Nothing can stop her! Dilshad Master shares her life's story
Dilshad Master, Director of Operations and Business Development at Mercury Himalayan Explorations Ltd and co-founder at Farinto.com takes the time to tell us about her life's journey. From her first accident to fighting cancer and changing fields along the way, she opens up about her thoughts on life, professionalism and working from home today!
From the television industry to your present role in operations and business development, what have the major changes been?
I was in broadcast management for over 22 years. In retrospect, that’s way too long to be in a single industry, because after a point, you simply stop learning. Moving from media and television to travel was a shift I made consciously. And it’s been a huge learning curve! Just because I loved travel and adventure, didn’t necessarily mean I knew how to run a travel business! I’ve learnt so much in the last two years – it’s an incredible high to get those grey cells working again. Words like CP deal, and MAP and APAI and FIT…I literally had to start from scratch. And I have some of the best teachers at Mercury Himalayan Explorations! My colleagues are patient, and they often have a good laugh at my expense. My boss has been in adventure travel for over 30 years…so I’ve really got the best teachers in the business. The thing is…I had the basics in place already. I understood planning and strategy, branding and positioning, operations and general management. Television had taught me well - to understand the consumer, to zone in on the problem we are trying to solve, to figure out how to fit into their minds as a brand, how to work within a set budge and launching new products from ideation to execution. The trick was to bring those learnings into a new business. And that’s what I have been trying to do for the last two years.
What were the major fears and thoughts when you were diagnosed and treated for cancer, how did you get by?
Honestly…I had no fears, or they were there for just a short while. It’s not the first time I have been in a life threatening situation. I had a head-on collision with a bus more than 25 years back. Over the following two years, I went through six surgeries, and continued to work in between them. Life, literally, went on. I was lucky to have parents, a brother, and friends who were pragmatic and didn’t fuss over me or get over protective. That would have been a disaster, because what you need at times like this is a firm hand that is there to hold you when you fall, but at the same time, leaves you to figure out things for yourself.
I handled the cancer in pretty much the same way, and this time, I had my husband, in-laws and my mother and brother playing similar roles. My first surgery at Apollo Hospital was badly managed. At that time I felt like I was caught in this whirlpool with the waters closing up around me. But once I reached Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, I knew I was in safe hands. I was back in surgery within three weeks of the first one and from then on, the focus was just to get back on my feet, get my energies back, and move on. I’m a firm believer in the adage “this too shall pass”.
What would you say professionals working flexi-hours or "from home" should do to enhance professionalism?
This “working from home” isn’t easy. And I would advise women to think about it carefully before they opt for it. I did it for almost three years while recuperating from the surgeries, and while my little girl was growing up. It requires huge amounts of self-discipline. I would wake up at the same time every day, like I would while I went to office, have a bath, get dressed “for work” and then sit at my desk and laptop until it was lunch time. I didn’t entertain any personal calls during “work hours” and got up from my desk only to tend to the baby when required. You also need to equip yourself well to make this happen – high speed broadband, printer and scanner are an absolute must. At office, if your laptop just hung or your software acted funny, a colleague from the MIS department was always at hand to fix things. When you’re working from home that is a luxury.
“Flexi-hours” is more about letting go. It could often mean you take a dip in the amount of work load you handle, and correspondingly, the salary you take home. It also means you get left out of major meetings and get second-hand information of important decisions taken. Be prepared for your ego to handle that, especially if you have been at the centre of all the action earlier. Often, if you’re in a small organization, you’ll find yourself the only person at work, because everyone else had worked the night before at some major event. Or you’ll realize that you’ve been looked over for a certain task because the supervisor feels your continued presence at the work place was essential to its success. Flexi hours work well if the employer has clear HR policies and a free-flow of information.
What are the 3 traits that women entrepreneurs / women professionals should constantly improve on, according to you?
1. Build a network – establish and maintain relationships with colleagues old and new, clients and people who you can learn from.
2. Be assertive – don’t back off from a confrontation, especially if you know you’re in the right.
3. Take criticism on the chin and be willing to roll up those sleeves and learn from ground zero.
What is a typical day at work like for you?
My day usually starts at 5 AM, when I let my three 4-legged children out for a walk with the dog-walker. I head out for a walk or a run by 5:20 AM, back in time to wake up the family at 6:00 AM and then it’s a mad rush to get the little one to school. I’m usually in office by around 9:45 AM, and come hell or high water, I leave by 5:15 PM – because I want to be home by the time the little one arrives back from her evening park time. I catch up with work-related emails and messages later in the night, once she’s tucked into bed.
What or from where do you draw your daily dose of inspiration from?
From within. I just start everyday feeling I have got to achieve more than what I did the previous day. And I get my inspiration from the rivers and mountains I encounter on my treks and travels! When the spirit begins to deflate a bit, I know it’s time for another trek, or another rafting expedition or just another adventure!