Dimple Kaul

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Rooted in the Vale of Kashmir, Dimple Kaul had the capacity to test her own strengths. She probably was the first from her generation to opt for a professional course placed here in a male-dominated vertical. Now settled in the US, she spoke about her challenges, about her emotional connection with her birthplace, Kashmir.

Excerpts from an interaction with Rajesh Prothi

Probably you were one of the very few females from Kashmir to opt for a mechanical course. Why was that?
Mechanical Engineering was a field of choice. During my young years, I wanted to test my own strengths and notions that girls are equally capable of holding ground in places usually dominated by men so I opted out of Electrical Engineering. I can’t say if my parents were entirely happy with my decision, however as always, they supported me. I spent three months of internship at the watch unit of HMT Ranibagh. A program was designed for me to experience work on shop floors with jobs of varying difficulties as well through departments such as Finance, HR, IT, etc. After going through the program, I was convinced that I had made the right choice. My first job out of college was with L&T. I vividly recall being the only girl among 150+ odd young engineers who joined the Powaii office. Not for a minute was I intimidated by the environment. I still draw a lot of strength from my Engineering years as it rounded my personality. Every time I look back on life, this is one decision I am very proud of.

Also, over the years I have met a few amazing Kashmiri ladies who are Mechanical Engineering graduates.

What has been the most interesting aspect of Kashmiri life, which you cherish to date?
There are several things that I cherish to date and will continue to reminisce about. The aspect of Kashmiri life I often think about are the rich culture, proximity of relations, and carefree childhood. I cherish the moments spent watching my paternal grandma knitting and humming Kashmiri songs. I treasure my visits to my maternal grandparent’s home, which were an absolute delight. I cherish the winter evenings spent playing cards with my parents and sister.

I prize summers spent with my brothers and sisters (cousins). I cherish the memory of the smell and hint of crisp spring mornings, sights of bright summer, lush gardens and flower-laden bushes, and crunchy sounds of amber Chinar leaves during autumn.

Any anecdote from your school days?
In Kashmir, I studied at Walden. I recall having taken the final exam for 3rd or 4th grade. I must have performed poorly in geography. My favorite elementary teacher, Maqsooda Maam, called me into a room placed a square slap on my face and sat me down to re-take the test. During my early school days, my propensity toward extra-curricular activities and studies was an afterthought. The only reason to study and cram for the exam was the fear of facing dad with a poor report card or disappointing my favorite teachers. I feel teachers, like my family, had a vested interest in making me tread the right path.

How has your professional journey been?
My professional journey, so far, has been a bit erratic yet very interesting. I never planned my career but always went seeking the next challenge. I started the journey with L&T and soon after joined Infosys, where I worked for close to six years. In 2002, I joined a health care insurance company in the US and was involved with the implementation of one of the most far-reaching US legislative acts, HIPAA. I learned a lot about the strategic decision process and its implications on the entire industry.  Around that time I decided to pursue MBA, an idea I had been toying with for quite some time. I joined the University of Michigan and focused on Strategy and Finance. After B-school, I joined an energy company as a Strategy Analyst and later worked in the company’s M&A, Investor Relations, Natural Gas exploration, and Storage divisions and on the strategic advisory team for the Carbon Emission Control and Renewable Portfolio during one of the worst economic depressions. Around three and a half years ago, an opportunity arose to work at Microsoft in the Advertising space. I have been managing the finance for Emerging Markets Advertising since. Our teams have operations in Central & Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia (excluding Japan), and Latin America (excluding Brazil). It is an interesting undertaking as apart from core professional skills, the job demands sensitivity to the cultural and emotional aspects of doing business across the world. I am enjoying the space and challenge so far.

You are married into a non-Kashmiri family. How are you keeping in touch with your traditions?
I live in the US with my husband, Sanjay, and our two wonderful girls. I believe the culture is shaped and influenced predominantly by the lady of the house. My core is Kashmiri and following all the traditions is very important to me. My husband has always given me the freedom and encouragement to follow the traditions that make me who I am. The whole family is very enthusiastic and looks forward to celebrating Herath, Punn, Gade-batt, Ketch Amavas, etc.

Our kids are aware and constantly learning about their Kashmiri roots. At home, I am the storyteller and the one who spends the most time with them. Often, I tell them tales about Kashmir, culture, places, beauty, my childhood, etc. It has become a family tradition and they come seeking these tales. I am not sure if kids understand emotions related to these tales, but I know I am giving them a strong foundation. An amazing offshoot of this exercise is, as I go looking for information to feed the two young minds, I am learning a ton about Kashmir, history, and cultural evolution.

Apart from exposure to the traditions and cultures at home, our family is also involved with the Kashmiri Association of the northwest. We often meet to celebrate traditions, sing and dance together, and eat a lot of good Kashmiri food. This provides kids and us with a sense of community.