Reading Indra Nooyi’s autobiography, “My Life in Full” got me thinking about her life and the way she has described the sacrifices that she made en route to her appointment as the CEO of Pepsico. As a CEO or prior to that, the passion and drive that she displayed towards her work was excellent. She was completely immersed into her various roles and did all that she could to maximise her abilities at the jobs that she took on through her career. By her own accounts, she worked late into the evenings at her office regularly and travelled to fulfil her job responsibilities ever so often, to the point of spending weekends on the road, meeting with her employees or customers or anyone else that she had to meet. She writes of an instance where her then boss calls her the day after she has delivered her 2nd baby girl following a Caesarean section and gives her a new assignment. When she protests about the state of her body, he quips “I need your mind to function, not the body”. She goes on to immerse herself into the work right away, conducting meetings and delivers on the assignment in a typically thorough and complete fashion. Indra Nooyi also recounts conversations with her children about her absence from the home and their ask for her to be “there”. They would also back her to go after her dreams and ambitions. She does talk about this dichotomy being present with her mother as well – the desire to hit the accelerator and the brake at the same time.
There are numerous blogs, articles and collateral pertaining to work/ life balance. Some call it a myth. Ohers yearn for it. Some others appear to have found the formula. I think it is a very individual thing. One person’s balance between work and life may not work for someone else. Each one is wired differently and so is their sensibilities and approach towards work and life away from work. For some, there is no difference between the two. Work is life and life is work, so much so that the family knows all that is going on at the work place and may even take part in discussions about work situations. Others, like me, prefer to set boundaries for when they are working for the office and when they are away from work. I do my hardest to avoid looking at office communication when I am with the family or outside of a work environment. I like to believe that the present deserves my full attention and whatever it is that comes from office during my non-office hours can wait. Fortunately, I am not a Doctor and neither am I in the armed forces. Lives do not depend directly on the promptness of my response to an email or a message.
Of course, every decision comes with a trade-off. The opportunity cost of choosing whichever path suits you is one that you have to pay. I may never out-work everyone else at any office. I am comfortable with that thought and in my shoes. If it means that others are recognised for their contributions more than I am, that is good for them. I like to focus on my own priorities in life which are Health, family and work in that order. I have always believed that unless I am healthy, I cannot care for my family and definitely cannot contribute at an optimum level at work. I believe that honouring this priority list allows me to maintain a balance between my work and life outside of work that works for me.
Indra Nooyi says that she is called upon frequently to talk about how one can maintain a healthy work/ life balance. I find it ironic that she talks about it when she seemingly out worked, out thought and really, was smarter than anyone else at the work place. There are snippets in the book where she is self-effacing. She admits to missing her daughter’s school event regularly, for example. She reaches out to the teacher and rattles off a list of other Mommies who have not been able to make it there either to her daughter the next time she brings it up. I like to think that I’d have handled it differently only that I am not in her shoes and I have no idea what it is like to be her. Regardless, it is true that one only learns from one’s mistakes. Then, it is safe to say that Ms. Nooyi made hers and is much the wiser for having been through it.
What works for you in find and maintaining a balance between work and life away from work? Does it even matter nowadays in the IT industry in a post-pandemic era?