Sharmin Sultana is currently working as Vice President – Talent management, Learning & Development of Robi Axiata Limited. She is responsible for creating a learning culture in the organization and promoting high performing culture with a systematic development intervention to achieve the group vision of developing world-class talent. She has previously worked as Vice President – Resourcing & Employers Brand at Robi and Resource manager at Standard Chartered Bank. Sharmin specializes in: Sourcing & Recruitment, Talent Acquisition & Development, Employers Branding, HR Operations, HR Transformation/ Change management, HR Business Partnering.
They tell kids, “dream big”. Cliched as it may be, there’s a reason why. Even if you come up with something absurd, it is the first marker point, setting you on a path and giving you a direction to move towards. Even if the initial vision you set your eyes on was not the vision you made for yourself.
The story of the Sharmin Sultana also goes a little something like this. It all started in front of a television set, in 1990, airing a segment with Christiane Amanpour on CNN. Reporting not far from a warzone. Any sane person would know to stay far away. But there was a woman fighting her way in to report the truth. The dedication and courage was something that inspired Sharmin. So she set her sights on journalism. Back in the 90s, this was not a profession that seemed feasible. So listening to her father’s advice, she started at Dhaka University (DU) studying economics.
The entire time she was studying economics, her heart still lay in Mass communication and journalism. She spent 3 years at DU before she realized that that life was not for her and after a talk with the family and some convincing, she transferred to St. Cloud State University in 1999.
The transfer had her start all over again, losing 3 years. Starting all over again in Minnesota was one of the toughest things she had to do, but found great footing in her new environment. After completing her undergrad. She started working at a staffing firm where she first learned about HR and as a people person developed an interest. This was back in 2003 when even in the US, this was a completely new area to explore. An area that showed huge prospects in Bangladesh.
After a lot of hardships and sacrifices, she finished her masters in 2006 and returned to Dhaka to use her specialization to serve her country. Now, 3 years behind her classmates, with 2 degrees but no job and back in Bangladesh, in the eyes of most, she was a failure. People and employers alike, assuming her return was a result of not being able to make it. Due to this one misunderstanding, finding employment in Dhaka was becoming increasingly difficult for her.
“My mother had big expectations for me. I think everyone did.” said Sharmin, “ having studied 6 years in the US and completing 2 degrees, everyone expected me to be working some high profile job”. But that was not the case. After her father’s passing, with no connections in the job market, Miss Sultana had to start over from square one. So she started with an internship at HSBC, experiencing her first taste of the corporate life.
Sharmin stresses the point, that male or female, you reap the fruit of your toils. You must be flexible and willing to take challenges. No one wants to employ someone unmotivated and uneager to work. “When you have passion for your work, when it’s no longer just work, progress won’t be far along,” said Sharmin. And that is exactly what happened to her. In the span of only seven years, she worked her way through HSBC, Standard Chartered, many well-established organizations and up to the position she holds now. At Robi Axiata as Vice president, smoothly having covered the initial worry and gap that she had with her classmates.
So what are her struggles today? Sharmin shares that women always aren’t supportive of other women and that needs to change. Women should help and encourage a woman making strides in her career instead of trying to bring her down. There are many other obstacles on the climb up corporate ladder and women who understand each other’s struggles should make it easier on each other show support and unity.