Oozing out with confidence and the ability to work harder than before, Smita Gadkari tells Anjana Parikh that she never felt challenged as an Asian woman building her career in the UK. The new admissions manager at Anglia Ruskin University, one of the largest universities in the East of England, Smita talks about the changes in the education sector in the UK, and how the country is becoming a popular destination for higher education
AL: Tell us in brief about yourself?
Smita: I am an ambitious and hardworking British Asian woman born and brought up in India. I belong to a simple Maharashtrian family where my parents taught me the significance of simple living and high thinking. I went on to do a Bachelor’s degree in Science, a post graduate diploma in Business management and a Master’s degree in HRM and acquired many skills through my corporate work experience. I have gained a considerable experience of working in the education sector from my previous jobs and have been fortunate to work with good colleges in the UK. I currently work with Anglia Ruskin University which is one of the largest universities in the East of England. I shall soon be preparing to take up new responsibility as admissions manager for professional development courses at ARU within their Corporate Marketing, International and Development Services.
AL: Who has been the inspiration in life?
Smita: I have always been inspired by strong women who have gone against all odds to achieve what they aspired to. But a constant stimulation for me has been my inner strength which encourages me to believe in myself and keep faith that I will achieve no matter what may come.
AL: How has the education system in this country changed?
Smita: There have been significant changes in the education sector in the UK in recent years with respect to expansion in participation in higher education, the globalisation of the sector, increasing demand for higher skills levels in the labour market, changes to the funding regime and increasing expectations from policy makers on the role of universities. Currently working in the HE sector, I believe that higher education institutions are one of the key drivers of the knowledge economy in the UK.
AL: You’ve worked as international co-ordinator for some of the renowned colleges in the UK. What’s your perception about students coming to the UK for higher studies?
Smita: Having worked in international student recruitment, I have found that UK has been a popular destination for international students for higher degree courses. The growth in international students has brought with it many benefits for British higher education, both academic and financial, but it has also resulted in the growth of new needs and demand for vigilance. This can be curbed by the policy makers and HEIs working together to retain the status of UK higher education. I believe that international students play a key part in framing UK’s reputation as a global leader in research and higher education and the focus must be on attracting and welcoming them.
AL: Like in other fields, educational institutions too have adopted their own marketing strategy. Can marketing help to filter good from bad students and vice-versa?
Smita: Any new marketing strategy can pose several challenges but I believe that it is essential for institutions to create appropriate risk management practices to ensure that the integrity of their admission processes are not compromised. A better understanding of global student mobility trends and their relationship to the applicant pipeline will help institutions channel their efforts in the right direction and thus, help in filtering good applications.
AL: Currently, you’re associated with Anglia Ruskin University as their admissions officer; have you ever felt challenged as an Asian woman?
Smita: I have never felt challenged as an Asian woman building my career here in the UK as I believe that it doesn’t matter what country or background you come from, success comes to you if you have the right spirit. And since I had the spirit to learn, to grow, and to achieve, I was supported by colleagues and higher officials in all my jobs to progress.
AL: How difficult was it for you to climb the success ladder
Smita: I believe that success follows when there is hard work and strength of mind. There will always be obstacles in form of situations and people that will test you more than others, but this should only make you stronger to fulfil your ambitions. I have had my own set of failures and down turns in life but nothing could take away my inner strength and belief in me. Determination and patience have helped me overcome any obstacles in my life and have made me step up in my career.
AL: As an Asian woman with such a huge job responsibility, how do you maintain work-life balance?
Smita: It is pretty difficult to handle work and personal life as a professional woman and raising a young family. As a mother I believe it is my responsibility to provide a strong foundation to my son, imbibe traditional values in him and guide him in a way that will not only enable him to become successful but also a good human being. At the same time, I do have huge responsibilities at work especially when I deal with students and their careers; I have to do justice to both and I have managed to strike a balance by knowing my priorities and time management.
AL: After marriage, several career-oriented women give priorities to their family life; and, this is also one of the reasons why we don’t have many women on top. What’s your opinion on this?
Smita: It all depends on what you want from life. I love my family but at the same time I desire to create my own identity as an individual. My parents have taken great efforts to educate me and I want to utilise my qualifications and skills, display them and create my own little mark in the big world. Besides being ambitious, I believe that you also need family support to give you the space and freedom to follow your dreams. I have been very lucky to have a life partner who has stood with me in all steps of life and been supportive in whatever I do and a very understanding son who is still very young but makes me proud in the way he is growing up.
AL: Any tips to aspiring women entrepreneur/ professional who want to follow your footsteps?
Smita: Never give up on your dreams. There is no limit be it in terms of age, time or gender to what you can achieve. Your dreams are yours and no one can snatch them from you. All you need to do is believe in yourself, and work towards making them come true.