Elahe Hiptoola, Ratna Shekar, Vinita Surana, Sreekant Lanka: “Press for Progress” | Talks at Google

as my opening salvo, I want each one of
you to talk about– what does progress mean
to you in the context of International Women’s Day? Who wants to start us off? ELAHE HIPTOOLA: Let’s start
with the only man in the camp. [LAUGHTER] SREEKANT LANKA: You knew
that was coming, Sreekant. It’s OK. So progress in the spirit
of– political progress in the spirit of
International Women’s Day. As you had pointed
out, the gender parity exists a whole lot. And I’ll talk a little bit
from Google perspective as well because I’m the
only Googler on the panel. We’ve been doing a
lot of work in trying to understand, what
does gender parity mean from Google’s
employee standpoint, and where do we see. And it’s not just about gender. Globally, we have looked
at minority representation and how it’s starting. In India, specifically
with gender parity. We’ve done a lot of sessions
as a part of the diversity and inclusion teams in
Hyderabad to understand, one– what does inclusive
behavior mean, and what does equal
opportunity look like? And also setting the tone
from our senior leadership to ensure that everybody is
actually behind some of these. It’s not just saying things. As recently as a few weeks
back, we did a session. We called it Happy Days,
which was more about helping educate children–
underprivileged children– about menstrual health
and how they were not necessarily aware of what
are the things that they need to do. And it actually helped
them open their eyes. And we could see a marked shift
from the whole day’s session in terms of how they felt
comfortable talking about it, discussing it. And also, data that we had
showed around 30-odd% of kids drop out of schools because
of menstrual health issues that they might have. So what that day
actually kind of hinted was there’s a lot of work
that we can do, primarily to help in gender parity. These are small steps that
keep happening– not just inside Google, but outside. But overall, a lot
more to be done. A lot to be done. As a manager on my
team as well, one of the things that
we look at is, are we being inclusive
in terms of everybody that’s there when
openings come up, or when people need to be hired? How are we making
sure that we are looking at a diverse and
inclusive way of hiring and retaining talent? So those are a few
things that we’ve been doing as we think
about progress for parity. Ratna? RATNA SHEKAR: I might
be a little radical, but I’m not a feminist. I want to say progress to me is
seizing the opportunities which come your way. I mean, you can
always say, you know, my office didn’t
give me a promotion. I’m not this. But you have to seize
the opportunities. We’ve gone through a tough
life, but where we are is because of our push. So I think women have to
seize the opportunity. So there’s no point saying
that I’ve not been given. Nobody is going to
give you anything. You have to seize it. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: I’m
going to come back to you for more on that. RATNA SHEKAR: Yeah. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: Vinita. VINITA SURANA: So I
come from a family– see, my grandmother was wearing
a 8 inch [SPEAKING HINDI]—- a veil. To me, sitting in
a boardroom where I’m the only female
in the boardroom, I think that’s progress for me. And another thing which I
can give a personal example is, when I started working– I come from a
manufacturing background, and there wouldn’t be female
toilets in our manufacturing units. To today, 60% of our
employment are women. Because their loyalty
to the company. They are great. We do solar modules, which
is very close to stitching and knitting. So we’ve taught the people– the women– who are good
in stitching and knitting to come and work as factory
workers, wear those uniforms. And those kinds of women at
the grassroot level, they feel empowered even wearing a uniform
and coming to work every day. So I think that’s
progress for me. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: Thanks. Elahe. ELAHE HIPTOOLA: I think
it’s a matter of age. What age factors. I wouldn’t be a radical
so I’m not a feminist, but the point is, I
have never see myself as a woman with a disadvantage. Let me put it this way. RATNA SHEKAR: Yeah,
that’s what I meant. ELAHE HIPTOOLA: So the house
I grew up in, my parents– I have a younger brother. And they really did not
differentiate between us. And I’ve heard that
from many people. I was brought up
exactly like my brother. But when I say this, I realize
how different it is for me. Not only was I allowed to stay
as late out as my brother was, or not only did I learn karate
because he learned karate, but he learned kathak
because I learned kathak. He was made to learn piano
because I was learning piano. It’s like, the children
went to piano class. The children went to
horse riding class. So I really didn’t think that
these certain things– my mom doesn’t cook to date. I mean, she just does
not know how to cook. And I never thought that
was a disadvantage, right? So coming from that
thing, I didn’t realize that there were too
different fields one could straddle, or there were
two different skill sets that people had based on gender. I really didn’t think of it
until I stepped into the world. But because I came with
that much of confidence– I wouldn’t say arrogance–
into this world, I didn’t ever take it as
a personal gender assault. Everyone does it. Even many are, you know– [SPEAKING HINDI], guys. This is not a good word. In life, shit happens. But I didn’t look
at it that, so I don’t think I’m
pressing for progress, only pressing for more money. Give me money, I
want to make a movie. Give me money, I
want to run Lamakaan. Give me money, I
want to heal a child. I’m only asking for money. So I guess I’ve been just
pressing for furthering my agenda in life. But that’s about it. So I do know if they make good
headlines with these lines, but this is what really
my life taught me. SUJATA MUKHERJEE:
It doesn’t matter if you make headlines, Elahe. You’re leading the line for us. ELAHE HIPTOOLA: Thank you. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: But you
know, I did want to follow up. Some very interesting
themes have already emerged. I think the fact that we
need to seize opportunities, shatter glass ceilings,
and also make sure that it’s not just women. This is leadership
lessons for everybody. Right? But I want to revisit
that theme, right? So like you mentioned,
Elahe, at home, no one looked at you differently
than your brother. And I’m pretty much
like that as well. But do you take
that is privilege? And there are women who need
the support to be able to speak up and shatter glass ceiling? RATNA SHEKAR: Who’s support? SUJATA MUKHERJEE: Other women. Their management. RATNA SHEKAR: Management
is not going to give you. I’ve worked with corporate. SREEKANT LANKA: It’s about
yeah, support needed. Definitely. And it’s maybe coming
from whoever it is. But sometimes what
we have seen, some of the data that we have
looked at is, women tend to– not necessarily
everybody; the power might be more privileged
than others– but women tend to be a little bit more
restrictive in terms of trying to approach
for newer things, or trying to be more candid
about saying, OK, I want this. They expect things
to come to them. And in those kinds
of situations– RATNA SHEKAR: No way. SREEKANT LANKA: There’s
some people who do. I mean, it’s not like
it’s everybody here. But there are some
people who have that. And then how do you make sure
that you are helping those? So I don’t mean to say
that everybody needs that. But at least, whenever
there’s an opening, job opening, what data that
I’ve seen suggests that, OK– if you have 60%,
50% of the skills that are required work for a
particular role, a lot of women would not apply for
that particular job. ELAHE HIPTOOLA:
Why wouldn’t they? RATNA SHEKAR: Why wouldn’t they? SREEKANT LANKA:
Because they don’t feel that they have everything
that’s required to do that job. RATNA SHEKAR: But I’ve
noticed, even with men, they’re a little hesitant. I went to a– SREEKANT LANKA: The
issue is much higher. RATNA SHEKAR: –talk in the
journalism school, and the boys were the quietest. The girls were like, ma’am
this, and ma’am that. What should we do? How do we become journalists? And in fact, they
were very quiet. So I think that men
also need the push. No, no, no. It’s OK. We don’t want men to– [LAUGHTER] So you can’t just,
like you said, you just can’t say this is a
woman thing than a man thing. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SUJATA MUKHERJEE: I think
I totally agree with you. It would be great to
hear from you about how you navigated your careers. Because I think there is enough
for men and women to learn. But to Vinita’s
that’s point, where she said that on the
manufacturing floor there weren’t toilets for women. So we need to make sure that
the system is set up to support folks of both genders, right? VINITA SURANA: I’d just like
to add a point to what Sreekant said, that I do agree with him. A lot of women
think that they need to be perfect before
applying to a job. But I feel that women
need to be brave. They don’t need to be perfect. They need to be more brave. They need to have more coverage Because I think men– it’s like the
[SPEAKING HINDI],, right? Like, men think they’re
better than they are. And women– even though they’re
so gorgeous, and beautiful, and talented– they still have this
I’m-not-good-enough feeling. So I do resonate
with his thought. – But tell me how you all
have navigated your careers. Because Elahe, Ratna,
several different things. Vinita, so many different
things that you’re managing. Sreekant as well. Teaching assignments. So tell me, how do you
make these choices? How do you navigate your career? RATNA SHEKAR: Elahe? You haven’t spoken
in a long time. [LAUGHTER] ELAHE HIPTOOLA: So I am
a unique person, really. I mean, other than the fact that
it’s a good thing to be unique. The only thing I ever
want to do ever growing up was to become a lawyer. Because in my
formative years, I read a really terrible book
called “Rage of Angels” by Sidney Sheldon. And I was, I think, all
of 12 at that point. I don’t know why
they were letting me read such books at home. But I read that. And Jennifer Parker, the
protagonist of the book, made this indelible
impression on my mind. There was no way wanted
to be anything else. In fact, last week, I was
cleaning the [INAUDIBLE] library, and I
found a book which someone had gifted me, saying
“to our Jennifer Parker”. That’s all I ever wanted
to do was to do law. And I was the most
focused kid in school, I think, to know
where I was going. There were no SATs, there were
no TOEFLs, there was no GMAT. There was none of that, because
I knew where I was heading. And I did law. And it was damn bad. It was boring. It was terrible. I mean, it was great
to study all of that. But I remember I used to have
things called moot court, where you could be a
lawyer and help people who were underprivileged. And I got my bottom pinched
on day one in the court. That shattered my
entire my existence. There I was, wearing
a black coat. And I’m being felt up
in Bombay High Court. And I’m thinking, really? This is really what I
dreamed all my life to be? And also, I realized
quickly enough that to be a lawyer in India– or anywhere else
in the world, I’m sure– is that you have to
jump onto a moving wagon. If your father was a lawyer, you
came– it’s the same all over. This whole thing of nepotism
exists as a society. It’s nothing to do with
just the film world. And I recognized it early. But then I’d got into fashion. I was working to support myself
in Bombay, because my father, though we come from a
reasonably, a I say, [SPEAKING HINDI]. He’d always told
us, I’ll support. [SPEAKING HINDI] We never took him
seriously until I really finished my degree. And then he said,
yeah, yeah, yeah. Do what do you want. And I started working
in a designer store. And I realized, you know what? I like fashion. So I came back to Hyderabad
and set up “Elahe”. There were no choices, like
I said, other than law. RATNA SHEKAR: I
remember that story. ELAHE HIPTOOLA: Yeah. There were no choices. At that point,
fashion interested me. I came back to [SPEAKING HINDI]. In those days– I’m talking
’93 is when I set up “Elahe”– our answer to fashion was
“Shefali” in Secunderabad, [SPEAKING HINDI]
in Banjara Hills. That is exactly how fashionable
we were at that point. So I thought if
I get this store, and I get all these
designers, I’m sure people would like to buy. And they did. And then I got bored
with that, because there was no competition. There was nobody else
opening another store. And then Nagesh
came into my life because he was making
“Hyderabad Blues”. And he contacted a bunch of
people who could help him. And there was this,
shall I say, group I belong to called DCH,
which was Dramatic Circle Hyderabad”– but
really, it should have been called “Drunken
Circle Hyderabad”, because in an entire
year, we put up one play. But we met every week and drank
ourselves silly to figure out which play we were going to do. So it was very invigorating
and extremely good group that we had. And when he contacted them,
they said [SPEAKING HINDI].. That’s how I got to meet Nagesh. [LAUGHTER] [SPEAKING HINDI] And “Hyderabad Blues” happened. So I’m just really
most lucky– privileged because of the
background I come from. My calling fell into my lap. Every time– and genuinely,
films is my calling. And I did nothing to
get it but just show up. The only thing, like you said– I know it sounds very lofty
to say I was brave and all– but you took opportunities. But you’re also
much younger, right? You feel you can do so much
more when you are younger. [SPEAKING HINDI]
When Nagesh met me, I was supposed to do
production with him. And then he met me, and
he said, you know what? Will you audition for a role? And like I said,
[SPEAKING HINDI].. I’m like, yeah, sure. Why not? I auditioned and I got the role. So I played the second
lead in “Hyderabad Blues”. Which– I had never been
on a film set before. Forget auditioning
and stuff like that. And then while we
were rehearsing, I would tell the actor,
[SPEAKING HINDI].. So Nagesh saw that. And he said, would you like
to be my assistant director? And like I keep saying,
he was desperate, and I was clueless what
assistant director even stood for. I’m like yeah, sure. No problem. So that’s how I became the AD. And God forbid I have
anything else in my life. It just fell into my lap. So I had more
choices I had made, other than just saying yes
to when people ask me stuff. So people offering
you, take that chance. I have gone all over the
world with that answer. But I didn’t speak for too long. So now we’ll come back. [LAUGHTER] SUJATA MUKHERJEE: Vinita. VINITA SURANA: So like I said,
I come from a very conservative background. I think my parents
ambition for me is to be the trophy
daughter, or the trophy wife. And ever since I was
a kid, I was a rebel. I was like, there’s
something off. My life just can’t
be like, you’re know, just get married, and
be somebody’s showpiece. And very early on, I started
working for other people, because I come from a
family business background. And I thought that if I join my
own business, the first day– I don’t think I’ll
be taken seriously. I don’t think I would
be learning much So I went, like Elahe said,
even I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve been to different
cities because I wanted that anonymity. I did not want to come
from a background. I wanted to learn. And I really understood
what it takes to be anonymous in a system. And when I came back
to my family business, I guess there was more
empathy towards my employees. Which I would have never owned
if I started from a cabin. Like, my cabin. Because I went from a desk
to a senior manager and then a cabin, I guess that
empathy factor came in to me very early on. But after I came back
to my family business, we started the
solar company that is the cash cow of our group. I am very active in it. And we’ve done fairly good. Last two years has
been a little tough. But we’ve had our run,
and stuff like that. But even then, I always felt
like people would always associate me to a
family business group. So to your question, how
do you maneuver things– It’s because out of this
thing that, you know, I need to prove it to someone. I don’t know if
it’s to my parents, or to society, or to my friends. But I need to prove
it to someone, that I’m not just privileged. I want to do my own thing. So I am a startup entrepreneur. I’ve done serial startups. I’ve started mentoring
people right now. So when you said
startup, [INAUDIBLE] I work very actively with them. But that also wasn’t
enough for me. So another hat that I that
wear is these organizations. So today I’m a part of three
very active organizations. One is called The
Entrepreneur’s Organization. It’s the world’s largest
influential organization. I’m on the South Asia Board. And FICCI Lady’s Organization,
if you would have heard it. I’m leading. I’m the incoming
chairperson next year. And another one–
it’s very regional. Jain International
Trade Organization. It’s from the
community I come from. So all this, when a person
sees my Facebook profile like my immediate
community or my friends, they’re like, oh, you’re
doing so many things. But it’s actually because– there are many factors to it. One– because you
are, jobless clueless. You want to prove
it to everyone. And two– because you
don’t want to be tagged, or you don’t want
to be known that OK, you were born with
a silver spoon. No. I have my own identity. And I think women tend to
try and prove extra for this. Like, my brother
is just in Bahamas. He’s enjoying his gains. SREEKANT LANKA: He
doesn’t have to prove. VINITA SURANA: Yeah, he doesn’t
have to prove that much. And I think even as an
heir, he would be getting– the next generation– in terms
of the monetary compensation and stuff like that, it’s
kind of taken for granted that it’s going to
the men in the family. And sure, I do agree to your
point that times are changing, and there is going to be
a lot of equality in this. But as of now, I still
feel like, as India, we are a patriarchal society. ELAHE HIPTOOLA: Oh, yeah. There’s no doubt about that. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: Rehka. RATNA SHEKAR: Yeah. I come from a family
of bankers, and people who were in the government. But I used to sit and read. I was not a person who
would talk like this. I was a very quiet,
nice, sweet girl. And– ELAHE HIPTOOLA:
That, you still are. [LAUGHTER] RATNA SHEKAR: Thank you. And I always wanted
to be a writer. Those days, there was
no career counseling. Nobody told us, you
must do this course. So I just did
English literature. And then I went on to–
we moved to Calcutta. So there, I joined “Sunday”. It’s not like– I actually
didn’t do a journalism course. And then even in college,
I remember my dad writing in St. Francis. We had to give an option. He put Economics. And I went there, and cut it
out in front of the sister, and put English. So my dad said, what are you
going to do with English? [SPEAKING HINDI] She’ll become a
professor, which I hate though. I would never
become a professor. So I had no idea how I was
going to become a writer. But I just used to loved writing
essays, love writing stories. And what happened–
I joined in Calcutta, this magazine called
“Sunday”, which was very iconic in those days. And then I think from
there, it took off. And when I started,
I didn’t say that I want to become an editor. I want to start magazine. Nothing. It’s just the love of
writing, which I still love. So it’s just that one love,
it just takes you forward. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: Sreekant. SREEKANT LANKA: been asked
this question a couple of time before. The way I think about it–
it’s optionality better than linearity. In the sense like not
necessarily looking at your career or life
as a linear progression, but more as taking
options and taking risks. I come from a middle
class family with parents being at the mission. So a Telugu guy,
growing up, a career it was already set for you. You had to be an engineer. ELAHE HIPTOOLA: Or a doctor. SREEKANT LANKA: Or a doctor. I was not as smart, so I
chose the engineering route. And then it was, go to the US. Because that’s what you do. So you take a GRE, and
I landed up in the US. Study there, work there. Then I realized that
there are options that I can think of
what I want to do, and what I don’t want to do. One of those was teaching. I realized that,
back with my parents, something stuck to me
about the gene of teaching. so that kind of was things
that I have been doing of late. And then at some
point I was like, OK. Good. Done technology. Done software. I want to do something else. I actually hit a glass
ceiling with my colleagues. And I figured that I need to
get a business school today. So I went to Paris
and got an MBA. Then came back. Did strategy for some time. And then got bored of it. Then joined Google. I’ve been with Google
for 7, 8 years. And if I look at my career
path, what I realize is, there are two things which
kind of are two “not’s” for me. One– am I learning? And two, am I driving
impact, or adding impact? If I’m not learning, or if
I’m not making an impact, I kind of get bored and I
want to do something else. So usually it’s not like
you would continue to learn and you would have impact. Those don’t happen
at the same time. But either you’re learning
or you are making an impact. So either of those
two are things that I hold to myself,
as I think about career, and progression,
and stuff like that. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: So
it’s very interesting that almost all of you said
that when you started out, you weren’t sure what
you wanted to do. And what I’ve sort of been
scribbling as you are talking– I think that there are
certain things that have stood out which I think
is important for everybody in this room. So like Elahe said– show up. Right? When the opportunity
arrives, you have to be present
and ready to grab it. And also– be very clear
about what you want. So I think for Vinita, it was
a desire to prove yourself. For Reha, it was you
know you wanted to write. And for you, it was learning
and challenging yourself. But let’s talk about
the need for support and allies and mentors as you
are navigating your careers. So could you share
a little bit about– you mentioned a little
bit about Nagesh and your drunken
circle of Hyderabad. But who are the
people who you think were able to support you as
you made some of these choices? In some cases, radical choices? Who stood by your side,
and how important do you think it is to have a mentor? ELAHE HIPTOOLA: I don’t
know whether people actively seek mentors. RATNA SHEKAR: Yeah, that’s what
I am a little unclear about. ELAHE HIPTOOLA: I’m
sure it happens. It is very organic. Because then
suddenly, you realize, I have learned so much from
this person, or whatever. For me, the support– which was unconditional,
and it didn’t even cross my mind that they would
not support– was family. At any point of time, my parents
would have put their foot down and said, yes. You wanted to do law. That was fine. Then you got into fashion. We kept quiet. You got married. We allowed you. You got divorced. You came back. We let you. Now you want to go into films? Absolutely not. I remember when we were
doing “Hyderabad Blues”. And I said, this
guy has come, and he wants to make this movie,
and he wants to do all this. They were like, OK. Another thing– it was an
18 day stint or whatever. So I left my store in the
this thing of my cousin, and I went off to shoot. And at one morning,
5 AM call time, I open my bathroom to get up,
and there’s my grandmother standing over there. And I’m like, [SPEAKING HINDI]. And she’s saying,
it’s an English movie. So I’m like, yeah. No, no, no. They kiss. So the only person who
panicked in the family was my grandmother when
she found out on day 12 that I was doing
an English film. Until then, they were like,
somewhere, this is going. So I suppose that
kind of freedom could be support in a way. We weren’t curbed at any point. We made lots of mistakes. I mean, my journey’s
filled with mistakes. From my obsession to do law,
to the man I chose to marry, to the fact that I gave up my
store when it was at the height of it’s. “Elahe” was the only store. Luckily, it’s still continuing. But the thing is,
I sold my name. And whenever I pass by,
I’m like, that’s my name I. I want it back. But that’s the only
thing I had to sell. The store was on rent and the
clothes were on consignment. I couldn’t sell anything
else but the name. But you never thought
of them as mistakes. And then of course,
Nagesh came as a director. And he was so clear about what– I never met someone
with such clarity. He was an unhappy engineer,
because he was a Telugu. And he was in America
because he was a Telugu. And then, of course, past that,
he just wanted to make movies. And he was very
clear about his path. And that was such
a novelty to me, that someone knew what
they wanted to do. Because I really had no
idea what I want to do– in present continuous,
not past tense. And then as a mentor,
you realize in hindsight how much you’ve picked
up from the people who were there in your life. So like my father, for instance. Extremely checkered career. Chartered accountant. Became a fashion designer. He’s responsible for
Rajish Khanna’s guru collar, and Rajenda Kumar’s
saffron pants, colored pants. That was my father, because
he was doodling in Bombay, and then joined Ratna Shah’s
father, Baldev Pathak, and they started
this whole thing. Then he came to
Hyderabad and set up saccharin industries,
and a fire extinguisher industry in Patencheru. And while he was
doodling, he designed the small little
ceasefire unit that was so popular at one time. And he sold that
design to the people who made ceasefire
and retired at 40. And it was really
embarrassing for us, because we are still in school. And people would say,
what does your father do? He’s an engineer. He’s a doctor. He’s a builder. What does your father do? Nothing. He’s sitting at home. So it was really
embarrassing for us to have fathers like that. But the point is that was Dada. Than I had Nagesh. I remember there was a line in
the second film of ours called “Rockford” that said– don’t recognize failure. Then there is no failing. And I realize that
that is the mantra that I’ve used all my life. That if you don’t
recognize failure, then you really don’t
know you’ve failed. Right? So I suppose that became a
mentor-mentee relationship. But we are not. We’re a director-producer
relationship. So like I said,
mentor, I don’t know. I just take whatever I
can learn from people, and then apply it to
my life, and pretend I was the one who spotted that. But that’s it Yeah. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: What about– ELAHE HIPTOOLA: Am I answering
any question you are asking? SUJATA MUKHERJEE: Yes. [LAUGHTER] Until the end of
it, I really don’t know what I have said. RATNA SHEKAR: Elahe, being
entertaining in the bargain. I’d like to– sorry. I’d like to acknowledge
my parents, too. Because even I was thinking,
who the hell supported me, and who are my mentors? This unconditional
support from the parents is very, very important. But of course, I thought
I won’t amount to much because of English Literature. My brothers were all into
MBA and brilliant in math. I was really bad in
math But, like she said, they supported whatever I did. And when I became a writer– I’ve had a career
in society, and lots of magazines in Bombay–
they were extremely proud of the whole thing. And then, of course, I’d like
to acknowledge Dr. [INAUDIBLE],, because I started a
magazine for them. So initially whenever
the magazine came out, he would say, my god, Ratna, it
looks like National Geographic. Because no where– And after that, he stopped. After first two years he
was calling me regularly. We are better than
“India Today”. You know, he was so proud. And then he stopped. He knew that I could
stand on my feet. I’ve always acknowledged this. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: The
encouragement helped. RATNA SHEKAR: Yeah. That little word. Just a call. That’s all. That’s the kind
of mentor he was. VINITA SURANA: I
think mentorship is the most important
thing in life. I felt the lack
of it growing up. And I would really feel like
somebody starving in a desert. So And I had read this somewhere
that if you don’t get something in life, you become
the pioneer of it. And that’s why I feel like– right now, one of my part time
careers is also life coaching. And I do that for people. And I feel that I got into this
because I felt the lack of it. But I also believe
every level of your life demands a certain mentor. A certain skill set. A certain advice that
you’re looking for. And it’s a little
bit bit airy-fairy, but I do believe in
the law of attraction. And I feel like the more you up
your game, the better mentors, the better people
come into your life. And nothing defies
the grace of a guru. If you have a mentor
with the project, the relationship, anything. Now if i just take it in terms
of a project, the project that I can do in a year,
or my personal growth that can happen in a year– just with the grave
of a guru, I think it can accelerate to in a month. So I am a total believer of
the mentor-mentee relationship, I think. I’m pro mentorship. RATNA SHEKAR: It’s
too late for us now. [LAUGHTER] VINITA SURANA: Now
you become mentors. RATNA SHEKAR: We are. Which is, why am
I still enjoying [INAUDIBLE] everything. SREEKANT LANKA: From a support
perspective, definitely family. Parents were always there. And the other equally
important, or more important in shaping my career
has been my wife. I’ve shared this with
some of the Googlers as well in the past. I left my wife and
four-week-old son in the US to go to business school
in Paris all by myself. And she was there by herself
taking care of the baby. A lot of people were like,
you are a great negotiator. But it’s, more importantly,
she was empathic towards what I felt was important for me. And then she was there. And second thing– when
I started at Google– we were in New York as well– we had our second child. Our daughter. And then, my wife was
there with both of them. And then I moved to Europe
to start my career in Google. And the same thing happened. Now both of those
situations were where she stood behind me and
said, hey, you want to do this? Go ahead and do it. My colleagues and my
bosses make fun of me when they moved back
from the US to India. They were like, are
you moving to India? Now are you expecting
a third one? Is that why you’re
moving to India? It was not necessarily true. But, yes. She has been there continuously. In terms of
mentorship, it happens. It’s not like you will
find the right mentor. Having said that, there are some
things that you can structure. One is what attributes or
skills that you don’t have that you might want to learn? What are things that you might
want to learn from somebody? It’s not something
like, OK, I’m going to hook this clip to and say,
this is what I want to do. Hence, I’m going
to find somebody. But the idea of continuous
learning– either from a guru, or from a coach
or somebody who is there who can help you navigate
that next step– is important. You can find them
in various forms. And then you need to
continuously look for them. The value of a good mentor–
this is understated. it’s a huge, huge benefit. Because they can be
a sounding board. Things that you cannot
talk to your colleagues, can’t talk to your bosses,
because they might hold it against you and all of that– these mentors actually help
you get the right idea. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: We do
a lot of user research, and we talk to women. And they’ve said
that the reason why I can’t pursue a career in
technology, and pursue a PhD, and things like that, is because
I can’t tell my mom that I want to be like Sheryl Sandberg. Right? Because she’s this
foreigner, and it’s very easy for my parents
to say, [SPEAKING HINDI].. So I think it’s important to
have these stories from India. Role models that, one– that inspire us, or fill us
with rage to do something, like the one that
Elahe mentioned. Or things that are aspirational. Women who look
like us, but who’ve dealt with a lot of adversity,
and still made it happen. That’s sort of my summary. VINITA SURANA:
Can I add a point? SUJATA MUKHERJEE: Of course. Sorry, I didn’t get your name. NAINA: Naina. VINITA SURANA: Naina. Naina, when you were
talking, every word you said– the choice
of words you used– is the exact emotion
I could connect to. Because it happens to me. Like Elahe said, even
after proving yourself– a dime a dozen– your parents still
[? laud ?] you. They’re like, no. Why you? You know, why should
we listen to you? Or why should we listen to
this reverse kind of advice? Because like you said, the
conditioning of the society. Or they have to go back there. And I completely resonate
with each and everything. But what I can say is– have you heard of the
theory of the slight edge? Just small, daily habits
that you do everyday. They need not be important. But when they add up– when you
just put one marble in a jar, it doesn’t make a difference. But you keep adding up for
100 days, it’ll become. It will be something solid. So taking the points
from both of them, that perseverance is something
that we can’t give up on. I our life We want
the best for our life. And if it takes for us
to convince our parents, or have those difficult
conversations with the people we love the most. Because we don’t
want to hurt them. We respect them. And I think they love
us and respect us, too. It’s just that
they don’t know how to have a marriage
of the society and the new generation– our
thoughts, and stuff like that. So I feel like in a line,
if I were to have to say. is that if you know the
background feeling– that they really love
and care for you, but they are helpless– I think they also
understand you. And if you can just have
that in the back of our mind, and then go to our
actionable items. RATNA SHEKAR: When my daughter
wanted to get married, I said, why don’t
you go live with him? I mean, what is this
obsession with marriage and torturing all of us to do
this “Shaadi” and all that. But she was like saying, no. I must get married. So I think your generation
wants to get married. But our generations
likely more liberal. [LAUGHTER] Seriously. This is serious. Please ask my daughter. And she was marrying
a guy from IT. And here, we were all
these creative people. Because I thought she
didn’t know him well enough. So I said, live with him for
sometime before you decide. I feel if you want
marriage, please do that. If you want to meet with
somebody, a guy or a girl, please do that. Basically, we need to
liberate ourselves. This is what my point is. Don’t say, my dad said this. Don’t say, my husband said this. I’ve come from a very
difficult background, and it’s not like
everything was given to me. But I just broke all barriers. I’m a single mom. Brought up two kids. And then when we started a
magazine, I just went forward. It was like an
in-house magazine. I said, why should in-house
magazine be boring? So just bring the
barriers in your minds. That is what we need to break. NAINA: And then not care
about what everybody says. RATNA SHEKAR: Not care! NAINA: You have to, otherwise– ELAHE HIPTOOLA: No, you do. RATNA SHEKAR: No, no, no. My mom loves me– sorry. My mom loves me still. NAINA: When I say everybody,
I don’t mean family. I mean people– RATNA SHEKAR: No. They respect me. Why am I– ELAHE HIPTOOLA:
Please understand. I am in this work
field, which we are looked under a microscope. But they rejoice if
our film flops, right? [SPEAKING HINDI] We come
from that kind of a thing. But if you really do
give that much weight as to what everybody
thinks, genuinely, you will not go one step forward. And please understand,
tomorrow [SPEAKING HINDI].. We’re as good as
as the last Friday. Next Friday, someone
else will get rid of it. They don’t care about you. You think that,
shit, man, they care. They don’t give a damn. I might have won
the National Awards. Tomorrow, I am history. RATNA SHEKAR: You’re
not headlines. ELAHE HIPTOOLA: Yeah,
I’m not headlines. Nobody cares about you. We think people care about you. RATNA SHEKAR: So don’t worry– ELAHE HIPTOOLA: They
really don’t care. RATNA SHEKAR: –about
the society, or whatever. ELAHE HIPTOOLA: Unfortunately. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: All right. So that’s all we have time for. So it’s a great note to end. RATNA SHEKAR: We should
extend it one more. SUJATA MUKHERJEE: But I think
there are some great lessons to learn. Thank you so much for
sharing your stories. Seize the opportunity. Show up. Pursue your desires. Act from a place of empathy. Realize where your
families are coming from. But of course, be brave,
and pursue everything. Thank you everybody. [APPLAUSE]

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