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A journey from medical science to supply chain management

I recently had the pleasure of introducing you to Taruna Arora, a consultant in India. Today, I am equally pleased to introduce you to Taruna’s colleague, Mona Dinodia, another star performer in our Indian team.

How one determined woman learned to spread her wings

As a child, I wanted to be a doctor. It was an ambition that formed when I was quite young, and it stayed with me throughout my school years.

My dream of becoming a doctor also governed my choices about university. My plan was to undertake a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). Indeed, this plan got as far as being accepted into an MBBS course.

At the same time, my life took an unforeseen turn. My father’s health started deteriorating and, having come from a humble background, I felt I needed to concentrate my energy on helping my family through a difficult period.

So, I took a Bachelor of Science course and studied chemistry, zoology, and botany. I love science but I found my range of interests broadening and my dream of becoming a doctor slowly starting to fade. I also remember my friendship circle expanded, and I found myself being exposed to business students, many of whom were talking about undertaking an MBA. My interest grew, surprising me even, that I found management science as interesting as the science I’d been studying with microscopes.

I also realised that the prospect of a career in a business profession might actually match my personality. I’m very comfortable socially and enjoy interacting with people. I’m also naturally curious and analytical. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than working with people to deliver a well-solved problem.

My MBA took me in a completely different direction

My compass was starting to plot a new course. Before I knew it, I had applied for and was accepted into the MBA program at Bengaluru City University. I felt like I was embarking on a real adventure and that, in large part, was because I was moving away from my family and friends for the first time.

The MBA was a blast. I studied marketing, operations research, and supply chain management. I made an entirely new group of friends and, combined with the campus environment, it proved to be an incredibly stimulating two years. It was over too soon.

My next chapter was all about establishing my career. My first role was with IBM in procurement. I could see sourcing was the reverse side of marketing in a way and my MBA was a huge asset.

I am a fast learner and my four years with IBM flew by. The whole metaphor about finding one’s wings applies so well to my situation. On the one hand, I knew I was just starting, but I also felt a growing confidence and a real desire to soar, to see where this journey would take me.

As a career-building step, I took on a category management role with Honeywell. Then, two years later I moved to a more senior category management position with Accenture, where I undertook some large-scale projects.

After two years with Accenture, I was fortunate enough to join the pure procurement experts at Portland.

As my confidence grew, I felt more certain consulting was the right choice

My wings are now strong, and I have a high level of confidence in my ability. And while I’m not always unflappable (couldn’t resist) when I have to face new, more complicated or challenging headwinds, I know that I do so with the support of a group of professional peers. Or should that be a flock?

I still feel like I have the mindset of a scientist. Quite often I find that when I apply my steady, inquiring mind to client engagements I am reminded of the research methods I used and the patience with which I searched for an explanation or an answer. I know people talk about transferable skills, but in my case investigating business challenges is second nature for me.

It would be a lie to say that as a professional woman, I don’t find the environment tough at times. It can be. We still deal with unconscious bias and old, even if remnant, workplace dynamics. Yet it is the same in workplaces across the world as generational change occurs.

As I have matured and become more confident, I think my perspective has broadened. I am now more aware of the needs of more junior colleagues and enjoy sharing what I have learned on my own journey. I also have a better understanding of the way others have helped me in the exact same way, so it seems only natural that I do the same. I think sharing is part of the culture here at Portland, and it is something I want us to hold on to.

If I were asked to give advice to young women at the start of their careers today, I’d say find a mentor and seek guidance from more experienced people. I’d also say, learn to recognise the unconscious bias and develop your own ways to call it out. And keep in mind that, while an ignorant person can be virtuous, ignorance is not a virtue, so it does need to be addressed if old, unhelpful norms are to change.

On a more personal level, I would say, make sure you know what success means for you. It is typically more than money. So, trust yourself and keep your skills and your thinking up to date. Change is the only constant we can be sure of, so don’t resist it.

When I read stories like this, I am reminded of my own university days and the early stages of my career. These stories make me proud of what women have achieved in professions around the world. We have a very promising future ahead of us. People like Mona will make it so.

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