Tell us about yourself

The day I was born, my parents had decided to watch a movie and headed to Hyderabad’s twin cinema halls called Sapna and Santosh. However, they had to take a diversion to the hospital, as ‘the baby was coming’! It was then, at the hospital, that my parents decided that if the baby was a girl, they would name her Sapna, and in case of a boy, the name would be Santosh. So that’s how I received my name. Sapna, means ‘dream’ in Hindi.

I was born and raised in Hyderabad, India. I am a single child and had the privilege of growing up in a large family with my grandparents and relatives living close by. English was the common language in our family, but my dad always spoke to me in Hindi and with my mom in Tamil. Telugu and Hyderabadi Hindi were also commonly spoken in Hyderabad. Weird and complicated as it sounds, it surely was a catalyst in enabling me to speak 5 languages/dialects possibly every single day!

I studied at a Convent school, where I became the school captain and often won medals for best grades and good conduct. While growing up, my maternal grandparents had a significant influence on my life. My grandmother taught me how to rise above the nay-sayers and focus on what I wanted to achieve. My grandfather instilled the importance of education and financial independence.

At the age of 22, I became financially independent . My career brought along opportunities to explore and experience other cultures. I have lived and worked in 7 countries across Europe and Asia and also enjoyed a lot of solo travel. I have travelled to 28 countries and hope to finish my bucket list of seeing all the wonders of the world someday.

Painting is special to me. The bond dates back to when I was 3, and was hospitalised due to severe coughing. Despite normal medical reports, the coughing continued. The doctor concluded that this was an attention seeking mechanism I sought to spend more time with my full-time working parents. That’s when my parents bought me my first set of colour pencils and paints and I never coughed when I painted! Ever since, I’ve had many wonderful people who have supported me in building and encouraging my love for painting. I continue to pursue my passion for painting with workshops that I attend in Wohlen and Zürich.

I credit both my parents for bringing out the best in me. They gave me the freedom of choice and showed tremendous confidence in all my decisions. My father taught me and continues to teach me how to enjoy life. My mother taught me the importance of having a voice as a woman, unconditional love and selflessness for her child. And from them both, I learnt the value of honesty and work ethics. I hope to pass all of this to my daughter as she grows.

I love spending time with my family in Switzerland and in India. With my daughter, I love dancing, singing, painting and watching Peppa Pig. I love watching movies, cooking shows and trying new restaurants. I’ve been an active badminton player, having played at the corporate level and the Baden Badminton Club. Having taken an intermittent break, I hope to start playing again soon. I now practice Yoga. A supporter of diversity and inclusion, I’m also an active member of a professional women’s network in Zurich and the Toastmaster’s Club.

What brought you to Switzerland

‘Love’. I’ve always been a home bird and even though I travelled extensively for work, I knew I would return to my home in Hyderabad. However, when I came to Switzerland for a fun weekend in 2004, I, like many others who have watched Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaenge multiple times, decided to buy a cow bell, with a secret hope of finding my true love.

Little did I know that I would find my Shah Rukh Khan (aka my husband, Martin), 7 years later and end up living in this beautiful country! We have a charming two-and-a-half year old daughter, Anokhi – an Indian name, which means ‘unique’ in Hindi.

Do you like it here, what do you love and what would you change (if at all)?

Switzerland and India will always be my two homes. I love Hyderabadi Biryani and Alpen Macaroni equally! What I like here most is the predictability, precision, commitment to timelines and equality of professions. If I could change something, I’d start a direct flight to Hyderabad!

As a working mother with various creative pursuits, how do you manage a balance of professional life, along with pursuinf your interests?

I don’t believe in striving for the right balance because I don’t think it exists. On some days I work more and on other days I spend more time with family. I treat each day as a new one, define what is most important for me personally and professionally, and work towards fulfilling those goals. I am blessed to have a supportive husband with whom I share our family responsibilities equally. And whenever I need that extra boost, my feel good go to song is ‘Supergirl’ by Anna Naklab.

From your experience of living in Switzerland, do you have any words of wisdom to help fellow expats integrate?
  1. Be Yourself – Being married to a Swiss national definitely gave me a head start of having a local family and social circle. However, it took me more effort and time to feel at home in Switzerland. Despite having lived in so many other countries previously, this time, in addition to adjusting to a new country, I was also familiarising myself with a new marriage and family, a different language and culture, a new role at work and a new social circle. Stay grounded and keep your core values and everything will be fine.
  2. Time & Patience – This is key and over time we all thrive! Within a few months of arriving in Switzerland, my mother-in-law gave me the book, ‘Swiss Watching’ by Diccon Bewes. The book is funny, quirky and to a certain extent a stereotypical one that gives you very useful tips to understand the Swiss culture – a ‘must-read’, indeed.
  3. Be curious – It is not often that one gets a chance to observe and experience another culture from close quarters. I consider it a privilege and work towards enjoying the best of both worlds.

About Sapna – An Assistant Vice President and Client Partner for Strategic Accounts at an Indian IT Services and Solutions company; her 17-year IT career spans across the Banking & Financial Services Industry and the Healthcare & Life Sciences (HLS) Industry. She has an MBA in Finance and an ICWA (Intermediate Stage 1) degree. In addition, she holds a Drawing Degree and a Diploma in Textile Designing. She is currently pursuing an Executive Education course in Artificial Intelligence from the MIT Sloan School of Management, while she manages her many roles within her family.

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