When it comes to work and family, Reshma Deshpande has become an expert juggler. Not only does she manage a Customer Success team of 40 professionals, but she also keeps up with a myriad of family activities, including the schoolwork and schedules of two young children. Add to that her love of running and you’ve got one busy woman! As she’s grown into her role as a professional working parent, she’s learned the importance of finding the right balance, including making time for herself. Today she shares how she does it with Supply Chain Nation. 

Reshma always makes time for fitness!

SCN: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

RD: I always wanted to do something in art or painting. My inclination was toward interior design or architecture. I never thought of supply chain as a profession. I didn’t even know what it was.

SCN: What did you study in college?

RD: I liked computers and science when I was in school and college, but I was also interested in painting, art and architecture. I eventually had to decide between architecture and engineering; I chose engineering as I was interested in computers.

SCN: And what was your first job?

RD: My first job was in programming, development and coding for banking software. In 2003, a friend approached me with a job profile from i2. It intrigued me, so I applied, got the job and started working as a support consultant working for the manufacturing products. It was completely different coming from banking, but I found it interesting to learn something entirely new and helping customers to get their problems solved.

SCN: What do you like most about working in supply chain?

RD: I like interacting with customers. I find it interesting, understanding their issues, explaining things to them. It’s a good feeling when you can solve the problem they are facing.

SCN: What is the best risk you’ve ever taken?

RD:  I am someone who takes the safe approach, so I would say that it was when I decided to manage a team. I was happy with what I was doing and I didn’t consciously choose that path. Moving away from my comfort zone of working on issues, on products and talking to customers, seemed a little difficult. I asked myself, could I do it or not? But as I look back, it clearly changed my life for the better.

SCN: What did you do to help ensure your success in your new role?

RD: There was good learning at the beginning. Originally it was a little bit of a challenge, because there were some on the team who were my peers, and now they were reporting into me. There was a phase where I needed to get beyond that and focus on the end goal and what we had to deliver as a team. Some of the things I did – and still believe in – is listening to people and understanding what they have to say. Making sure I had an inclusive approach and making sure I understood them without losing focus of the goals and delivery targets.

SCN: Who are some women leaders you admire?

RD: I admire both men and women leaders, but as a working woman, I always look up to my mom. We grew up looking at her as a woman who managed work and house without the facilities we have today. Single-handedly. That’s how my sister and I were brought up. She always balanced things very well. She was an inspiration.

SCN: What kind of a job did she have?

RD: She was an officer in a bank in Mumbai. For her generation, that was quite a prestigious job. It was something that I was always proud of. That always gave me inspiration. I never felt that I needed to quit or sit at home to take care of my kids.

SCN: You have a 10-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. How do you juggle work and parenting?

RD: I am proud of the way I have been managing. I certainly have support from my husband, but other than that I don’t have in-laws or my parents staying with me. They came to help when I delivered the babies, but other than that everyone went back to their lives and I had to create that support system to take care of my kids. Only then could I focus on my work and my career.

There was a period when I had to give priority to my home and I did that; when my son and daughter were small. I had to take it a little easy on the professional front – and I was okay with it because at that time my kids needed me. As they grew, I felt that I could take up more on the professional side. In fact, last year I asked for a bigger role and got it. I was ready for that challenge. Today I feel that it was a good thing, even though I’ve had to put in extra hours.

SCN: Do you have any advice for women trying to find the right balance?

RD: There will be difficult times where you ask, “Am I doing justice to my kids and my family? Should I be spending more time with them?” I think all of us probably go through that phase. But I feel it’s just a phase. When my kids grow up, they’ll understand and feel proud of their working mom. I felt that about my working mom and because she was working it probably gave us a sense of being independent; that sense of achieving something. There are phases where you feel stressed out and are getting pulled in all directions. But my advice is don’t quit. Build a support system. Hang on.

Several years back I attended a program called EDGE. What I learned is that women try to be perfectionists. But the “let go” concept changed the way I used to think. It’s okay to not be perfect. I’m not saying to let go of everything, but to prioritize and see if someone else can do a job or task. For example, if your husband is feeding your child, let him feed them! You don’t have to be there and tell him he’s not doing it properly.  It’s okay to let someone else do some of these things and you take a back seat.

If you try to be everything to everybody you don’t have time for yourself, for your hobbies and what you would like to do. There is no time or no space for that. It will tire you out and you’ll have less energy for other things.

SCN: What kind of things do you like to do for yourself?

RD: I am into running. I started doing 10Ks and half marathons around 2009. I am a bit of a fitness freak. I have a trainer and focus on my training, my running and Zumba. I have done a few half marathons and 10Ks around Bangalore.  I like spending time with my kids. Also enjoy having a quiet night and drinks with friends, or shopping and a movie with my husband.

SCN: Is there anything about your career that surprises you?

RD: That I could sustain and have come so far. That is something that I never thought about. Sometimes things fell in place, and other times I had to ask or fight for things. I had to ask for a chance.

SCN: How is JDA as an employer for women and working moms?

RD: I feel JDA is a great place to work for women. In terms of the flexibility we get, it’s good. Obviously when you have small babies you need flexibility and understanding managers. I was fortunate to get that support from my manager, especially with the first baby because everything is new. I started back for half days and it was good taking care of my work and baby that way. In terms of opportunities for women, there are a lot. It is an inclusive culture and it helps women participate and look for opportunities they can grab. I never felt like I didn’t get something because I was a woman. There are now structured programs like WIN that help a lot of us who look within to build a network and see what someone else is doing, and how she solves her challenges or things like that. Those help. It helps to provide a platform to exchange ideas and gives visibility to what women in the company are doing.