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Maria Pontes | HR professional, Author & Coach

Business Journey Her Journey Startup Journey
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Interviewed by The Success Today – A Digital Webzine.

Could you tell us about yourself and your work?
I come from a family of five siblings. My parents were uneducated but had dreams of educating us. My father is a car mechanic and my mother is a housewife. My dad died of a sudden heart attack while in class 9 at age 14. He was the sole breadwinner of our family. We were emotionally, financially, and mentally devastated. The following year, I completed class 10th, but my dream of pursuing graduation was shattered due to my financial situation. I was forced to take private tuition for 2 children in classes 3 and 5, earning Rs. 200/-a day while also pursuing a secretarial course.
My dream of working in a corporate materialized as steno and I was happy with a Rs. 500/-salary to support my mum financially along with my older brother and sister. I worked for three organizations before I started working with NIIT Ltd. for 39 years and 3 months. I began as a stenographer and retired as a human resources manager:

Currently, I am a mother to a daughter age 32,

My daughter is age three starts kindergarten and I start studying for my graduation and complete it at the age of 32. After 12 years of marriage, I severed ties with my husband due to alcoholism & domestic violence moving from a victim to a victor.
A new dream is created while doing a project with an NGO. I realized some entrepreneurial skills were missing and decide to pursue my PGDHRM (2 yrs) and complete it at age 44. NIIT and its employees have been a pleasure to work with. I have almost lived my entire life journey with them through thick and thin. I joined the organization along with the founders of the organization, and my first manager was Mr. Vijay K. Thadani, now Vice Chairman & Managing Director.
At the age of 56, I become certified as an Arfeen Khan Academy Coach to hone my coaching skills.

How do you and your work benefits society?
Personally or professionally, I am the “helper.” That’s what people call me. My passion for helping people, not just around me but people afar and beyond, goes beyond.
Story 1: A little support for my niece in class 9
She was slow and poor in her studies and this troubled my sister, a widow with two other daughters and a job to take care of. In a win-win situation, I agreed to let her stay with my daughter because they are in the same school. This eases the tension between my sister and my niece. My sister was only hoping that she would complete class 10th. A little change in the environment helps. My niece not only did well in 10th but she also did extremely well thereafter and completed graduation successfully. She took charge of her studies and surprised us with her responsibility.
Story 2: I held his hand at the age of 15.
Due to family issues, my husband’s nephew cut ties with his family and has nowhere to go. He is 6 months older than my daughter. They are both in their final year of graduation. At night he worked for a call center, and during the day he went to college. I’ll shelter him for 3 years. He moved to Singapore for post-graduation and returned home to purchase his own home. My family helped him get married and live his own life.
Story 3: Converted complaints into opportunities
During lockdown in June 2020, one of my neighbors always complained about her son (a final-year BMM student) not giving her time to edit her videos. I turned this ailment or complaint into an opportunity and suggested that he teach his mother, father, and myself video editing. One year down the line, this lady now edits her videos as a Youtuber and it benefited all of us.
Story 4: Supporting daily wage workers with basic food
In June 2020, a pastor (who themselves did not have jobs) approached me and said that most of their members were daily wage workers. They need basic food. I did not have much funding. I approached my family and friends. I managed to collect Rs. 11,000/-. To my uttermost surprise, the people I never thought would give, contributed with a large heart. Some continued to give for 4 months. I felt that God had blessed me through this service, although it was for needy families.

I enjoy being around people.
As an HR professional, I used to be the go-to person for team members and team leaders who needed help with a problem. I did not have solutions, but in my listening, they found their solutions and that gave me immense satisfaction.
At the office annual day last month, some of them received awards of excellence, and she called me especially to thank me for being a support to them.
Story 6: Planning for an unplanned retirement
As an HR professional, I strike up a conversation to assist my colleague with the retirement process. She is taken aback to know that she has only 3 months left. She had not checked her appointment letter and assumed her retirement age was 60 instead of 58. I could see her confidence level and self-esteem dipping. She went through an emotional downhill. She was unable to accept this reality as
I shared with her my journey of how I started preparing for my retirement in the last 3 years and I still have 2 more. Once again, she asked me if I was sure. I told her it was 101%. I took her in my stride and we both worked on taking her retirement planning ahead. Her family too supported her. This gave me so much happiness. I could make a difference in her life. I spoke to her last week. She is doing well and I am in touch with her.

What is the USP of your work?
My programme is called “Reinvent Your Life of Legacy.”
Most often, we focus on financial planning and very little focus is given to health and lifestyle post-retirement. To stay healthy, it is equally important to stay strong mentally and physically as well.
I have undergone the journey myself, five years before I was to retire. I had a coach who helped me. Today, I am happily retired from one career and starting the next.
My program is to help women who are planning to take early retirement or are soon to retire in the most graceful way possible.

What are your vision and mission?
My mission is to help 1000 women between the ages of 45 and 65 plan to retire or retire to create a life of legacy and fulfillment in their golden age.

My vision is to choose to assist 500 women worldwide in CREATING a simple and beautiful life of legacy. We are in the Tata Theatre, NCPA Auditorium, celebrating our first anniversary. The GEMs are roaring to share their stories of achievement beyond their imagination.

What are your achievements in this industry?
• At the age of 32, I went from an undergraduate to a graduate with a 12-year gap, while also being a wife, mother, and working professional (none of my siblings has graduated).
• From stenographer to secretary to human resources manager
As an employee, I have become an entrepreneur.
• Currently serving as All India Past President and Advisory Board Member for the Indian Association of Secretaries and Administrative Professionals (IASAP).
• Traveled to attend Asian Secretaries’ Congresses (ASA) in countries like Singapore, Pakistan, Malaysia, Hong Kong & Papua New Guinea. This association celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021.
• I am the Secretary of my Housing Society. I have been an office bearer for the last 25 years. We will be 25 years old in August 2022.
•Member of the HR Infotech Association (HRIA-HR Professional in IT/ITES)
I am also a member of the Parish Pastoral Council at my local church in Vasai.
• In 2010, I was featured on Times Now (the channel had only recently launched) to share my story on ‘Life’s Like That,’ and how I managed my daughter, graduation studies, and office work while living in an abusive marriage.
During lockdown (a blessing in disguise):
• Become a published author. I had set a goal of two years to write the book but completed it in 10 months and launched it on Jan 26, 2021. I had imagined my book launch in an auditorium, but it happened online globally.
• Created my own YouTube channel (PEP Talks) to share inspiring stories of ordinary people with the world.
• Recently, for Women’s Day, I was invited by Delhi Management Association to share my experience of the ‘Challenges Women Entrepreneurs face’.

Does your work ever feel tedious to you? If so, how do you stay driven and motivated towards it?
I am a self-motivated person and a workaholic, be it at home or office. I enjoy both worlds. I’ve worked for 12 or 14 hours at times, even if it was a Saturday or Sunday, as per the need. I have had amazing people in my life at work and otherwise, despite all the challenges. Being amongst kids (nephews/nieces) is my stress buster and I derive my energy from them. At parties, I am easily pulled towards helping in the kitchen if I am not busy meeting people. We have a family tradition where my dad’s four brothers, along with their families, used to meet. This tradition continues even now among our five siblings. We meet twice a year at Christmas (we have a secret Santa) and Easter. Each family brings a cooked dish of their choice (pot lunch). A small meeting is organized before the main event to finalize it.

What are your hobbies and specific interests other than your profession?
I love meeting new people. I love to cook and am learning how to garden. Being with children is something I enjoy a lot as well.

You have achieved so much in life. Any specific advice you’d like to share with our readers to grow in life?
Your journey will take you to uncomfortable, unusual, or even difficult places that yield lifetime rewards; places you have never visited before.

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