Leading As A Lady – What It Really Means In Today’s Workforce

31 Dec 2018 Posted in ⟨Stories⟩

What does it take to foster a 15 year-long corporate career as both a leader and a mother? To coincide with International Women’s Day’s theme of #balanceforbetter, we caught up with NTUC LearningHub’s Corporate Sales Senior Director, Siva, to find out.

Initially working at LHUB as a curriculum manager, and later in running the Employability Campus, Siva now spends most of her time meeting customers and guiding her 25-person strong, corporate sales team.

Having worn many hats, with a strong track record for leadership, Siva exemplifies the notion that success does not depend on gender. Instead, she affirms that it’s about knowing yourself and playing to the best of your abilities.

Finding continuity at Singapore’s largest continuing education centre

Siva’s career at LHUB, which spans 15 years and counting, didn’t happen by chance. It was the fruitful result of constant change and evolution. Reflecting upon her career, Siva surmises, “the reason why I stayed for so many years was because I was given the opportunity to try different things at different times.”

What may be surprising though is that Siva wasn’t naturally drawn to sales. A former student in the Arts and Social Science, it was a skill that grew on her. “I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m an introvert,” she laughs. “I talk for a living, but on a real life basis, I’d rather not talk to people. My close friends keep saying, ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ But after a while, you just learn to adapt.”

The growth opportunities that LHUB offered played a key role in Siva’s long-term loyalty. “I think LHUB offers a very safe environment for us to work and grow in our roles,” says Siva. “In the last few years, I had the opportunity to take up training programmes in data analytics and LEAN to be able to do my work better and also to stay up to date with new skills.”

Finding purpose in the lives of others

Aside from the opportunities presented at LHUB, what personal motivations have kept Siva moving forward in her career year after year? Diving deep, Siva has found that her driving force resides in something beyond herself. “I’ve been to Calcutta and seen the work that Mother Teresa did there,” recollects Siva. “She was driven purely by her passion to help those in need. She wasn’t deterred by obstacles and continued to do what she did for the long haul.”

Drawing from this deeper motivation, it is no surprise that Siva sees her work as more than just a job – she sees it as a catalyst for positive change. “One of the key things I wanted in a career was that it should not be just about money, but about helping people,” reveals Siva. “When you help people find a job, it actually helps their lives in many other ways – you actually resolve financial and social issues.”

Finding external success in internal strengths

Having succeeded in what is commonly seen as a male-dominated industry, one might wonder whether being both a woman, and a working Mum has been a disadvantage to Siva. To this, Siva confidently responds, “I’ve never viewed my gender to be an issue and I’ve never seen myself differently from someone. To me, it’s about what the task to be done is. Whether you’re a man or a woman, there’s work to be done and the key difference is how you get it done.”

Instead of focusing on the factors that she was born with, she attributes her success to the ones that she could control. “You have to play to your strengths and improve on your weaknesses,” advises Siva. ”Sometimes I wish that women would realise the strength that they have and be confident about it. Even if people don’t tell you what they are, you should sit down and uncover them for yourself.”

“Whether you’re a man or a woman, there’s work to be done and the key difference is how you get it done.”


Finding a way back to work as a working mother

Siva does acknowledge, however, the realities that mothers face when returning to the workforce and has some words of advice for them. “I think the difficulty is that your brain can get a little rusty when you’ve been away,” says Siva. “Plus, your role may not exist or your role may have been transformed to require a different set of skills.”

While she said that the workplace can help in the transition, it is up to the individual to manage the situation best. “The challenge is, more often than not about managing the nagging feeling of who’s taking care of your child or things at home while you are at work,” says Siva. “But if we learn to balance taking care of ourselves and our family, and other pursuits, you’ll be able to bring your best self to the workplace.”

To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #balanceforbetter, we’d like to help more women to excel in their careers and more mothers to return to the workforce. Gender shouldn’t be the factor that holds you back nor rely upon to move forward. Let your skills, experience and personality speak for itself!

For more information on how we can help, talk to our friendly Course Consultants at NTUC Trade Union House, Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability, LHUB @ Tampines Mall or any of our roadshows islandwide.

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