Trupti Kulkarni graduated from University Law College, Bangalore in 2005. She joined Accenture Services Private Limited where she worked for an Insurance Process handling Motor Insurance Claims. She also worked with Honeywell Technology Solutions and TPI Advisory Services handling Contract Management.
At Vahura, Trupti used to head recruitment at senior and mid- level, for corporates and law firms, concentrating on South India. She has regularly worked on General Counsel and Senior Management positions in the IT, infrastructure, manufacturing, pharma, FMCG space. More recently she has moved on to internal functions within the organisation focusing on Candidate Engagement and Employee Motivation initiatives. She also handles internal recruitment at Vahura.
In this interview she talks to us about:
- What prompted her to join Vahura.
- Impacts on her after joining Vahura.
- How legal education and training helped her in the present role.
- Advice to a young lawyer if he/she wants to tread the alternate career path.
How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
I am a lawyer by training and a HR professional by choice. I passed out of the Bangalore University Law College in 2005. I am a second generation lawyer. My father is an advocate with more than 35 years of practice at the Bar. He handles matters pertaining to Writ Jurisdiction, Service and Constitution among others. My brother and sister-in-law are also lawyers. My brother works as an In-House lawyer while my sister-in-law has taken a break from active practice. So, in a way, I am the lawyer who took the bypass route J I worked in-house with Accenture. Honeywell and did a brief stint with a company called TPI Advisory Services where I handled contract management. For more than 6 years now I have been working with Vahura where I have had the opportunity to don many hats and to prove myself in areas which have been new to me. I am also a mother of 2 and hence am on a constant balancing act.
What prompted you to think of law as a career? If not law, what other options would you have considered for your career?
Like I mentioned, I come from a family of lawyers. Dinner conversations are usually about all the court room drama and about how legal issues could have been handled differently. Some of my earliest memories from childhood are about clients walking in to our home cum office, even on Sundays, to have a discussion with my dad. Infact he has been and will always be a deep influence in my life. My dad gave up a Central Government job with the Telecom Department (8 years to be precise) to study law and to start afresh. Through sheer determination and hard work he established himself in the field to get to where he is today. With such a role model it only seemed natural for me to follow the same path. Even before I could complete my pre-university from the prestigious Mount Carmel College in Bangalore, I knew I would be studying law for the next 5 years. Now when I look back, I think that if I hadn’t tread this path, I would probably have gone on to obtain a degree in Communication Studies or Psychology at Mount Carmel and would be in a role related to either of them.
What prompted you to change the track and join Vahura?
My family always knew that I was more of a people’s person- someone who would be good at people interaction and counselling. I guess I took some time to realise what they already knew. By the time I had changed 3 jobs I was starting to feel that there was something missing. I was a trained lawyer so I didn’t want to be completely out of the profession, but at the same time I felt that I should be doing something different and unconventional. I was not sure what that was, though. One day, on my brother’s suggestion, I got onto the Vahura (then a part of Rainmaker) website to hunt for a job. Instead, I was more curious to read about the team there and what they did. What I read about them intrigued me. Suddenly, the missing piece of the puzzle seemed to fall in place. I contacted Vahura to ask if they were hiring. Although, they weren’t at that point of time, they reached back to me a few months later. There has been no looking back since then.
What is the reaction of people when they hear about what you do, especially friends and family?
I have been with Vahura for quite some time now and so most people who know me, know what I do as well. In a way, Vahura and my role here has become a part of my identity. Friends and family are generally curious to know what I mean when I say I work for a legal talent management firm. They want to understand how it works and what the business model is. Most of them usually find it interesting and say that they didn’t know something like this existed! A lot of them find what I do pretty cool and have even asked me if we would be hiring.
Do you miss a corporate career and the perks that come with it? How easy was the transition from being an In-House Lawyer to joining a startup like Vahura?
Since the shift was a conscious and well thought of decision, I was prepared for all the changes that would accompany it. I do remember, that have worked with a company having 5000 odd employees on campus, coming into a small office with just 2 other colleagues for company felt a little strange, initially. But the work was so interesting, there were so many new people to meet, so many different things to learn that I didn’t mind at all. The best part was not being tied to the desk. Meeting clients and professionals meant that I was constantly outside. That always helped break the monotony and made work exciting. Infact, it’s so easy to get lost in the crowd when you work for a bigger organization. Here, each small contribution that you make stands out and earns you recognition. Of course, you probably don’t get the same perks that would have come from working with a bigger organization. But then the flexibility, the opportunity to take on more responsibility, the ability to grow quickly and to expand on your learning are unmatched. They more than make up for anything else that you miss out on otherwise. I have always been very sure about what I do not want in terms of a career- long work hours, system bound work procedures etc, don’t interest me. That way, I feel that I have got more than what I could have asked for.
How has the decision to join Vahura impacted you as a person and your growth as an individual?
I would say that the impact has been tremendous. I am much more confident as a person. My present role has helped me realise my own strength and the organization has seen potential in me when I myself have not. I can confidently say that I have learnt much more in these past 6 odd years than I have in any of my previous roles. I started off as a legal recruiter and was soon overseeing hiring for the entire Southern region (law firms and in-house included). When I was back from a maternity break and requested for a change of role, I was quickly absorbed into more strategic functions. I currently oversee Internal Functions and People Management, besides handling Performance Management and Internal Talent Acquisition for the organization. I also got one of the biggest opportunities in my life when I became one of the Directors on the Board, about a year and half ago. I can proudly say that I am the first Woman Director at Vahura! I don’t think I would have got this opportunity anywhere else and that too so early on in my career. If I look back at my career graph and see the entire gamut of work that I have handled, I see no regrets and I feel satisfied.
How has your legal education and training helped you in your present role?
My legal education and training has been a big advantage in all the roles that I have played at Vahura. We touch all aspects of Legal Talent – recruiting, consulting, governance, mentorship, community engagement. Although a legal education is not a pre-requisite for all this, it does make a huge difference. When I am recruiting a lawyer for the legal team of a company, it helps if I have been an in-house lawyer myself. It gives me an intuitive understanding, backed by practical experience which works very well for the client as well. So also, as a HR Manager for Vahura, my previous corporate experience has come handy in implementing best practices and recommending changes for the organizational well-being.
If you were to do one thing differently, with respect to your career, what would that be?
I would probably go back to law school and would take my internships and moots more seriously! Not that they have impacted my career progress and have affected what I am today. But they would have definitely helped me make a more informed choice and would have helped me figure out faster what WOULD NOT work for me. I interact with law students/ fresh graduates now and see how well prepared they are and how thoroughly they have researched about what they want. I can’t help but feel a pang of envy! I admire them for knowing what they want, so early on in life. It definitely gives you an edge and helps you stay focused.
What would be your advice to a young lawyer if he/she wants to tread the alternate career path?
We are all in a noble profession. The opportunity to make a difference in society and in the lives of others is so much more for us as lawyers. Whether you are a litigating lawyer who is fighting for the right cause or a corporate/ law firm lawyer impacting businesses decisions, there is no limit to what you can achieve in this field. If that is not your cup of tea, then you can always be an ‘alternate lawyer’ like me and help make an impact by being on the other side of things. The ways in which you can do that are unlimited. For instance, I am presently heading a project at Vahura called ReLawnch. It is aimed at helping women lawyers make a comeback into the profession after they have taken a career break. We have had our first success by helping a woman professional start her career in litigation. The entire experience is so fulfilling and enriching that it is unparalled. To know that what you do makes you happy and that you are doing your bit to make the world that much better- that is when you know that you are doing the right thing! And if that means doing something unconventional and taking the road less travelled, so be it. If it doesn’t work, you always have the option to get back to the core legal profession. But it is important to try before you arrive at that decision.