#WomenExcel: Education is key to individual professional success, women’s progress
“I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved,” said Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
Rightly said by Dr. Ambedkar, a community grows with the advancement of women. Gone are the days when the status of women in India was inferior to men in day-to-day life. Although there is still progress to be made, a significant number of women in the country are literate, and many are now earning their livelihoods themselves. India has come a long way from a 39-percent female literacy rate in 2001 to 65 percent in 2011. Education is the first step towards building up knowledge and personality. It is the key to edification and enlightenment, and it makes us who we are.
I was fortunate enough to be born in a family where education for women was a priority. I had the opportunity to pursue what I wanted from the very beginning of my career. After completing my degree in industrial biotechnology from Dr. MGR University in Chennai, I moved to the U.K. to pursue my master’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Manchester.
The school, being one of the top universities in the world, was an amazing segue to start my independent journey with some of the most intelligent and diverse people around. It was a challenge to move to a different country alone and get accustomed to the new atmosphere and education style. I shared my apartment with three other girls from three different countries (England, Sudan and China) with three different belief systems. The never-ending discussions with them about our countries’ economy, status of women, religion, food, habits, places, people (to name just a few topics) with an open mind has definitely helped me explore a diversity of perspectives. The new education system proved to be one of the biggest learning experiences in my life so far. I moved back to India after completing my master’s degree. India has progressed a lot since independence in terms of industrial and infrastructural development, and there are new avenues in fields such as the environment. The primary motive to come back to India was to get relevant exposure in a growing and developing country by serving my own community, and second, fulfilling the desire to live close to my family
I started my career at a small private firm in Mumbai for a year. And then, in April 2013, I joined AECOM’s legacy URS firm in India as my first corporate job. I was an assistant engineer in the company’s environment division and was involved in various site assessments, due diligence studies, as well as health and safety and compliance audits. I was the fourth employee hired and the youngest on the team as URS had just started its environment division in India at the time, and was in the growing phase. Being one of the first employees on the team, I gained exposure to the multifaceted aspects of my job — from processes to project management to the technical side.
For two years, I had an opportunity to undergo various training such as ISO 9001, 14001, HAZWOPER and Safety Frontline Leadership training, which further groomed my technical skills. I was given opportunities to work with expats from countries such as Finland, Spain and France in various audits throughout India along with my senior team members. Due to the encouraging work culture, motivating seniors recognised my performance, and I was promoted to manager in my second year.
During my second year at AECOM, I got an opportunity to assist the lead auditor from AECOM for conducting a corporate environmental audit for Lafarge India Pvt. Ltd. based on the Cement Sustainability Initiative index, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development guidelines, ISO 14001 and local legal compliance. This was a week-long project where we worked with auditors from Lafarge France and Malaysia. It was a great learning experience to audit one of the biggest cement manufacturers in the world with some of the most senior and enthusiastic auditors. This project is by far my favourite project, which not only improved my technical knowledge regarding cement manufacturing processes and quarries, but also helped me to develop certain personal attributes such as open mindedness, perceptiveness and tact. The knowledge and experience gained during this project will remain with me throughout my career.
Now, as part of the AECOM team, I have grown even more as a professional. AECOM has high ethical, safety and moral values, which helped me to trust and have faith in the organization’s leadership and in the organization’s ultimate success. The support from seniors and teamwork on different projects helped me improve my performance, encouraged collaboration and innovation and led to a stress-free and high-quality work life. At AECOM, it is a real pleasure working where we, as a team, enjoy each other and cooperate around work tasks and problem solving, as well as where people sincerely recognize each other for their special contributions to the group’s success. Satisfaction and happiness go hand in hand with improved performance.
If you have any questions about my international experiences and career journey or want to share your experiences working abroad, please leave a comment below. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
Also, be sure to use the #WomenExcel hashtag when you share this post on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook.
Deena Baruah is a manager in AECOM’s environment business line in India, where she is responsible for carrying out various health, safety and environment audits, due diligence studies, site assessments and compliance audits. She is a qualified safety professional via the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.
LinkedIn: Deena Baruah