In an industry where people are obsessed with career progression, Bangalore-based Shalini Pillay is something of an oddity. She spends two to three days in Mumbai or Delhi every week on work, but come Friday and she is planning her weekend. Will it be a movie? Goa? Nandi Hills? Pillay has learnt to balance 80-hour weeks with the challenges of raising her 11-year-old daughter.
Back in 1997, when her career with Andersen Consulting was thriving, the newly-married Pillay decided to take a break and join her husband in the United States, where he was doing a PhD. She became a student, too, taking up courses in political science and economics. An engineer by training, Pillay had joined Andersen straight out of campus. Later, she also became a chartered accountant. When KPMG took over Andersen, she moved with it. Three years ago, she was badged a partner.
"We have junior managers who are women," she says, "but it's a challenge staying the course to partner." Pillay is a stickler for schedules and neatness. People who borrow her workspace know they have to return it in the same spotless condition. At home, if she is watching TV, she could be chopping vegetables and replying to e-mails on the side. She tells her daughter to do something every day of her summer holidays - even if it is lying on the beach. "You must have a story to tell at the end of every day," she says.
39, Executive Director, Advisory Services, KPMG
Been there: Graduated from industry-specific consulting to solution-centric consulting
Done that: Led year-long integration of large Indian banking and telecom M&A deals
A-ha moment: In 2008, when she became the youngest female partner at KPMG India, breaking the glass ceiling
Fitness: Thrice a week to the gym, pushed by her fitness-conscious husband