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Posts Tagged with work

posted by Nishtha Gupta on June 27, 2013 at 06:07 pm

We think “job”.

We want “job”.

We search “job”.

Fixerline is flooded with queries for a job. Some say “I want job” while other plead “I need job”.  Sometimes I am actually stumped by the sheer desperation in tone and intensity of the job seeker. The end actually defines the search. If you are merely looking for a job then the entire universe opens up and you end up searching for a needle in a haystack.

Let’s look at Fixerline. Professionals who have career/work related problems consult us for advice. We can either respond to those queries as merely “queries” OR we can empathise and really work with them down the career path. This can be observed in magnified form when doctors treat you for an ailment. Doctor A can take an approach: I will do everything I can to save this patient. Doctor B gives you medication to help you feel better. The key differentiators are compassion and commitment.

If you want a job, you will get a job. If you want to have fun@work, then choose a career.

5437 Views | 88 Likes    Career job work

posted by Nishtha Gupta on May 23, 2013 at 01:09 pm

Chanda Zaveri’s extraordinary story would have been just another dream dashed had she stepped out of her Kankurgachhi home in a trousseau back in 1984 rather than sneak out to a life of challenges.This Calcutta girl who fled marriage at 17 is back home three decades later as a millionaire American entrepreneur with a master’s in molecular biology and a Nobel laureate as mentor on her CV.

So determined was Chanda, now 49, not to end up like “most Marwari girls of my age” that she chose to trust a tourist couple whom she had met on Park Street instead of family members who thought marriage was best for her.

A teenaged Chanda soon landed in the US with the American couple’s support, worked as a maid, impressed her employer enough to get a study sponsorship and then walked into a lab at Caltech one day to tell two-time Nobel winner Linus Pauling that she would work under him! In town this winter, like she is every year, Chanda narrates to Metro her believe-it-or-not journey from Calcutta to California and how a penniless girl founded the skincare products company Activor Corp (now Actiogen) and devised a formula that is also used in one of Calcutta-based Emami’s bestselling creams.


I come from a conservative joint Marwari family living in Kankurgachhi. I did my schooling at Balika Shiksha Sadan on Vivekananda Road and I was very young when I completed school, only 14. Then I went to City College, where I majored in biology. Marwaris then wanted their girls to get married soon and not go to college. But I was very influenced by the culture of education in Bengal; so I wanted to study.

My parents arranged my wedding and I ran away! I had no money, just a pair of diamond earrings. I sold it, got myself tickets on British Airways and landed in Boston.

I used to frequent the American Library on Park Street and hang around at YMCA. One day, an American woman fell unconscious on the road from heat stroke and I helped take her to the doctor. We became good friends. So two years later in 1984, when my parents tried to get me married off, I called Karen and David who were back in Boston by then. In those days, there was no email or fax but just a noisy telephone line. I called David’s office and he, after 10 minutes of struggling to figure out who I was, agreed to send me a sponsor letter.

When I went to the American consulate for my visa, the visa officer looked at me and said: “You look so young, you cannot go the US.” I was upset and told him: “Do you think America is heaven? That anybody who goes there will never come back?” He looked at me and said: “Okay, I am giving you a five-year multiple entry visa, I was just kidding!”

Landing penniless

I remember crying all the way to Boston. I was happy that I had got my freedom but I was also so attached to Calcutta. The airport had taken away all my Indian money, so I didn’t have a penny to even make a phone call. But my friends David and Karen turned up to receive me. In Indian clothes!

Thus began my journey. I didn’t have a work visa, so I looked up the newspaper and found an old lady looking for a help. The very day after I joined her, she passed away. I called her son living in Hawaii who asked me to call the mortuary. I wondered what a mortuary was! I had never heard of that word! I was scared to death.

Coming from a well-off Marwari family, you have your servants doing everything and I had never worked. But to go to school, I had to do it. After a few days, I found another lady, Mrs Leslie, 98 years old, who took me in as her help. One day, she asked me to make lamb chops for lunch! I am a vegetarian, I had never even had an egg in my life and here she was asking me to make lamb chops, that too “medium”. I didn’t even know what that meant! And I burnt the entire thing. When she realised I didn’t know how to cook, she asked me to look up the yellow pages for a restaurant. I didn’t know what yellow pages meant! It was one culture shock after another, every day. But she started enjoying teaching me their way of life. She was lonesome, without a child and I became her daughter who she started raising instead of me helping her. She gave me $30,000 one day and said: “I want you to go to Harvard.”

Soon after I had completed the two units that I needed to pursue my masters in the US, David introduced me to his father-in-law, who adopted me as his daughter and brought me to California. My American parents once came and stayed with my biological parents for six weeks. They explained to them that America doesn’t mean MTV or Saturday nights and that I had gone there to study. They accepted and it was no longer a big deal.

I joined the California Institute of Technology, where I did my research in biochemistry under Linus Pauling, who was a visiting professor there. That’s how I learnt how to make peptide. (Pauling won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1954 and for peace in 1962, the only person to win the Nobel twice without sharing the prize with anyone.)

Cleaning petri dishes

I worked for four years with Pauling till he died in 1994. It’s a funny story how I met him. He was 90 years old then, sitting in the laboratory with a cap on, when I went up to him and said: “Sir, I have a 4.0 GPA with straight ‘A’s. What does it take for a student to work in your lab?”

He looked up and said: “Well, one has to have dark skin, dark hair and marry me!” So I asked him: “When?” He started laughing. He told me that he didn’t have much work there but needed someone to clean the petri dishes. So I told him: “I will clean the petri dishes. I would just be happy to be around you.”

I would go in the evenings after the students had left and clean the petri dishes and write down what I could see. When he found me keenly observing and writing, he told me: “I want you to be learning about peptides because I am not going to be in this world for too long.” He really gave me hands-on lessons on how to make peptides and a lot of formulations we did together. If you ask me about my goal, when I was young, it was to win the Nobel! But when I saw elderly people, their wounds and bed sores, how they don’t heal, I thought I could try and do something to heal wounds.

The first peptide that I made is the B2 Actigen, which improves collagen in the skin. While studying and dealing with radioactive particles, I got very sick. I was 22, my skin got dragged out and I was looking very bad. So I thought, “What if I can create that collagen and put it in a cream.” That got a huge reaction and it started selling.

When at Caltech, we had done some work on rust inhibitor and I had helped with the patent that the university got. My professor gave me $70,000 and since I was the inventor, they gave me a green card. I had enough money to start my own company, which I called Activor and I was the first one to start using peptide in cosmetics. Emami’s Fair & Handsome has my peptide in it too. I have independently formulated skin lightening, anti-ageing and sunscreen products for Estee Lauder and Revlon.

Eyeing $100 million

Now my company is called Actiogen, based in Los Angeles. We create scientific peptide-based skincare products on anti-ageing, acne, cleansers, toners, day and night creams, sunscreens and stretch-mark removers. They are functional cosmetics, which aren’t just feel-good and smell-good. We sell online and through info-commercials. In fact, I have just got the FDA approval for an acne patch that we are launching soon. We are hoping for a $100 million turnover with this new product. I also want to bring these acne patches to India.

There are things you do for survival but I am on a path. Like, today, we find DNA and gene sequencing. My goal is to one day sequence all the proteins so we would know exactly where one gets sick because of a protein disorder at a very basic level.

I love Calcutta, keep coming back every year and I built my own house in Salt Lake. I am happy to see more Marwari girls pursuing higher studies, but the priority of finding a good groom still remains. Having gone through that and having worked as a maid, I hope for a day in India when people, irrespective of their status and gender, will treat each other as equal. I think I had a destiny that I asked for. I believe in the law of attraction. If you want something and you don’t have ifs or buts, you will get it. No matter what.

Source: The Telegraph, January 26 2013

57889 Views | 66 Likes    Career Dream Work Destiny Luck

posted by Geeta Sethi on March 14, 2013 at 02:38 pm

We all have 24 hours with an 8 hour work day. Some of us get the results we want at work and also have a lot of fun, while some others put in 10 – 12 hours a day and yet have many pending points on the never ending to-do list.  Being able to get more done allows us to get ahead in life, and even gives us more time to do the things we love outside of work. 


So here are some pointers for you to consider for a work-life balance:


1.Start your week on Sunday night.  Enjoy your weekend and just before you go to bed on Sunday night, plan the week ahead. This will be the best spent hour of the week & will keep you in control. You don’t reach work on Monday morning and start fumbling when you meet your boss in the elevator.


2. Make to-do lists and review them every morning when you get to work and every evening before you leave. If your master plan is ready on Sunday night, you don’t need to spend more than 10 minutes each day. This keeps you on top of things always.


3.Don’t get over ambitious with yourself and don’t push others beyond their limits. You will save yourself a lot of frustration if you are reasonably demanding while getting things done.


4. Tackle the unpleasant tasks first and get them out of the way. No point brooding over them and spending time unproductively.


5. Always expect the unexpected , something unplanned will come up – an extra meeting, an additional report. You should be ready  to take this on with a smile , no boss likes to see their team member cringe while giving them a few extra tasks.


6. Learn to say no firmly and stick to it. Saying no isn’t easy for most of us, we take on stuff which we can’t deliver and we end up with our tail between the legs. This may seem contradictory to point 4, but life is full of contradictions ! It is very important to develop the ability to discern when to say yes or no to more work. Definitely say no to distractions , gossip & negative interactions which consume your time.


7. Take a break every 90 minutes, provided you’ve focused all your energy on your work during those 90 minutes. Take a few deep breaths , take a short walk and get your eyes off the computer & mobile screens.


8.Lunch time is best spent with colleagues from other departments, not your own. It gives you a chance to bond with them and this is very helpful when cross functional  deliverables come into play. Everyone prioritizes doing things faster for friends and you are bound to benefit from relationships. But be genuine about your friendships. Everyone can see through a fake.


9.Attend fewer meetings and stay focused on your deliverables. Meetings can go into hours with discussions going all over the place. Its OK to politely excuse yourself sometimes, its also OK to bring the discussion back on track , albeit tactfully. 


10.Never hesitate to ask for help. If something challenging comes along, you feel a great kick by solving it yourself. But if you get stuck for long, then swallow your pride and ask for help. It’s more important to finish the task than to do it all by yourself at the cost of many other priorities.


Lastly, strike off what you’ve completed, it brings a big smile on your face, releases endorphins and leaves you satisfied at the end of the day. Get ahead and closer to your goals.

About the author:

Geeta is a digital evangelist and has a hands on people-centric approach. Need help, you just need to drop her a note.

2715 Views | 61 Likes    Work life Work load Work life balance

posted by Nishta Gupta on January 12, 2013 at 09:38 am

The new year has started like a 20/20 cricket game for New mentors, members, partners, fixers, workplace surveys, and yes, renewed energy for some super exciting action for making workplaces more connected, engaged, and fun.


A close look at some of the Fixerline Fundoo workplaces shows some charismatic leadership and people. They defy conventional wisdom and have chosen to take the path less travelled by: Passion over Experience, Attitude over Skills, and Innovation over Processes. Facebook is not a fluke. Zuckerberg’s philosophy is to “risk it and go ahead and break things”. Google began on a high note but maybe has lost it on the way as it gives weight to pedigree over passion. Apple is definitely the I of innovation with its tall leader Steve Jobs.


I am trying to think of some Indian company that I respect for its workplace ethics and culture yet still floundering after 10 minutes of intensive contemplation. I quote Infosys Managing Director, Shibulal from an interview in HT Business today: “Under-performers can look for options”.


Employee engagement and productivity is not just about rewards, it’s all about freedom, recognition, and empowerment. The question is: Why are there under-performers in your company? Why are they not performing to potential? Some excerpts from the book,  Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg: The company encourages its workers to form teams around projects they're passionate about, because Facebook's leaders clearly understand that great work comes out of doing what you adore. Not only does this approach ensure that employees give their best to the project, but it also provides opportunities for career growth based on smarts and competence, not on credentials.In that sense, everyone is equal. You are recognized and respected based on your contributions to the improvement of the product; your résumé or your age doesn't matter. Facebook is a company where ideas turn into products whether you are an intern or the CEO himself. "Pixels talk," says Joey Flynn, one of the designers of the Facebook timeline. "You can do anything here if you can prove it."


2013, will question the stereotype - employee rewards, productivity, engagement, or performance review. Performance cannot be in silos, so when we question the employee and sack him for non-performance, let his/her manager share the responsibility as well.  Let the appraisal systems be more sensitive to human performance. As we begin the New Year, we look forward to some milestones to mark new beginnings in changing the organisational structures globally.

3161 Views | 79 Likes    Great Workplaces Employee Performance Employee Engagement

posted by Nishtha Gupta on October 7, 2012 at 06:53 pm

The wife of a Kingfisher employee committed suicide as her husband had not been paid salary for the last 6 months. She was suffering from financial stress. There are other forms of stress that go unnoticed as the signs are not visible and yet have an impact on employee motivation and productivity. Aggressive timelines, unrealistic targets, nasty colleagues, unruly boss, high work load, job insecurity, zero empowerment/decision making authority are some of the common reasons for job stress. 

Job stress increases the risk of heart attack. You may have noticed that offices have smoking centers outside the building where people burn away the stress. Researchers analysed 13 existing European studies covering nearly 200,000 people and found "job strain" was linked to a 23% increased risk of heart attacks and deaths from coronary heart disease, according to a BBC news report.

Job stress is something that is unavoidable and the key is to manage it in a way that it does not produce negative health conditions. In extreme cases, it is even said that it can lead to dementia. Unchecked stress can result in diminished productivity, low morale and motivation, absenteeism, attrition, co-worker clashes, and office politics.

For organisations and employees to address this challenge, the first step would be to acknowledge “job stress” as a problem. We normally tend to step it over that this too shall pass. Seek professional help before it is too late. The Kingfisher employees should gather on a monthly basis and discuss jointly to solve the common issues.

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is an effective tool in dealing with workplace stress. The program comprises of work-life services that use proven techniques to help reduce employee stress, decrease absenteeism and turnover, and augment productivity. Organizations should look at employee wellness holistically and proactively address stress related issues. This will enhance employee well-being and therefore engagement.

Measure the ‘happiness quotient’ of your employees for they are the backbone of your organisation.


3297 Views | 67 Likes    Work stress Job stress Stress