Having It All and Doing All Is Possible

Mamta Purbey was born in North India and raised by her father  in her teens when her mother passed away. Her perseverance, dedication and desire to achieve her goals helped her to obtain 2 Masters Degrees while having the position as the Executive Director of Enrollment Management & Institutional Analytics at American University of Antigua College of Medicine owned by Manipal Education & Medical Group, a privately held healthcare conglomerate in India.

Woman’s Essence Magazine (For & About Powerful Women) had the pleasure of interviewing Mamta. She authentically shared how having  and doing it all is possible.

Share an experience in your life that forced you to depend on your strengths?

Every experience in life reveals new (hidden) strengths that we possess.  In my teens, I moved away from familiar surroundings, family/friends to pursue undergraduate program in arts and education (BA. B Ed) and never knew that I would be comfortable and confident to cope with the challenges that this would entail.  Although the 4 year program was a residential program in a place that was quite far from home, I was among people of same culture, language, food habits, etc.

The experience that forced me to look into myself and leverage my unknown strength was when I had completed my MBA in Human Resources & Marketing and secured my first job in the Manipal Group. While, previously I moved to another “familiar” region to pursue undergraduate program, this time, I had to move from North East part of India (Guwahati) to South West (to the university town called Manipal).  I knew no one in Manipal, had no friends and the languages spoken were all different; many were adversarial too. Food habits were different – I was not used to the South Indian spicy curry and culture.  I had to then draw on one of my strengths of “never giving up” and focusing on what was required to be done and not think/worry about an unknown place and block all unpleasant thoughts.  I relentlessly (and tirelessly) worked and in the first few weeks established myself as a go-to person to the senior management team.

When I started in Manipal, colleagues would talk in the South Indian language (Kannada) and I would constantly think that they were talking about me.  They would laugh at my eating habits since I wasn’t able to manage to eat the spicy South Indian curry – so would add sugar to every dish before eating (BTW, now I cook spicy food, eat spiciest curry without any issues!!).  But, within a few months, with my confidence in myself and untiring work, I earned the respect of senior management as well as my colleagues.  Staff in my department would come to me and ask doubts they had or seek ways to improve their efficiencies in their assigned tasks.

What motivated you to earn a 2nd Masters Degree while having a demanding career, being a wife and raising your daughter?

Learning is never ending.  Knowledge acquired through education and experience are the only things that are “our own” and no one can take these away from us.  Despite having an undergraduate degree and an MBA in HR/Marketing from a very reputed educational institution in India, the fact that I was engaged in medical education and healthcare, prompted me to pursue an MBA in Healthcare Management.

Having a very competitive full time job is very demanding.  Further, being a wife and a mother come with other challenges.  Having no societal support (unlike in India where family/friends/domestic help, etc. are very much prevalent) further accentuates these problems.  Drawing on my strength of believing in myself and not giving up, with the right kind of attitude towards my tasks and mastering time management skills, enabled me to earn my 2nd MBA.  Throughout the time it took to complete the Masters program, my family supported me and helped me to focus on what was required rather than demand more of me at home.

Who inspired you to be a woman of strength?

Although I would love to say that I am self-inspired woman, I would not be fully accurate.  My mother was a source of great inspiration.  We were 8 siblings and my mother had some significant health issues.  There was never a day in our lives when my mother wouldn’t have anything and everything that we would need to go through our days – both at school and at home.  She would ensure that everyone went about their respective lives – work, college, school, etc. – even with severe illness and several hospitalizations.  I could never understand where she got her energy/strength to do all these day in and day out. She truly was a Superwoman for me!

I have learned from her that no matter what the adversity is, we learn from our experiences and build our inner strength, character and resilience.

How did you cope with losing your mother? What role did your father play to shape you to be the woman you are today?

Parents are the first teachers and they are instrumental in instilling the foundations of good character in all children.  They are the ones who selflessly guide children in achieving what they set out to.  Having both parents at all important phases of one’s life is very important.  An imbalance sets in if one of the parents is lost.  My mother passed away when I was still in my teens.  She succumbed to a serious heart condition and did not recover from an open heart surgery.

The void created by my mother’s demise will always remain.  During the first few weeks, I was devastated – in my young mind, I thought she would always remain and be proud of my successes.  Once I realized the reality, I slowly started concentrating on my immediate task – of successfully completing my undergraduate program and focus on taking one step at a time.  I still miss my mother, but I am certain that wherever she is, she is proud of how I have come through from losing her.

My father, even when my mother was alive, always used to guide us to do well in our school and would encourage us to be independent by learning, being competitive and at the same time be helpful to others and be a good human being.  He continued to support all our educational pursuits.  He would ensure that we push ourselves beyond our limits to succeed in our chosen paths. He continues to do that even today.

How has becoming a mother changed you?

Becoming a mother has made me realize that I am SUPERWOMAN.  Until I became a mother, I never knew that I could do so much – cook, get my daughter ready, take care of her every need, ensure she does well at school, ferry her around for her swim practice/ meets, shop for her, etc.  All these have been made fairly easy since she is a wonderful and a caring daughter.  Needless to say, my husband pitched in too and encouraged me to achieve greater heights in bringing up our daughter.

Can women have it all? If yes, why and how?

I don’t see why not! Success and achievement is not gender specific.  Women can achieve (and there are several examples of women achievers in every sphere of life) anything that a man can.  All that is required is self-belief and confidence that we can achieve anything that we set our minds to.  Challenges in our lives help us gain the right experience.  Experiences coupled with our knowledge will shape us to grow into well rounded personalities.  Exposure to different cultures also helps one to understand, empathize and learn to cope with difficulties.

There will always be instances of male dominance.  But one shouldn’t give up and one should constantly tell oneself “if anyone can, it’s me” so that self-confidence is always protected.

What is next for you? How would you advise other women who are working, married and raising children that are having a challenge balancing it all?

Keep learning and acquiring relevant knowledge.  Continue to grow in the corporate world.  Find opportunities to support communities.

In today’s world, finding work-life balance is very difficult.  We normally spend more than 8 hours in our day working and for many women it is a few hours of commute daily to and from work.  It is all the more challenging for married women with children to manage everything.  Work and commute leaves very little time to focus on family, children and other important life activities.  Without excellent time management skills, it increasingly becomes difficult to get everything done on a daily basis.  However, we have to find that balance to keep going without giving up on anything.  If necessary, one should take a break – but just enough to rejuvenate – and continue facing the daily challenges with a great attitude and utmost confidence.

My advice to other working women who are married and have children is that find “my time” – even if this is just a few minutes, every day.  Believe in yourself and be confident.  Everything seems overwhelming initially – but take a step-by-step approach and never give up.  There may be failures in anything that we attempt – but celebrate the small successes which will help sustain self-confidence. Constantly learn and upgrade your knowledge – this will help you achieve more and for longer time.

Interview by
Claire Guerre