A talk with Deepti Jain in our series “Sharing Stories of Black, Indigenous, & People of Color (BIPOC).”
Dr. Dave: Hello! And welcome to the KnolShare with Dr. Dave podcast. I am Dr. Dave Cornelius, your host. My conversation is with Deepti Jain, an amazing leader who is an Agile practitioner and an active Agile community builder in India; and loves to connect and interact with people and prefer to call herself a social scientist. Thank you for joining the conversation about social justice and impact on black indigenous and people of color lives. Welcome.
Deepti: Thank you so much. Thanks a lot for having me and I am a big fan of the work that you’re doing and believe me, it’s a big honor that you invited me, and I can’t be more happy. Thank you.
Dr. Dave: You’re the best! So I want to learn a little bit more about you. So just imagine that you were doing a tweet to tell people about who you are, how would you describe Deepti Jain?
Deepti: Believer, first of all. Let’s go like this: believer, dream chaser, lover of life, one with universe, untamed, passionate, committed, and caring woman.
Dr. Dave: Oh, that’s wonderful! So, you think of yourself as a social scientist and change agent, so what is the top opportunity that you are changing currently in India?
Deepti: Just to give a tiny background, I didn’t even realize that, but I was a weirdo since I was a child. So I remember my mom will always say, “Why did you have to stand up? Why do you always have to be the flag bearer and be a part of revolution or get started with the revolution, even in school?” And there were tons of things. I could have been wrong as well, but wherever I felt, “This is not right.” I will stand up with my classmates and they won’t stand up and I’ll stand up for them. So something was there always. And in today’s scenario, if I had to say, I think I never paid much attention to whatever was said norm. For myself, I’d say, “Who didn’t know? So who did it? Who didn’t know it was impossible so who did it?” And I always feel that for me. So for me, a lot of differences, even if they existed and I would see people following them, they didn’t exist for me. And so I never stopped and that’s what I feel.
Deepti: And so what I’m doing right now… Of course, at certain point, you start realizing, and then you grow up being a weirdo and whatever, but you grow up and you realize there’s a difference. Then I realized, I started this group which is called Women in Agile and Tech, and we are women all across India who are part of this group and we converse and share the challenges that certainly have 16 officers who work dedicatedly, committedly to this forum and constantly bring change. As step one, they are just connecting and sharing their challenges. They run one bigger program, which is for mentorship, where we invite different mentors and mentees, they connect. And then it starts with one topic of their common interest where they exchange their learning. And then of course it makes a personal bond, and then they discuss many other challenges. I have myself benefited a lot, finding so many women and similar challenges, I was blown away.
Dr. Dave: That’s beautiful. So as a woman living in India, what does social justice really look like for you; or social injustice? Yeah. What does that look like for you?
Deepti: My guess is it must be everywhere. And so I don’t want to look like that “Oh my God, we had so much problem.” But I feel inequality, is the biggest problem. When two people are married, the guy and a girl, of course there is a discrimination in terms of roles and responsibilities for both of them. Men have so much pressure that even if they want to back off or they want to be chilled, they can’t. If a man loses a job it is such a big taboo. Why? So many women don’t go out for work. And if a man wants to be a care giver, people look at him like he’s soft. On the other hand, if a woman is ambitious, Oh my God, we can call her so many names. She’s so selfish, she’s heartless, she doesn’t care about her family. This is shit scary.
Deepti: And of course I’ve seen all those discrimination. Now you go back two steps and your paternal family, and you are this amazing girl in the family and taking care of everything. But as soon as it comes to property, and it comes to your family owned things, all of that goes to men, your brother and you just feel like, “Oh my God, I was never part of this whole thing.” So yes, I mean, I think inequality in roles, that’s horrible. And I’m sure everyone was faced in different part of world. But I see in India, it’s way too big.
Deepti: And also one good example is, whenever there is growth and promotion opportunities, women are never thought of in majority of cases, people will come back marching to me saying that, “No Deepti you are wrong.” No, for two reasons. First of all, there are so many men at the senior lobby, and of course, it’s also one big game of comfort zone. You can go out and have beer with your male colleagues, all guys, you can sit down and talk about office politics, probably if you do that people are not so considerate that they will think, “Okay this is a healthy conversation, which is going on.” So that sort of discomfort, which is created for people of different genders, that’s one thing, and that’s why men are in a certain way forced to choose men. Then of course, you know that thinking, “Okay, she must have kids, she must have ailing parents or law in parents, she’s a wife, we don’t know how her husband…” What the hell! Why husband owns a woman? Why? And if a man is going to have a child, “Okay, let’s promote him. Otherwise he will leave, now his family’s expanding.”
Deepti: That’s major discrimination, and that’s what is resulting into offering growth to men constantly. And women think too much, “No Deepti I think that’s too much of responsibility that will come. I don’t want to take it up.” I mean I see a huge pressure of putting women second, making her move one step further down. And even if men wants to be okay to be wherever he is, he’s offered promotion unnecessarily, and he’s always asked to be, “Man up, buckle up, chin up guy.” So, yeah.
Dr. Dave: Yeah. At the glass ceiling, got to break that glass ceiling, bring it down. What are you actively doing to change social injustice for yourself and other women in India? You’re doing all this good stuff so I would love to hear about those changes that you’re pushing forward with.
Deepti: First of all, I, myself I did not realize… As for myself, I always say, “Fool didn’t do it, was impossible.” I was a fool. I genuinely didn’t know how it’s going to be difficult for me. And I feel so happy, I didn’t see the difficulty. And that said, when I look back, I could see how difficult it was. And so when I started meetups, a lot of men will shy away from showing up because it was a woman’s meetup. And a lot of them came just thinking that, “She must be just facilitating, it must be somebody else’s meetup.” You see? And so now when I look back, and I didn’t realize it in the very starting, now when I look back and when people tell me, “You know what that was the scenario.” I feel like, “Oh my God! Really?” Had I have known that, probably I would have not started. When you have known that you were meant to fail, you wouldn’t even start. I think as a fool, that was very helpful. Being a fool was really helpful for me.
Deepti: Then of course there were comparisons between meetup groups, Which meetup group is doing how well? And so they would say, “Does she really know anything? Because she’s just like anybody among us. No, meetup [inaudible 00:09:19]is not supposed to know everything. He or she’s really supposed to know how to bring in best of the people.” And today we do all sorts of amazing things. So as I got started, and I was myself, blinded towards so many difficulties, which were there in the system, and I went on further. I met people, I had heart to heart conversation. I think the best quality that I had as a kid always was, I cared and I cared tremendously and I can’t help it. And that’s why I would stand up even if the other person is not standing up for himself or herself.
Deepti: So not just for women, for men as well. I always had my heart for those who will not standing up for themselves. Few things which I do is, I keep my programs very open, my initiatives. And so I allow people to have a complete understanding of how things run. When they work with me, they get complete transparency, they get full autonomy to work. That is a huge personal development and the psychological shift, the self-worth, the learning, the connection, the networking that they can get out of this whole thing. They do not get it anywhere.
Deepti: I have a big timetable for our 32 to 35 servant leaders voluntarily and they’re so committed to the work. Our entire work is extremely organic, we don’t have a paid promotion, sales, marketing team, no. Everything that we do is organic and so why it’s such a big workforce works with me? And they all learn to be great leaders, how to be leaders that impacts their professional work as well.
Deepti: We do a lot of initiative in terms of helping people with job, building their profiles and all of that is absolutely free. We don’t charge anything there. We do a lot of mentorships and coaching and training programs, all of them for free. Of course, where we invite somebody from outside and they have a certain cost associated with their time and knowledge. Of course, we negotiate you in there, and we’ve been very fortunate that they all have considered.
Deepti: So we don’t do any of this for profit. Of course, I’m a consultant and where I go for my clients, yeah. And then with women, this forum which has been established, I can tell you Dave, I mean, we all connect. We discuss our personal problems, I mean, to the extent that, we have shared numbers of our therapist, shared our experiences, being told speak to her, and this is how you will find him. So we all are doing that, of course, the marital issues, the parental issues, the children issues, single women. So a huge support behind the screen is going on.
Deepti: We haven’t published our stories and we won’t even intend to publish them right now because this is all still very raw, right? One valuable for us in many ways. So we are not touching them, but we’re building and they’re just so close. I can tell you all 16 women as officers, they are doing so much more. They are running four programs wherein, we create knowledge on four different areas, wishful thinking, design thinking then gamification, then agile of course, and then personal growth and unleashing yourself, all those. Couple of other initiatives, and then there are around 10 events throughout the year. [inaudible 00:13:03] webinars and seminars, which happens there.
Dr. Dave: Man. That’s so amazing. That’s great, great work, great energy. So in your conversation as an agile evangelist, what are you saying to people that you meet to change the mindset? So they can be focused more on equality for women, is there a specific topic or specific words that you have for people so you can start shifting the way they think about equality for women?
Deepti: So never thought about that. But I would say I am showcasing myself as an example, my actions. So I just share my story that, “This is where I started like a fool, not knowing the constraints, but I realized.” So a lot of friends of mine came back, “You know what Deepti, all these people who are sitting here, they used to talk behind you and they used to doubt your words and all of that.” So then I get to run score, I didn’t know that. And I feel so thankful that I didn’t know that. So I think, I mean, I share my story and I tell them how amazing women are and how committed, how passionate and not even once I let down of my clients or my team members or my groups and they are constantly growing, now they run events. So, that’s a big shift. So, I mean, if I have to just say one line I’d say, “Be a fool and the universe will unfold everything for you.”
Dr. Dave: That’s so beautiful. That’s so good. So talk to me about the obstacles that you run into, as you’re building a pathway for women equality,
Deepti: I think our own mental blockages, self-imposed limiting thought, which is part of our upbringing and part of our culture. Those are the ones who are biggest [inaudible 00:00:14:55]. For example, this friend of mine, she’s amazing with the visual and the awesome doodle links and drawing she would does. And the way she brings out life to them, when we were speaking, she was like, “I need to buy a laptop, iPad because that’s the best way of doing all of this.” And we have been speaking for past six months and she’s like, “I need to buy one.” So I said, “What is stopping you?” She’s like, “Don’t you think that’s too much of wastage on a personal hobby?” I said, “What the hell are you saying? I look at you as India’s first say the Cardinal, visual design course evangelist and you are talking about this is wastage?”
Deepti: So, investing on yourself as a woman. And so many of them. There was another person who came to me and she said, “Can I pay you in cash?” I said, “Why just do the online transfer that will directly go to the trainer?” She said, “No, I’m just not telling that this is a paid course. And I’m telling them, this is a free course.” So many of them, they’re like, “You know Deepti, as much as all of this work,” I feel guilty. You know, I feel like, okay, “Is this too much of pressure? Do you not want to do it?” They’re like, “No Deepti, of course we have to put our a big fight, to our families.” “Why the hell are you wasting your time on this?” Why the hell bloody, they have to respond to, what that, they’re wasting their time on this. Like who the hell are you to decide that they’re wasting their…
Deepti: And also, those are big challenges, I think. So we can go multiple miles smoothly, but these are the mental weight we have put on it and just makes it too heavy. So yes, they are all doing phenomenal job, but if I speak to any of them, I see so much of excitement and they tell that this makes us alive. It gives purpose to our life. And I mean, still, they have to justify it a lot while they are doing all of this, what value does it add? And they can’t tell what value does it add to their families back.
Dr. Dave: Yeah. I mean, when we create these obstacles, these boundaries that stops from moving forward. So, as you’re experiencing, and some of the people that you know, are experiencing these obstacles, how could they affect your motivation to keep pressing forward? How do you want to go forward and get things done?
Deepti: So again, and I also had my own personal demons, right? I always felt guilty every time I left my son for my work, even when I’m locally going somewhere, like going office. Five years after my son’s birth, I cried each day, feeling guilty, I’m a mean mother to leave him behind. I transformed my life. I changed my work in such a way that I might team up with him. But even if I have to cry for two days, I feel horrible, so that, stopped me. But as I told you, I’m a dreamer. I can’t help it, I’m so passionate about things. And so I manage a lot of work from here only, a lot of time I just would put him to bed and once he’s sleeping, then I’ll start working and all of that.
Deepti: For my friends, for my women, for my girls, when this happen, I step into their shoe. I first speak about what all they desire, aspire. And then I tell them it’s okay, you don’t do it right now, but let’s still be in the theme initiative group. So that touch does not go away, because a lot of them feel guilty. “I’m not contributing. I see other four women contributing so much. So I feel I don’t deserve to be here Deepti.” And I’m like, women quickly start feeling I don’t deserve. I think it’s in general with all human beings in their own square. So they start feeling, “Okay, Deepti I don’t deserve to be here.” Of course, we bring in a lot of benefit for all of our folks. Our programs are free for them, and we have not been able to afford their travel, but their stays and everything is taken care of, whenever we do this local programs. And so they come from all over the India.
Deepti: So what I do, I don’t let them go because I know there is so much of potential. And I tell them wherever you will have time, but you stay part of the focus groups for different programs. And then I constantly keep in touch with them about, “What are your dreams? How do you think others can?” So when you ask them solution for others’ problem, that’s where they are able to, find their own solutions. And so you tell them, “Okay, don’t worry about this program and don’t do it.” And then you discuss with them other program. And then they’d be like, “I don’t have time, but I saw one to do it.” And then they make out time. And that keeps me going. When they are going, that keeps me going.
Deepti: And yes, I can’t help it. I have so many dreams. And so I just keep on sharing with them. When I share with them, see, there are not many new ideas, I’ll be honest. This world is saturated with so many ideas and we all have ideas. So all you need to do is give that stage to someone, to be their boss, give that autonomy. And when you give them that, oh wow! Magic happens. And so that is how I keep going and I keep them going.
Dr. Dave: So I want you to complete the following sentence. If I could bring about change for equality, I would… What would that be? If you wanted to complete that sentence,
Deepti: I will raise my children right. I will not feed in those limiting thoughts in their mind. Men can choose whatever they want to be, homemakers, peacemakers and women can be whatever they want to be. They can even choose not to have children. It doesn’t mean if you have an ovary, you have to go and have children. And just in case you’re a modern man, you don’t have to always go on a war. No, and you don’t have to be the guy with muscles and big gain. So I think, and I realized this after myself, when daughters are born, women worry a lot. And when boys are born, women always get so casual like, “Boys will be boys.” What the hell? No, boys will not be boys. I have a boy. And it is my responsibility that he treats all his peer, classmates, girls with respect and equality.
Deepti: And by God’s grace, he’s such a great kid, very respectful. So I never let him say things like, “You know what mama, so and so girl, she can’t run so fast.” No, I don’t let him think like that. I tell them, “Oh they’re so creative, so amazing.” I never go on strength kind of discussions. Of course, nature has given us different strengths, different bodies, what women can do, men can’t and vice versa. So there is no equality in terms of metamorphosis. Okay? Not questioning that. But mentally I would always want him to respect his wife, treat her equally. Like she can make financial decisions, she can make decisions concerning to house. And he does not need to do everything. He has to be partnered, and equal partners. I will do this, you will do that, and that kind of thing. So yeah, I think we have to raise our children right. Women especially, they don’t have to set example of “It’s okay.” To accept injustice, no. Or it’s okay to do wrong things when you are in power, no.
Dr. Dave: Well, that is a great mindset to have, right. To think about changing inequality through the way we raise our kids. So do you have any final words that you would like to say to the audience, to the people who will be listening to you? You know, share your story. I mean, what would you want them to do? Just take a nugget of something, hold on to this. So let’s hear what you got. Okay.
Deepti: I think everyone needs to be a believer, a strong believer. And if you feel lost, just have conversation with universe without fear, universe offers you everything that you ask for. And so you don’t have to, tell universe, “Okay universe, follow this step, this is how you will be able to give me that.” No, you just have to say, “Universe, I want this. And this is how I’m going to feel when I get this.” This is how you manifest. So I’m a true believer. I believe that everything is possible here, miracles happen every day. And so that’s what I want people to be believer of all strong, good things and they have to follow their heart. Your heart will never let you get wasted. No. So that’s what I do. I’m a believer and I surrender to universe and I believe that all great, good things will happen to everyone. Yeah.
Dr. Dave: That’s so good. It leaves me with a nice warmth as we bring our conversation to a conclusion. So I would just like to say, thank you so much for giving us this time to share your story. I’ve learned a lot from just listening to you. I’m sure many more we’ll get the same value as well.
Deepti: I’m thankful to you for doing this, for having me, for giving me a voice and stage. Thanks a lot. That’s, the most humbling thing anyone can do to us all community, and to us all who are doing something. Thanks a lot.
Dr. Dave: Yeah. Thank you.
Deepti: Thank you so much.
Dr. Dave: Well, enjoy the rest of your day. I’ll talk to you soon. Okay? Oh, matter of fact, I’ll see you next week, right? Because we’re at this future of work conference. So, you know, I’ll talk to you next week.
Deepti: Yeah. I will see you there. Take care. Bye. Bye.
Dr. Dave: Bye. Bye.
Dr. Dave: Thank you for listening to KnolShare with Dr. Dave podcast. This conversation with Deepti Jain was enlightening for me and helped me to learn more about social justice in India. I hope you are having the same experience. I want you to dream a little bit about how this could be possible in your own community. You will find the agile for humanity, social justice and impact series on the KnolShare with Dr. Dave podcast on iTunes, Google play and Spotify. The agile for humanity, social justice and impact series is also under the following websites, AgileAlliance.org, KnolSharewithDrDave.com, GrokShare.com, KnolShare.org, and also Agileforhumanity.org. Look for the sharing, black indigenous and people of color stories on the Agile Alliance website, under the webcast. The music theme is by Kiana Brown Hendrickson. This content is copyright 2020 by KnolShare and Dr. Dave Cornelius. Until next time, be well, stay safe and connect soon. Look forward to connecting. (singing)