Many Roads To B-School: The Twin Journey Of Research And Motherhood

Interview with Padmavathi Shenoy- FPM

Ms Padmavathi Shenoy is a Research Scholar(Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management) at IIM Trichy. Ms Shenoy holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Management from Symbiosis Distance learning Centre and Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal. Her research interests include meaningfulness of work, logic multiplicity and identity management in hybrid organizations, social entrepreneurship and university-industry interactions. She loves Ghazals and Sufi songs, reading and public speaking.

Q: At what point did you decide that you wanted to do an FPM, and how did that conversation pan out with your family?

My work as Chief coordinator of the Industry-Institute Interaction Cell at my past institute led me to work closely with small and medium industries and entrepreneurs. Although our efforts in forging links between academicians and entrepreneurs won recognition (one of the papers on this project won the best paper award in UGC sponsored national level conference) at a personal level I was not satisfied. I wanted to study more about such hybrid form of interactions and organizations. One of my friends told me about FPM and encouraged me to write CAT. He not only coached me during CAT preparations, also registered and wrote the exam with me, only to keep me going! Although my family had no idea about this program, they supported my decision when I explained to them how it could help me in exploring better prospects as an academician.

Q: You have a ten-year-old son living with you while you’re pursuing your FPM. We applaud your balancing act, but out of curiosity, what it’s like to be a mother of a young son and purse your FPM in an IIM at the same time?

Well, there are two sides to this coin of single parenting. On one hand, it’s not easy when I have to leave him behind and travel for a conference or for data collection. On the other hand, I learnt how to seek help whenever needed, as against my inclination towards remaining in comfort zone. Also, I am lucky to be here at IIM Trichy, where other students generally come forward and help in spite of their own hectic schedules.

Q: It must have been quite a transition for your son who stays with you as well, how does he find himself in this setting at IIM-T?

Initially, he felt alone as he could not find anyone of his age here. But now he has made some good friends who play and strike a conversation with him. He has become independent and has learnt to be punctual with his schedule when I am not around.

Q: You’ve seen the institute undergo major changes via a lens the PGP students wouldn’t have, what is your take on that? 

I guess, with every change we have learnt how to move on, for good. Shifting to the new campus, getting more new faculty, change in leadership – I am sure all of it has good long-term benefits for the institution. However, there have not been many changes in the overall ethos of IIM Trichy.

Q: What were the immediate challenges for you, after you joined the FPM program? How did you cope up with them?

My biggest challenge was to cope with a rigorously competitive environment as an adult student. I was returning to college after a 12-year gap and I was the eldest in my batch (older than some professors, as well ;)). I would say it was one hell of a journey from sitting in classes, attending quizzes, presenting discussion notes, clearing CQE and finally now almost at the end of the fourth year of the FPM program. What I imagined to be a hell of a ride when I was undergoing it, now in retrospect seems to be the furnace that was required to convert the raw iron of me into an (if not fine, some usable) form of steel.

I must admit initially, I felt like a fish out of water, in spite of help from my PGP friends and few faculty. But, over time things became better. Two books which helped me during this period are Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” and Nastaran Akhavan’s “Spared”. The autobiographical narration in these books gives goosebumps as we read about the worst ever tragedies mankind had to undergo, yet gives a hope to put our best efforts forward.

Q: You’ve chosen to major in Human Resources and Organizational Behaviour; may we know the reason for the same? And you’ve presented papers on “Mission or Margin: Balancing Pro self and Prosocial Motivation in Social Enterprises”, “Drivers of University-Industry Collaboration in Regional Innovation Context – Process Perspective”. Would you like to tell us more about your latest Doctoral Research Paper? 

My previous work, both in academic and corporate worlds dealt with recruitment, people management and entrepreneurship related areas. Additionally, my work as a co-ordinator exposed me to difficulties in organizing and managing hybrid ventures (and hybrid organizations) when the actors have multiple competing goals. My thesis focuses on these challenges while scaling social impact in the context of social enterprises, a form of hybrid organization. These organizations have created tremendous impact in silos in various corners of India. I hope this research could contribute towards making these impacts bigger.

Q: What are your aspirations after the completion of your FPM?

I always liked teaching. So, obviously, my goal is to become a good academician.

Q: A lot of working women today have to make a hard choice between their careers, higher studies or raising a family. As a woman yourself, do you have any suggestions or words of advice for the women of India?

I don’t know if I have really gained any expertise to offer some valuable suggestions. But, I think sometimes small steps can make big difference in life. My favourite quote comes with some modifications from the movie, “Pursuit of Happiness” – Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t pursue your dream; not even the evil voice in your head. The biggest regret is not failing, but not trying hard enough.

Riddhi Kalra

Tends to be obstinate about pondering on the other side of things- the "what ifs", that have the potential to change the end of a story. Likes to appreciate the brilliance in mediocrity and the beauty in humility. Enjoys reading novels and is an amateur guitar player. Currently studying in the first year of the Post Graduate Programme at IIM Trichy, she is a member of the External Relations Committee, Persona (the HR&OB Club of IIM Trichy) and the Student Team of InsideIIM 3.1