A Wake-Up Call to Change Careers: Sumitha Bhandarkar (Ep. 11)

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Originally from India, Sumitha Bhandarkar was a software engineer in her mid-30s. She was living the American Dream in Austin, Texas, with her husband and young daughter, when a family health crisis served a wake-up call.

Sumitha realized how unhappy she’d become, and how much it was damaging her relationship with her husband and her daughter, the two most important people in her life. Determined to change, she traced the her discontent back to her career.

Yet there were two big barriers to making a big career change. One was that she'd invested so much time, money and effort into her work and her education. Plus, this well-paid career was what was expected of her and had won the approval of her middle-class Indian family.

In our conversation, hear how Sumitha used a sabbatical break to make her career transition gradually, and in the process discovered a hobby that she was able to turn into a profitable business.

Today Sumitha is the mastermind behind the parenting website, AFineParent.com, with more than 4 million views in the past year. She also hosts the free annual online Positive Parenting Conference, attended by 33,000 parents this year.

 

memorable insights

  • What it was like to have an unexpected, major life event as a wake-up call.

  • How after a major life event you can either go ahead as you were before, or you can use it as a call to action to change the status quo.

  • Realizing how unhappy she was with the lack of control at her job and unrealistic deadlines, and suspecting the field itself was a bad fit.

  • How difficult it was to understand what could possibly be next, and how to make changes happen.

  • Realizing work life needed to change. That it was the cause of the stress that was impacting her relationship with her husband and daughter.

  • How her upbringing in India had completely influenced her choice in career. She felt like she had the choice to either become a doctor or engineer. How she chose engineering because she “hated it a little less” than medicine.

  • How she realized that she needed a whole different career.

  • How scary it was to give up that career and the financial security.

  • How quitting, culturally, was not an option. Quitting wasn’t “course correction,” it was failure, and that was really, really hard.

  • Understanding that despite a huge “sunk cost” in her education and career, and that it made her family happy, that she would have to make a change, so that she could be happy, and then make others happy.

  • How a sabbatical was actually a better option than quitting outright. It acted as a buffer for both her and her family for this major career change.

  • How she decided to take her family along her journey with her, because it was going to be as shocking to them as it was to her.

  • Tying her sabbatical dates to life events helped her to make it happen.

  • It took her about two years between thinking about doing it, and actually doing it.

  • As a first step, tracking expenses was important. Then becoming debt-free. Then setting up “a salary fund”, a savings fund that she could use to pay herself a salary for the next two years.

  • Wanted to make sure it wasn’t a burden on her husband, so that’s why her goal was to continue to help out with household expenses (because her primary goal was to increase the peace in the house, not stress).

  • Taking such good care of finances then freed her up to focus on all the psychological and emotions that came up in the sabbatical – how important it is not to be stressed out on both fronts.

  • Her husband would continue to work while she was on sabbatical, so they sat down and made the financial plan together.

  • Her biggest goals/intentions with her sabbatical: Better relationship with husband, daughter, and with career/work.  

  • Seeing results within first six months.

 

3 QUESTIONS I ASK EVERY GUEST

1. What do you wish you had known before you took your leap?

2. What was the most unexpected thing that came of your leap?

3. For someone who is thinking of doing something similar, what one piece of advice would you offer? 

 

Sumitha’s RESOURCE list

I highly recommend Brené Brown's work for emotional support (her TED talk and this book in particular).

A few of the guest articles that I wrote while starting my sabbatical:

How to Plan a Sabbatical-Style Career Break

4 Powerful Questions to Free You from the Daze of Fear and Inaction

How I built up the courage to quit a promising career with a six-figure salary

The conference I host:

Positive Parenting Conference

 

CONNECT WITH SUMITHA

 

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