IIMB interviews co-authors of ‘Found Again: Real Stories of Women, Work & Flexibility’

The book tells stories of 20 women who have found their way back to professional fulfilment, creating their own unique career paths aligned to their life needs
Interview features co-authors Shreya Prakash, Deepa Narayanaswamy and Rashmi Rammohan, alumni of the PGP 2008 batch and co-founders of FlexiBees

1.What was the reason behind choosing the title ‘Found Again’ and what motivated you to compile the narratives of these 20 women?
Most of us know that women’s workforce participation in India is at an all-time low currently, at 23%. To put it in perspective, it is also among the lowest in the world, and less than half of the world average of 47%.
Many reports on this subject talk about the ‘missing’ women of India’s workforce. But rarely have we heard from the women themselves, the women behind these statistics, the women who the reports say are missing.
But they do exist, and are no longer willing to be missing.
‘Found Again: Real Stories of Women, Work & Flexibility’ is a FlexiBees’ attempt to bring these women and their heroic journeys into the spotlight, so that more people understand their challenges, empathize with their dilemma and root for their success. This book is a collection of true stories of twenty women who we work with, who have found their way back to professional fulfilment, who have created their own unique career paths – paths that are aligned to their life needs.
2.Tell us a little about FlexiBees…
We are the co-authors of Found Again, but first and foremost, we are the co-founders of FlexiBees. FlexiBees is a vetted talent platform for part-time, project-based and remote work, that helps businesses hire experienced talent via affordable and on-demand models from a pool of vetted and qualified women professionals.
We have provided talent to more than 600 companies across India, Singapore, UAE, UK, USA and other markets, from across 50-plus industries. We service both enterprises and high-energy start-ups, across roles in Sales, Digital, Marketing, Content, HR, Finance, Tech and others. We have impacted over 50,000 women professionals and placed thousands of them in roles that are meaningful which enable them to balance their life priorities through flexibility.

3.What was your process for selecting the stories included in this collection?
It was not at all easy. Over the last few years, we at FlexiBees have been speaking to a few thousand women about their professional journeys, about reasons why they left the workforce and reasons why they wanted to join back. Each of these life stories have been different, inspiring and enriching.
We had a tough time choosing, and an even tougher time not including some stories, but we made peace thinking there would be other editions of our book. For this edition, we selected a mix that highlighted different aspects of what we may term the ‘returnship’ journey, and a few where the protagonists actively decided to work in an ‘unconventional’ arrangement by choice. We intended to include narratives that stretched from the metros to the thriving towns of India, representing diverse functions and skills.
4.How do you think your readers will connect with these stories and the women featured in them?
We think everyone will find something of value in the stories – some women will see themselves in these stories, some will aspire to be like these women. Some may think that the duality of having to choose between work and family is antiquated. We also hope that team leaders/management will be motivated to design more aligned programs to tap into this driven and experienced talent pool.
After the book was released, we have been in awe at the places where it is going. People are gifting it to friends and family, to bosses who championed women, to young women aspiring to be tomorrow’s leaders, to women who have made the arduous ‘returnship’ journey and can take pride in their stories being told, to businesses and HR leaders, among others.
5.What according to you, will be the greatest takeaway for readers of this book?
First, we want the voices of the women whose stories these are, to be heard, their challenges to be acknowledged and their victories to be recognized.
Second, we hope that our stories will inspire and inform those who may be in similar situations themselves, who can gain insights from the experiences and ordeals of our real-life heroines.
We also think the book will make the readers realize that there is no one way to build a career, and that one can do work which is fulfilling, while working on their own terms.
And finally, to paraphrase Ajay Banga as he so kindly, among many others such as Indra Nooyi, Meena Ganesh, Apurva Purohit and Anita Bhogle wrote a note of support for our book, we hope that these stories will show global companies the means to unlock this experienced and driven, yet overlooked, talent pool through flexible work.
6.How did, from being founders to being co-authors, come about? Was it helpful?
Once we decided on the idea for the book, it was very easy for us founders to write it. FlexiBees was started with the vision to help talented and driven women professionals return to work, and today even more, we feel strongly about the need to create these avenues for professional women who are unable to participate in the workforce, despite having the necessary skills and the willingness. We understand the choices they made; we believe in their ability to positively contribute to, and transform, the organizations they work for.
It just made sense for us to be the vehicles that brought the voices of these incredible women to the people, for everyone to see them the same way we see them, that many others see them today, and most importantly, the way they can now see themselves.
7. Were any of the stories based on personal experiences, either your own or those of women you know?
All the stories are based on personal experiences of the women we know. All the women featured have worked closely with us, either in our own teams or via us in other organizations.
8. Is there any one story that stands out, for you? And why?
Each story is unique in its own special way. I can only mention a few here.
Neti’s crisis of confidence as she, a skilled sales professional who after a break of few years and repeated attempts to get back in, started feeling as if she did not have it in her anymore to do the job, or to do any job.
Arpita’s path-breaking journey from Bhilwara to Bombay as she defied all social norms to get the best of education and work experiences, but how the same driven individual, after a few years of career break, found it tough to find any job.
Sanjana’s decision early in her life to build her career remotely since that would enable her to be her most productive self; Nithya’s determination in 2012 to work from home when that concept itself was not very common, and actually making it happen for herself; Swati’s resolve as a single mother to provide both financial and emotional support to her daughter; Bansi’s hunger for work that led her to start an apparel business and become a yoga instructor when other opportunities had dried up; Sonal’s indomitable spirit that propelled her to re-join work with a nine-month-old and give each aspect of her life her very best…all these are stories that inspire.
Then there is Vidushi, who chose to shift from heading the Treasury function of a listed company to creating a flexible career path for herself as deputy CFO of a funded start-up that enabled her to do her best professionally, while giving her the scope of spending more time with her family and herself.
Shipra’s rise within the company to the head of a function after a seven-year career break, that many myopic organizations would be critical of, but which gave her the opportunity of continuous learning and re-invention, that ultimately resulted in her finding her place in the sun.
Each individual person stands out, so do their stories.
9.Is there any particular author or work that inspired you, while you were writing these stories?
This book has been co-authored by the three of us who are co-founders of FlexiBees, and between us, we had more than one inspiration. We were inspired by the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series featuring several inspiring stories of people from across the world, and the diverse perspectives they provided. We were also influenced by books like ‘Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh’ by Shrayana Bhattacharya and ‘Equal yet Different: Career Catalysts for the Professional Woman’ by Anita Bhogle, to weave real-life narratives with broader trends to enable the reader to interact with, and relate to, each story.

About the co-authors:
Shreya Prakash
Shreya is the CEO at FlexiBees, and leads Business Development & Marketing, focusing on helping companies understand and unlock the massive potential that a flexible workforce can bring. She has nearly a decade of experience prior to FlexiBees, in Branding, Marketing and Sales with Hindustan Unilever, from where she moved on to co-found FlexiBees.
She is an avid reader, writes as a hobby, and is the parent of a five-year-old.
Deepa Narayanaswamy
Deepa is the Chief Talent Officer at FlexiBees, and leads Talent Sourcing, Project Operations, as well as Finance & Legal. Talent is FlexiBees’ core offering, and she and her team are instrumental in ensuring there is an ever expanding and job-ready pool. Prior to FlexiBees, she was a Management Consultant at KPMG and worked in the education space with Aptech. She is also a Chartered Accountant.
When not working, she loves to play the piano, write, meditate and spend time with her daughter.
Rashmi Rammohan
Rashmi is the COO at FlexiBees, and leads Curation, Technology and Digital, building the foundation that helps the firm deliver best-fit talent at scale to businesses. Before this, she was leading the Media, Digital and e-commerce Insights Practice for P&G in Asia. She has more than a decade of experience and has also worked in Product Development with i2 Technologies.
She loves to travel, meet new people, is a food enthusiast and a budding mixologist.

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