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Real Women, Real Stories - In Conversation with Shan Jain

Shan Jain is an independent marketing and brand consultant who has been working in the advertising and media industry for 30 years.

Shan personifies the concept of a modern, independent woman who has held several leadership positions such as the Chief Strategy Officer at Madison World. She has worked with several popular brands such as Unilever, Nestle, Titan, and many more. We spoke to her about her career, menopausal journey and her advice for the next generation of female leaders, among other things.

1. What constitutes being an independent marketing and brand consultant?

I work as a consultant CMO for start-ups and mid-sized organisations who are looking for a digital transformation. The first protocol these days is digital media, but most people do not know how to make the most of being present on digital media. My background and knowledge help with communication, media and digital planning.

However, this field is super evolving and there are always too many things to do and learn. It is actually even more hectic than having a regular job. With a regular job you have a schedule to follow and a full team to back you up. When you turn independent you are completely on your own. So, it is quite a task.

2. As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?

I think I am one of the few lucky people to say that I have not faced any major barriers in my career. I have been blessed with fantastic mentors and clients and an excellent personal support system because of whom I have continued working for 30 years now.

In my opinion, this also has a lot to do with the manner in which you plan your life. There is no denying that my mentors have helped me with taking the next step, but I believe it was also because of my mindset. I am a hardworking doer. In my early years, I made a conscious effort to take on responsibilities and I think every leader and mentor wants that person who can carry the vision forward for them.

Even as I moved up the ladder, to leadership positions, I have always tried to inspire and instil confidence in my peers and in those who report to me. I believe that this works towards building a team spirit. I think this is also why I have never faced any barriers and have had a very smooth career.

3. How do you view your health? Are there any changes you have incorporated in your lifestyle to improve overall wellbeing?

I would say, in general, my health is very good. However, I am a bit overweight but that has a lot to do with my eating habits and the sedentary lifestyle that comes with my profession, especially during work from home.

Over the last year, I have tried to be more consistently active. I picked up the habit of going for a long walk in the evenings, after dinner. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do that recently due to the current COVID-19 situation. Apart from that, I have been consulting a nutritionist for the last 3-4 years who has put me on the appropriate diet.

Recently, my body has undergone a few changes, like the weight gain, as I have entered menopause. However, like I said, I am taking the help of a nutritionist who has made me see things from a different perspective. In the last 4 weeks, I have lost around 4.5 kgs.

4. There is a significant hormonal imbalance in women during midlife. Did you experience any challenges that affected your day-to-day life?

I definitely feel that the hormonal imbalance has affected my energy levels and I find myself getting tired very easily. Now that we are all working from home, there is an added advantage of being able to take naps. But I am the kind of person who listens to their mind a lot more than their body, which is why I tend to push myself a lot.

5. How are you supporting your hormonal imbalance and what routine has helped you?

I am taking a few nutrition tablets like CCM which has Calcium Citrate Malate. Other than that, I take Magnesium, Omega and a few ayurvedic medicines which help with the managing the imbalance.

6. What word comes to mind when you hear menopause?

When I hear menopause, I think about weight gain, hot flushes and low energy levels.

7. Do you think you were well equipped to manage hormonal health, or did you wish you knew more about dealing with symptoms?

No, I did not know how to handle these changes, but I really wish I did. All I could do was search my symptoms on Google, but it was not helpful. There was nothing substantial and the websites that I did find required paid subscriptions. I am not sure I would have signed up for that.

8. You had once said you wanted to influence the lives of a million women and girls. What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

I think that women do a lot, and they embrace multiple roles. An average Indian woman plays at least 6-7 roles at any given point. She’s an ideal daughter, partner, friend, wife, daughter-in-law, career woman. So, I would like to tell women that you need to remember to take care of yourself because with all these roles it’s easy to forget that. None of these roles are about taking care of yourself because that isn’t something that comes automatically to us.

My advice is that a leadership position emanates from this very basic insight that we don’t shine a spotlight on ourselves and I don’t think you should go out to deliberately shine that spotlight on yourself. However, if it is there you should embrace it, talk about your achievements and be able to put it out there because there is so much to learn from women in leadership positions. When you talk about your achievements, you can enable and inspire a lot of other women.

9. Who are the prominent female influences in your life?

In the early years of my life, I used to draw a lot of inspiration from, and advertising person named Roda Mehta. She was an iconic leader who used to always wear chiffon saris and a pearl necklace. I used to find her very graceful and confident. She always seemed extremely sure of her steps as a leader. Sadly, my opportunity to work with her wasn’t very long but she influenced me a lot.

Photo credit - Campaign India

There was also another lady who taught me the importance of knowing which battles you need to fight and which to let go. Not every battle is meant for you to fight. In order for you to be effective, you have got to know the difference between which ones you should take on and which ones you should let go.

10. Do you think menopause is a taboo subject and would you want more women to talk about it?

It is not a taboo subject at all but yes, I do hope for more conversation around it because I do not think there is enough authentic information out there. I would definitely want more education on ways to handle and cope with the symptoms of menopause.

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