My Journey: To a better version of me.

I wasn’t always a UX researcher, or a writer, or a confident person. But I was born to be one. It was a bumpy ride finding my passion, walking on a non-treaded path and unlearning what the society told me. Yet, I made it. Today, I wanted to share the five undertakings in my journey to a better version of me.

1. I found what interested me. And more importantly, what did not.

Like the majority, I also took the career path that was handed over to me by my first company which picked me from the campus. It was called Data Analytics.

I worked in Data Analytics for 5 years before realizing that I didn’t care about any data or the analytics around it. There was always a subtle undercurrent, but an incident brought my disinterest to the surface.

Data analytics wasn’t making me happy. I had to find what makes me happy?

So I asked myself some questions. “What projects have I enjoyed working on? Working on which project, did I feel most fulfilled?”

Answer: My User Experience projects.

I was in my late 20s, I’ve had a couple of career breaks, yet I took the risk to make this major shift in my career. I decided I’m not going to waste nine hours of my day working on something I don’t like.

Since then work stopped being a punishing activity.

  • Now I never wonder if I’m on the right path. I know I am. This is what I meant to do with my life.
  • I’ve always been interested in human behavior: why people behave the way they behave. This profession just lets me find answers to those whys.
  • I take a sense of pride that I listened to the music within, and chose the road less travelled.

2. I accepted that career breaks are a reality of a woman’s life.

“A career break. It’s increasingly common, particularly among professional women. I’ve taken three career breaks myself. And I’ve learned some important lessons from each of them.”

~Sallie Krawcheck, Former CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. Sourced from here.

Women get married, they move to another city, resulting in a career break. Their husbands move to another country, they move along with them, resulting in a career break. They get pregnant, they take extended maternity leaves, resulting in a career break. They get tired of jobs, everyone says take some rest, you can always go back to work, and there happens a career break.

A lot of experience with a lot of career breaks

I used to feel sorry for myself while on a break. I saw myself as a woman sitting at home, doing nothing. But over time, I’ve had so many career breaks owing to various reasons that I accepted them as normal.

Once I accepted them, I stopped feeling sorry for myself. Instead of focusing on the apprehension of being a woman sitting at home, I focused on making the best out of that break. This is what I did during those breaks:

  • I always wanted to write. So I started writing
  • I wrote on Quora: this has earned me ~10k followers till date, and I wrote one of the most upvoted answers in the history of Quora
  • I started my blog and today it boasts of ~1000 subscribers
  • My Fb page has a decent fan following
  • I improved my professional skillset. I re-did my past projects with new eyes of user research, and did self and freelancing projects to enhance my skillset. My UX posts have got me the kind of admirers whom my heart goes out to :) I feel I’m responsible to give them more good stuff to read.

I loved writing. Without an ROI. So much that I took more intentional breaks, just so I can write :) And write on the subject I’m passionate about: UX Research.

Not all the breaks in the image above were forced, some of them were choice.

3. I focused on work. But I focused more on self-improvement.

Yes, I focused on building my professional skillset, but I focused more on building an internal system of confidence, self-worth and courage. Rather than making cognitive skills my focal point, I made affective skills my focal point. I internalized attitudes that help me in every aspect of life.

A few simple things I accomplished:

  • I stopped multi-tasking. Focused on one thing at a time. One person. One conversation. One thought. One job. One tab.
  • I started living in the moment. Enjoyed my tea. Watched my breath come in and go out.
  • I broke out of negative thought pattern. Changed 80% of my thoughts to positive.

And these are some not-so-simple things I accomplished:

A pic to support my views :)
  • I found myself. Became self-aware. Found my passion. Started enjoying time with me. Plus, became fitter.
A fatter version of me two years back

4. I carved my own path.

Yes I also wanted to take the safe route. Yes I gave the medical entrance exams. Yes I failed. Multiple times. Yet I did not label myself a failure.

I kept going and created a new path for me. From failing in medical entrance exams to working at Google, I’ve come a long way.

Students, parents, call me to know what did I study to have a noteworthy career. They want to know the recipe. But this is what I told the last one who asked: There is no recipe.

They call out that the others who followed this path say it doesn’t yield anything of value. My reply: What else do you expect them to say when they couldn’t make the best of the path they followed? Words of encouragement?

They want to know which degree would land them a high-paying job. I tell them: there is no such degree. Though there is something that will: right attitude.

However, cultivating that right attitude is probably the toughest job. It means you being alive rather than bored, exploring new territories rather than sticking to the tried and tested college degrees, willing to take risks rather than safer options.

There is no straight path to reach anywhere.

Or as the precious one says, “There is no secret ingredient.”

5. I believed in me. I believed I can make it big. And so I did.

I aimed high and thought big. I never set low standards for myself. I had and still have high expectations of myself.

From humble beginnings in a small town of UP, because of my high hopes and big dreams, I’ve emerged as someone I’m proud of.

There were those who didn’t believe in me, at times my own, who told me to let go of the unattainable dreams. But I never let those suggestions influence me. Those people reminded me of where I come from, and how far I can go is limited, but I only knew limitless.

There were little things that I wanted to do. Things that mattered to me. And I have succeeded in doing quite a few of them.

  • Learned swimming. Swimming when it rains is one of the most intense experiences that I’ve had. So good!
  • Played poker in World Championship of poker in Las Vegas. Yeah, maybe I didn’t win, and there is no selection criteria except for being a poker enthusiast, yet does the participatory spirit not count?
  • Learned Zumba. One of the reasons I wanted to work at Google was because I wanted to dance with the Zumba superstar, Vijaya Tupurani (she instructs there). And so I tried extra hard to get that job.
Me with Zumba Superstar Vijaya before the class

In conclusion, I evolved. Into a person who loves herself. Into a person who is motivated by a desire to grow. Into a person who gets on with the business of living.