Sandi Rich Saksena

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Meeting the lovely Sandi Rich Saksena, an Empowerment Officer, was a breath of fresh air. Or should I say fresh energy. She has lived in the GCC for the last 40 years. She entered the workforce at age 44, when circumstances compelled her to find a job. She leads an all female team of financial counsellors at Nexus Insurance brokers. She is the only Female Sales Manager at Nexus and her focus is financial advice and planning for Women and SME Owners. Read below the lovely exchange of knowledge:

Can you tell us more about your journey?

My journey started 20 years ago, that’s the time that I first came to Dubai and it was a very stressful time in my life because we were going thru a major financial crisis because of some incorrect decisions… in which I was not involved, because at that stage I was very much the housewife who took the back seat and was just happy to lead the role of a supporting spouse. But in retrospect, it was more to do with me so when I was faced with that moment, I went from being a housewife to a working woman. And it was a little challenging I would say now, but at that time it was a huge challenge as after being married for 22 years and never having worked a day in my life, it was extremely difficult to get myself a job, for the simple reason that I did not even know how to write a CV. Well that’s all in the past now and it’s been a great learning experience for me.

What actually made you an expert on empowerment, did you want to turn a weakness into your strength?

No actually, what happened is, I’ve always been a very strong person and have taken most of my decisions myself. In fact the major decision was to get married to my husband because we are from different religions and there was a lot of opposition from my side of the family. The fact that I was Christian and he was Hindu was very difficult. But I had made up my mind and no one could change it. So from that point of view I have been quite a decision maker.

When I talk about empowerment, I’m quite specific, for me empowerment of women is financial independence, because when you are financially independent you have choices in your life, and when you exercise that power of choice, you don’t have to worry what other people will say or do because you are financially strong, and a lot of times whether you like it or not in very blatant ways or subtle ways, money is always used as a tool of control and that’s a tool of power and in most times that’s not used in a positive way, so that is why I talked about financial independence (a tool of control) Financial Independence makes even the most manipulative person think twice, so that we are not taken for granted.

What is the secret of your unique success?

I was around 49 when I came to know that I am born with one kidney, one fallopian tube, one ovary and half a uterus and still had a normal pregnancies. If your belief and intent is strong you will get whatever you want, whatever your condition is and the most important thing is when I’m in sales I hear 2 words continuously - ASK and NO. You have to ask questions in sales right, so what is ASK for me, ATTITUDE, SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE.

If you don’t have attitude then skills and knowledge don’t work. I am the perfect example in the sense that I had the perfect attitude but no skills and knowledge and I am still successful. Skills and knowledge can be learnt but your attitude is inbuilt. No for me is a very positive word and very powerful, it stands for NEW OPPORTUNITIES.

Sandra (Sandi) Saksena envisions the financial empowerment of women in the UAE and believes that trust, empathy, sharing and giving, openness to new ideas and integrity are essential ingredients to success in both the personal and professional arenas. Sandi Saksena is a role model for women who aspire to do something valuable in their life.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Kanpur, (India) and when I was five years old my father got a job in Kuwait and then Kuwait became home for me. Although I did come back to study in India for a few years those were just my senior years in school and university. Kuwait has always been home. In fact I got married in Kuwait and my first child was born in Kuwait.

How many kids do you have?

I have two, my son who was born in Kuwait, he is a lawyer, in corporate law & finance and my daughter was born in Bahrain.

Okay, so you moved on to Bahrain?

We moved to Bahrain and then of course to the UAE. As I spent more than 47 years in the Gulf, I think I am a complete “Khaleejee” she laughed.

In your empowerment journey now, how do you run your business, is it your own business or what do you do?

Actually, I would consider it my own business because as a consultant with nexus insurance brokers I’m not an employee, so as a consultant, I have to have my own business plan, I have to generate the income that I think works for me. It’s not a target which is set by Nexus that I have to fulfill, it is my target, so how much do I need in a year, how much do I need in the following years is my plan. So based on that I have to decide how many people I meet, how many people I make my client, etc., etc. and so it’s like running your own business because you have to look at your cash flow, you have to look at future spending.

As my son and my husband are both in law, I make use of that background and that background helps me when I’m counselling women who are going through a divorce. Most of them don’t know their rights when it comes to the law. I also do a lot of private-session counselling for women who are in business or about to start a business and they don’t know what the other party is doing in terms of agreements. We tend to be too trusting and we sign on paper which we do not understand and of course I speak in conferences and do my bit whenever I can, I also have a foundation in India and it’s called Lakshmi, Lakshmi is of course the Goddess of wealth and two things Laksh & me (what is a goal) and me is me, this is my goal.

What is behind your different style of looks?

This is all about me, this is my individuality and I always feel that If I want to do something for myself I just do it, I don’t ask for people’s opinion or approval. I don’t have any expectation whether they will like me of not that doesn’t bother me. I am me and I’ll tell you what , my kids went to American schools, so I was exposed to reading a lot of books by American authors and there was a very famous American children author - Dr. Seuss He gives some very relevant mantras, and I will tell you some that I love. “Why do you want to fit in when you were born to stand out? Straight forward, that’s me.

“Too glam to need a damn” and a third one which I think is most important for everybody is “If you have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, you can go anywhere you choose.” straight forward, truthful, there is no hide and seek about it.

What do you tell yourself when you are feeling low?

I don’t feel low. No seriously, it was just like automatic. I sit back and say, I cannot control everything, the only thing that I have control over is me, and I choose not to be stressed because stress is not going to change the outcome, and the only person who will suffer is me and I love myself too much for that.