Q. What was the problem you were grappling with?
A. After college, I joined the sales team of Ponds. I had the opportunity to lead team members who were far senior to me by age. After the acquisition of Ponds, I joined Unilever's marketing function. Initially, I struggled to adjust to the organisational culture - Unilever was totally different in terms of levels of hierarchy and bureaucracy. However, I quickly learnt to adapt and prospered too. But after five years, I was pushed back into sales. I was dejected and felt it was a signal from the company that I was not good enough to do the job that I wanted.
Q. Who did you approach for advice?
A. I approached my then manager for his advice. He was someone whom I could trust.
Q. What was the best advice you ever received?
A. He advised me that this job would help build a critical skill - my leadership. And it did, opening a whole new dimension to my development.
Q. How effective was it in resolving the problem?
A. My initial resistance to this role turned around rapidly. I discovered that the learning curve was steep and fulfilling. Soon I found myself not just learning but also enjoying the ride. In the new role, I learnt how to influence and motivate large teams, indirectly, through several layers of the sales function. Embracing roles off the beaten path came naturally to me thereafter.
People should get comfortable outside their comfort zones. Over-planning your career is limiting. It is often the choices you make that determine how far you will go.