I had seen her work at Zikr, it was totally by chance that I landed on the website. The artwork and the thoughtful memoirs that lead me there reminded me of aesthetically curated master pieces. I panned through the site and checked out the collection, I was awestruck, found each and every piece anything but ordinary! I wanted to know more about the lady. Guess what ? I discovered that there was a common factor….. my batchmate from IHM had once shared a memento from Zikr, got details from him and ofcourse we talked about the lady whose brainchild it was. I learnt that Pooja Sharma is a Hotel Management graduate and has worked in hotels in the initial years of her career. I grabbed the opportunity to feature the incredible and inspirational journey of the dynamic lady Ms. Pooja Sharma, MD of Zikr. I got in touch with her and she was gracious enough to do this long interview. It was an absolute delight to speak to her.
IWH: Tell us something about you, your growing up years, life through school, college etc. What made you select Hospitality as a career? Was it easy making that decision?
Ms. Sharma: I have been living in Dublin, Ireland for the past 16 years. I was lucky to be born in Shimla and spent my childhood nestled in the foothills of Himalayas. My childhood was idyllic, serene and simple. The Shimla of my childhood reminds me of dark mysterious forests, untouched big mountains, long walks in the woods, greenery all around and friends . I went to Loreto Convent Tara Hall, a beautiful catholic school which was then run by Irish nuns. Being an only child, I presume I became quite a handful and I was whisked off to a boarding school in Panchgani, Maharashtra. I spent good five years in Panchgani and a complete new world suddenly opened up in front of me and it is here with my new found independence I spread my wings and learnt to fly.
I graduated from Shimla, majoring in Economics and also underwent a specialized three year vocational course in Tourism Travel and Management which led to my interest in Hospitality Industry. Hence choosing to do post graduation in Accommodation Operations and Management from IHM Shimla became an obvious choice. Upon finishing my studies, I worked with The Oberois and then at Radisson, in Front Office where I picked up great many skills which helped me a lot in later life too. My stint in Hospitality industry lasted for five years and then I took a parenting break.
IWH: What is your current role?
Ms. Sharma: Today I am a Managing Director of my own company called Zikr. Zikr is a writing consultancy mainly focusing on keeping memories alive. ZIKR is in the business of writing biographies and creating memory books, coffee table books. These customised gifts make milestone events like birthdays, anniversaries, retirements etc very special. We also facilitate printing and publishing of all creative works like poems, short stories, fiction, diary entries, travelogues, family tree charts, family recipe books, art/drawings by children and adults.
IWH: How has your hospitality journey been so far? Pros, cons etc?
Ms. Sharma: I spent important years of my life in the hotel Industry and I have very fond memories of the time spent there. I started my career as a Front Office Assistant, at The Oberois Cecil, Shimla. Later I moved to the Radisson chain as a Front Office supervisor and thereon a Guest Relation Executive. My experience in hospitality industry allowed me to recognize my own potential later in life too and helped me understand that I had a flare of connecting with people and it re-instilled self- confidence in me that I thought I never had.
Hospitality career – pros & cons
Working in the hotel industry has taught me discipline that is so extremely important and helps you a great deal in personal life too. Meeting with many people from different ethnicities and backgrounds teaches you a lot and helps you understand and deal with different kinds of people. I also got the opportunity to meet a few celebrities. Long hours is synonymous with the Industry which means less family time. One of the things that I disliked was working on shifts especially early morning shifts and one should remember that when other people are enjoying togetherness and taking it easy, that is the time a hotelier is working their hardest and missing out on important festivities and celebrations.
IWH: Who has been your mentor or a role model? In what way has that person helped you?
Ms. Sharma: I believe that every person you meet in life is either a blessing or a lesson. I have great admiration for Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Their humility and respect for each other amazes me. There are several other great human beings that I have taken inspiration from. I am also blessed to have many special people in my life who are my friends, mentors and have embraced me for who I am, and also encouraged me to be the best version of myself.
IWH: What have been the high points of your career? Highlight at least 3.
Ms. Sharma: One of the most exciting time for me working in Hotels was opening a new property. Its utterly a great feeling to be a part of a team that is helping in laying a foundation of any business.
Another important milestone I feel I have achieved is conceptualising and founding ZIKR. After a long break, it was really hard for me to get back to work but ZIKR has given me a new lease of life and hope.
IWH: What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry? How did you deal with them?
Ms. Sharma: I would want to be born as a woman million times over. This I say because all the hardships and challenges that a woman has to face in life compared to a man, be it in her personal life and professional , makes her the being that she is , resilient, compassionate, hardworking and brave. There are a different set of rules for a woman in this society, despite these constraints and taboos, she is the backbone of any society which would truly crumble if she does.
IWH: What do you think of IWH?
Ms. Sharma: IWH is such a unique set up and provides a platform where women working in this industry feel appreciated and receive acknowledgement for not only their hard work and effort but also their valuable contribution to the industry and the world in general.
IWH: If there was anything that you could change about your life or career what would that be?
Ms. Sharma: I am a great believer in “ whatever happens, happens for the best” so there is nothing that I would want to go back and change.
IWH: Your advice to the young professionals and students.
Ms. Sharma: As Lady Gaga quite rightly said in her Oscar acceptance speech, “ it’s not about winning but it’s about not giving up, if you have a dream , fight for it, its not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you are beaten up, it’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going.”
And this would be my advice to every young person out there who has a dream.
With this conversation, we are charged with renewed energy and enthusiasm to chase our dreams too. Somethings just rub on to us and this has been one such meaningful exchange of ideas and intent. We wished Pooja Sharma the very best and we hope that she continues to weave magic and create enchanting memories for people, after all life is but a collection of beautiful memories!
Checkout http: www.zikr.me