When I arrived in New York in 1977 as an 18-year-old bride from Kashmir, India, the product of an arranged marriage, I never imagined that I would become the first Asian woman partner at Ernst & Young nationwide, and the first woman of Indian origin to become partner in the United States in any Big Eight professional services firm.
My life has presented me with many unexpected challenges, which only now can I appreciate as opportunities. In my youth, my grandfather used to read and explain Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali”versestome–especially the poem that began, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…” The passage about breaking narrow domestic walls found a home deep inside me.
Often the greatest impediments on our path are the walls we place around ourselves through our own imaginations and fears. From my earliest days in this amazing country, I have been spurred to conquer fear, rise up to challenges and be open to where the road leads me. In this most unexpected journey, I have been guided by the philosophy in theBhagavadGita,acentralbookof Hinduism, of focusing on the right actions and doing the right thing without regard to the consequences.
In 1982 I received an offer to work at Ernst & Young (then Ernst & Whinney). I have since been involved in many strategic client, leadership and entrepreneurial roles. These opportunities, combined with incredible mentors and mentees at the firm and an inclusive and flexible environment, have helped me to grow and have meaningful experiences along the way.
One particularly significant milestone in my career occurred right after 9-11. I was asked to launch and lead Ernst & Young’s Global Shared Services Center in India. For someone who loves entrepreneurial challenges, this was a dream come true. I am incredibly proud that our center has been recognized as an award winning, inclusive and progressive work environment.
In the 21st century, we must forge new global communities with basic universal values and yet with respect for differences. I am both humbled and energized by the realization that much of my journey lies before me still, and that I have many social contributions yet to make – to encourage others, as I have been encouraged, and to break down narrow walls.