LITERATI

SHAB­NAM ASTHANA, a veteran in the field of PR, has penned down her thoughts on the dif­fer­ent facets of the cor­po­rate world and how it can be blos­somed into suc­cess­ful en­deav­ours in her de­but lit­er­ary re­lease,

Citadel - - CONTENTS - BY NISHAD SHINDE

Take a step to­wards meet­ing your pro­fes­sional goals by read­ing through SHAB­NAM ASTHANA’s de­but lit­er­ary re­lease, RO­MANC­ING YOUR CA­REER

She is now a pub­lished au­thor, but she is also a woman who wears many hats. Hav­ing dab­bled in a mul­ti­tude of ca­reers, it was the eld of Public Re­la­tions in which Shab­nam Asthana found her true call­ing. With in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence of more than two decades, the self-pro­claimed ‘ca­reer en­thu­si­ast’ wants to help oth­ers reach their true po­ten­tial t hrough her first book, Ro­manc­ing Your Ca­reer. We get her talk­ing about her suc­cess­ful past, her par­al­lel ca­reer in writ­ing, her life and more…

Tell us a lit­tle about your­self.

I am a Public Re­la­tions pro­fes­sional with over 25 years of work ex­pe­ri­ence in re­puted com­pa­nies both in In­dia and over­seas, but when the en­tre­pre­neur­ial streak be­came very pro­nounced in 2005, I set up my own PR & Com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany, Em­pow­ered Solutions. How­ever, I did not start my ca­reer with PR. I dab­bled in other pro­fes­sions like teach­ing, which in­cluded a three­year stint at the pres­ti­gious Na­tional De­fence Academy, Khadak­wasla. I also took up freelance writ­ing for var­i­ous lo­cal and na­tional pub­li­ca­tions. Post that, I suc­cess­fully headed an in­ter­na­tional com­pany as Pres­i­dent - Sales & Mar­ket­ing, but I even­tu­ally dis­cov­ered that PR was my true call­ing and set­tled for it. My PR ca­reer has been very re­ward­ing, not only in terms of the awards and recog­ni­tions that came my way (which in­clude the High­est Na­tional Award in PR in 2012, awarded by the Public Re­la­tions Coun­cil of In­dia & The In­dian Achiev­ers Award 2017 by the In­dian Achiev­ers Fo­rum), but also in terms of the nu­mer­ous av­enues it has opened up for me. I am now ooded with speak­ing en­gage­ments at both na­tional and in­ter­na­tional fo­rums. Be­sides, I am an ac­claimed in­ter­na­tional soft skills con­sul­tant and trainer, and now also a pub­lished au­thor. I feel that the PR pro­fes­sion houses a wealth of op­por­tu­ni­ties, and if you have the self drive to dis­cover those, your PR jour­ney be­comes very in­trigu­ing with in­ter­est­ing bends and twists, lead­ing to new milestones and des­ti­na­tions.

What made you ven­ture into writ­ing?

Writ­ing has al­ways been a pas­sion

for me. I vividly remember win­ning es­say com­pe­ti­tions dur­ing my school days, tak­ing on the role of Ed­i­tor for my school and col­lege mag­a­zines, ac­tively ini­ti­at­ing news­let­ters for the com­pa­nies that I worked for, con­tribut­ing ar­ti­cles for news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines… In fact, as I go down mem­ory lane, I re­al­ize that writ­ing has al­ways been an in­te­gral part of my life. I have al­ways been fas­ci­nated by books and was al­ways de­ter­mined to write one. I have, by na­ture, been very im­pul­sive, but it has been a planned im­pulse (if you could coin such an oxy­moronic term), and it was dur­ing one of those planned im­pul­sive mo­ments in March 2017, that I de­cided to au­thor a book. Be­ing the typ­i­cal me, when I start some­thing I pur­sue it whole-heart­edly till it cul­mi­nates into what I want, so de­spite my busy sched­ule with my reg­u­lar work, travel, jug­gling in be­tween dif­fer­ent time zones since my work in­volves in­ter­act­ing with com­pa­nies and peo­ple all across the world, I still man­aged to achieve what I had started in a record two months’ time. I was so en­thused that I would stay up late, sleep­ing for only about three hours. I was hooked to writ­ing dur­ing the en­tire process. So much so, that I used to write even while wait­ing at air­ports.

How difcult it is to make a ca­reer in writ­ing?

In my opinion, it is as dif­fi­cult or as easy as any other ca­reer. It de­pends to a large ex­tent on your mo­ti­va­tion, en­ergy and drive. Like any other pro­fes­sion, this pro­fes­sion too has be­come ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive, since be­ing an au­thor is not the only ca­reer you may have. The mind-set is

chang­ing and times are evolv­ing as we have seen in re­cent times, you can be a lm pro­ducer or di­rec­tor and also be a writer; you can be a politi­cian and a writer; you can be an ac­tor and a writer, etc. In fact, writ­ing is not lim­ited to a cer­tain sec­tion of so­ci­ety or peo­ple, so by that logic, it is very com­pet­i­tive. I strongly feel, though, that if you have some past recog­ni­tions or lau­rels, you get a good head start. You may be an ex­cel­lent writer, but to get no­ticed amongst the clut­ter, peo­ple should be fa­mil­iar with your name. It is very difcult for de­but au­thors to ini­tially es­tab­lish a book and get no­ticed only on its merit. On the ip side, you may be a big name, but if you don’t write too well, the ini­tial en­cour­ag­ing sales and vis­i­bil­ity will grad­u­ally dip. For a win-win sit­u­a­tion, you must have the win­ning com­bi­na­tion of self be­lief and mo­ti­va­tion, a air for writ­ing, com­bined with some pre­vi­ous recog­ni­tion that you have earned, or made a mark for your­self in what­ever you have been do­ing ear­lier, so the name it­self is enough for peo­ple to at least have the in­cli­na­tion to pick up the book from the plethora of read­ing choices that are avail­able to­day.

Tell us about your most trea­sured book till date.

My most trea­sured book, which may come as a sur­prise to a few, is not from re­cent times, but a clas­sic called Mill On The Floss by Ge­orge Eliot. I strongly be­lieve that my love for writ­ing and English Lit­er­a­ture got an im­pe­tus from this mag­i­cal book. It was pre­scribed in our syl­labus in Std 12 (ISC Board.) There were many fas­ci­nat­ing things about this book, rstly that the writer was a woman, Mary Ann Evans, who chose to adopt a pseu­do­nym to gain ac­cept­abil­ity in her times rather than curb her de­sire for writ­ing. Then, our English teacher was Sis­ter Bertha Wil­cox from Lon­don, who did a won­der­ful job in fan­ning our love for English Lit­er­a­ture. I was and still am in­trigued by the char­ac­ter of the main pro­tag­o­nist Mag­gie Tul­liver, and the var­i­ous shades that colour the re­la­tion­ship of brother and sis­ter- Tom and Mag­gie. I have a strong sense of em­pa­thy with Mag­gie.

What gave you the idea of want­ing to write on the cho­sen sub­ject?

Like I men­tioned in the pro­logue of my book, ‘Think­ing of a topic for my rst book was for once some­thing eas­ily said and eas­ily done, I guess this ease stems from the fact that it is only peo­ple and things close to you that come read­ily to your mind. The dilemma lay in its classication,

was my ca­reer to be cat­e­go­rized in the for­mer or the lat­ter? Was it an­i­mate or was it inan­i­mate? My ca­reer has been as in­sep­a­ra­ble as life it­self. It has per­me­ated my very be­ing, with won­der­ful emo­tions and en­riched me im­mensely. What en­sues in the chap­ters is not a nat­u­ral, lin­ear, mun­dane pro­gres­sion of my ca­reer, but in fact a med­ley of mem­o­ries, peo­ple and in­ci­dents that come ran­domly in my ‘mind’s eye’, as they would for all peo­ple who are in love, for love dees chrono­log­i­cal or­ders, dates and se­quences.’ So I, be­ing a ca­reer en­thu­si­ast and a 24x7 worka­holic gave birth to Ro­manc­ing Your Ca­reer.

What mes­sage does the book con­vey to the read­ers?

Well, to an­swer your ques­tion, I would like to quote from my book, ‘Your pro­fes­sion is a store­house of im­mense learn­ing, pro­vided you are in a re­cep­tive mode. It pro­vides you with am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties and spring­boards to cat­a­pult to suc­cess. It also comes with its fair share of volatile sit­u­a­tions, and it is for you to pro­vide the safety switch of ma­tu­rity and ex­pe­ri­ence to pre­vent any short cir­cuits.’ The hall­mark of my book is that each chap­ter ends with a won­der­ful take­away, which will pro­vide a wealth of learn­ing for the reader. It is very dif­fer­ent, be­cause it is not the reg­u­lar ser­mo­niz­ing approach, but very in­for­ma­tive and ex­pe­ri­en­tial.

Tell us about your en­coun­ters with the per­son­al­i­ties cov­ered in this book?

All the char­ac­ters in the book have been a part of my work life. I have had a rich work ex­pe­ri­ence of over 25 years and since a large part of my work in­volves net­work­ing with peo­ple and com­pa­nies, I have had a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in re­la­tion­ships, which I re­count in my book. All my char­ac­ters, be it Man­ager Shri­ram, Ragini, Mrs Gupta, Alex, Mr Joshi, although the names have been changed, ev­ery reader will be able to rec­og­nize them as typ­i­cal denizens of the cor­po­rate world. Ro­manc­ing Your Ca­reer is a must read for ev­ery pro­fes­sional who wants to make a suc­cess of his or her ca­reer. Its univer­sal ap­peal lies in the fact that it in­tro­duces you to the im­por­tant facets of the cor­po­rate world, with eas­ily identiable char­ac­ters who you will laugh with, cry with, pity, de­spise, and even get in­spired by. Th­ese are in­hab­i­tants of your nine-to-ve world and an in­te­gral part of your daily in­ter­ac­tion at the work­place. So, it’s

not only me, but ev­ery pro­fes­sional who would have met the char­ac­ters in the book dur­ing some stage of their job ten­ure.

How was your ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing on this project?

I was greatly en­thused and it was very ex­cit­ing. There was never a dull mo­ment when I felt bogged down by the idea of writ­ing. I was al­ways charged up and ea­ger to nd a mo­ment or ‘in-be­tween’ time dur­ing my hec­tic travel and busy work sched­ule to pen my thoughts. Trav­el­ling down mem­ory lane was very en­rich­ing, as I re­lived many mo­ments of my ca­reer. I was over­whelmed with emo­tions, as I re­counted my ex­pe­ri­ences.

Any in­ci­dent that you re­call while in the process of work­ing on this book?

There is a chap­ter in my book ti­tled, ‘Chains and Fet­ters – Stress Pre­vents You from Be­ing a Go-Get­ter’. In the chap­ter, among other ways of de­stress­ing, I have men­tioned love for pets and my love for my Labrador Scooby, whom I am im­mensely fond of as an ideal stress buster. While I was writ­ing the chap­ter, I was so im­mersed in my writ­ing that I was obliv­i­ous to my sur­round­ings, and I re­call that when I nished the part about him, I looked up from my script and straight into his dark warm eyes. I had closed my study door and he was out­side some­where, and I didn’t re­al­ize when he had pushed open the door with his nose and sat near my feet with his favourite blue ball in his mouth look­ing at me. It was as if he had sensed that I was writ­ing about him. He is very pos­ses­sive about this par­tic­u­lar toy and never parts with it. The mo­ment I looked at him, he gave it to me in my hands, as if to say, ‘Thank You for in­clud­ing me in your book. Although I can­not speak with words, here is my favourite toy for you, for I love you more than you do.’ It was this ap­pre­ci­a­tion, this love and en­cour­age­ment, which came from my four-legged friend, that moved me to tears, and I held him and said, “Scooby, this is our book. Thank you for be­ing in my life!’

What projects are you cur­rently work­ing on?

I am de­bat­ing be­tween two ideas. One is of writ­ing pure ction, which I am con­vinced I have a air for, and the other is writ­ing a mo­ti­va­tional or self-help book, where I re­count witty real life ex­pe­ri­ences and key learn­ings from them.

Why should read­ers pick up your book?

Well, there are sev­eral strong rea­sons, but the prime and fore­most one be­ing that it is an eas­ily identiable book, be­cause every­thing about it is a pick from the real world. It is nei­ther ctional nor hy­po­thet­i­cal, as it draws from the daily ex­pe­ri­ences and daily in­ter­ac­tions in any pro­fes­sional’s life, and makes them re­al­ize how they can trans­late them into their in­di­vid­ual pro­fes­sional suc­cess.

Nar­rate some mem­o­rable feed­back that you got from your read­ers?

I have got amaz­ing re­views on Ama­zon, Good Reads and other online sites, plus quite a few ap­pre­cia­tive emails in­boxed to me. What is very heart­en­ing to note is that they are not just one or two line re­views, but de­tailed feed­back and in depth anal­y­sis and the read­ers have taken the ef­fort to pen it down.

Con­clud­ing, now that you are a suc­cess, what would you want to tell some­one who wants to ven­ture into writ­ing?

I would say, if you have the zeal and con­vic­tion to write, just go ahead and do it. Dur­ing your writ­ing jour­ney, you may en­counter along with a few en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple the many naysay­ers, dis­suaders, or unasked-forad­vice givers, but just go ahead and fol­low your pas­sion and dream. You will feel im­mensely satised and happy af­ter you have nished writ­ing. The out­come of it trans­lat­ing into sales and recog­ni­tion should not be your pri­mary ob­jec­tive, be­cause, be­lieve me, if you write from the heart and put in your best, the rest will surely fol­low!

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