Deepika Bajaj made a courageous decision to pursue her dreams by leaving her family in India and moving to the United States. She had great opportunities as an engineer, but she wanted to go beyond technical roles. With the support of a mentor, she was able to take a calculated risk and started her own company Invincibelle. This savvy businesswoman has reinvented herself several times throughout her career, and she attributes her success to knowing the value she brings to the table.
Here are her tips for owning your strengths.
Early in my startup phase, I was doing a lot of work to empower women and launched my first company. After a speech I gave at a conference, a woman approached me and asked me to speak at another event with industry heavyweights. I found myself in good company; Condoleezza Rice was also addressing the group. A labor of love opens doors.
Don’t try to be what people expect you to be—be yourself and speak your mind. I’m often in groups that are predominantly male. I may be the only woman in the room, but that never keeps me from voicing my opinion. If someone feels uncomfortable with my being there, then that’s THEIR problem, not mine. I don’t want women to stop themselves from saying what they believe. You were probably hired to share your expertise—so go do your job.
Own your accomplishments
If I’m in a group of men and they’re talking about their achievements, I definitely make it a point to speak of my own. I hear stories about women struggling to share their victories, and I wonder where this comes from. If they’re rock stars, then they need to know that! If you‘re delivering results, others want to learn from you.
Say it like it is—you build lifelong relationships by being authentic. It can help you connect with people, but can also sever ties when necessary. Why put your energy into a relationship that has no sustainability? I’m glad when people are honest with me. If someone says, “This isn’t going to work,” I can focus my time on something that will.
Even if you’re wildly successful, you will still get criticized, so take unwarranted comments with a grain a salt. If you hear criticism and think, “That’s interesting, but it doesn’t have to affect me,” then you stopped it in its tracks. Some feedback may strike a chord and should be considered. Discriminate what fits and leave the rest.
Who saw something in you early on that you didn’t see in yourself? What was that?
As a kid I wasn’t a very good student, but my teacher, Arti Madam, took me under her wing. I didn’t know what she saw in me, but she asked me to come to her house for private tutoring every evening at no cost. She taught me the value of discipline, staying focused, and keeping my promises. That year, I was first in my class.
What do you think girls need to know?
Be independent yet dependable.
Enjoy work and family.
Don’t wait for a level playing field, make life your playground.