Making Sustainability Realistic - Meet Climate Change Maverick & Mommy Anu Chaudhary
Life throws a number of gambles our way and not every gamble is a bet we know upfront. Over time, there have been so many career trends and tracks available that it becomes difficult for budding careerists to understand the varied aspects of choosing any one.
This is where you need to seek inspiration, some aspiration and ultimately look up to successful people who have redefined success. This is where Sheroes from various life tracks come in and set forth targets for our readers and members.
Meet Anu Chaudhary, a Shero who has had a stellar career but not just a career—she has been an entrepreneur and a mommy at the same time. Therefore, her story is inspiring to so many women who are looking to make it back again as career women post mommyhood and even budding entrepreneurs learning the tricks of the trade. She has been an expert in the domain of sustainability—a field with ever-growing importance, and a vital part of corporate culture today.
(Do you Think 20s Too Young To Become An Entrepreneur?)
Anu is the founder of SustainPlus, that helps organizations incorporate Sustainability into their core business strategy. As she puts it, “Any corporation that is interested in enhancing its value for the long term must invest in institutionalizing sustainability as a central node within its organization. Positive results from being a sustainable company can only be achieved when the company’s objective is not PR, but a genuine desire to achieve its own authentic and holistic growth trajectory keeping in mind the mid and long term.”
Having worked in this domain for 17+ years, Anu has seen it evolve from the time when most organizations did not understand the term “Sustainability”, let alone incorporate sustainability elements as an integral part of their business.
No nation, industry or individual can escape the impact of Climate Change and Natural Disasters across the globe. Anu believes that one positive change that has happened is – everyone now acknowledges the need to do something. With the onus and target of such a huge thing on her, what inspires is that she has been a very normal girl who has risen to the top.
Behind The Backstory
Brought up in a middle-class household in Delhi, her family could only expect her to end up with one of the two goals for her future – the first, more common objective, would be to get married at the age of 18 or if lucky, she could get onto a career path which guaranteed a stable job with a salary to make her financially independent.
Fortunately, her parents were in the latter category. Anu says she was always academically inclined, but also had a creative streak and loved trying new things. However, with limited resources, there was very little bandwidth to experiment. The IT sector was at its peak at the time with guaranteed high paying jobs, but it wasn’t her calling. She managed to pursue the subject she had a keen interest in - ‘Environment’ and after completing her PG degree, started working extensively in the area of Climate Change and Sustainable Development. She says, “When I started out my career in the sector back in 2002, there was very little awareness and thus, limited prospects to succeed in this area. However, I had developed a keen interest in this domain, and decided to pursue this against all odds. I thoroughly loved my work and would never shy away from taking up any role at the organizations I worked for. It was extra challenging at the time because I was the only woman auditor in the entire technical team at my organization!”
She recalls, “There were women only in the administrative department before I joined. So, I could feel the expressions of disapproval and doubt from my older male colleagues, and the clients at organizations I audited, about a young woman being given management or technical responsibilities. But I just became immune to those expressions, I guess. It never bothered me so much. I was the youngest employee and that too a woman, so I had to try much harder to get myself heard. But I always felt fortunate to have got that opportunity, so in my head, I considered myself special and just went ahead trying to prove I was no less than others.”
(You Should Chase Your Dreams & Define Success On Your Own Terms)
Of New Roles, Of New Life
With newer responsibility at her workplace, Anu was required to travel to several global destinations where pioneering work had started happening in the area of corporate sustainability and climate change. While she thoroughly enjoyed traveling, learning and growing for almost 9 years, she had to suddenly slow down because of being ready to embrace motherhood. Her daughter Aanya was born in 2011, and then her life priorities changed completely. She worked from home for 5 years after that with sporadic work travel only when necessary.
She says, “This, of course, had an impact on my career growth, but I wouldn’t have it any other way if given a choice again. When my daughter was 5, I started contemplating my next career move. I always had an entrepreneurial streak in me and wanted to build something on my own. However, while I was still contemplating, a very interesting job opportunity came my way. So, I took up a challenging role with a large corporate heading their Corporate Sustainability & CSR division. It was completely different from my previous roles and hence there was again that drive and enthusiasm to do good work. However, the company I worked for provided no flexibility or provisions for working parents. I could see that my long working hours were impacting my daughter. She missed having me around and I observed significant behavioral changes in her. At one point, she came to me with a building made from Lego blocks and said she built me an office so that I could be with her instead of going to work every day.”
This was a point when Anu says, she completely broke down, and knew it was time to do something. “I went back to the idea of entrepreneurship. My husband supported the idea in principle, but we both knew it was a major challenge in all aspects. It wasn’t easy to quit a stable, well-paying job after 15 years of successful innings. But I knew I had to do it at some point, and it was better to just take the plunge rather than wait for that perfect moment (which may never come). Clearly, it was going to be tough. No one I knew in my close circle, had ever been an entrepreneur, so there wasn’t a mentor to guide or lead the way. My family didn’t think it was a good idea – too much risk and a huge commitment, they were concerned. My husband and I measured the risk, discussed the possibilities and I finally took the plunge in November 2016.”
Walt Disney once said that the easiest way to get started is to - Quit talking and Start doing
Anu completely believes in this mantra. If you think you have a breakthrough idea, or the ability to turn even a simple idea into a great business, go for it, she advises budding entrepreneurs. She says, “The best way to Predict the Future is to DESIGN it.” And well, that’s exactly what she tries to do at SustainPlus!
For her own survival, Anu has learnt to let go off the stuff she can do without or can delegate further. As she puts it, “The house may not be as clean as I’d like it to be, the laundry, cooking and thousand other chores may not get done in time, but my little time with Aanya is something I can’t compromise on.”
#BeingAMom Gives Newer Wings
She sums up, “Being a mother has certainly made me a lot more patient and that attribute greatly helps in business too. My daughter has become a lot more independent in the last year. She understands and thinks of SustainPlus as something we are building together. We have our little secret traditions linked to SustainPlus, which makes her feel more involved and connected with this whole initiative. She has become the sustainability advocate of our family and it's very heartening for me to see. Still, a long way to go.
I believe, as mothers, we have the ability to achieve our business dreams and build the best future for our children by leveraging whatever strategies work for us. It may be more challenging for us being mothers, but it’s doable if only we could let go off trying to be perfect all the time and please everyone. I have learnt that, you can never make everyone happy, so choose your battles wisely.”
R*****Beautiful and inspiring family
S*****Beautiful family.& Inspiring story.
A*****Very nice and inspiring story
S*****What should we prefer family or career... If career then kids are small and if family.. Can't sit home quietly