At Brilliant Read Media, we always strive to bring you some meaningful and powerful stories from India and around the world to empower and motivate our growing community of investors, leaders, coaches, management students and aspiring entrepreneurs. This week we invited Squadron Leader Cheryl Dutta (Retd) for an interview with us. Cheryl Dutta is an Experienced Life And Career Transition Coach with domain expertise and rich experience of working with high performing individuals from diverse fields. Her mission is to help individuals and empower people to achieve positive results and success in their personal and professional lives. She has a strong media and communications background, served in the Indian Armed forces for ten years, a helicopter pilot, a successful entrepreneur and a proven leader. Let’s learn more about her inspiring journey, her way forward and her advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with her:
We are aware of your contributions to the startup ecosystem; talk us through your background and your journey as a women entrepreneur/coach, please;
My journey on this path is not by chance, it’s my karma, transition has always been a part of my life, my roots are embedded in a history of cross-cultural influences. My mixed heritage has always led to my family being a part of a great mystery, my dad was a part of the mass exodus during the partition of India and Pakistan and before that a migration from Kenya, Africa that brought us to India. My mother is from German Scandinavian and British descent.
My Father being a part of the Armed Forces as a pilot meant that we had to be always on the go, every two years or so it was a new place, a new school, new friends and a new home, as kids we quickly learnt to adapt, to simplify and to make the best of it.”
I always thought that for the most part, I have lived life on my own terms from a very young age, I was fiercely independent as a teenager, fearless and always on the lookout for the next adventure. Life to me had endless possibilities and limitless boundaries. I always considered myself to be different, free-spirited, and also pretty idealistic. That’s what drew me to my fascination with aviation, some said it’s in you’re blood, my dad being an aviation veteran and two-time war hero, maybe, from childhood, that spirit was ingrained in me to do the difference.
I joined the Indian Air Force as a Pilot officer and was commissioned as the first woman Helicopter pilot in India and hold a world record for being the first all-woman helicopter female crew in South-East Asia.”
Military Flying is a discipline, it taught me resilience, perseverance, the ability to take decisions based on my judgment and immediate situation, survival and adaptability, leadership and strategy.
Ten years in the Air Force gave me a foundation of lifelong skills which I have relied on even in my coaching practice. The most important lessons I learnt is that there is no substitute for hard work, never take anything or anyone for granted, and rely on your instincts to get you through, and This too shall pass.
Taking a decision to leave flying and move on was the toughest one I ever had to make but life has a way of changing your priorities, having two beautiful daughters did that for me. I chose to move on and learn a new skill in life, MOTHERHOOD.”
The transition to being a mother and a stay at a home person was a difficult transition but my priorities were clear to me and I knew that I wanted to be a significant part of my daughters lives and I wanted to experience this beautiful phase in the best way possible. I worked hard to make the best of this opportunity life gave me, this leads me to explore my next passion, fashion and brand styling.
I launched my own clothing line and retailed from boutiques and outlets all over India and Internationally in UK, USA and Dubai. It was a life-changing experience bringing these beautiful garments to life, to watch people wear my creations and derive happiness from it, to work with so many creative and immensely talented craftsmen and women.
It showed me a beautiful side of creativity and talent. It also taught me a lesson or two in business acumen and marketing strategies. Learning to be financially savvy and having a good marketing strategy is fundamental to the success of your business.
My journey as a life coach began sometime in 2009, It was like the universe was aligning to give me the signs in my life that drew me towards coaching. I have always believed that destiny has a way of playing into your hands and you need to be open to receiving what is meant to be.”
It’s a spiritual and deeply transformational journey for me in the last 10 years. I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful, inspiring people, who are genuinely and wholeheartedly invested in making a change and helping people.
I believe that it is my life purpose to help others gain meaningful insight into their lives and achieve their goals and dreams.
How did you discover your passion?
Being a Life and Career Transition Coach – For 20 years I worked in different fields, as a pilot, as a military officer, and as an entrepreneur and businesswoman and my experience in going through the change and transition in a seamless and organic manner led me to explore Coaching. I believe no matter what the transition in life, there is a way to work through it and work towards a deeper purpose.
It is possible to keep your higher purpose and goals alive and work towards achieving a balanced and meaningful existence. The sole purpose of each individual is to find that reason to wake up every day excited to go to work and eager to be compassionate and selfless in our actions. Keeping this goal in mind, it is my endeavour to help others like me, realise their passion and values and beliefs that will help them focus on achieving their goals.
With so much going on, how do you start the day to keep your passion alive?
I begin my day by taking a little time for my self-development, I firmly believe that to help others you have to help yourself first, like a good pilot, you need your oxygen mask on before you can help others wear theirs, I use it to do some yoga or make my to-do list, have my cup of tea and plan my day ahead and prioritize the tasks at hand .
As a life coach, I like to reach out to people and engage in one on one conversations to understand their reason and purpose for needing a coach and if we are a good fit before they go ahead and plan coaching sessions. I keep aside certain days of the week to only engage in answering emails and creating content to post on social media and working on my upcoming book.
As a life coach, it is important to keep learning new and experiential methods of improving your coaching practice and I try to engage in learning new research and innovative methods to help my clients.
We know that you are continuously engaged in helping others achieve their goals. Why do you do that?
As a Life and Career Transition Coach, my purpose is to help others gain clarity and focus on the goals they want to achieve and experience organic growth. If we have the right perspective, the courage to make the change will happen .
I want my clients to realise that what may seem impossible is doable by using accountability and being realistic. To live your best life is not a dream or out of reach, it takes purpose and actionable strategies, the universe will align with you to present opportunities.
What about your journey makes it satisfying/exciting?
My journey is my own road map, I charted my own course and it’s not always been smooth sailing but every decision was mine to make and live with. A satisfying life to me is one where there is room to grow, to nurture and to feel grateful. I truly believe there are no coincidences, I have never for a moment in my life thought this is not where I should be.
In my quest, I hope that I can inspire more women and men to follow their dreams and have goals that are achievable and attainable. Making a difference in how a person can change their lives and being a part of the process is exciting and very satisfying. Change is the only constant we have, taking small steps leads to great achievements.
What are the three most important lessons you have learned building your startup?
~ I have learnt that is important to be authentic and to speak your truth.
~ To create something you have to invest your energy and time meaningfully, which means it is important to prioritise.
~ And to be open to learning and change, to have curiosity and enthusiasm.
Given the rapid pace at which the world is changing, what are the leadership traits that are necessary for success?
A leader today needs to lead with integrity. In the military, we were taught it was important to walk the talk, to be dependable, adaptable and to encourage good team dynamics.
What are the business mantras you have embraced as you sought to establish your success story?
My business and life mantra have always been that the path is not always easy and failures do happen but the belief never dies. Being consistent and steady is the path to fulfil your dreams. We should always be able to find that power within ourselves and rise.
In your opinion what are the keys to success?
Every person has their own definition of success, for me, it is to have the right perspective. To be able to empower myself to become a person who has deeper self-acceptance, a capacity to identify and reconcile my actions and live with purpose. To succeed you have to have the courage to pursue your dream, to never take anyone or anything for granted and to always believe in what you conceive.
What advice would you give students and young professionals who want to have a successful career?
I encourage young people today to have a thirst to explore and think creatively. With so much access to information and career opportunities, it is important to tap into your inherent strengths and capabilities, to understand the value that you have, to have the courage to speak your truth and make your own path to success.
The way to be successful is to do work that you care about and believe in. To create a vision for your future goals and invest in building this vision. Today we want to measure success instantly and seek that gratification, but every successful person has put in hours of hard work and dedication that has been the foundation of their success.