By Dipti Vachani, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Automotive and Embedded Line of Business, Arm
Several years ago, at bedtime one night, I was cuddling with one of my daughters when she said something that broke my heart. “Mom,” she said, “I think I am ugly.” She was just seven at the time.
I was working then as a general manager at Texas Instruments, running a multi-national business, and it was a rare night that I was home. I had been traveling internationally, quite extensively, leaving my kids with my very loving and committed husband. I was running myself into the ground traveling multiple weeks in a row, stressed out and sleep deprived from the multiple time zones.
And now I was failing at my most important job: teaching my children self-confidence, self-respect and self-reliance.
I told my daughter how wonderful she was. We spoke about her inner beauty, that she was both beautiful inside and out, but I realized that was not enough. I cried most of that night and went to work the next day to tell my manager that I was quitting.
Fortunately, he was a fantastic manager and a wonderful person. He valued me and told me: “This is a marathon, not a sprint. Heal what you need to heal and come back to the race. You have proven yourself here, and I know what you can do.” I took three months off.
It took me a long time to admit to myself that I had been struggling, and I committed to never letting it happen again. To do that, I set four rules for myself. Here are my pledges:
#1. I will give personal obligations the same standing as work ones.
I promised myself that when at work, I would be 100 percent present, and when at home, I would be 100 percent present. I merged my personal and work calendars: my personal commitments were also commitments. I vowed to not travel two consecutive weeks. I delegated more to my team, supporting their development while empowering them to take on more.
#2. I matter.
I blocked out time every day to work out, even when I am traveling. I had to be flexible on the time, but exercising helped alleviate stress and enabled me to be fully present in my work and personal life. I sleep better and eat better with this one change in my life.
#3. I will seek out my work girl squad.
I’ve been fortunate to have developed great friendships at work, though there was a time when they were mostly with male colleagues. I had thought that if I participated in the women’s events at work that the guys would figure out I was a woman. But let’s face it: they’d figured that out already! There is an energy and healing that you get from your girl squad that you cannot get from any other outlet. So I seek out women who I can share openly with. I take time for lunches and happy hour. We are there for one another and support each other, as that camaraderie is vital to our success.
#4. I will work only for someone who values me.
This is probably the most important: working for someone who sees your strengths and believes in you, sometimes more than you believe in yourself, is crucial. When I was ready to throw in the towel, my boss helped me navigate my challenges because he valued and believed in me. We all need a manager who steps in and reminds us it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We all deserve that, and we should demand it. If you don’t have that boss, please MOVE!
I have been following these rules for a decade. My career continues to thrive and grow, and I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been. I have maintained my rules at three different companies, and no one has ever questioned them. As a leader of a large organization, I am very open about my priorities, which then permits my people to set their priorities and boundaries. I have never lowered my standards or expectations for my organization or me.
I truly believe this: The healthier and happier we are as individuals, the more present we are in our work. We can make tough decisions faster. When we run ourselves into the ground, we have nothing left to give to our work or our families. We deserve better.
And lastly, both my daughters are now in high school and doing great, and I remain a super proud and dedicated mom!