I am Kajal Bahl, I am originally from India, currently living in Bucharest, Romania with my family. Today I want to share my story:
When I was young I wanted to be a ‘Doctor’, at one point of time ‘Astronaut’ was also an aspiration, dreamt of being a ‘Microbiologist’ and a ‘Genetics Engineer’ as well, and finally I found my love towards Business Management and Accounting and did my Master’s degree in Accounting. So it is ok to have change in ambitions, it might be normal to have one dream and chase it for the rest of your life, but it is absolutely acceptable to keep evolving with change in exposure and experiences.
Well, where I started my career is different stream altogether, it was with the customer service industry, with a group of 5 star hotels in India called, Taj Group of Hotels. This was 20years back.
Fast forward to where I stand today: I am Chief of Staff for the IT department with Societe Generale European Business Services.
A quick glimpse of these 20 years of my career and me as an individual, after Taj hotels, I joined business process off shoring services and worked with companies like Genpact, Wipro, Franklin Templeton Investments and JP Morgan before joining Societe Generale in 2013.
All these experiences helped me enrich as a professional and a human being. It was during these years that I realized my driving force is PEOPLE. And when I say that, I don’t imply managing teams, while I have managed considerably large teams spread across geographical locations as an Operational Leader, I was keen to work in roles that allow me to connect with people across the organization and bring them together to achieve collective goals. So, I chose roles that allowed me to do so, this may or may not have any direct association with my educational background, but I continued to learn and enrich myself during the course of this journey.
I come from India and as some of you may already know the status of working women in India is still quite repressed. According to a 2018 World Bank report, the labor force participation rate (LFPR) among females in India was 26.97 while the world average stood at 48.47 percent in 2018. So working, changing roles which may not necessarily be linked to your background, moving cities, and staying committed to work without the support of your family was never so easy, but one thing that kept me going was my commitment. I never gave into the pressures of male dominated work environment, which to be honest it has been. I believed in my potential and remained patient but perseverant.
When I decided to move to the US in early years of my marriage, it was undoubtedly questioned by my family, but that was a dream role with Franklin Templeton investments and I was posted in New York, my spouse was fully supportive, so I took the leap.
When last year the opportunity came my way to join IT department in a foreign country, I rolled-up my sleeves to do what I do best: observe, learn, implement and improve. And that is what I do today, I learn from my surroundings, I bring value from my past experiences and I try to improve what lies before me. Coming to SG EBS, Romania was not an easy decision, a foreign country and a new role can make things as challenging as you can imagine. But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My colleagues in SG EBS are so warm, friendly and open; they helped me to get inducted in the organization rather quickly. They were very supportive and helped me understand the cultural nuances, that were very important in a role like mine where I had to interact with different teams and colleagues for all my projects.
SG EBS is a major IT provider for our headquarters in Paris, we have approximately 700 colleagues working in different streams of Retails and Corporate Investment for development, testing and project management. The composition of teams is very diverse, with a strong gender ratio and having a good level of expatriates working in the department adds to the cultural diversity. It is an enriching work atmosphere which helps every professional grow, whatever be their background or future aspiration.
This is one unique organization that helps people like me who do not have an IT background to enter the IT world and add value with my experiences and learn in this course. It gives me a sense of pride to share that at SG EBS we have a dedicated program on Diversity and Inclusion, it aims to develop a culture of inclusion where every colleagues is respected, treated fairly and provided work life balance. We have specially designed programs to share with our colleagues how to deal with stereotypes and biases, black and white thinking and emotional thinking.
In addition it was a rapidly paced adaptation for us when we successfully introduced online courses for our colleagues during the current pandemic situation to cope with the needs of delivery excellence. Sessions to cover effective tools, to define operational problems, decision making and creative problem solving. In addition we introduced virtual sessions on effective behavioral practices and the art of receiving and giving feedback.
Also, in some ways, the crisis has brought a new awareness of our responsibility to the environment and society.
SG EBS has joined forces with Asociatia Daruieste Viata (The Give Life Association) to donate 100,000 euro in order to support the efforts of the medical system. The funds were used to purchase critical equipment such as ventilation units and intensive care beds, as well as protective equipment for first-line medical personnel.
Every organization is called to play a responsible role in the environment and communities they operate in. We have demonstrated this with our ongoing efforts towards CSR, and particularly with our solidarity campaigns. Our focus on CSR as a strategic theme this year is strong, with several initiatives being driven towards our goals. Sustainable IT is a focused stream for our Group under which we are also running a dedicated stream on sustainable sourcing: while selecting vendors, we will evaluate their responsibility towards the environment and society, encouraging green practices and diversity in sourcing.
With this I will like to sum-up by saying: I am pleased to be part of SG EBS and happy for having made this choice of transition.
On an additional note, over the years I have been wary to avoid the Superwoman syndrome.
I have never tried to be best with everything, as I cannot be, but yes, I put my best effort at what I do and I am willing to learn from others, I do not let male voices around the table subdue me, I am open to listening but committed to share my view and perspectives. That is what makes my presence felt and that is how I add value to a relatively male dominated IT world.
Men and women are not to compete, but we compliment each other and together we make a good team.
Versatility of my experiences has helped me become stronger and wiser, my global exposure has made me more open and adaptive and my willingness to listen has given me the virtue to respect people for their differences.
This is what makes global working environments successful!
Always remember, if you are too comfortable with a role, it is time to move on, if you are terrified of what’s next, you’re on the right track, keep challenging yourself and keep moving progressively!
Chief of Staff at IT HUB @ SG EBS