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Balancing the Grind with Chandini Manoharan, APAC Telecommunications Analyst at Meta

Chandini Manoharan is an APAC Telecommunications Analyst at Meta, where she oversees 12 markets across APAC supporting employee IT needs.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve had a colourful career journey working various roles and meeting diverse people. I’ve been a teacher in a junior college, a journalist for a national paper, and a business specialist for an international telco. Although the fields were unique, I have always seen a common thread across my roles: driving value by solving problems with innovative solutions. 

I serendipitously entered the tech world and am currently a Telecommunications Analyst at Meta. I oversee 12 markets across APAC supporting employee IT needs. But I would like to think that my current role stretches beyond my corporate identity. I double up as an equal partner in managing a household and a filial daughter who attends to her parents’ needs. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

If there is an apt description of a day in my life, it would be organised chaos. There is plenty happening but I have full autonomy over it.

I work in a role that is demanding and requires attention to detail. As such, I try to keep my mind the sharpest from the second I begin work. I start my preparations for my workday the night before, listing all the tasks according to complexity and duration.

As the wave of pandemic continues to sweep across the globe, there is an equally mighty wave that is turning us topsy turvy – the tsunami of emails and virtual calls. I try not to fall prey to this torrent and carve out a couple of hours of deep work amidst my meetings. I love using the focus mode on my iPhone to turn off all notifications and give my undivided attention to the task at hand.

In between work, I shift gears to focus on the household – be it a quick grocery run or meal preparation. Healthy home cooked food is very important for my mental state and physical health so I make no compromises in ensuring my nourishment. 

A warm cup of tea and light music are my companions as I plough through my to-do list. As and when needed, I take a pause. Some breathing space is important, we are not robots arrested to our seats.

After work, I head to the gym for a hit (read HIIT) of endorphins. Exercising right after work helps me demarcate my personal time, especially during these times of WFH. After a quick dinner paired with a brainless show on Netflix that makes me laugh, it is usually time to chat with some like-minded passionate folks.

I lead the Membership committee and Leadership Development committee of TechForShe and Young Women’s Leadership Connection respectively and we hold regular night calls.

My day is not complete without checking in with my parents. It is very important to me that they are heard and in a good mental space. Equally so as speaking to them offers me solace and comfort – I am still a child like that.

The day ends by reading some words of wisdom from my favourite authors or a meditative soundtrack when I prefer some visual rest.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

With the pandemic drastically altering our lives and routines, remote working has afforded enormous amounts of flexibility in my role. It took a couple of months of trial and error before figuring out a work from home routine that suited me best.

In fact, I’ve been far more productive working from home rather than in the office. The saved commute time has allowed me to enjoy my morning tea a little longer and head out for mid-day workouts without sacrificing productivity. 

I started my current role during the pandemic when everyone was working from home, so I do miss water cooler conversations and real face to face interactions with my colleagues. However, I enjoy working remotely on days where I want to get deep work done.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Juggling my responsibilities as an individual and as a professional has taught me that work-life integration is more important than compartmentalizing work and life as two separate entities. Our dual identity should be complementary, not competitive. 

I come from a humble background where my dad worked multiple jobs to provide the best for me. His hustle has always inspired me to give the best that I can but not at the expense of neglecting the other essential parts of life. Family, play, and passion is very important to me and finding equal time for all of them is the defining factor of work life balance for me.

Time with my mum, working on a passion project, intimate conversations with my husband – these are the nourishing elements that help me focus on my craft and climb the corporate ladder.

It is easy to lose sight of your goals with the bustle of workdays. So, I audit my goals and routines seasonally to ensure that I am adequately present in my different roles. And I prefer to do this with pen and paper; there is power to feeding ink to your thoughts and reflecting on it. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

For someone who used to trek mountains and spend time with nature at least twice a year, the halt on travel has made me scramble to fill the void. I searched for an activity I can lose myself in and have recently picked up indoor rock climbing. I am still very much an amateur, but I love the state of flow and challenge it presents. 

The constant bombardment of COVID-19 news and ongoing restrictions have often created a sinking feeling that nothing will ever be the same. It doesn’t help that WFH with limited interaction and movement traps your mind.

Meditation has been a gamechanger to fight these voices in my head. The deep breathing techniques have calmed my busy mind and helped me get a good night’s sleep – an important ingredient of productivity for me.

I have learned to appreciate the small things in life and find joy within my four walls. Maybe social distancing wasn’t a bad thing after all if it brings you closer to yourself?

Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Podcasts I tune into regularly:

  • The Strategy Skills Podcast
  • The Knowledge Project
  • Today Explained 

Books that have made an impression:

  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight 
  • How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon
  • My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future by Indra Nooyi 

Newsletters I enjoy reading:

  • Visual Capitalist does a great job at designing beautiful charts and infographics about technology, people, markets and so much more. 
  • McKinsey has an insightful newsletter spanning most topics about the world today
  • Farnam Street by Shane Parrish always provides nuggets of wisdom on mental models and behaviours.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Notion pretty much runs my life. I’ve spent immense amounts of time creating the perfect dashboard to track everything important in my life. 

Balance is my go-to meditation app. They’ve an entire section dedicated to sleep!

Spotify for all my podcast and focus music needs.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Jane Fraser, the CEO of Citigroup has broken the highest and hardest glass ceiling in the banking world. I’d love to hear her thoughts on life and work.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

We are beyond the screens, spreadsheets and slides we work on every day. We are individuals with a myriad of dreams, goals and roles in life. Discovering what brings you joy is key to living a happy and fulfilling life. Be it living in the Bahamas with a private jet or working with a NGO for a noble cause, map out the small steps you can take that will bring you closer to that goal. 

Some days, you will stumble and question if you’re losing balance. But life is not a tightrope and you are not walking up in the air. You can simply put your foot on the ground to regain your balance and keep moving forward. 

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.