How to manage a senior position and children – Aparajita Ajit

Find out from Aparajita Ajit how she does it – She is Vice President and Head Banking & Capital Markets UK and Europe at MphasiS, an HP company based in Bank, London. She works flexibly and has a three-year-old son and lives in New Malden, Surrey. She volunteers for the Mayor’s Mentor Programme.

Judith Zerdin, journalist, went to find out how she manages it, and when, if ever she ever gets to see her son.

You have the word “Europe” in your job title. Does that mean a lot of travelling?

Part of my job involves looking at new client acquisitions, and that does mean a fair bit of travelling. I was in France last week, next week I’m in Edinburgh, after that I’m in Luxembourg.

I could have a week when I have to visit two or three countries, but I tend to make them day trips rather than staying over. I’ll catch the first flight out in the morning and the last flight back at night.

How much work do you have to do in the evenings/at weekends?

My boss is based in New York and my team is scattered between the UK and Europe, but we do have a few members in India too. We have to speak at a time that works for everybody, so we’ll often get on to a team call at about 9pm. Once my son’s in bed I’ll go back to work.

I try to avoid working weekends if I can, unless there’s a major bid or some urgent time-consuming project.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up at about 5.30 – quite often I have to make early morning calls then to my Indian colleagues.

My son wakes up between 6.30 and 7am and then we’re getting ready and out of the house by 8am.

I drop him off at his day care and then I catch the train to Waterloo and then the tube to Bank. I’m in the office by 9am.

I use my commute to catch up on a lot of my business reading; keeping abreast of what’s going on in the markets. I check my phone, but I try to avoid doing emails as I deal with a lot of confidential information.

I don’t usually take a lunch break; I’ll just grab a salad or sandwich and have it at my desk, and then I leave at 4.30 to pick my son up from day-care.

I like to spend 2-3 quality hours with him before he goes to bed, after which my husband and I will have dinner and then I’ll catch up on work I’ve missed from the two hours not being in the office, and make any conference calls to the US or Canada.

I have a cook who comes once a week and the rest of the week my husband and I share the cooking. I also have a cleaner once a week.

It’s about juggling it all, but the good news is, as long as the work gets done and I put in the hours, my company doesn’t clock-watch. It helps that it’s a trust-filled atmosphere.

What about ‘downtime’?!

Weekends for sure – on Saturday nights my husband and I catch up with friends either at our place or go out for dinner, or go to the theatre. I go to a zumba class on Saturday mornings and Wednesday nights and I also go to the gym on Mondays after my son’s in bed and my husband’s home from work. I’ll fit my work around it.

My husband and I try to take off at least one Friday every three months to get some “us” time, too. Then we might go and see a film, or just chill out.

What about your husband – how do you share childcare responsibilities?

Each week we’ll share our schedules for the next week or couple of weeks so we can plan our diaries. We make sure, as best we can, that if I have to travel somewhere he will pick our son up, and he can work a bit from home.

My husband and I share responsibilities equally and he is extremely supportive and understanding. I do pick-up more often because my husband works for an Investment Bank and it does make it quite difficult to leave as early as me. However on days that I travel, he plans his schedule accordingly.

What would you say are your best coping mechanisms when things get tough?

It depends on how you define ‘tough’! For example, my son had chickenpox not that long ago. We had all our annual leave planned already and I only had three or four days to spare, but I decided to work from home, and my husband took some days off.

His company also offers an emergency nanny service, so we got one for the last three or four days.

I think drawing on any flexibility your employer gives you is very important. It’s all about having a very understanding employer, and an extremely helpful and reliable husband. We don’t have our parents in this country so we can’t rely on them.

When things get tough I just have to deal with it – it’s a bit of a trade-off. When it comes to childcare it’s just really important that we’re planned and organised.

At what point in your life did you decide this was what you wanted to do?

I grew up in India and I didn’t have everything just given to me; I had to work hard for it. Moreover, my parents were role models and I learnt a lot from them.

I’ve got two Master degrees and I was studying while looking after a baby and working full time, but I invested in all of that and started to see the results of my efforts and I realised the sky’s the limit. I believed that all the way through it.

What would your advice be to mums who presume they can’t go further in their careers if they have a family?

Many of my friends are highly educated, while some of them decide to stop working out of choice, many of them feel they have to give up their career once they have a family. A lot of the time we presume that’s how it has to be, but I think you need to talk about your aspirations with your family.

Look for other options: working flexibly/part-time/job sharing, and be a bit shameless with the resources made available to you at work.

For many people childcare is very expensive – you should work out how many days you can afford it and see what options are available for the other days.

Has any part of your life suffered in your quest for success?

There are days when I really wish I could just put my feet up and go to the Bahamas! On the other hand, we do make the most of our holidays, and I love spa days – I’d be lying if I said not. But I’m very happy as a mother, wife and professional woman. I’m very pleased with the life I have.

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