gateway to networking, meeting like-minded, driven & ambitious women with whom I can share experiences and grow the repertoire of knowledge. Being part of this community gives me access to various networking events, seminars, panel discussions etc. This morning I was invited to a pleasant panel discussion over breakfast – I thought many times before accepting – had to skip 3 meetings to make this – but I’m glad I did, because it got me thinking about my career trajectory and all three panellist in their own subtle way made me realise that career goals are achievable, even with a young family 🙂

I’ve been self motivated in matters relating to my career and always thrived at the idea of being professionally successful – I was mostly day dreaming at school about success – but hey what’s the harm in that? While most girls my age were dreaming up their wedding dress and honeymoon destination – I was investigating under graduate courses in UK, USA and Australia. I was hell bent to go overseas and study – back in 1996/97 it was unheard of and bold step for a Pakistani girl to travel overseas for education – that too, alone. I think back about that time now and realise what a big sacrifice my parents made – they trusted me, my confidence and my capabilities to succeed. I can safely say that I did not disappoint them or myself. It was naive on my part to underplay the significant challenges and struggles that lay in front of me – but that journey has made me who I am today – strong willed & capable.

The career journey will continue at the pace I’ve intended for now – from time to time the thought does cross my mind – on whether I should continue working – the idea of pedicures, breakfast catchups, long walks is enticing – but after each thought analysis I always conclude that I’m passionate about my job and will most likely continue to work in some capacity for the rest of my life. The pace of trajectory will change at my will – but I intend to continue with realising my dreams 🙂

Leaving you with a quote by Maya Angelou:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

© as|fa