Much of who I am today can be attributed to my family and my cultural background. My mother's influence over me was rooted in how she grew up -- at the age of 14 she was engaged to be married to my father in India and then stopped attending school so she could focus on those things, such as cooking and family care, that would help make her a devoted wife and mother. Despite these customs within my culture, my parents have always been non-traditional and they avoided putting cultural restrictions on me or my siblings, especially when it came to education and career.
When I turned six, we made our way to Canada, like many other immigrants seeking a better life in this great country. My mother always stressed the importance of education with me and my brothers from a young age. Although I felt it the most as I think, in part, my mom tried to live through me -- to see me succeed in education and career in a way she had not.
I can relate to many lessons featured in a recent report, titled Women @ Work, issued by TD and Rotman School of Management. The report features insights from more than 400 professional women from coast to coast about career advancement and balancing work life priorities, managing feelings of guilt and creating a memorable legacy, to name a few.
My mother's experiences encouraged me to get my MBA and my CFA and to then pursue a career within the financial industry. Throughout my life she reinforced the importance of education at all stages in life.
I could have it all, be a mother and also have a career that I wanted to come back to without feeling guilty.
But what's more is that her knowledge and personal experiences that inspired my drive to create a legacy that I wanted for myself and for my own children. To do this, I knew I had to communicate my aspirations, another key lesson from the report. When I met my husband, it was through a family connection and it was important for me to learn more about him and his family from the onset, before we even began our relationship. I needed to make sure that I communicated my personal and professional intentions to him and his family clearly: I had ambitions that I did not want to surrender.
My husband's family had a business, for example, but I wanted to be clear that I had a desire to pursue an independent career outside of the family business. I was going to make deliberate choices in my career, even once we were married and when I became a mother. After I got married my new family became an additional support system, allowing me to continue focusing on my education and career.
My two girls are now nine years old and 16 months old. Because my husband and family understand my career aspirations that I made very clear along the way, they were supportive when I decided to shorten my maternity leave and throughout other important times in my career. The lesson about rethinking guilt outlined in the report strikes a chord with me too -- I could have it all, be a mother and also have a career that I wanted to come back to without feeling guilty. It was all about embracing the choices I had made and feeling positive about them.
With May being South Asian Awareness Month, the Women @ Work Report has also made me reflect on diversity and how it has influenced me being a female in a leadership role in the banking industry. In my 21 years with TD Bank, the lesson of networking and finding mentors along the way has opened many doors in my career. I have developed my 'personal board of directors' of key women and men at the bank who advocate and help guide me. I'm also part of the South Asian diversity committee at TD, which has connected me to like-minded individuals with similar cultural backgrounds who are determined to create a working environment where all employees have the opportunity to showcase their talents and achieve their full potential, regardless of their diverse background.
But without a doubt and in honour of Mother's Day, my family -- parents, in-laws, children, and husband -- have all played a key role in shaping the person I am today and the legacy that I want to leave behind.
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