Much about Reena Gupta's childhood, background and overall character give the image of selflessness.
The Pleasanton resident's work has centered on helping others, and her personal life has been deeply affected by a strongly communal household and close family ties.
However, Gupta does not advocate self-abdication.
"Do things to your limit of your well-being because if you do something and you're not healthy, then you're not going to do it to the best of your ability," Gupta's teenage daughter Ritika said, citing the advice from her mother that has resonated most with her.
The philosophy of well-being detailed in Reena Gupta's new book with Rebecca Cullen, "Career Interrupted: Navigating Career Crossroads and Defining Success on Your Own Terms", evokes the image of a three-legged stool, with each leg ("Family and Friends", "Career" and "Wellness") providing equally important support for the seat of "Work-Life Harmony" atop them.
Family and friends
A major motivation for Gupta came from the words of one of her own early-career mentors. He told a young Gupta, grappling with her role as a minority in an industry notoriously dominated by white men, to "use your difference for your strength".
"That became my armor," Gupta said.
The comment, and the impact it had on her, made Gupta aware of how well-timed advice can have a lasting influence. She found herself drawn to mentoring others with this in mind, while also maintaining on well-being. In the case of helping others, this means doing it for its own sake, according to Gupta.
"When you're helping others, just help; don't expect anything in return," Gupta said.
Key to this, for Gupta, is appreciating and benefiting from the support of others, but not being dependent on anyone else's actions for fulfillment
The biggest misconception about wellness, according to Gupta, is that it's something that naturally comes as the result of career success.
"They feel that well-being is a result of 'if I'm successful at work, if I'm happy I'll be healthy'," Gupta said.
This is a dangerous myth, according to Gupta.
Health and true happiness, in her view, are interconnected with fulfillment, not just success, at work. And rather than coming naturally as the result of a narrow vision of workplace success, they are dependent on the different "legs" of her stool model.
While career is one leg, it can't hold up the stool if the other legs (family and friends, and wellness) are broken or unstable.
Although Gupta was able to use her "difference as her strength" while navigating the technology industry early on, she acknowledges that this is no small feat.
"Currently the situation for DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) is everybody wants to be part of it, but they don't know how," Gupta said. "Every company, they want to boast that they're doing the best, but there's so much bias."
The prevalence of bias in society in general makes it difficult to quickly or easily overcome, Gupta noted, despite seeing recent attention to it as a step in the right direction.
"I think the challenge (for companies) is that now people are speaking up," Gupta said.
She cited social media and other changing societal tides as the reason for this. It's no longer the norm, she noted, to just sit back and accept bias or mistreatment in the workplace as inevitable. For this reason, companies are feeling additional pressure to accommodate their employees in ways that don't necessitate sacrifices to their health and personal lives.
"What is needed is commitment," Gupta said. "What is needed is to put their money where their mouth is."
What this means for companies, according to Gupta, is that they need to "look beyond the resume" to get a sense of who a candidate is, and what their strengths are, in a way that is far more holistic than simply checking boxes to see if they can perform certain duties.
"No matter how good a person is, if you go back and tell somebody 'you're bad' or 'do this better, you're bad at this', they will continue to underperform," Gupta said.
As the "seat" of Gupta's stool, finding a balance between work and other aspects of life serves as the foundation for overall health and happiness. This has been central to her fulfillment in the work she's done, and lack of remorse over opportunities she's had to pass up.
For Gupta, this has long included working remotely, in order to spend time with her family. However, she noted that the surge in remote work brought on by the pandemic hasn't resulted in the same healthy work-life balance for everyone.
"More people are working from home and there is absolutely no discipline," Gupta said. "Employers are expecting more, employees are now trying to do more than the hours required, they are losing focus, so there is no demarcation of what work is."
One way of contending with this in the present era is how to use technology as a tool and a "friend", rather than being a "slave" to it, according to Gupta.
"My biggest advice to anyone, no matter what that situation, is to bring awareness," Gupta said. "When we are not aware, we don't respond, we react."
For Gupta, that means seeing her book launch as an opportunity to not just get her word out to the public, but as a way of gleaning insight and strengthening relationships.
Gupta will be holding an author's event for her new book at Towne Center Books on Main Street in Pleasanton at 5:30 p.m. this Saturday (Sept. 25).
She said she seeks to continue using her book as a way to connect with others at her book launch event. She welcomes community members to share their own stories of reinventing and "relaunching" their careers.