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Feature Friday: Anoma Baste

Thanks for joining us once again as we welcome one of our members to discuss their journey into the workspace design.

This week we have the pleasure of sharing our conversation with Anoma Baste, Associate Director – International Client Solutions at Space Matrix.

WOD: Lets start at the beginning with your background…

AB: “I was born in the city of Joy – Calcutta or Kolkata in India. My mother is a teacher, my first teacher! She is also a published children’s science book author and was the head for one of the leading international schools in Mumbai before she retired. My father graduated from the premier Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Madras) and is a chemical engineer. He was part of the management team of a eminent global FMCG company through a long successful career and has 9 patents in water technology in his name which in many ways has revolutionised accessibility of clean drinking water for low income families in India. After a career of 38 years, post retirement, he now consults with large international companies as well as serves on various company boards. Both my parents have been instrumental in laying my foundational values and are my first role models in life. They inspire me, and encourage me to achieve my dreams and more.

– “Me at one, with my parents. Calcutta / Kolkata.”

My parents have been the source of my pride and joy through my childhood. And as I transitioned to have my own son, they have stood by me through thick and thin! Though my parents were in many ways conservative, there always was a focus on education and achievement in our household. Being true to Indian cultural values and being foremost a good human being was stressed at at home. My father’s work resulted in us moving around India every 4 to 6 years and then as a young adult, resulted in some international travel. Most of my childhood I was the new kid in class. I was generally a very shy child and an introvert, though a fire starter at home especially when it came to me and my younger brother vying for our mother’s attention. Due to early exposure to various diverse people across the country, I slowly learnt how to get out of my shell, make friends, at times stand up against bullies, learn new languages and start afresh every time we moved. Early success at school academically helped build my confidence as a speaker, at theatre, at art, and in leadership roles starting off as the class monitor. I was always the kid on the playground setting rules, trying to teach the school bully a lesson by rolling up my sleeves. This trait, irks some near and dear ones, and is a work in progress. I’m learning to be better at conflict resolution . I’ve always stood for what I believe is right and just, and that being a bystander to injustice implicates one as being party to the injustice itself. We have a voice, and we should all use it well. Thats why, it is so important to ensure that we are aware and stand by not only perceptions and ideologies but facts and truth. Thats where continued education through diverse sources helps.

Mom and I were always thinking of the best, most creative, awe inspiring craft projects to come up with and I loved that we often worked on projects together during school holidays. I usually hung out with the bright kids regardless of their background or their socio-economic strata. I’ve always been biased towards intelligence! In the world of AI, human intelligence is still primary. I’m so glad I share the thoughts of the online author who suggests that, “Artificial Intelligence is Pointless without Human Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence is about Human Intelligence.` The caveat now being that human intelligence is not only IQ based but more and more evidence supports the superior role of EQ when it comes to defining which of the two is more important, in the probability of success. For me, my Father always represented and still represents a high IQ. My mom, an above average EQ. Thus I’ve had good role models in childhood to learn from.

– “Taken by surprise by the event photographer who spotted me perched on the dias on sports day. My somewhat juvenile obsession with numero uno started very young! Calcutta / Kolkata.”

I was known as quite the nerd in class and the teacher’s pet. The latter was a coveted position in those days. Academic excellence was very important to me and I slowly grew to be an extremely competitive person by nature. It was the environment in those days that ingrained the concept of “you need to be better than the rest”. I no longer subscribe to this way of thinking which has taken years of work to change. The fear of losing out and working relentlessly is exhausting and there is no end to that. There will always be someone better and if that’s the ladder you are trying to climb, it is a very slippery slope and one which everyone will eventually fall off, sooner than later. Through my professional growth and taking up leadership positions, I’ve learnt that there is so much opportunity out there and that we all need to find our purpose and align ourselves with something greater than our need to excel for our own insular needs. When we do that, we truly excel individually and as a part of the collective. 

In my early thirties came my most important wake up call, as I started transition through my career. I had serious issues in dealing with personal failure, which come frequently in the business world especially in business development, it has a high rejection rate on average. It’s then, when I slowly learnt to open myself and my life to be one which is built on the foundation of achieving for the greater good, being more than a life lived only reaching predetermined goals – Instead focus on what could I do to bring greater good, be part of positive change. There is no one other than myself, that I could change for the better and I’ve been on that journey since. I still follow the mantra, “Everything you ever wanted, is on the other side of fear”. Plus recently I’ve added to my mantra repertoire with – “How can I be better?” especially when dealing with triggers associated with “anger.” 

Finding my own spouse, contrary to an existing long legacy of arranged marriages in the family, jumping out of a plane at 12,000 Ft above sea level over mountains to tandem skydive (encouraged by my husband), The guts as an ambitious person, to slow down my career and plan the birth of my precious son, were personal achievements that I hold dear, a result of overcoming deep personal fears and inadequacies through self work and self realisation.

In terms of academics; I studied architecture because I realised that being a doctor wasn’t up my ally and some friends dissuaded me. My mother encouraged me to take up architecture and I’m glad I took her advice.

Post my 5 years at architecture school and working through late night submissions, model making and falling asleep on my drafting board, I did well and enjoyed the journey thoroughly. I also met my now husband online, while I was in my 4th yr as a student. I found my own way even then, as the first woman architect / professional and the first woman within the family, who chose her own spouse. We come from a long legacy of arranged marriages in my immediate family so I’ve broken a few rules along the way. Since then other cousins have followed.

I finished my executive training through the management acceleration program at INSEAD in 2015. It changed the way I thought about things, my perspective on business and organisational management skills and my mindset in many many ways. It was a long standing dream which I ticked off my bucket list, with encouragement from my then mentor and manager.”

– “Me at the INSEAD Singapore Campus as an Executive Learning Student in 2015.”

WOD: And could you tell us some more about your professional career and current role…

AB: “I started my career as an architect / research trainee with the french infrastructure company STUP based in Mumbai. Post that I moved to working for a local NGO on advanced locality management programs and urban mapping in the suburbs of Mumbai. Soon after I started working for an experimental interior design boutique, called Innovation Lab which was involved in various projects, ranging from designing urban redevelopment projects to corporate identity work for pharmaceutical clients. Simultaneously I taught architectural design to first year students for two and a half years at the Mumbai University. I then transitioned into running my own ID+ architecture firm called A2 architects in Pune while working with my in law’s 30 year old family run architecture firm A+P Baste Associates. After the first 7 years of my career, came my first career pivot when I moved to Singapore and transitioned into corporate interiors with focus on a marketing and business role at Space Matrix HQ. My career has spanned over 20 yrs across APAC, as an architect, author, entrepreneur and workplace consultant.

Read the full Feature Friday interview with Anoma, as well as interviews with our previous guests, by joining WOD Digital today.