When I coached my first client, I had no formal qualifications. About 2 years later, I got my ICF PCC certificate. Here's what happened along the way.
Getting my first break
I had left my corporate job to go solo in April 2020, during lock down. And I had no work of any kind for months. A mix of boredom, frustration and anxiety was taking over, when a new door opened.
In Sept 2020, I was offered a career coaching assignment by the amazing Sandeep Kochhar and Vishwapriya Kochhar of BlewMinds. I had never coached before, but they trusted me with the job. I'll never forget my first break, as without it, nothing would have happened. My first coaching session wasn't even in English, it was in Tamil!
Encouraged by their confidence in me, I made a brochure and sent it to a few friends.
Would anyone like to be coached by me, I wondered.
My first direct client
A few weeks later, in Nov 2020, I had my first client. He needed someone to help him figure things out at work. We had a discovery call, and felt we could work together. I sent him my first ever agreement, and offered a 75% discount. He was my very first client after all, and I was keen to get started.
My coaching practice had begun.
But I'd never been trained by anyone in coaching. Yet.
The formal training begins
I joined the Foundation program at Coacharya. What made them different was their approach. They didn't offer a quick path to a certificate, but a deliberate, well designed experience that would truly help me be better. I was intrigued and excited by their learning journey. I was in!
My training began in Dec 2020 with the amazing Dreyvan Dayse and Tracy Brown, and my ever curious batch mates that included Mallika Patil and Priyanka Salgaonkar, who continue to be my friends and sounding boards.
Our deep, ontological explorations make me pause, think and reflect even today.
Opening up to the world
I started feeling more confident. In Jan 2021, I designed and launched my website . I even put up pics of myself on it, and started a blog. I also started writing on LinkedIn everyday, a practice I haven't stopped since then.
The universe responded. And how!
Writing on LinkedIn opened me up the world. I got introduced to people I would never have engaged with otherwise. Doors opened, dialogues started and my work scope expanded.
By March 2021, I had signed up over a dozen clients. And my rates were no longer heavily discounted. I was trying my best not to push my services, but pull clients to me instead. And it had started working.
My business was up and running.
My first large assignment
Around then, I learnt about Stoa. One of my private clients had joined their program, and was loving it. I messaged Aditya Kulkarni and thanked him for the great work they were doing. We got talking, and a week later I had agreed to coach their next cohort. Manoj Kambadur, his team and I partnered to create a great coaching experience for Stoa fellows.
Watching what you are doing at Stoa makes me feel so proud, of what you're doing with your careers and lives.
Your best days are just ahead of you folks. Keep at it. I'm rooting for you!
Sharing is caring
Meanwhile, the Coacharya team asked me if I'd like to share my story. I partnered with Neha Sinha and Magda Walczak to do three webinars to help those that were launching their coaching businesses. The response was stunning, and I made so many new friends during this time. Thank you to all in the Coacharya community, for helping me understand how important it is to share, so others can grow with you. You rock!
Going Live !
Spurred on by the feedback, I knew it was time to overcome a huge fear. Doing a Live online event.
I approached my own coach Abhijit Bhaduri to do what he does best. Be himself!
I got a StreamYard account, did some basic production and hit the Live button with Abhijit. We spoke about a ton of ideas from his book Dreamers and Unicorns, and he entertained and educated us with his stories. And not to forget his sketchnotes, which are awesome!
I felt so happy that day.
I had practiced what I preach.
To Stop (over)thinking. Start doing.
Coaching with Hogan Assessments
Meanwhile, Pradnya Parasher and I started talking about working with Threefish on coaching using Hogan Assessments. We had met years ago at my own Hogan certification. I had worked with Hogan extensively while in my HR role at Arm, and loved the impact we had made using them in our leadership programmes.
And then I jumped right into some amazing executive coaching engagements with the Threefish team, who exposed me to organizations and people I had never worked with before. And I'm still going with these engagements.
And you know what happens when you keep going?
The TV appearance!
NDTV invited me to their live program on careers, and asked me to comment on when career transitions work well, and what you can do to achieve career growth. I have never felt more anxious, excited and shaken all the same time. I told my friends and family, and they all tuned in and saw me live.
When I finished, my WhatsApp was bursting with messages. One of my neighbours sent it on our group, and every single person in our community congratulated me.
There's never been a better time to have a great support network.
It was such a lovely gesture. It spurred me on even further.
Publishing my first book
I had so many learnings from my coaching experiences already. And I had written every day for over a year on LinkedIn. A client asked me - "Why don't you compile these into a book?"
I hated the idea at first, and rejected it completely. But then the idea took root in my head, and I couldn't get it out. More than anything, I was curious whether I would be able to do what I kept telling others - to just try and see what happens.
I had written a book for others, but my own learning had been paused a bit due to other commitments. I decided to continue and push forward.
Advanced learning and final steps
I had completed my foundation course, and I was nearing 500 coaching hours already. I decided not to apply for ACC, and to go directly for PCC certification. The extra effort seemed worthwhile, though indeed a bit intimidating.
As things got busier, I needed to have a deeper focus on my learning. I joined Ujjaval Buch's advanced course along with a cohort of highly accomplished HR leaders. Our Sunday morning explorations kept me hooked for months!
When the classes ended, it was time to get mentored by another Master Coach, the inimitable Cindy Muthukarapan. A mix of group and individual mentoring meant that I could submit my final recording. Thankfully, one of my clients agreed for her session to be sent. I submitted it and waited for the final go ahead. Cindy responded with her feedback, and said the much awaited words - You've passed!
The final frontier was the ominously named CKA, an online test with 155 questions that was the only thing separating me and PCC.
Looking back, I can now say that it wasn't so ominous after all! Thanks to all my training, I passed comfortably, and received the certificate over email.
That isn't the end of the story!
The most important part still remains.
Why I do what I do - MY CLIENTS
While all this was happening, I had completed around 750 hours of coaching.
I had worked with clients on challenges like tough bosses, transitions, pivots, growth, moving cities , leaving India, returning to India, getting work, returning to work, changing functions.. The issues varied, but the theme was the same.
Everyone wanted a change.
As we partnered on this change, my clients welcomed me into their world without hesitation. And by doing so, they made me a part of it, with all their heart. Sometimes, I honestly don't know who's coaching who. In helping them, I seem to be finding more of myself. And that is probably why this is what I like to do.
Coaching is defined as a partnership. And if you are a client reading this, please know this - I can't think of anyone better to partner with.
Thank you !
I've been known to say this a lot -
If you can fix a problem, you have the stuff. The rest, my friend, is just fluff
We should get on with what we need to do. Certificates and badges are a signal to the world about what you can do. They help in messaging, but it's what we do that defines us.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it was my support system that helped me get here. When the child eventually makes something of her life, it is by standing on the shoulders of the giants that helped. Not just the learning she underwent, and sometimes endured.
This is my thank you to you, my village. My family, my friends, my coaches, my mentors, my teachers, my partners, my clients. All of you.
My PCC credential says as much of you as it does of me.
You're my rock. My foundation.
Thank you for being there for me.