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Inspiring Business Women: Poonam Gupta

​With over 10 years’ experience in recruitment, Poonam joined AS Dubai in 2016 and has since gone on to lead the Accounting & Finance team. UK trained; Poonam has a strong track record in recruiting permanent Finance professionals with a focus on senior levels. She has gained valuable experience in dealing with small to large international businesses and working in different markets. Poonam specialises in placing permanent FMs, FCs, FDs and CFOs in the following locations: GCC, Middle East, Levant, North Africa, India, Turkey & Pakistan.

Can you tell us about your career progression to date and any key traits that have helped you get where you are?

I started as a recruitment consultant in London and then joined Argyll Scott as an opportunity to move to Dubai as a Senior Consultant. One of the things that has helped me is my determination. Starting out in a new country, on your own, where you don't know many people, requires pure determination to really want to do it. I came out here for the tax-free lifestyle and to succeed and my determination has really been key. Secondly, along my career journey, having successful leaders and being around people that can mentor you and support you in your development has been incredibly helpful.

Do you think that your gender has ever hindered you or blocked any personal progression?

I don't think so, no, but I am someone who will always strive to prove myself and challenge any gender stereotypes so that they can’t stand in my way. Women are often expected to be soft or warm, compared to men, and if you stray away from that, you’re considered unreasonable or cold. I think it’s important that as women we challenge those stereotypes by stepping up, expressing ourselves and showing that we have both sides. At Argyll Scott, there are a lot of female leaders and women in senior management, so I genuinely feel there is equal opportunity here and my progression has never been blocked at all.

As a mother, how do you balance your work life with your personal life?

It is definitely challenging because both roles are equally important to me and I want to do them both as best I can. You have to have real commitment and not get distracted. Argyll Scott allows me to work four days instead of five, meaning I can totally focus on my work and my team while my child is at nursery, and then I can switch off and wholly focus on being a mother. It’s also been crucial to build the right sort of team that enables that work/life balance, so we have invested in hiring strong people that I can completely rely on when I am not there. It works for everyone, because it also gives my team the opportunity to step up and take on more responsibility, which is great. Finding that balance was really important to me when I became a mother because I feel like women are often seen as a failure if they quit work or do fewer hours, and I wanted to create a situation where I was able to give 100% to both my work and my family. The business has helped me develop the right team and it really works, so I couldn’t be happier.

What advice would you give to working mothers about how they could progress their careers?

Speak to your manager; speak to your mentor and seek advice. Don’t look at it as complaining, but instead as coming up with solutions that work for you and don't hinder the business. Never feel that you’re not right for the position, because there are always solutions, such as working different hours to other people. Try to think of solutions that are not just short term, but which will also help your development. It’s one thing to manage your role now, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t have your eye on developing your future career too.

Can you pinpoint when you first noticed an emphasis on diversity and inclusion around you?

I think diversity and inclusion has always been there, it just hasn’t been on everyone's agenda until recently. At the moment, almost every role we get asked to fill, they say they’re lacking females, they need more women. A couple of years ago, specifying a certain gender was frowned upon! I've just placed a very senior female supply chain director and the company can’t wait to get her on board because the executive level is all male at the moment and they really want that diversity at leadership level. So, the emphasis is changing all the time. Here in Dubai, the local maternity leave law is 45 days, which means that a lot of women don’t come back to their careers once they have children, but the international businesses here are able now to follow international standards, so more organisations are able to offer six months and really support women’s careers better.

In your experience, what are the benefits of diverse teams and diverse organizations?

Studies generally show that diverse teams are more productive. Men and women bring differences to solving tomorrow's problems and I see that a lot in my own management meetings here where I am the only woman. Conversations go in a different direction when different perspectives are added, and gender brings a different perspective – it would be the same with one man in a meeting full of women, having a balance allows the conversation to flow better. Similarly, cultural diversity brings fresh ideas and perspectives. I grew up in London as a British Indian, alongside Arabic, Chinese and English people, and here in Dubai, we’re all from very different nationalities and backgrounds and that adds so much value. You're still in an Arab country here of course, but there is common ground between us all and everyone adds value to each conversation you have with a candidate, client or colleague. They are getting more on board with women leadership here too. It takes time, but it’s getting there.

What advice do you have for young women looking to make a career in the recruitment industry?

This isn't necessarily specific to recruitment but find a role that fulfils you and that really helps you grow. Be confident and learn continuously and don't be afraid of taking risks. The minute you feel that you can't get involved in a conversation, take a risk and speak up because your opinion matters and what you say will add value and make people think. It’s also very important to have open discussions with your boss about what inspires you and where you want to be, and to let them know your ambitions, even if those are challenging conversations. Often the outcome will be better than you think! Try to learn from other people along the way too. It doesn’t matter what level they are at, or what their role is, there is so much to learn from other people. And let them learn from you too – help wherever you can in their careers. Recruitment has allowed me to forge the career I want, and I don’t see any ceiling for me, particularly at Argyll Scott. If you have a clear understanding of where you want to go, then the only person who can stand in your way is you.

Posted 8 months ago
About the author:
Denise Dima

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