The automobile is masculine, isn’t it?
Do you know that Director of Automotive Research Association of India is a woman, who can be mistaken with the sweet next-door elderly lady?
Once you talk to her the subtle voice has determination well in place.
Rashmi Urdhwareshe – A name I came across while going through the recipients of Award “Nari-shakti Puraskar” conferred, by Hon’ble President of India. Subsequently, I heard her too when there was a close interaction with Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. She is Director of Automotive Research Association of India also President-Designate, SAE India (Society for Automotive Engineers), along with, Chairperson- Automotive Industry Standards Committed and Transport Division Council- Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
I looked for her on social media and of course, understood that she believes more in doing rather than showbiz and now I had to write about her.
I felt an urge a talk to her, looking at the fact that she chose automation in an era when even engineering was considered to be a man filed.
Living in the city of Pune, Rashmi came across as a warm person with in-depth life experiences! Talking to her on call the initial discussion was around her studies and childhood.
Her house was academic-oriented with both parents as professors Rashmi grew up with her two brothers.
She states, “I was a bright student and as per the norms at that time, I was advised by my parents to choose between a medical or engineering profession. Coming from a well-educated and supportive family, it was quite evident that I must carve a good career for myself.
Choice of taking a degree course in Engineering was truly an adventurous step in the late 70s. With just a handful of girls in the entire college, it was quite a challenging and gruelling experience! But perhaps the college days prepared me to be ready for a tough career! It was a popular belief that Electronics Engineering was more suitable for girls and hence I ended up selecting those subjects!
With my BE and ME degrees in hand, I was hoping and aspiring to make a good career in R&D institute and by sheer luck, came across a position in Automotive Research Association of India in 1983. Automotive was never on my radar but several references about the Institute made me accept the job of Trainee Engineer. Now in retrospection, I think it was a great choice that I made!
This sheer luck I wanted to explore more. How did she come to Pune from Nagpur?
She fondly remembers, “I obtained my degree from VNIT, Nagpur (erstwhile Visvesvaraya Regional College of Engineering) in 1981. Surprisingly, I was married in the same year and as a result, shifted to Pune and then joined the College of Engineering, Pune to obtain a Master’s degree in E&TC.
Towards the end of this 2-year course, I was offered a position of Trainee Engineer at ARAI, which I joined after a lot of debate and persuasion!
During the course of my long career in ARAI, I acquired special skills and competencies through external professional institutions. In the very early part of my career, I was a recipient of UNDP fellowship in Instrumentation Applications under which I received extensive training and orientation in research institutes in the UK and Germany.”
She continues further, “Later on, I became Certified Quality Auditor (CQA) and Six Sigma Black Belt (SSBB) from American Society for Quality (ASQ), Diploma in Corporate Directorship from World Council for Corporate Governance (WCCG) etc.
These professional qualifications greatly helped in effectively handling the changing roles that came my way in ARAI.”
The journey of 37 years!
A working woman is still asked, “How do you manage?” How did she manage back then!
Her answer is a mantra of success to young women.
“People will ask questions. They will make you feel that your career is secondary and your other duties are primary. It is up to us, the women, how she articulates.
Yes, the balance is not easy. But I always kept my work on priority and respected my choice. My work and family both are mine and I won’t love or dedicate myself to anyone lesser than the other.
I was getting life lessons for my self. She continued further, “Like any young woman, most challenges were long duty hours, frequent travels, demanding job, maintaining work-life balance and above all, poise myself into a very male-dominated and oriented automotive field.
I was quick enough to realize and recognize those challenges and worked towards creating my own support system at home and also at work.
For a person like me, who loves to handle challenges, I took them in my own stride and never believed that gender prejudices could ever stop me in achieving my goals. It doesn’t help by crying or cursing the world or society around you! Only self-help works!
There were times when a lot of my energy un-necessarily went in proving myself, at home as well as at work. But ultimately one gets to be recognized by her worth!
Road of life has potholes too…What kept you keep going in tough times?
After a pause, “I am a very self-motivated person and work (technical or otherwise) is the biggest motivator for me. I gather all my energy and soul to handle those tough times. There were plentiful tough times in my 36 years of a long career. Thinking back, toughest times often came when handling persons rather than handling technical matters.
I have trained myself to put career ahead of job, organization ahead of bosses and values & ethics ahead of any other matters. These were my guiding principles and enabled me to sail through rough waters.
This was something I still recapitulate and ponder upon. Life mantra spoken with such simplicity and clarity gave me the secret to her success.
Who is one person you look up to or feel has the biggest contribution towards building up your personality?
I personally believe that not one single person but quite many persons I can look upon in life. I owe a great deal to my parents for giving me all possible opportunities in shaping up my hobbies, fundamental and family values, technical education and so much more. My mother encouraged me to play Bridge tournaments which enabled me to be a champion at the Collegiate level and Vidarbha level. She also saw that I learnt to play the Sitar and developed a keen interest in classical music.
It is my husband, Hemant, who has stood rock solid behind me at every moment. We share a lot of common interests like instrumental music, technical writing, travels, social commitments and such.
At work, it has been my 3 mentors, who at different times were my bosses and also were previous Directors of ARAI. From them, I learnt my management and leadership lessons.
I wanted to know more about her family now and her aspirations!
“My son is an automobile engineer and Daughter in law is an Endodontist. We all live together in Pune along with my Mother-in-law who is 96 years old. I am writing a book – Women at Workplace along with others which are more towards technical topics.”
After so many achievements, any bucket list?
“bucket List! Yes, a lot of. I wanted to travel across the country by road. Want to participate in rallies. I am a passionate traveller and love road travel!”
Ah, This was predictable!
As we were wrapping up our call this came as generic yet extremely important. What does the term “empowered woman” mean to you.
“Empowering starts with creating one’s dreams and aspirations. Then comes enabling yourself to chase those dreams and take control of all the actions that emerge out of situations. One has to be mindful that the consequences of these actions are a natural follow-through of such enabling environment. So in my view empowerment is a state of mind where a woman is able to pursue her own dreams and be responsible for the choices she makes.”
As we wished goodbyes, I look forward to meeting her someday. She is the woman next door who chose to live life on her own terms yet followed the norms. Worklife balance is talked about at the top skill development seminar, is a way of life for Rashmi Urdhwareshe!
To read more by the Author
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