Ankita Sharma

A Woman of Steel

Anikita lost her parents at the tender age of 7. At an early age she was forced to take on the responsibility of bringing up her siblings. All the challenges she faced have helped shape her into a strong and confident woman.

My life has always been a roller coaster ride for me after losing my parents at the tender age of 7. The sudden demise of my mother snatched my dolls from me and replaced them with two young siblings to look after. Our maternal grandfather supported us financially, but his sudden death when I was only 13 years old, worsened the situation.

Despite these adverse circumstances, I didn’t give up and continued to excel in my studies. I used to teach economically backward children at minimal fees to fund my basic needs. I wanted to pursue an MBA but despite graduating with 71% in economics and remaining in the top five students of my university; I had to bury my dream because of financial constraints and family responsibilities. By the time I completed my bachelor’s degree, my siblings were in the 8th and 10th standard. Hence, I needed more funds to sponsor their education. The money that I earned by taking home tuitions was not enough. Therefore, despite being a meritorious student, I decided to opt for a full-time job instead of completing my master’s degree.

I moved to New Delhi, the capital city of India in search of better employment opportunities. Taking this decision was not easy for me as the cost of living was high in New Delhi, the culture was different, the crime rate was high, the city was new to me, and there was no one to support me financially & socially. I finally got my first job as a sales executive in a credit card company.

My job demanded convincing well-educated people in the capital city of India to opt for credit cards. This was a huge challenge for me. In order to meet my sales targets, I used to stand outside call centers waiting for employees to come outside during their breaks. There were days when I had to stand for more than 14 hours in the scorching summer that too, without any food and water -. However, my salary was indispensable for sponsoring my siblings’ education and paying the monthly household expenses. Instead of giving up in these adverse circumstances, I over achieved my credit card sales targets every month and earned huge incentives. Moreover, along with my sales job, I completed a diploma in computers, so that I could apply for a banking sector job.

Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. I have learnt the importance of savings and investments through my life. I always wanted to educate others about the same and prepare them for adverse circumstances. Therefore, my resilient nature, problem solving attitude and passion for community service inspired me to choose banking as my career and I started applying for jobs in banking sector.

I joined this multinational bank in New Delhi as an officer in 2006. Thus, I was fulfilling the educational and financial needs of my family and also delivering my best at the new job. I worked very hard and my consistent performance helped me to get a good rating consecutively for 3 years (including my first performance appraisal) in the esteemed organization. However, I didn’t get a promotion in the early years because I did not have a master’s degree or an MBA and due to the recession.

I was very depressed and disappointed but instead of losing hope and giving up, I decided to leave the company for better career opportunities. I joined another bank as a Back-up Branch Manager (Deputy Manager) in 2009 and was doing quite well in my job when I was diagnosed with an acute gynaecological problem. The doctor advised me bed rest for 2 months as any physical movement for a long time would have deteriorated my medical condition further. Leaving my job was impossible for me since I was the sole breadwinner of the family.

But, I was forced to resign from a full-time job when my health deteriorated further. It’s rightly said: “where there is a will, there is a way”. After quitting my full-time job, I joined an insurance company as a partner. In the new role, I was working independently from home with no fixed salary and no fixed job timings. Though my job demanded meeting clients and convincing them about various products, there were no monthly targets since it was on a commission basis.

My knowledge, prompt quality service and excellent relations with my clients at my previous jobs helped me in meeting my business numbers and earning commissions. Moreover, I utilized this medical break for completing my master’s degree and to study further. I completed a master’s degree in financial analysis (MFA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and nine certifications from the National Stock Exchange of India during this period.

Additionally, I prepared for the national level competitive exams and got selected among very few managers (Scale II) recruited by a public sector bank in 2011. Getting selected in a public-sector bank is a dream for every banker in India but the selection process is very rigorous especially for candidates belonging to the general category. In 2012, while I was working with this bank, I completed a CAIIB (Certified Associate from Indian Institute of Bankers), which is the most difficult certification of banking in India in the first attempt.

Professionally, I was already managing an urban branch when I took the initiative to lead an under-construction rural branch. Since a new branch starts with a net loss, it was a huge professional risk for me, but I took it as an opportunity to serve the Indian rural community. With no prior experience, the challenges were numerous. They included logistical hurdles, laying out bank infrastructure, regulatory approvals, and most importantly, promoting financial literacy.

I received an early promotion to Senior Manager (Scale-III) for extraordinary leadership. Taking this initiative helped me realize that stepping out of one’s comfort zone and accepting new and challenging tasks acts as a catalyst for growth and provides powerful motivation. It has provided a terrific opportunity to learn more about my potential and has strengthened my confidence. While I was working with this bank, I have sponsored the education of many poor children.

In my personal life, I had crossed 30 years of age by that time, which is considered late for marriage of females in India especially in my case because as mentioned earlier, I had gynaecological problems. Finally, when my sister was settled and my brother, who is 6 years younger than me completed his Bachelor’s in Commerce from Delhi University and was in the CA Final; I decided to get married and settle down

I got married to a wonderful person who was against dowry. Since my husband was working for a company in United States, I went to the United States on sabbatical leave. Within 6 months, I got pregnant. For the first time in my life, I started dreaming about a complete family. We were very excited about the arrival of a new family member. However, my happiness turned into sorrow and heart break when I was diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy. Within two hours of my routine ultrasound, the doctor recommended immediate surgery to save my life.

When I was bed ridden after surgery, I decided to pursue an MBA from one of the top three universities in the United States of America and fulfilled my long pending dream. That is when I started preparing for GMAT and TOEFL – exams required to secure admission in top business schools around the world. Finally, my sincere efforts and resilient attitude bore fruit and I got admission in the University of Notre Dame - Mendoza College of Business, which is one of the top three universities in the United States offering a one-year MBA program. And the cherry on the cake was the huge fellowship. I thank God and my hubby for giving me an opportunity to live my dreams after 26 years of intense struggle.

I believe that one should never lose hope, have firm self-belief and never give up under adverse circumstances. There are numerous incidents in my life, when I was depressed and disappointed and wanted to surrender. Being a girl, the easiest thing was to get married and accept a life of a housewife. But, I didn’t do so as I wanted to have my own identity and I wanted to give back to my community. I chose a difficult path as it leads to success. Whenever I get depressed in my life, I motivate myself by thanking God for not making me physically challenged. I am not dependent on anyone. I am the architect of my own fate. This thought motivates me in overcoming hurdles and achieving the best in my life. God always helps those who help themselves.

Today, when I see a smile on the face of my siblings, when I see them doing well in their professional and personal life, I get the feeling of self-accomplishment. Despite the lack of parental support, unfavorable circumstances and numerous challenges in my life I achieved the impossible. My friends say my late mom would be very proud of me. In the absence of parents, my life was never a bed of roses. Having experienced the pain myself, I have an affinity towards children who have been orphaned.

On the other hand, while working as a banker, I came across many elderly people who were forced to live alone as their children left to pursue educational and professional opportunities. These parents were well-educated and financially stable, but very lonely. They missed their children and grandchildren terribly. Children who are orphaned need guidance and love. The elderly need respect and companionship. Hence, my personal goal is to bring these two Indian communities together under the same roof. The support that the orphaned would get from the elderly would provide better education and etiquette to them. It would also fill their life with love, care, and happiness. On the other hand, it would take away the loneliness from the life of the elderly by engaging them. I want to develop this mutual support between children and the elderly, keeping them emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy.


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