No Boundaries, No Limits
Mumbai Airport on a muggy July evening can be very chaotic and stressful.
Not where anyone in their right mind would want to be. I clearly wasn’t. It had just rained, and the monsoons here are unforgiving. Navigating the wet floors through the sea of suitcases and crowds, the airport din fades into background as I focus simply on guiding my 4-month-old infant and my suitcases through to security check. This is probably the hardest thing I’ve done in recent times. Managing Sales Operations and Client Services for an entire country is far easier.
As I sit waiting impatiently for boarding of the Lufthansa Flight to be announced, my mind races back to the conversation with my CEO at the company I was last with. “Are you absolutely sure you want to do this; why don’t you extend your maternity leave if you need more time”? he had asked. I shook my head. Perhaps I wasn’t as convincing because at the end of the conversation, he said to me, “I will hold on to your resignation letter for another day. Think again and let me know if you want to move this forward.”
I was going through a traumatic divorce. The timing could not be more off. After having just delivered a sweet little baby girl alone with no one by my side in the Operation Theatre, tears of sadness turned to tears of joy when I held the life I helped bring into this world. At that moment I realized I needed to do more, to be more – other parent too, and to provide her the best life I possibly could. 2 days after being discharged, I began fervently studying for admission tests to the US. Two weeks in, two tests taken.
So here I was, accepted into a Master’s program in a top school for technology – Carnegie Mellon University. Awaiting at this point, my Lufthansa flight to a new life with hope for a new beginning.Learning moment 1
Life happens. Take it as it comes. Suffering is a matter of perspective. But I like to use the analogy of tennis. You’ve been dealt a shot, so focus on it, and give it everything you’ve got. Whether you win or lose the point, you can’t be distracted by that. Like a champion, look to the next one and give it your very best again – whether it’s a serve or a return. Just do it.
Not one to sleep easily on a plane, my thoughts start racing again. How did this all come to be? For one, I could never have imagined being a technologist all those years back. I truly believed it was not for me. To be clear, I wasn’t running away from anything. Life had dealt a hard blow early on. An unfortunate accident in early childhood resulted in a physical disability. In a society and during times when it was frowned upon, as a child it forced me to face the reality early on. I played sports, became indispensable on my community team, scraped my knees and scarred my elbows playing with the boys in the hood. From an early age I was raised as any normal child would. Thanks to my parents there was no room for self-pity. You can’t change what happened, my mom would say, you can take charge of what happens next. I was encouraged to do the things that normal people do – bungee jumping, white water rafting, rappelling. Don’t dare, don’t discover.
Learning moment 2
Adversity comes unexpectedly. Hindsight is always 20/20. Your parents did the best job they knew how to, at that time. Being a new parent and having some permanent damage happen to your child cannot be easy to deal with. My parents did a phenomenal job! God alone knows what I would have done. Be grateful for them standing by you, with you, behind you proudly.
After high school, I chose Commerce, Accounting and Business, held diverse roles spanning Business Development, Sales enablement, Operations and Client Servicing. It soon dawned on me that the intersectionality of technology across business verticals cannot be ignored. Here is where a new chapter began. With the evolution of software centric solutions, I started exploring automation and the things we can do with software to run better and to reduce risk. I delved into Product Management and worked with “IT” (as it was called then), to develop modules and UI to see my ideas come to life and show results. I built Contact Center modules, transaction reporting systems and reconciliation algorithms.
Learning moment 3
Be fearless about reinventing yourself. A mid-career metamorphosis of sorts can be scary. But keep an open mind. You never know where life takes you, and without the keen, unbiased ability to receive, you could miss out on potential opportunities to find your groove. After having spent a decade, running large teams at the national level, I chose to dive deeper into the area that piqued my interest. I gave up everything I had worked so hard for to start afresh. Doubts kept arising about whether I was doing the right thing. But when you have a vision for your future, you have to strive to be that version of yourself. This was Lata 2.0. Ironic right, getting a degree in Engineering? I even learned to code!
A few years on, I felt a tug. It was time to move on. Again. In jest, I’d like to believe I’m getting good at this. It gives you a perspective of what life in a transferable role is like. Not just for you, but for your family, friends, community and all the social connections you form each time you pack your bags and leave. So, another Masters from the Rotman School of Management, toddler in hand. My world had changed. Canada is a cold country, but the people are very warm. Post MBA, I landed a role at TD, supporting Digital Channels. I navigated the world of Wealth, Online and Mobile Banking before I made it to Enterprise Payments – a space that will see the most transformation in the years to come. And I’m so glad to be here! We have an epic team that draws the finest talent and provides the opportunities to showcase the best we have to offer.
Learning moment 4
Network and support system matters…a whole lot. Both on the family front and professionally. It is true that you alone carve your path but like all Oscar Award winners say, “It could not have happened without…”. These are allies and well-wishers who are always there to catch you when you fall, be your sounding board for good advice or just listen when you want to talk. Always keep building and nurturing those relationships.
In conclusion and the Final Learning:
Believe in yourself. Whether it is facing a life challenge or some really tough problem you’re trying to solve at work. Walter D Wintle very aptly said in his famous poem, “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man; but sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can!” My daughter would say, “Why did he not use ‘person’ instead of ‘man’?” But that’s a topic for another day.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
is Senior Manager, Enterprise Payments – Business Architecture. With strong foundations in interbank operations, portfolio planning & management & industry affairs, Lata plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of payments at TD. With a wealth of experience & expertise, Lata has managed sales operations & client services as a country head to developing modules, UI and effectively marketing innovative solutions. Lata’s professional accomplishments are underpinned by her love for continuous learning. She holds a M.S, Software Management from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from Rotman School of Management, U of T.