#Asia How our woman CEO treated me when I made silly mistakes in my first job


I feel that a female CEO is more patient and tolerant than a male chief. At least that is what my experience teaches me

It is disappointing that even in this advanced age, only a meagre 12 per cent of the total entrepreneurs in the world are women. While it is heartening to see the number gradually going up, a drastic change is still years away. There are some incubators/accelerators in different parts of the world that are exclusively focussed on women entrepreneurs, but that has not brought in much change on the ground.

A lot has already been written about why women don’t come to the upper echelons of the business world. There are very few females startup founders in the world. There are a variety of social and cultural reasons for this phenomenon. Traditionally, women are tasked with running their households and upbringing children when their husbands are out for work.

While India is still far behind developed economies like the US, it is great to see more women are taking up entrepreneurship as a career option. They build companies while at the same time taking care of their family with great finesse. They are now sacrificing their lives to build new ventures and employ people.

There are already successful entrepreneurs and VCs such as Zivame Founder Richa Kar and Kalaari Capital Founder Vani Kola to show them the way and inspire the young generation. There are also numerous unknown women entrepreneurs out there in the villages and hinterland India who are secretly scripting success stories, while impacting hundreds of people.

I started my career in August 2007 at a media company in Bangalore which provided content to Microsoft’s news site MSN India. I was fresh out of college and had no prior working experience other than a three-month internship stint at an English daily in Kerala, my home State.

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I joined this Bangalore-based company on August 17, the first business day after India’s Independence Day, I was a rookie in every sense — no computer knowledge other than modest typing skills, no great reporting skills; my written English was passable but I could not speak it well.

Needless to say, it was a hard time for me to acclimatise to the new place, people, language and the culture.

On my first day of work, I was ushered into the CEO’s cabin. The CEO was a woman who hailed from Kerala (I still believe that she committed the gravest mistake in her life by hiring a fellow Malayali, which is me).

We both greeted each other. I took out a few of my sample articles from my bag upon her request. She had a quick glance at some of them (I had written a few good articles, including a technology piece, and interviewed some VIPs like the then Vice Chancellor of the University of Calicut, Kerala). The CEO looked impressed.

She then took me to another woman, who turned out to be my team lead. I was put in the mobile news team which she headed (There was an unwritten rule that a fresher would be put in the mobile news team first to acquire some experience before he/she would be inducted into the main news team).

I found the going tough. I could not catch up with the speed and accuracy of other team mates — both in terms of communication and job. But I had no option but to gradually learn to manage things. As I slowly got adjusted to the new environment and people, my confidence grew.

Teasing a girl

Days passed and I began to get the gist of the work I was doing. Being a bachelor and a slightly mischievous young man, I began to tease a young girl on my team. Even though it was a seemingly innocuous teasing, the victim reported it to the head immediately. I was let off with a minor warning. Luckily, she did not report the incident to the CEO (thank God).

A few weeks later, I was promoted to the main news team, which was larger. My task was to pick articles from various news agencies, vet them and publish them on the main site. Additionally, I would update the news snippet, which popped up when a user logs into his MSN account.

Silly mistake

I was a bit carless and committed a number of silly mistakes. I did not get the grammar or the language right and I inadvertently made mistakes in the titles and blurbs. The CEO took notice of this, as things began to get worse. On a fine day, she called me to her cabin, and asked why I was making silly mistakes in the articles. I said sorry and would not repeat it. I was spared with a warning, my second in the organisation.

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After a couple of months, when the girl who handled the tech news section went on a long leave, I was asked to take charge of it. I was specifically told that I should not put the stories of MSN’s competitors on the main slots. I agreed (although I didn’t honestly know who MSN’s competitors were).

Grave mistake

One fine day, a news on Yahoo appeared in a news agency. I don’t remember what the story it was, but I still remember it was about a major tech development at Yahoo. I picked the news and put it as the lead news in the technology news page. And it ran for a full day.

The next day, our CEO received an email from Microsoft Bangalore about this grave mistake. The CEO called me into the cabin once again, and asked me to explain the reason why I ran the news in the first place. As usual, I had no answer. I apologised and went back to my seat. It was my third warning from the CEO.

Seven days later, I was back on the main news team. When my turn to do the night shift came, the team lead —  a veteran male journalist — reluctantly put me on the job. I was tasked to track major developments in India overnight and update the site accordingly.

My tasks also included updating of the news snippet. I remember there were three tabs: a main slot and two sub slots. I filled in all the tabs using the CMS tool. There was no editor to look at the headlines that I prepared. And the news snippet went live.

Gravest mistake, and still just a warning

I was not aware of the silly grammatical and linguistic mistakes I committed until the next day when the CEO called me again into her cabin. She showed me the screenshot of the snippet that went live the previous night. I myself was shocked to see the simple mistakes I committed. I began to melt as she admonished me. I sensed that it was the end of my job (I later came to know that the CEO had received a nasty letter from Microsoft and it wanted me fired immediately).

Fortunately, I was not fired and I survived for a few more months. I was then put in the sports news team, where I got no-nonsense team lead. He was patient and my morale grew under his guidance. I even published an article. When the CEO saw my article, she was impressed. She came to my seat to congratulate me on my ‘feat’.

I now realise as the head of the company, she was remarkable and showed great patience. If she had punished me for the mistakes I had committed, I would have been fired at least 10 times during my one year and four months’ stint at the company.

I am grateful for her for being so patient and put up with my silly and grave mistakes. I strongly believe that if it were a male CEO in her position, he would have kicked me out for the very first big mistake I committed.

I hope e27 CEO reads this piece and will keep a vigil on me.

Image Credit: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo

The post How our woman CEO treated me when I made silly mistakes in my first job appeared first on e27.

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