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Interview with Sabitha Rao

Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career.
A. I am a post graduate in management from IIM-Calcutta. I started my career with Citibank, and after a two-year stint at their corporate office, I moved to AF Ferguson and Co. (AFF) where I handled a diverse client base ranging from family managed organisations to multinationals and international aid organisations such as World Bank and UNICEF.

Q. How has the career HR journey been for you?
A. At AFF, my assignments covered all aspects of HR including organisation restructuring, compensation surveys, training, performance management and job evaluations. Eight years later, when I moved to American President Lines, I was looking after HR for the West Asia region accounting for about 450 employees. I am glad to add that I joined Cerebrus after 18 years of experience behind me, and established the Chennai branch of the company.

Q. How would you classify your work experiences?
A. There has been lots of learning alongwith lots of fun.

Q. What motivates you to work harder each day?
A. It is the variety - the people I meet and the different situations I face.

Q. The best part of your job?
A. The diversity that it offers.

Q. Your toughest decision?
A. The toughest career decision I made was when I moved out of the banking arena into consulting.

Q. Your best career moment?
A. When I made the switch from the finance function to HR.

Q. What is the next corporate step you would like to take?
A. All my work so far has largely focussed in the regions of India and Sri Lanka. I now want to try and work in a different culture.
Q. What is the most prominent HR trend today?
A. HR today is about balancing the needs of the business and employees. This balancing act is what really stands out for me.

Q. How do you unwind after a long day at work?
A. I read a lot because that makes me feel very relaxed after a tiring day.

Q. Your favourite book?
A. I have a few favourites but most of them are quite old! One is ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck. Recently, I read Richard Attenborough’s autobiography called ‘Entirely Up To You, Darling.’ It is a lovely book and a must-read for every book lover.

Q. Who is your role model?
A. I do not have any role models!

Q. Your favourite cuisine?
A. I like having Kerala fish curry with rice and poppadums.

Q. Do you like health foods?
A. Yes, fruits and juices.

Q. Your favourite movie?
A. ‘12 Angry Men’ is my favourite and I have seen it many times, because I gain new insights everytime I watch it.

Q. Where would your ideal holiday destination be?
A. It will be a place where I can have nature and books as my companions. I really enjoyed my trip to Madison in Wisconsin. Austria is a place I have not been to yet, but would love to go.

Q. Any advice you would like to share with our readers?
A. Seek out different experiences, meet different people, travel to different places, and read different books!

Q. Are you interested in taking up social initiatives?
A. Yes I am, and this would be in the area of education for children.

Q. Your opinion on managing Generation X and Y employees?
A. Both these generations consist of really smart people. The only difference is that the latter is more technologically oriented than the former. Every organisation should maintain a mixture of these two generations.