Edupreneur par excellence
Dr. Suryakumari Duggirala
Founder - President, The ALPS
The Academy of Life and People Skills
Who would have thought that a quiet young girl in school would one day become a successful Life Skills Coach and ‘Edupreneur’ - meet Dr. SuryakumariDuggirala, President and Founder of The Academy for Life and People Skills (The ALPS)
Over the decade that I have known Dr. Suryakumari, almost every interaction that I have had with her has had a Eureka moment! Whether she is speaking in the classroom or having a regular conversation there is ‘the discovery of something new’ for the audience to which she laughingly remarks, I simply tap the right buttons in you!
Dr. Suryakumari (Dr. Surya as she is called) has been on the faculty of MOHAN Foundation’s Transplant Coordinators’ Training Programme since 2011. This was in the early years of the launch of this unique structured course for transplant coordinators in India and South Asia. She started off with sessions on Human Resource-OrganisationalBehaviour (HR-OB) and Soft Skills that were filled with practical learning. She has covered myriad topics based on the training requirement: Few standalone ones are: ‘Bringing about Social Change using the Tools of Social Media - Organ Donation’ and ‘Health Care Professionals and Health Care Managers – Effective Communication Skills.’ Given the teaching challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic brought, she quickly adapted herself to the virtual world and made her sessions on ‘Communication Skills in Healthcare Management’ and ‘Conflict Resolution’ interactive with activities and group discussions. Excerpts from an interview with her:
Dr. Sumana: How do you think ‘Stress Management’ is important, especially for healthcare professionals?
Dr. Surya: Let me begin by saying that just as ‘pride’ can be a positive and negative emotion, the word ‘stress’ by itself can mean either. In Physics, it refers to the interaction between a force and the resistance to counter that force. It is a non-specific response of the body to any demand.Hence stress is as normal as a reflex action and the body gets back to normal mode after the stressful situation is over. How is it over? With your problem solving skills, coping skills and resilience. Most stress consists of an adrenaline rush and a euphoria of having achieved or overcome, I call it, a situation rather than a crisis. What is generally referred to as Eustress, like before an exam or a presentation. The stress that pushes you to perform well. Positive.
Stress is a given, whereas ‘Stress Management’ is a misnomer. I believe you can ‘manage’ yourself to handle stress than ‘manage stress.’ Hence our self-designed flagship programme, ‘Stress Proof Yourself.’ Here we coach participants and equip them with skills to overcome adverse situations that are part of growing up and life. Yes, we all panic, get agitated or angry under various circumstances. That is momentary reaction, aka reflex action. What follows is how you manage the situation under stressful circumstances by working towards a solution for that. It does not mean that one becomes devoid of emotions like grief and sadness but you are better equipped to handle stressful moments that are part of life. This way you remain in control of the situation and emerge a winner for a lifetime. You become a more confident and stronger person.
Dr. Sumana: You have been with MOHAN Foundation for a decade. What are your takeaways?
Dr. Surya: I am like many people out there who want to do a few good things in life apart from the ‘roti-kapda-makaan’ (food-clothes-house) but do not know how to go about it. I am humbled by the opportunity to work with the Foundation. Yes, in true Surya style as you always say, I am sincere in whatever I do. I have always looked up to Dr. Sunil Shroff, Managing Trustee, MOHAN Foundation for his simplicity and ever-smiling countenance while doing such voluminous work. Thanks to the genuine and honest work that you and your cheerful team do, I have pledged my organs and go about creating awareness however I can. For this, I need to equip myself with the tools. Hence when you asked me to vet the One-day ‘Gift of Life’ online course, it was an opportunity for me to upskill myself to provide you with the right feedback as a student.
“I started the one-day ‘Gift of Life’ online course with a lot of excitement and eagerness. It has been an enriching and a learning experience. The course has been curated with in-depth and meaningful content. The lessons flow well into each subsequent topic, give a lot of information that add tremendous credibility. From a non-medico perspective, it was understandable and simply laid out. What is outstanding is the transparent yet dignified way in which a delicate and sensitive subject like organ donation has been handled without being overtly pleading. The facts were laid out effectively and a case presented, leaving the readers to take a decision on their own (e.g. ethics topic discussion on preference of kidney donation between live donor and deceased donor). This can be introduced in all forums - schools, colleges, work places and social media platforms for better reach and penetration. This will also help dispel any distrust amongst the public. There are several online educational websites now like Coursera, Upgrad etc. MOHAN Foundation can collaborate with these to include this as a free course.” – Dr. Suryakumari
Dr. Sumana: You seem to have internalized this learning, right?
Dr. Surya: Oh really, I did not look at it that way. Perfection has become obsolete, it’s all about professional excellence now! Although I am Faculty for Communication Skills, Soft Skills and HR-OB, I have constantly educated myself as much as I can about the organ donation cause. In management we call it ‘Product Knowledge’ (she laughs)…whatever you sell or talk about, as in marketing or customer care, you need to know about it first! Oh yes, I stretch it a bit perhaps and take everyone along so much that family gatherings too have had an Awareness Talk!
Dr. Sumana: You were invited by the Healthcare Sector Skill Council to be on the Expert Committee that was formulating National Occupational Standards for a Transplant Coordinator. How was that experience?
Dr. Surya: It was an honour and privilege I cherish. To be nominated as the only Life Skills Coach amongst eminent doctors and social workers of the country, I am humbled and fulfilled that I have held the torch given to me responsibly.
Dr. Sumana: Can you tell us about your recent ranking in the corporate world?
Dr. Surya: As one among the Top 10 Women Corporate Trainers 2021 in the country? Women Entrepreneur India conducted a survey of 210 Women Corporate Trainers and interviewed me. That was a full-on thrilling moment, I must admit when CEO Insights magazine featured the results. I owe it to all my clients, participants and a lot of it to my pro bono work.
Dr. Sumana: What is your mantra?
Dr Surya: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” I am driven by a quest to learn and this is what I impart to my participants and students as well. My life lessons have come from my parents who lived the values and never ever preached.
Dr. Sumana: You recently started a unique webinar series called The ALPS Conversations, “Quiet achievers – Women at work.” What is it about?
Dr Surya: I believe that success and happiness is not like 2-minute Maggie noodles, an instant comfort food. It has to be earned with a lot of hard work and dedication. That’s what we are told, boys and girls in the growing years. But for the average woman in the patriarchal world we live in, it comes through n number of ‘re-start’ buttons. I wanted to showcase and celebrate women achievers who go about rebuilding their careers amidst the changes brought about by marriage and children. How difficult was the journey and how most, or shall I say all of us carry on while the world is QUIET. The whole world knows the celebrities but one may not be aware of how the women in one’s own family have succeeded. You can see them all on YouTube. We were eight women, but actually the number is ‘all women’, I can safely say! Through my interactions with this eclectic group, you can see the importance of self-belief, self-love, courage, humility, respect for others and hard work for success that made for illuminating conversations.
Dr. Sumana: You have varied interests, how do you manage to address each?
Dr. Surya: I guess by keeping my interests alive! As a student, I enjoyed Economics, Psychology and English. I was in a dilemma as to in which I should specialise. By keeping my vision in perspective, I seem to have achieved all my goals to a reasonable extent. A doctorate in Economics and all other supplementary studies in English and Psychology I derived by learning on the job as each opportunity came up. Teaching is what I love, although sadly there is scant respect for both the noble professions in our country, I continue to dedicate myself by reskilling and upskilling myself.
Dr. Sumana Navin
- Copyright © 2021. Published by MOHAN Foundation
- Keywords: Dr. SuryakumariDuggirala, The Academy for Life and People Skills (The ALPS), Communication Skills in Healthcare Management, Conflict Resolution, National Occupational Standards for a Transplant Coordinator, one-day ‘Gift of Life’ online course