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But I'm a woman with an MBA

 April 30, 2013

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Little do candidates realise that there is in fact, abundant and often understated talent in the 'ordinary' world out there.

There was a time I headed operations at a busy retail bank. A 20-something myself, I managed a 15-member team of bright, young graduates. They did their work day and day out without a fuss, while I gave them the direction that was needed. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the responsibility and power that accompanied it.

The real test, however, came the night we were unusually short-staffed. With one of the cashiers off sick, and the other away on her honeymoon, I was left with little choice. I had to pick between having a bunch of increasingly irate customers on one hand, and getting my hands dirty on the other. I valiantly chose the latter.

So there I was, a 'confident' MBA/manager setting herself up to becoming cashier for an evening.

The reaction of my team was hard to judge. Were they impressed or amused? I couldn’t decipher! I busied myself for a good 5 minutes, with adjusting the height of the seat and discovering the most ergonomical way of placing the keyboard!!

I trembled ever so slightly as a cloud of uncertainty enveloped me. I had always performed ‘managerial roles’, utilising my MBA skills in leading, coaching and mentoring teams. This was one of my rare encounters doing a ground level job. I simply could not afford to make the silly mistakes I always cautioned my young cashiers about. An incorrect debit/credit and I would be mortified!!

I took a deep breath when the first customer deposited a pile of currency notes at my counter! My hands were now trembling but I managed a smile and focussed on the job at hand. After the first few transactions, I became more comfortable in my role, and steadily regained composure.

I ploughed my way through with sweaty palms. But we survived!

To cut a long story short, we actually did pretty well that night.

When we wound up for the day, after having ‘tallied the cash’ without any errors at all, I vividly remember this young intern grinning and saying 'Well done, Ma'am'. That was the first time he had seen a manager doing a cashier’s job.

I felt a surge of pride welling in my chest! It was almost like I had won something!! The respect and confidence of my young team? Well, yes to a certain extent. But this was more intrinsic.

I tried to figure it out for a long time. I then realised that my lovely team of graduates had taught a beautiful lesson that day.

A lesson in 'confidence'.

Not the flamboyant confidence that arises from being an 'MBA from a top-notch school' or a 'Manager leading a team', but the quiet, deep confidence that is a direct result of being a capable worker!!

It taught me the importance of mastering one’s job. And that no matter where the role is situated on the corporate ladder, you are still making an invaluable contribution to the organization. What is important is that you gain mastery over your work (irrespective of how significant/insignificant it might seem to be). That gives you an incomparable sense of achievement!

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