The INSEAD Women in Business Club have launched a « Tell your story » initiative across both the Singapore and Fontainebleau campuses that aims to present the current INSEAD MBA female students’ inspirational life-stories. This is the story of Nidhi Kapoor, MBA ’17D. Original story published here.
Could you give us a brief introduction about yourself?
I am Nidhi Kapoor Khetarpal from India. Prior to INSEAD, I was working at the India office of the Asian Development Bank as an Economist, and was responsible for gauging the impact of infrastructure development on welfare outcomes such as poverty, education and health.
What have been highlights and challenges of your journey so far?
I come from a middle-class family. Both my parents are graduates from Tier 2 cities in India and did not pursue further education. I studied in a missionary catholic school where quality of education was great but exposure to extra-curricular activities was comparatively limited. Also, there were limited resources at school for guiding students on options available post high-school. By the time I finished high-school, I had practically no guidance from the usual sources on what to do next, except for my own interest in development work, which I had discovered while teaching mental math to kids of domestic helpers in our locality. Because of my interest in Economics, I enrolled myself for a Bachelors in Economics, with scholarship, at India’s best college. I graduated with a distinction and pursued Econ further to attain a Masters in Economics. Being a student in India, the greatest challenge anyone faces is competition. The ratio of opportunities to seekers is very low, and to add to that, reservations for certain sections of the society make it extremely difficult to get into premiere institutions. The point being that I am proud of what I have achieved through merit, hard-work and perseverance.
Post my Masters, I was hired by PwC India as part of their Government Advisory unit. I was part of the only team advising on clean energy in India at that time. Also, being the only Economist in my team, my journey at PwC was not without its challenges. I had to always push to get my teammates to understand my approach towards certain tasks and convince them that it was the right and in most cases the most efficient approach. However, I am glad that my efforts did not go in vain and I was the youngest employee to have been promoted in the 1st appraisal cycle. After working in PwC for a year and a half, I got an opportunity at the Asian Development Bank as an Economist where I went on to spend 5 years researching impact of infrastructure development on welfare outcomes. It was here that I could fulfil my passion for development work. I plan to continue working in this domain and my decision to come to INSEAD is also a step in the direction of fulfilling my ambition. I want to move from research into development financing, and INSEAD provides me the relevant skills and network.
Coming to INSEAD has been a tough decision both financially and personally. I am sure it will all be worth it.
Did you encounter stereotypical behaviors in your environment while growing up or in your career? If yes, could you elaborate?
I started my career in a large 19 member team where I was the only woman. While one might assume that I would have faced many biases given the gender imbalance, I would say I faced none or maybe I never looked at challenges from the gender perspective. I always made my team treat me as the 19th member and not as the one female member. There were several occasions where I had disagreements with teammates on work but I never felt that anyone undermined my talent just because of me being a woman. I do admit that I had to make an extra effort to get accepted in the men’s world but I guess I never let anyone perceive me as anything besides a professional. There were instances when a few people made sexist comments but I always confronted them about it then and there in a polite manner. The same was the case at ADB. I am not sure if I have just been lucky to be around men who do not stereotype women or if I have been able to successfully teach them to treat me as just another individual.
What are the skills that you find particularly helpful in mitigating and resolving conflicts? Can you give an example of when and how you used these skills?
The most important skill I use as a professional is patience and tolerance. It is very easy to lose your calm and react aggressively to sexist comments or stereotypes, but that, in my opinion, makes things worse. Gender empowerment to me means gender equality and not favoring any one type over the other. I focus on not losing my calm, and instead let my work do the talking. I have never shied away from putting my points forward, nor let anyone take me for granted nor compromised my self-esteem, values and principles, and I am till date respected for this.
What was the most helpful advice that has ever been given to you?
Heard it in a movie: “Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something” and have lived by it ever since.
What triggered the move to INSEAD?
I felt the need to grow in my current job and organization. As mentioned earlier, I am keen on moving from a research oriented role into a more hands-on financing role. Also, I needed to get out of my comfort zone and experience working in new geographies. INSEAD was my 1st and only choice for a few key reasons: being located in Singapore, it cannot get more cosmopolitan; the 1-year duration is apt as it means a shorter break from work; the kind of employers that come to INSEAD ensures that RoI of the program is high. Finally, INSEAD promises diversity and half-way into the program, it has already delivered it in many ways. The pace of the program has pushed me outside my comfort zone and stretched me to new potentials.
If you had to name one take-away or lesson learnt from INSEAD, what would it be?
INSEAD taught me to prioritize and recognize my non-negotiables. My key takeaways from INSEAD are that that no matter where I go or work, it is extremely important to always stay true to myself despite merging into diverse cultures and to always remember what my own capabilities are whilst learning from others.
If you had a chance to have dinner with someone dead or alive, who would that be? What is the one question you would like to ask him/her?
Sachin Tendulkar. He is the greatest cricketer in the history of India. He has been my role model since childhood and I have learned the value of passion, hard-work, perseverance and humility from him.
If given a chance I will ask him how he manages to maintain his humility despite being the most successful cricketers of all times. He has never let his success get to his head and that is why I respect him so much
What is your definition of success?
Making a positive contribution to the lives of others so that they remember me even when I am gone.
Nidhi Kapoor is an Economist from India. She was working at the Asian Development Bank prior to joining INSEAD. She has worked both in the public and private sectors and understands (through her experience) the need and importance of gender equality at all kinds of workplaces. She strongly believes in and advocates gender equality (which reads differently from gender empowerment) and one of her reasons to join INSEAD was to experience the gender dynamics in a multi-cultural and diverse setting as INSEAD.