Work From Home

work from home

I’m sure many of you may be working from home and although it may appear to reduce your travel time and hassle, it comes with its own setbacks. While a one-off ‘work from home’ may sound fun, an extended period may affect our schedules. Here are few tips – among the many that’s floating the web already.

1.      Start your day as normal: In some cases, it might be the half an hour to dress up and make it to office and for some it might be more than an hour to take care of family, cooking or driving/travelling. Whatever your routine, continue the same and replace the drive/travel time with maybe some exercise, reading or meditation. Freshen up and start at your desk feeling fresh.

2.      Design/Decor your workplace: I know its temporary, but each day is important. So, create the ambience you have at your desk back in office. Ensure the right posture for your seating arrangements, have enough water by your side, ensure the light and noise doesn’t disrupt work. For those similar to my case where the kitchen is nearby, ensure that your work-space aroma is not that of the food from the kitchen!

3.      Set alarms for break times: When we all work from home, we tend to take breaks at odd times – this however should not affect the person who must respond to multiple people aligning with their timings. Ensure that you step away from the screen during tea and lunch breaks, take time to prepare a coffee or lunch or have a brisk walk. Have stretch breaks every hour. Remember to hydrate

4.      Manage family time: It is very hard with children and pets around to set the expectation that you will be near and yet unavailable. While it is hard, children (and pets for that matter) are resilient and get more easily adapted to a new routine than they agree, or you can imagine. If they are old enough, set them up on their course work through the apps out there and give them enough intervals with least dependency on you. Key is to get them to understand that the routine is such that you are available only after the regular work hours. If your child is too young to manage, you can share the hours with your partner in managing the child.

5.      Eat healthy: It is very easy to hog on snacks as you try and manage your kid’s interruptions with treats. It is not only important for your health due to work from home but also to build your immunity to fight against any sort of flu. Eat only during the breaks/time you allow yourself. Avoid processed/sweet food. Cook a proper meal. Try and include some of the following in your food/snack daily – fresh fruit/fresh vegetables, pulses/legumes, almonds, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek, coconut, rice flakes, ghee, pepper, ginger, jaggery.

6.      Communication: It is very important to continue that informal chitchat you have with your colleagues even while working remotely. There are many channels out there – from Microsoft teams to Gchat to watsapp groups. Check in with your friends, have video calls and voice calls – but keep the chatter and laughter going!

7.      End your day as normal: It is important to step up if there is an emergency or a last-minute task. It is also important that you log off as normal, go for a walk, freshen up before getting back to your family. Do not miss out on the sunshine on your skin (without getting anywhere near the crowd) 😊

Sreesha Ravindran – From Obstacles to Opportunities and Onward

Sreesha Ravindran - From Obstacles to Opportunities and Onward

Before I introduce Sreesha, I have to introduce Palakkad during a period we (our gen :D) grew up there. Back then, the place in itself was poetic with its large stretches of paddy fields, hills in the distance and a fair share of rivers. While we ‘Palakkadans’ take pride in our land, ‘lady-like’ had its own definition there (much more hardwired into the society than even our neighbouring towns like Trissur or Kochi) If you do not live up to it, you were scorned upon, repeatedly chided on the topic and talked about and talked to until you do.

When I saw that the FIRST INDIAN WOMAN TO BE VOTED FOR ARCTIC POLAR EXPEDITION 2020 – Sreesha Ravindran was from Palakkad – I knew that it had to be a handful for her. I knew that while you may get the heart of a trekker looking at the mountains from a distance – Palakkad doesn’t offer much of a help. From attitudes on upbringing to the terrain – it is hard to get in the practice the activity requires. In my curiosity, I reached out to her to understand her journey. Not surprisingly, the path she carved for herself is as awesome as any of these wild and beautiful treks she took.

In Europe (or anywhere outside South of India I guess) it is very common to find trekkers with unimaginable goals and accomplishments and to me, Sreesha stood out because she found her way onwards and upwards from a society that pulled her down with harsh criticisms, from obesity that set in soon after pregnancy, from a concrete jungle with little space for uphill treks and from a demanding routine of a full time job + family.

And as if she did not have enough on her hands already 😊 she loves Bharatanatyam and follows that too with an equal love. It is interesting though that she found a way to incorporate her dance practice as a strengthening exercise for her treks.

In senior high school, when she visited Kulu Manali as part of a school trip – she realised that the Mountains are her calling. But more than the activity of trekking which needs a lot of endurance, it was the societal pressure, time and practice grounds that were daunting in the beginning.

From her school days, until marriage – her dad took her every year to either the Himalayas or the Western Ghats. After marriage and delivery, she had to take a break of 3.5 years – partly succumbing to the societal pressure of ‘being there for the family’ and being a woman. But she is grateful to her family and friends to have come out of the shell, realizing that being for oneself and one’s family is not mutually exclusive.

The below picture gives a snapshot of her adventures that I’ve managed to put together one bit a time.

Mountains Climbed

Living in Bangalore, as a full time Tax Manager and a mother of a seven-year-old boy is a trek in itself – let alone finding the time and strength for passions and pursuits. To be able to juggle in that atmosphere is an art that most women admire.

I’m sure that from a society that kept asking her “WHY do you do that” she may find a society that wonders “HOW do you do that” 😊 My personal wonder at this young girl is how she bends her obstacles to pave her path and how she blends the demanding routine into her working day.

She has convinced (not an easy task) her husband to be her ‘partner’ without whose help she would not be able to leave behind a demanding 7-year-old and daily chores of the household to walk up a hill. To allow the little one as much time as she can and to make him feel a part of her journey, she takes him on all her practices – yoga, dance, swimming.

Bangalore city doesn’t offer much uphill opportunities and so she runs up and down the stairs of her apartment and office with a 9kg bag on her back. To be able to tackle the breathing at high altitudes, she practices Yoga and pranayama in particular. To gain muscle strength and continue her passion for dance, she builds in 6 hours of dance practice over the weekend. About two months before her trek, she swims for an hour and half every day to get her strength and cardio training in.

She is grateful for the kind of support she is getting from Ernst & Young where she works as a Tax Manager as well. They realised her passion and provided her a global platform to showcase her pursuits and seek votes from supportive employees.

True passion and great achievements often call for a commitment on an hourly, daily basis. To be able to put in those hours on an everyday basis, to strike at things despite the scorns and scares – is an achievement in itself. Hailing from Palakkad and having an ambition of this measure, I probably can assume that Sreesha doesn’t have many role models to look up to. But I certainly have one in her.

There are some of us who have dreams in the distant and who wait for the day to put down what is in the hand at the moment to pick it up later. We feel the grind is the pressing need and the dream is a luxury we cannot afford. For us, people like Sreesha sets an example. For me hailing from Kerala and adopting Bangalore as my foster city – Sreesha is a pride I would like to see win this and many other milestones in her future. 

Mountains climbed

The Lady with the Headscarf in Irish Business

Furkan Karayel, Inclusive Leader Advisor at Diversein

Originally published here: https://www.diversein.com/post/her-story-the-lady-with-the-headscarf-in-irish-business

Diversity Inclusion – Furkan Karayel – one would wonder which symbolises the other here in Dublin. From the ‘lady with the scarf’ who had questions on inclusion at a conference to the ‘Judge’ who announced that she would be biased towards ideas that stood for inclusion of the ‘diverse’ population – it is Furkan’s indomitable spirit that one can see.

Until now, in this series I have been inspired by women and then reach out to them for interviews and in the process a camaraderie is formed. With Furkan, her infectious smile and ever readiness to help- it was friendship first. While I’m proud of that – I do know that with every person she comes across she has this instant connect.

To introduce Furkan – she is a ‘tech woman’ – the first of the surprises that her community had. But breaking the stereotype was just the beginning. Furkan reminisces of the interview she had in high school and when she was asked the question of what she wanted to become when she grew-up. While that is one of the most typical question one comes across growing up – ‘software engineer’ wasn’t considered a typical answer from a girl in her neighbourhood. She was laughed at!

Growing up with six siblings in Giresun, Turkey – neither did Furkan have a female role model (in technology) nor much company. She was alone in her love and aspirations in technology and was even laughed at by her society in wanting to step into it. From her college in Istanbul where she learnt software engineering to the C-Suite in Europe – she’s yet to find a lady with a headscarf.

‘It baffled me’, she said ‘when my teacher whom I believed in told me to – come back to reality – when I told her about my aspirations in technology’. However, one step at a time it was and her first baby step into becoming Ireland’s Tech Trailblazer was to say “IT is my dream and I dare to dream”.

Although she excelled in her space of tech, winning multiple awards, Furkan realised that the bias that existed during her own journey and the others she saw around her, should be done away with.

So why this fight? Why is it so important to see more women in tech? How does it matter to her? ‘Today’s world is driven by technology and if you do not have passengers with different perspectives, you may not be able to navigate it for the benefit of all. Yes, I’d like to see and have more women as colleagues, counterparts and competitors. Yes, I’d want women in head scarfs at the top game, in the c-suite acting as role models for those everywhere to perceive such roles as ‘closer reality’.

But more importantly, if a section of the society doesn’t understand the mainstream language, the society in its turn tends to not understand the section. And it is from this need to see more women and head scarfs that the idea of any type of diversity in inclusion stemmed.

“In a strange sense it is the ‘survival of the fittest’ game. If anyone and everyone gets to be in the game and thrive efficiently irrespective of their origin or history or any factor that do not directly contribute to the nature of the job– the likes of them will have more hopes and chances. ‘If I stop working despite my passion for technology, it is a loss for the field, the society and my own community.’ In order to be able to move forward as a larger community, it is essential that we foster true passion and potential and do that taking all the extra steps we may need.” Furkan stresses.

So what earned Furkan the ‘trailblazer’ fame? Here I’m not referring to one award. Counting the nominations and awards for herself and Diverse In there are a list of them.

I’m referring to the track that she has set in this country and made her name synonymous with the thought of ‘diversity in inclusion’.

Was it overnight? If you imagined years or months – here comes the surprise – It was indeed overnight. Of course the track she built brick by brick over these couple of years but the turn she took into setting up ‘Diversity in Inclusion’ was overnight.

In June 2018, Furkan sat the entire night thinking about how she should work on it and built her website. From 11 pm in the night to 8 am the next morning – she built the idea, found a domain name, created the website, created the logo and set up her social media accounts.

Today – two years later, that website and domain name has conducted over 9 events, published 120+ articles, has 20 ambassadors from 5 countries.

Furkan herself is part of the advisory board with UK based “Women in STEM”, she is the Dublin chapter lead for Sprinters (female founders organization globally). She is the Advisory Board Member of InspiringSTEM network.
‘Another very rewarding role personally is the career guidance I get to give to high school students in Turkey whenever I go home’, she says. ‘Young girls have all sorts of questions and dreams and there is a sense of responsibility, pride and gratitude to be able to tell them – Dream big and dare to dream so’.

We both smile knowingly as she says this. We have all been there – that stage of apprehension, that stage of being lost or feeling alone in a crowd because you dressed different, you prayed different or you behaved different. We have all been there wondering if you should fit in or stand out. If you would be accepted if you fitted in but loose your essence or if you would be left alone if you stood out.

It is few who take the ropes and fight against odds to build the ship and take in one and all in the journey to the future. In that, Furkan Karayel, is a true trail blazer.

Jenny Copeland – Motorsports, Marathons, Motherhood and now Mount Everest.

SeamusLawlessJennyCopeland

A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence. – Jim Watkins.

That’s what Jen reminds me of as she speaks of her pursuit to summit Mount Everest.

Studying Sports Science in Wales is where her love of the outdoors was ignited, having Snowdonia national park as her playground as a break from the books. Jenny returned to Ireland and went on to become a trainee outdoor instructor, gaining her rock climbing awards, mountain skills, and mountain leader training. The opportunities to gain mountain experience in Ireland and winter skills training in Scotland afforded six young trainees to set their sights on summiting Mount Blanc, as a self-guided expedition. Having always aspired to be a physiotherapist she pursued her studies as a mature student to complete an Honors degree in Physiotherapy from RCSI. Whilst the mountains may have slipped into the background, life in the fast lane continued. With her dad into motor-racing, Jen was introduced to motorsports at a very young age. At 21, she was in the Fiat Punto racing group. She raced in Kirkistown, MondelloPark and Pheonix Park (where in, 1903 the first Irish Grand Prix was held).

She met her husband Bob at Mondello racing track, career and family life ensued and she is now the mother of four children: Charlotte, Josh, Harriott and Elliott. Whilst a very different fast lane than the track, the pace of keeping up with the school runs was enough to put one in a spin! She laughs away as she says there were times when ‘bringing the kids from school’ routine was three times a day with an hour interval between drives. But that did not stop her from training herself on a daily basis. She targeted yearly marathons and managed to keep herself engaged with them. She ran the Dublin Marathon in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Striving for a work life balance of three days’ work and two days home with the children, life was a juggling act that many parents will relate to.

She hit an inexplicable low in 2014. While she couldn’t put her finger on the cause, she was grateful she could talk about it and seek help. “I tried to work full-time, manage a home and four young children. Many were affected during the recession with job loss and soaring mortgage rates and we were no different. I overcompensated trying to fix things, but it backfired. It’s a hard landing having to accept that I am only human, only capable of being such….not superhuman as I had strived to be, an unrealistic expectation of a life I thought I should be able to do and be.”

Bob, who knew her passion for the outdoors and sport asked her to check out Ian Taylor’s call for Irish mountaineers. In 2016, Ian Taylor gathered a group of Irish mountaineers to summit Mount Everest. She was drawn into the idea immediately as it was a team effort towards a common goal.

She started working towards the goal through her day – along with school runs, lunch packing and homework not to speak of the Pilates classes and physio work classes she held until Dec 2017.

Lauren Groff’s starting lines in the book FLORIDA ‘I have somehow become a woman who yells, whose little children walk around with watchful, frozen faces, I have taken to lacing on my running shoes after dinner” – seems to be a funny take on the situation.

From packed motherhood to bouts of ill mental health (anxiety and episodic depression) on towards her new goal: Mount Everest – we can but gape in awe at the pattern of her graph, while having its own ups and downs, has eventually taken on a beautiful shape. 

 “Being in the wild helps. It is free and your mind is set free”. Being in the mountains became the ‘me time’ for her as she sneaked in time between school hours and weekends. Thanks to being in a team, Ireland on Everest, she was able to work in a systematic manner towards her goals, one summit at a time.

From an original group of almost 30 people who met in March 2016 with the dream of putting Irish Climbers atop Mount Everest, four have eventually remained as the ‘Ireland on Everest’ team. The team have summitted the peaks across Asia, America and Europe as part of their training to climb the tallest of them all. Mera Peak, the Amphulaptse Pass, Island Peak and Denali were all tackled in two years (2017-2018). Jen and her teammate Prof. Seamus Lawless from Trinity College have marked Mount Everest for April 2019.

With ‘Everest’ being a few weeks away, her routine is packed with cardio, strength and flexibility training in preparation . She breaks her training into twice a day routine and goes for an 8km run for four days a week. The other part she does a mix of rock-climbing sessions with her teammate Seamus, 80 km cycling with her Dad, Yoga, TRX, and hill-walking in the Wicklow and Mourne mountains with 15 – 20 kgs on her back.

Along with the self-training, she also trains young children and scout groups on ‘outdoor adventure’. As part of their team goals for Ireland on Everest, Jen and Seamus visit schools to try to inspire children with their stories of training and expeditions.

“Seek help, give help and enjoy the journey that the combined effort and kindness brings. It is the journey that is the most amazing part and often not the destination”

“Whilst I had an ultimate goal that at that time seemed unattainable, I dared to dream. You need to start with self-belief and small goals. Little by little you succeed and continue to increase your stakes till you’re ready to conquer ‘your Everest’” she says, as I struggle to get her to talk between peals of laughter.

‘Onwards and Upwards’ and ‘Conquering Everest’ are more ‘literal’ than ‘metaphorical’ for this mother of four, doting wife and, hopefully, the 9th Irish Woman to conquer Everest after her summit.

She is making ‘herstory’.

Content Marketing – It is a service of the kings by the kings.

Content Marketing – It is a service of the kings by the kings.

Content has changed its form and shape over the years! Marketers across the world are in a constant tussle to create trends and be disruptive. ‘What’s next’ is always ‘the next’ question.

However, that question has led us to the answer that – it is not as much about the content anymore as much as it is about its promotion. Today, to be able to spread the word, we should be able to create content that connects. Content that would help you build a community.

The process had begun with broadcasting information, interactive communication and now it is the time of ‘influencer marketing’.

So, in today’s content world, if you want to stand out and be original, it is a combination of the rules we have always been hearing.

“Content is the king” “Consumer is the King”

Your task as a marketer is today is to get both of the kings to serve each other 😊

Took some time to digest that? Well it is the time of equal rights and roles in every relationship and so is it in the world of content. Your content should be engaging enough for your consumer to be taking it to other consumers in an engaging manner.

We have content in every format you can think of and we are in a time that gratefully allows the creation of world-class content at zero expense, if you have the eye for it. There is significant progress or evolution in each type of the content out there – be it a Design, Blog, Infographic, Video, Prezi or Podcast. And there is constant research on the very ‘types of content’ so, while that continues, our focus should be on the research on ‘promoting techniques’ of such content.

While the digital landscape has given the opportunity to innovate new and different forms of content by the day, the true benefits of having a social media possibility of connecting with the world can be attained only by knowing well to navigate through it.

In short, it is the time for Marketers to marry the old concepts with the new context.

1.     Context – Understand your audience. Study their presence, preference and platforms

2.     Content – Quality and Volume

3.     Community – Connect with your audience. Use stories that they can relate to, and get them to tell your story through their own narrative

The digital marketing maze is getting complicated by the day. Likes and shares are being called ‘vanity metrics’ Twitter is contemplating to do away with them to foster ‘unbiased’ conversations. What we are left with is the variety of content we create and the connections we are able to establish through it.

So, let’s enthrone those kings we were talking about and let’s get them serving each other! 

Gina Miltiadou – Leading by Example in Business and Philanthropy

Gina Miltiadou – Leading by Example in Business and Philanthropy

Zahra Media Group managed by Gina and her husband John Mullins has its own list of accolades to talk about. But here I’m giving you a glimpse of my coffee-time talks with the Managing Director – Gina Miltiadou.

I was moved to see the time she cared to spend with every single person in the office. But the conversations we had gave me more reasons to be inspired. She spoke with immense passion on how the Vietnamese after hundreds of years of war maintain such peace. How they do not have a word for jealousy in their language as it is a foreign concept for them. She was touched by the zeal for learning she saw in the little kids of Zambia, she talked about the plights of abandoned South African kids who bore the burden of a family at the age of eight..

While we have and we are constantly searching for successful women to look up to, while we discuss the work-life balances and how women can manage a business and a family successfully – Gina’s setting an example of a beautiful new balance – giving back with a sense of being part of a global community.

I have tried, and I have worked with people who have tried. It is much easier to work with charities in your own countries. But trying to operate or fund a charity from abroad needs a lot more work, commitment and patience. This is what awed me about Gina. She was constantly driven by her decision to help the hapless. She wasn’t into mainstream charity – she was an entrepreneur – a successful one at that, she was a mum of two and a doting wife and amidst her daily chaos she invested in the art of ‘giving back to the society’.

Gina’s parents were in the restaurant business in South Africa and charity was a culture she learnt from childhood. From a very early age she was a part of her Parent’s involvement with Rotary. From soup kitchens to litter collection and school book projects, the activities instilled a deep sense of responsibility towards a global society from a very young age.

As part of her career in media, Gina had her fair share of exposure to the challenging life conditions of people in South Africa and her role in ‘Multichoice’ took her across Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria etc) which further intensified her desire to be able to bring a change to at least few of the countless miserable situations she came across.

It was in Australia that she met John Mullins, her partner in all the crimes – family, business and charity! When they decided to settle down in Ireland, they travelled around the world for 6 months and then spent 6 months volunteering full time with a Vietnamese Charity – SCC (Saigon Children’s Charity). What seemed like a walk in the park, later dawned on them as a hilarious challenge when they were assigned to sell Christmas cards – in a Buddhist country!

Impressed by her ideas and initiatives, Gina was invited to create the curriculum for the first post-graduate PR course for the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH).

She not only drafted the modules for the course and taught them, but also coordinated with multinationals based in Ho Chi Minh City, to get them to be guest lecturers on the course. This gave students the opportunity to get working insights into the PR industry, and also to receive guidance about their chosen career path. All students had to present their final project to a panel which included some of these multinationals.

In 2003, when Gina and John reached Ireland and set up Zahra Media Group, they set up a registered a charity called Zahra Helps as part of their decision to set apart 10% of their income to charity. Zahra Helps’ first project was quite like divine intervention. Gina had met a Vietnamese nun, Sister Clara at an airport looking for directions to her gate and she approached Gina almost a year later when Zahra Helps was just launched. She was raising money to buy lice shampoo and combs to help a hill tribe community of children who were infested with lice. This was a cute little start for Zahra Helps!

 In 2004, again through this nun, Zahra Helps was able to help build a road and water system for a Leper Community. There was a leper community whose only source of water was at the bottom of a hill and these sick people had no choice but to climb up and down the hill with large pots of water, risking their lives in the process.

Two years later ‘Zahra Helps’ helped build a community centre consisting of an infirmary, a classroom, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom to house and educate 12 children and serve the wider community. A few years after Gina unfortunately lost contact with Sister Clara but still dreams of going to back to Vietnam to see the work that was done.

“It is always better to work with a reputable third party in a country. It gives you the assurance that the money is administered correctly and also provides local knowledge. So, we turned our focus to South Africa where we could help through Rotary, St Vincent’s de Paul and other NGOs.”

“One of the biggest problems in South Africa is AIDS and it is not uncommon for children as young as 8 to become the head of their households because their parents have died. They have to earn money to feed their family and can’t go to school. The danger of rape and sourcing food are major concerns.”

Zahra Helps along with Tapologo built a day care facility for children in a township called Freedom Park, where the kids were fed a meal and taught vocations to make them self-sufficient and away from the dangers of being out there alone.

In 2017, Prishilla, an employee at Zahra Media Group told Gina about some charity work that she had been doing in Zambia with an organisation called RIZE founded by Neboth Chalwe. Neboth, had built a literacy and training centre in Zambia all by himself and Gina, when she heard about his venture started supporting him in his efforts which includes the supply of proper desks and chairs for students, the rent for the school, teacher’s salaries and financing the food on an ongoing basis for 100 odd students! As we were discussing about it, she was roping in more resources to scale the project and explore the possibilities of a sustainable system for a larger number of students.

When the world is turning more self-centric by the day, we need more inspirational leaders like Gina to look up to. I’m sure we all are familiar of an age and time where our families were larger, the earning members were lesser and still there was a lot more sharing within the family and outside -for those who didn’t have much. Today, we are too busy, and we think of charity when we are decluttering our wardrobes, or we need to include a CSR in our profiles.

There is a happy surge of successful women entrepreneurs today. There is an equally happy trend of women rising as the masters of all trades. Trending questions like ‘how do you manage it all’ and ‘how do you get it all’ should have ruminations on giving back to the society attached. For that, we need more accomplished leaders who are invested in philanthropy like Gina.