Sonu Ratra Co-Founder of Akraya and Founder of Women Back to Work is privileged to share Sona Vohra’s inspirational story!
Sona not only managed to return to the workforce after a hiatus but is exceptionally successful in her role and tremendously valued at her organization. Sona’s and many such stories are the reason why we are committed to building the ‘Women Back to Work’ program as one of industry’s best.
Adversity brings out the best or worst in people. Some people get defeated when tragedy strikes, while others rise up with courage and determination, shining through the darkness.
Meet Sona, who has an inspiring story; not just for women looking to return to the workforce but as a fine example of determination, drive, diligence, and a can-do attitude. Sona’s story brings strength to many women who have faced unexpected adversity.
Like many of us, Sona chose to give up her career to focus on raising her boys and supporting her husband’s demanding career, a decision she never regrets. For her, family always comes first.
Things took a different turn in Sona's life in the year 2014 when her husband was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that had progressed to stage 4 with only palliative care available. It was totally unexpected as there had been no warning, and no other health indicators prior to his diagnosis.
After the diagnosis, the course of their lives changed. Despite being devastated and paralyzed with fear, Sona gathered herself and knew that she had to be strong for their sons, for whom this news was overwhelming. She organized and steeled herself for the long battle that cancer often demands. Balancing constant hospital and doctor visits, with day-to-day pressures of life, and all the while maintaining a modicum of sanity, Sona knew that she needed to re-enter the workforce. This wasn’t just a financial decision. This was also a plan to bring balance to life, away from the constant sadness and depression that besets the caregiver.
Sona knew that she couldn’t let anything bring her down and that she had to get back up, do the right things, and stay focused and positive. She embarked on a journey to return to the workforce. Friends stepped in and introduced her to others she could learn from. Sona dove right in by connecting with people she knew, setting up informational meetings, trying to determine what field was the most interesting for her and her determination paid off. Through the years, she had stayed fiercely active in all aspects of her son's lives at school and outside, managing projects, organizing large events, working with PTA Boards. She had kept her professional skills up-to-date and developed her organization and people skills – keys to her success as an individual re-launching her career. She also refreshed some of her professional skills by watching YouTube and online tutorials.
With her perseverance, she soon found herself a role as an unpaid intern in the event and sales teams of a start-up. “I was just happy to get a foot in the door and grateful for the opportunity’, says Sona. After landing the internship, she gave it everything she had. She was committed to learning critical skills on the job. For her, the workplace was the best classroom and the training was invaluable. She relied on her previous life experiences that had taught her skills such as time management, prioritizing, and dealing with high-pressure situations. She performed extremely well, showing maturity, willingness to learn and grow, and execute strongly. Impressed with her performance, she was offered a full-time role in Sales. Within three months she proved her mettle, and she was elevated to a more senior role. Her adversity had helped her bring a strong and a different perspective to the table. Her self-taught journey along with the professional support she received paid off and she was soon responsible for sales and account management for the West Coast and the Asia Pacific region.
Despite all the hopes and prayers, her husband’s illness took a turn for the worse later in the year. Sona knew that balancing work and illness would not work out, and she had to make a choice. She took a leave of absence, and in the coming months spent much of her time at the hospital taking care of her husband. A few months later her husband passed away. After many months of coping with the grief, and making sure the children were doing alright, Sona decided to return to the workforce once again.
Today Sona has not only managed to fully integrate herself into the workforce but is making valuable contributions in her new role. She works in the exciting space of Cyber Intelligence. A typical work week for Sona is days filled with strategic meetings, planning with her CEO and CTO, conference calls with teams and customers in Australia, Spain, UK and in the US, taking quick day trips to meet customers or to a conference, product marketing, and research. In the 5 months since she has started, she has brought in several new clients and is working on creating new partnerships. She enjoys being in sales and the adrenalin rush that comes with it. The challenges in the field bring out the best in her. One wouldn’t think that this is just Sona’s second job and her first year working full time.
Sona’s advice to women returning to the workforce is not to under estimate yourself and give up, there is a perfect role out there that you have to be determined to find. Once you find that role you must display a strong work ethic, be open to taking more responsibilities and wearing multiple hats, be genuinely passionate about your job, and put your best foot forward every single day.
This is Sona's story and it is inspirational on many levels. It also gives hope to countless women out there who might think that taking a break from the workforce is the end of the road. Sona wants her story to be one that women will take positive inspiration from and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Akraya Inc. is a multinational IT staffing and managed services firm headquartered in Santa Clara, California. Akraya celebrates 15 years of providing preferred staffing solutions to Fortune 500 enterprises and innovative start-ups. Named Best Places to Work for three consecutive years, Akraya’s other accolades include being named Best Staffing Company to Work For, Top 50 Women Owned Business, and Healthiest Employers in the Bay area.
‘Women Back to Work’ is an Akraya Initiative. Our purpose is to introduce a pool of untapped, highly qualified, career-ready women to our participating partners to facilitate re-entry of women into the workforce. Through this initiative, we hope to empower women by leading them to employers who are looking to exceed their diversity goals while also hiring exceptional talent.