Getting my first phone is a memory I recall vividly; it was an amethyst Motorola flip phone which had a burning orange fire visual that would pop up whenever I opened it. I was the only girl in school with that specific model. And to date, that phone is the coolest, most unique gadget I have ever owned.
As is common before a big purchase in a middle-class Indian household, there had to be a solid justification for this luxury. I still can hear mum’s words ringing clearly in my ears: “this phone is for you to stay connected with us whenever you are out on your own; this is for us to have access to you at all times.”
Connected. That was the first time I heard that word. Little did I know, this would go on to become a buzzword for decades to come. What I was even more unaware of was the importance that this word was going to play in my own life.
When the time came for me to make the biggest move of my life, leaving home for university in 2018, I remember reassuring my mother with the same reassurance she once had given me: “We will WhatsApp call every day, it will not even feel like I am in another continent.”
"Connected. That was the first time I heard that word. Little did I know, this would go on to become a buzzword for decades to come."
In 2018, I moved to the Netherlands to pursue my undergraduate studies in media with a specialization in journalism and a minor in rhetoric at the University of Groningen. Just before my final year of university, the pandemic began, changing the course of our lives. I recall frantically handing my CV to everyone I knew and looking for jobs on all online portals possible. That was, until Rakuten Symphony.
Even after my interview, I was not convinced Rakuten would have a place for someone like me. A media major who had never even walked near the neighborhood of telecom, let alone had any experience working in it. What skills could I bring to the table that they would value? What could it do for my career advancement? These are questions I brought with me to my first day at work. Not the ideal start, is it?
But as they say, time is the best teacher. And patience, a true virtue. Age-old proverbs I finally realized the day I made the switch to Product Marketing.
I joined Product Marketing in July this year. What I have learned in the past four months astounds me. It’s funny the parallel journey the products and I share; while we at product marketing empower products with a voice, product marketing is doing the exact same for me. What I enjoy is the freedom to try my hands at different things, not just within my own team but also with other teams under the same department. I learned new skills such as producing Q&A documents for technical products and writing competitive analyses of companies. But that did not mean I had to part ways with my own expertise. I still get to hone my proofreading skills.
"I feel this is the biggest lesson I have learned here: no one is big or small, it’s your experience in your field that counts. You are the master of your craft, despite your age."
We are a small but powerhouse team right now: Paul Black (the Global VP of Product Marketing and my manager) and myself. Daunting, right? I thought the same. A Global VP with over 30 years of experience and a 22-year-old just starting out her career. All my apprehensions died the day Paul asked me to review a piece he had written. “Okay, so now, I must critically find faults in a piece my manager has written,” I thought to myself flabbergasted. I feel this is the biggest lesson I have learned here: no one is big or small, it’s your experience in your field that counts. You are the master of your craft, despite your age. However nerve-racking it is when Paul throws challenges at me, it only goes to show the belief he has had in my ability to tackle them.
What I find unique about Rakuten Symphony is the ease with which you can communicate with senior executives. The walls aren’t so high that your voice goes unheard and there is mutual respect. Instead of being reminded you are a mere fresh graduate, you are considered a critical voice bringing in a fresh perspective representing a whole generation.
Telecom has always been a reliable constant in our lives, something we tend to forget and take for granted, especially us millennials and Gen Z. It has shadowed our lives for as long as we can remember. Today, we thrive in this global village because of telecom.
From someone who did not know what the ‘G’ in 5G stood for, to now, already two product launches in, I feel I have come a long way. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg and I have a long journey ahead, filled with many challenges coupled with a heap of knowledge-gathering opportunities; a lived experience I hope to share with people in the same boat as me. I hope my story helps people like me feel less like a misfit. There is a place for us all; we just must be willing to take that leap of faith. We are not uninvited guests. We are active participants in a technological revolution. And as history has proven time and time again, when there is a revolution, the greater the diversity of voices, the greater the chance of overthrowing age-old archaic traditions and welcoming a brighter future.