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No Failure is Too Great; Where There is a Will There is a Way

No Failure is too Great; Where There is a Will, There is a Way

It’s funny how the world works. One minute you think you may be making one of the biggest mistakes of your life, and the next you realize that ‘mistake’ may have been one of the best things you ever did. That’s what happened to me and my family and looking back I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Growing up in India, decades ago, if you were good at school you had two choices for a career path – to be a doctor or an engineer. If you did not pursue one of these opportunities, there was a stigma. People would wonder why you were wasting your talents.

From an early age I understood that engineering was in my future. I was the last of six siblings, and my father was retired by the time I entered engineering college. He financially supported all of my education through his pension with a dream of seeing me become a successful engineer.

I was the first engineer in my family. After graduation I worked for a small start-up company. It was challenging to be responsible for a project from end to end and everything in between. It was rewarding but also demanding. This job helped me develop an appreciation for an accountability culture.

At the time, I was balancing my career with raising two small children. But overnight my whole life changed and I had to give up my technical career when my mother-in-law, who cared for my daughters while I worked, died suddenly.

Caring for my children brought me great joy, but I considered leaving my engineering career a significant personal failure. Doing so meant I could not live up to my parents’ expectations. I felt like a letdown to my family because so much time and money had been spent on my education. Many sacrifices had been made for me to pursue engineering and now my career was suddenly brought to a halt. I felt I was a disappointment to my family, my parents, my company and most importantly myself.

I believe that failures are stepping stones to success; accepting failures show us new paths. I am a very optimistic person and truly believe where there is a will, there certainly is a way.

A few years later my daughters were ready for school. At this time, I challenged myself and applied for further studies. I was admitted to one of the best engineering schools in Bangalore for a masters in Technology. It was not easy to go back to school after being away for nearly a decade. All the students were significantly younger than me. At first, I was very apprehensive. Could I make this work? Could I manage school while taking care of my family? Would I be as smart and capable as the other students?

Even though I was extremely nervous about this new challenge and was afraid of the risk I was taking going back to school, I persevered. I was courageous. After a few weeks, my professors took notice of my hard work. This motivated me to work harder. My husband and my daughters also provided much-needed support and encouragement.

My perceived failure led me back to school where I realized my true potential. I believed I could accomplish my goal of earning a master’s degree and once I did, I landed my dream job at Honeywell Aerospace. Honeywell has provided me with every opportunity to pursue my passion for engineering and innovation via critical program executions, working with technically competent colleagues, and allowing me to grow into my current role as an Engineering Director.

My passion for engineering and aerospace has inspired both my daughters to pursue careers in the fields of engineering, design and aerospace. My oldest daughter graduated this year from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden with a master’s degree in Design. She will be working as a Human Centric Designer with Volvo automobiles in Sweden starting this Sept. My younger daughter just completed her undergraduate education in Aerospace Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, in Madras, India. She will start her master’s in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University this fall.

In our industry, there is a real fear of failure at all levels. But if we are more open about failures and challenges, the stigma could be eradicated. I encourage leaders and employees to embrace failure, to take risks, and be courageous. It is how we get better. Without examining our failures, we are losing the opportunity to grow and succeed. All experiences – good and bad – help shape us.

Naina Kumble
Director of Engineering
Naina Kumble is Director of Engineering at Honeywell Aerospace in Deer Valley, Phoenix, Arizona.

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