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The Entrepreneurial Spirit: Building a Career on a Foundation of Support

By: Alka Banerjee

Women are natural leaders. It is cultural legacy or social frameworks that keep them in the background. However, once women are not afraid to speak up and focus on achieving goals, they are very successful. They exhibit true strength, whether in the face of adversity or by excelling in high-flying careers, while embodying a game-changing spirit that is true to their nature.

“The women of my family have been the most inspiring people I’ve known, as well as the greatest champions of my success.”

But it’s essential for women to know they have a foundation of support; a strong network of family, friends, and mentors help to instill the self-esteem and resilience needed to survive — and even thrive — during the difficulties everyone faces at one time or another.

The women of my family have been the most inspiring people I’ve known, as well as the greatest champions of my success. My great-grandmother became a widow at 21, the worst fate for any woman in 19th-century India, yet she lived independently until age 92. My grandmother would have been an effective CEO, having "run" a family of more than 100 people, using love and a firm hand. She made sure my mother received an education. My mother earned a Ph.D. and was a professor at a time when few women in India even went to college. She empowered me to create my own path, which I accomplished without losing the connection to my heritage. I always advise young professionals from different cultures to not change their personal lifestyles, but to adapt to the communication style in their workplace.

Looking back, it’s clear how the obstacles the women in my family faced, and which may have seemed insurmountable to them at the time, paved the way for me to be brave, take risks, and challenge norms. All three were very clear about the “right” thing to do, were honest in their dealings with others, and faced every challenge with optimism. I’ve tried to do the same throughout my career.

I consider myself fortunate to have immigrated to the United States in 1994 and to have come of age at a time when opportunity was increasing for women. While I had to unlearn many of the corporate behaviors I had in India and prove myself as a woman and as an immigrant, that experience has helped me succeed. It also caused me to be far more flexible and accepting of other cultures and perspectives, which I think are traits that any leader should have.

I've also been fortunate to have mentors and a network that supported me, but I don't believe that other people alone can help you grow. I've also learned from both my failures and successes that each situation is temporary and a stepping stone for learning something new.

 
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