Look around you and you’ll see plenty of women who have achieved so much, it’s amazing. This Women’s Day, we at WSL speak to 8 such women and bring out their stories.
With a career spanning over 20 years, Rekha Menon is one of the leading media personalities in the country. Currently the Global Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Ness Technologies, Rekha has also worked as a television anchor, travel writer, and script writer in the South Indian media.
She started her TV career in the year 1999 and has been credited as the first anchor to bring in a conversational mode, non script based anchoring – an unseen trend in the early 2000s.
We decided to have a chat with her
Q:1 – You started off your career with a TV show called FTQ. How did that happen? Was it always your dream to be in the media industry?
The entry into the Media industry was unplanned. Those days the Media & Entertainment industry was not very well defined and therefore not considered a strong career option. I had just completed my PG in Environmental Science, and was looking at various career options when I came across Asianet’s—India’s first regional language satellite channel– recruitment ad. I applied just for the heck of it and managed to get appointed as a Programme Assistant. My job profile in Asianet covered quite a few roles—right from scheduling to assisting in production to PR to monitoring telecast, etc. The 3-4 years that I spent in Asianet gave me solid insights into how media functions as well as the confidence that I could tackle just about anything. From TV I moved on to the Animation industry where I got to interact with professionals from across the global. It was at Toonz Animation that I honed my networking and organizing skills–conducting global events, handling PR and MR. Anchoring happened purely by chance.
Q:2 – You’ve anchored a lot of television shows. Tell us about the difficulties you faced and how you overcame them.
For me, anchoring is a great stress buster and acts as a safety valve from my primary job as a Corporate Communications professional. Since I enjoyed anchoring TV shows, I’ve never faced any difficulties to speak of. The frustrating part was the stereotyping that came with it. Much as I wanted to break out of the interactive quiz show genre that I’d been doing, TV channels were reluctant to offer me other shows. So, after three years of doing quiz shows I took a break and came back in a new avatar—I anchored a 45-episode travel series, ‘Sanchari’ (the first ever travel show by a woman).
Q:3 – In 2005, you went to University of British Columbia and presented a paper on ‘Indian Media and Women’.
The invitation to University of British Columbia, Vancouver, as a Visiting Scholar came as a breath of fresh air at a time when I was looking for a break from the corporate and television grind. Also, the topic of my presentation was ‘Women in Indian Media’ and this was something that I had observed and had strong views on. The popular mass media in India has always been notorious for objectifying women but what was alarming and was the way women characters were being represented in hugely popular TV soaps. I came across Ad agency reports that classified women into different stereotypes–‘pious Sita’, ‘rebellious Rani’, etc.! The situation hasn’t really changed all that much. In fact, today you have hundreds of TV channels in different languages but instead of more variety and maturity that one would expect in a competitive scenario, you have more and more of the same stereotypes. There are, of course, some TV soaps and serials featuring more progressive women characters but these are more the exception than the rule.
Q:4 – You also secured a place in India Today’s Top 25 Women Achievers from Kerala list. How does it feel to be in the list of Top 25 women achievers?
That was truly unbelievable! I feel truly blessed to have been included in a list consisting of a number of role models. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my name would figure in any list—leave alone a Top 25 one! But more than my name figuring in any list, what fills me with a sense of true achievement is when someone comes up to me out of the blue, holds my hand and says ‘I’m a big fan of yours’ or ‘You’re doing great work’ or just, ‘I’d like to be your friend’…
Q:5 – How did you get into the corporate side of things?
Right from my first job at Asianet, I was juggling multiple roles—a bit of admin, a bit of HR, a bit of PR, a bit of production, and so on. So I guess my familiarity with the different functions of whichever company I was working with at any given point of time plus my natural instinct to network and communicate made it easier for me to move into a corporate role. I love meeting with and talking to people and my TV background has helped me in shedding my inhibitions and boosting my confidence levels. This has proved to be a winning combo, I guess.
Q:6 – What are the challenges you faced as a woman in the corporate world and how did you overcome those?
Even in the so-called professional world of corporates, there is a tendency to slot women into different stereotypes. It’s tough for a woman to go up the corporate ladder purely on her strengths. I’ve always felt that men get easily threatened when they interact with women who are smarter and more ambitious and who don’t fall into any stereotype. I’ve always confronted difficulties or obstacles by meeting them head on. No mincing words, no bitching, no whining, no dining. I make sure that I get along well with all my colleagues irrespective of sex, race, position.
Q:7 – You have a husband and a 13 year old son – was it easy managing family and work? Any special tips that you’d like to share with our readers about the same?
I make sure that I maintain a proper work-life balance. Each of us makes up for the other’s absence, there are no demands of each other and we all have our own space. At home, we don’t play roles of ‘husband’, wife’ , ‘son’, etc. This is the tip that would like to whoever cares to take one.
Q:8 – How has your journey with Ness Technologies been?
The journey at Ness SES has been great. My learning curve has gone up significantly. Handling multiple geographies, like Eastern Europe, Asia , UK and USA, travelling to places like Romania and Slovakia, and meeting people from different cultures and diversity is quite challenging and at the same time, quite enriching.
Q:9 – Do you have any specific success mantra or tips you could share with our readers?
Be good at what you do and do what you’re good at. Success is all about being happy and being true to yourself. There was a time early in my career when things like appraisals, salary hikes, perks were success bench marks but now, going to bed each night feeling good about yourself is all that matters.
Q:10 – On the occasion of women’s day what would you like say ?
I honestly don’t believe in setting apart one day in a year as ‘Women’s Day’. We must celebrate every day as Women’s Day and keep fighting hard to break the mould. We owe it to ourselves.
Smita Diwan a Television Journalist and Communication Specialist with an experience of 10 years in media and leading satellite channels started whatshelikes.in as a digital hub for women in India. Smita specialises in Lifestyle, Home Decor, Health, Food and Product reviews. When she is not working,she is researching or practising yoga! @SmitaDiwanhttps://www.instagram.com/smitadiwan/?hl=en