From Software Coding to Soft Skills Coaching

By Meena Eswaran

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” - Nelson Mandela

The journey begins….


My name is Meena Eswaran and I help business professionals communicate clearly and confidently in English in global business settings. Little did I know I would be doing this when I landed in Germany way back in 1996. I was an IT graduate and had been working in the corporate world, when I met my now husband, another IT professional, whom I got married to in 1993. India was in the midst of the IT boom then and there was more work to be done outside the country than within, which provided us IT professionals with a lot of career opportunities abroad. This, however, also brought me to the grim realization that one of us would have to set our career aside, at least for a short while, if we were to be together. I chose to step down for a little while, since it felt like the right thing to do at that point in time and accompanied my husband to Germany where he was posted as the regional manager of the company that he was working for.


Globalization, as we know it now, was already happening in a big way, though countries like Germany were a bit late to jump on the bandwagon. This, coupled with the country’s tight bureaucracy, meant that I had to wait for 5 years before I could finally start working here. In the meanwhile, we had turned our attention towards starting a family which took me yet another 5 years before I could get into the workforce.


At the crossroads…


The IT field had gone through a major overhaul by then and I had to make a decision: Upskill myself and continue my IT career or use this as an opportunity to change my path. I chose the latter and combined my knowledge in IT with my passion for teaching. This led me to teach a course in IT English for full-time Bachelor IT students at a leading university of Applied Sciences here in Germany.


Before this, I had completed a certification course to teach English to adults (CELTA) conducted by The Cambridge University. The CELTA course itself was extremely intensive and it had been quite a while since my previous learning endeavour. But it was well worth all the effort and hard work as that is what laid the right foundation for my lateral entry into Business English training and gave me plenty of hands-on teaching experience. There are some who do well in this field without any formal qualification, but CELTA gave me the much-needed confidence and tailwind to forge my entry into this exciting field of training / coaching.


Twists and Turns……

Then followed some wonderful years training corporates in Frankfurt / Rhine-Main on business communication, as a freelancer, which I am continuing to date.



Looking back, there has been lots to learn and unlearn. It was definitely a huge shift from interacting with machines to interacting with people. Not only did they need to be trained, but also engaged and motivated constantly. The positive feedback and appreciation that I received from my learners kept encouraging me to not only impart the knowledge that I had, but also try and add value to their professional lives.




I have had something new to learn in every interaction with my learners, whether it is the typical mistakes made in English by speakers of a particular native tongue, or a particular learning activity or teaching method that appealed to them, or the reasons for their difficulty in retaining what they have learned, the list is endless. Of all those I faced, helping my learners correct their fossilized errors and retain what they had learnt were the most challenging. The pursuit of a solution to these issues brought me to a course on Neurolanguage® Coaching, which apart from providing me a coaching certification also taught me the secrets of the brain related to learning and ways to adapt my coaching to help learners learn more effectively.



During these years in Germany, I have noticed people do things or behave in a manner quite different from what I am used to or what is not the norm in my country of origin, India. I often jumped to conclusions or judged people until I read these lines in a magazine: “No one culture is better than or superior to another culture. They are just different”. This was truly an “Aha! moment” for me and I decided to pursue the subject of intercultural differences further. My fascination for this discipline brought me to a course on Intercultural Training and I got myself certified as an Intercultural Trainer.


All along, there has been this constant need to keep myself abreast with the latest in the field of professional English communication, which has extended beyond “just” the English language, to encompass other topics of relevance such as English for Specific Purposes, Intercultural Communication, Diversity and Inclusion, and of course nowadays Virtual Communication as well, to name a few. The associations of like-minded professionals that I am a member of, have, without a doubt, helped me a great deal in my continuous professional development and more importantly to develop and maintain a sense of community in what can otherwise become a lonely place for us self-employed professionals.


Miles to go…….


I started my own company called XCEL Communication Coaching in 2020 to offer my clients the awareness and insights to adapt to people from cultures other than their own when communicating in business settings.



Throughout this journey of almost 13 years, there is one mantra that I have always believed in: Keep moving forward and grab every opportunity that comes your way. I have not let failures or rejections deter me and with focus, hard work and grit, I also hope to be successful in my latest endeavour as an “edupreneur”.


 

Meena is a coach specialising in intercultural and business communication with 12+ years of experience coaching professionals and university students in Frankfurt and the Rhine-Main Metropolitan area. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Technology and a Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) from the Cambridge University. She is also a certified Intercultural Trainer and a Neurolanguage® coach accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She can be reached on LinkedIn.


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