Puja Malla | Channel Head – STM Microelectronics
Due to the situation in the 1990s, like many, her family left Kashmir. Countless moments were left behind like many unfinished chores. After finishing her schooling in Delhi, she went on to Rajiv Gandhi College of Engineering Research and Technology, Chandrapur for a B.Tech. Today she is Channel Head with STM Microelectronics.
Excerpts from the interaction with Rajesh Prothi
How come you opted to tread a different path, away from the traditional thought process of Kashmiris by joining the electronic & power industry?
My thought process was no different from any other Kashmiri of our times. Being a woman, I too wanted to be a doctor. But destiny had a different plan for me. Looking back I am happy and satisfied and have no regrets about my profession or anywhere I am today.
While we were in Srinagar, my father would always joke that he could get me a medical seat anywhere in the world since we owned a lot of land. Nonetheless post 1990, after moving to Delhi we knew things were not the same.
I had Biology as my major subject and during my senior school after dissecting a few rats. I would act as if I had already become a doctor. But what was in store for me was something else.
You could not qualify or due to some external issue, you could not get into the medical line?
None of the above factors, I had identified medicine and had worked hard. However, at the time of the entrance examination, I got food poisoning and could not appear. The next thought which came to me was to reappear the following year. My mother was having a different thought process. She urged that I should not waste a year and should start off with B.E. and attempt MBBS the following year.
That first year of B.E. was the worst part of my life. I was waiting for the year to end so that I could attempt medical entrance again.
Was there a change of heart or did something else happen which made you continue with B.E.?
In my first year, I was knocked out of two subjects. This was a wake-up call me for. Throughout my school, I had been among the top students in the class. This was a major blow. My parents asked me to take it easy and return to Delhi as my heart was not in B.E. But, I did not quit. I took it as a challenge and continued. The next three years turned out to be a beautiful college journey. I finished my B.E. with Distinction.
How was your journey to the college?
That turned out to be remarkable. I handled a lot of official positions in college. Was crowned ‘Miss College’ in the second year. I was part of the college editorial board as well as the Girl’s Representative in the Students Council. I was Vice-Chairperson of the IEEE Students Chapter.
Basically, I was getting groomed to take on the Sales and Marketing profession in my professional life.
Which all companies have you worked in?
Since I started working, I had the opportunity to work and learn at organizations such as Samsung, SDI, BBS Electronics, and Future Electronics. All of them are respectable global organizations dealing in a-state-of-the-art semiconductor distribution.
How do you feel when you come across people from Kashmir while on a business call?
When one is out there in the field, one is just doing a job. You are neither a woman nor a Kashmiri. But yes sometimes when you exchange your business card with another person who turns out to be a Kashmiri, there is always a connection and you have this warm feeling, and you feel that connection.
Where do you see Kashmiri today in the business world?
There are Kashmiri people in my industry who have excelled in their fields and are sitting at top positions so even though we Kashmiris might be a limited lot but let me tell you there is no industry where you will not find a Kashmiri and that too at a top position. Kashmiri’s have carved a niche in all fields and we are respected for our brains besides the beauty.
What have been the high points of your career?
I began as a Sales Engineer in the Semiconductor Distribution Industry and as far as I know there were hardly any ‘lady sales engineers’ in this industry way back in 2000. So I was a kind of a trendsetter.
I got the exposure to work and interact with the top-level management of the electronics manufacturers in India, across all industry segments. I got an opportunity to travel extensively within India and in South East Asia.
Currently, I am handling the Channel Business for my Company across India. In my current organization, we have almost 50K employees worldwide and amongst the lady employees, I was given the mandate to be part of the 30 people Steering Committee of our World Wide Women Network.
On a lighter note, being in ‘sales’, whenever we close an order it is a high point.
What was the reaction of your family & friends when you opted for this career?
I had the full support of my parents when I opted for this career. My dad too is a sales & marketing professional so he very well understood my profile. Fortunately, my in-laws and my husband too are very supportive, they value the hard work I put into my job. My profile requires me to travel a lot so without my family’s support, I might not have been able to do justice to my job.
Was this career by choice or circumstantial?
This career was by choice. By the time, I finished my engineering. I knew my forte was in interacting with people and doing something very dynamic. I could not see myself doing anything else.
The sales job is very dynamic. Every moment we have a new challenge. Every month-end and quarter-end is critical and we have this adrenaline rush to hit our targets.
If you had not opted for B.E., what career you would have opted for?
For sure, if not an engineer then I would have been a doctor or in a profession related to Biotech or Genetics
Do you idolize anyone?
I try to learn and look up to each and every woman who has managed to strike a balance between the professional as well as her personal life, created a niche for herself professionally, and at the same time has a beautiful family to share one’s achievements with. I idolize my mom for she’s made me what I am today.
What is your message for the Kashmiri youth?
The only message I would give to the Kashmiri youth is that there is nothing that stops one from dreaming.
Do what you want to do and do it with full conviction. Also what is important is to have a balanced life, one needs to prioritize
and make choices, which when you look back should make you feel happy and satisfied.
What interests you apart from your professional career?
With the hectic work schedule, I do not get much time to pursue any hobby. However, I love to spend time with my son. It is a great feeling to see him grow. He is a Karate Brown belt and is learning music too.
With such a hectic life, how do you unwind yourself?
I am a Gadget geek and love to play games on my phablet that really helps me unwind. Good music helps me end an eventful day. However, being with the family is the most critical part of being relaxed.
What efforts do you make to keep the culture of Kashmir alive?
I am a proud Kashmiri and I do not leave any opportunity to emphasize that. I try to contribute in my own little ways. Starting with the food habits and lifestyle.
The first language I taught my son was Kashmiri. It is the only language we use at home.
I follow all the customs that have been a part of my Kashmiri upbringing. I continue to wear my Dhaejhoor even while traveling abroad. My Dhaejhoor attracted a lot of attention initially, people would ask me about this piece of jewelry. Now I am sure a lot of Italians, French, Americans, Koreans, Chinese, and Taiwanese know that it signifies my being married.
We celebrate Haerath, Pann , Khache Mavas, and all the other festivals with the same customs that have been passed down the generations.
We have spoken on many aspects except your initial education. Share details about our school journey.
Till my 6th Grade, I was in Presentation Convent Srinagar. Once we moved to Delhi I was studying at Apeejay School, Saket, New Delhi from 7th to 10th. Then I moved on to Gyan Bharati School, Saket from where I finished my 11th & 12th Classes.
During my school and college days, I was very active in extracurricular activities. I was the School Head Girl in Apeejay and won a lot of awards at school and State level in Debate and Poetry recitation/writing etc.