What aspects of mountain climbing resonate the most with your own journey so far?
When you climb a mountain you never really know what's around the corner. You can think that you're going to be climbing in good weather and within a couple of minutes things can change. That, for me, is how life is and it's how my life has been. Also, when climbing a mountain, you can either do it the hard way or you can do it the easy way. There're always options. And that for me, is about my life's journey. I've never really known what's around the corner, I do know how things can dramatically change and I actually have the freedom to choose which path I take along my journey. I can do it the easy way or I can do it the hard way. And, actually, it's better to climb with friends so that's a bit like my own journey.
Tell us a little about your journey in life so far.
I think it's been an amazing life. I've had some fantastic opportunities, there have also been some challenges thrown my way. The opportunities that I've had in the last seven years of Wipro have hugely opened my eyes in so many different ways, in terms of the travel, the cultures, and the type of work that I've done. Life for me is definitely a cup half full rather than a cup half empty. Life is fantastic and if we don't learn and grow from the challenges that we've been given, then life really isn't there for the taking.
After battling the odds of cancer, has your perspective towards life changed in any way? And how?
I think we all think that we are invincible but some times when you face something like that (cancer) you know that you're not. You actually have to live each day as if it were your last. A big question to ask anybody is ‘how would you like to be remembered?' and that really made me think, particularly when you come up against some of the challenges that I've had. I started to think about ‘do I want to be remembered for what I've achieved, or how?' and for me, the real importance was ‘how?'. Did you achieve success with kindness and compassion and integrity? So, it really made me think about how life is about living each day as if it is your last, live in that moment but also think about how you would like to be remembered. It changes how you deal with people. I would want people to think I was kind, that I was fair, that I was funny and maybe a bit different. But it's not just about success and achievement, it's actually about what you've done as a person, and how you've treated people.
What would be the one mantra in your life, that you would like to share?
I think for me it's captured in something called the serenity prayer which I repeat almost on a daily basis. It says, ‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference'. That's the mantra for me. I couldn't change the diagnosis but what I could change was how I reacted to it. My reaction was something that was in my power. I could decide if that was going to be a positive reaction or a negative reaction, and that for me is a mantra for any challenge in life.
What would you consider as the source of your inner strength?
My biggest source of strength is my faith as a Christian and that has really taken me through some rough times. I have amazing friends and family. The support I received at work, at Wipro, was insurmountable and I pull on it from all the different areas in my life.
What makes Wipro a great place to belong?
I think it is very personal, but when I'm talking to graduates and apprentices…when I'm selling them the Wipro dream… I can sell it to them, because I actually really believe in it. I think Wipro offers a choice, it offers the ability to be creative. We have methodology in terms of the way we work but actually we are allowed to be creative. So, if you have a great idea, but you have somebody confining you, and saying “no, you can't do this”, “you can't run with this idea”, “it's not possible”…you actually have people at Wipro saying, “yeah go with it”, “run with it.
For me, Wipro represents freedom to think. We've got a hugely diverse employee population in terms of cultures. We still need to work really hard on our culture and diversity and that's being recognized. I've worked on loads of different accounts. I've worked with some really crazy, creative people. I've worked with people far more intelligent than myself, but there is also a humility to the people that work at Wipro and I really like that. So, when I'm talking to graduates and they ask, “what's it like to work at Wipro?”, I say to them, ‘this is a great place, you're not over-managed and you don't have somebody pouncing on your shoulder every day'. And if you can work like that, then it's a great place for you'. And I think there are so many opportunities, and you're not doing the same job for more than 12 to 16 months.
Give us a little insight on how you approach your work.
I think it's really funny because we all get a little hung up about status, success and achievement, but for me, considering everything I've gone through, there is more to life than that. I was having a conversation this morning with Robert Racine, and he is the Senior Vice President, he's my boss, and he was saying ‘don't be one dimensional', ‘don't define yourself as a software engineer'. What about, “I'm a great colleague to somebody”, “I'm a great friend to somebody”, “I'm a great mother”, “I'm a great stepmother”, “I'm a great team player in my sports team or in my work team”. I think my personal experiences have really made me see things a little differently. There's a great question, by my husband, who is a vicar, he often says to people, when they are at the end of life, and he says, “What is one of your biggest regrets?” and they never say, “I spent too much time working”. It's normally, “I didn't spend enough time with my family”. Don't let work define you. But also, I'm incredibly grateful for the skills that I have, and every Sunday my prayer is, ‘did I use those skills widely and effectively in my working week?' I'm also very thankful for the job that I've got but work doesn't define me, I do see it as a big part of my life.
Tell us a little about your experiences with mountain climbing.
It's not something that was ever really on my agenda when I was younger. There's also a sense of ‘can I do this?'. Then there's also the excitement that am I actually going to climb this really, really big mountain. And there's a real sense of freedom and this great sense of challenge. For me though there's this eagerness to reach the top, but when you get to the top it's also about getting back down safely. So, it's all about stuff that I would call, ‘outside your comfort zone' and one of the things that I coach people on is about getting out of their comfort zones and it's all about the stuff that you experience outside your comfort zone - it's stress, excitement, fear. It's one of the most amazing experiences.
What are your overarching feelings when you take an activity such as mountain climbing?
This time, when I did the three peaks, my actual thoughts during that time were about this little boy Felix who has muscular dystrophy. I was really thinking about him because, here's me, worried about how I'm going to climb this mountain, ‘Am I fit enough?', ‘How am I going to do it?', ‘I'm scared' and I thought about the challenges that that little boy and his family are going to face and that's far tougher than any mountain that any of us can climb in a lifetime. This is a disease that is fatal to children. They will die by the time they are in their early 20s, mostly. And those were my thoughts on that occasion.
What are the things that typically occupy your mind space when you are climbing?
I'm very reflective when I climb. I don't listen to music, because I'd probably either fall over or get so distracted looking around listening to Gloria Gaynor, I might give myself an injury (chuckles). I tend not to listen to music but I do have my thoughts to myself. I might have a little prayer, I think about my family, I think about crazy silly things. It's quite a poignant time being on the mountain and it does make me think about stuff that maybe at the back of your mind, but you don't really have the headspace for when you're at work or travelling to work to touch, sit and just think about. You've got 6 hours on your own and that's a great time for headspace.
What would be your message to the people who hope to be just as daring as you, but are afraid?
Age is no barrier. Try taking yourself out of the comfort zone into something we call the “stretch zone”, it's also called the learning zone. You don't learn unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone. You won't learn about yourself and you won't learn about the things that are out there around you. I always say that the day you stop learning is the day you die. Don't let that part of you die.