Sundeep Bhandal let her father choose her husband. Since then, she has made a point and a career of defying expectations. As told to Issie Lapowsky.
I grew up in a small town in India, where parents educate their daughters so they can marry into good families, not so they can be somebody. I was lucky, because my family pushed me to do things no other girls did. I was the only girl in town who drove a car. I would ride around in a big Jeep, and people would stare, but my father was always standing by me. That made me bold and brave. If my grandma caught me embroidering, even as a hobby, she'd tell me to go study instead.
The first time I saw my husband, Gurlal, was the day we got married in India, 10 years ago. I was almost 23 and had graduated from college and law school. It was an arranged marriage, which was pretty common. I was given a lot of freedom, but I wanted my dad to make that decision for me.
A year later, I flew to San Francisco to move in with my husband and his family. There were 10 of us in the same house. Even though my in-laws had moved from India to the Bay Area when Gurlal was 16, their way of thinking was so much more backward than my family's. It was a shock for me, and I'm sure it was for them, too.
The adjustment wasn't easy. My husband would say, "You're not like other girls." And he didn't say it as a compliment. I have a very aggressive, headstrong personality. I wanted to be somebody people know about and respect. It took me a long time to make my husband understand that's a good thing.
Two years after I moved here, I had my son and started to feel a change in my marriage. I guess my husband decided it would be easier to be supportive. We had finances to take care of, so I got a job as an assistant payroll manager at an IT consulting company and worked my way up to manager.
After three years, I decided I wanted to be my own boss. Using some of my savings and money from my parents, in 2008, I started Anjaneyap, a company that provides contract, full-time, and temporary IT staffing. Initially, a friend and I did all the work. When we hired employees from other staffing firms, they brought more clients with them. Then, around 2009, things started taking off. We had built a good reputation, and our clients started calling us with more work, instead of us calling our clients. That was a good feeling.
The support I got from my husband at that time was exceptional. Back in India, a lot of men would never help their wives with the housework. At times, Gurlal was doing even more than I was on the home front. I wouldn't have been able to do it if he hadn't backed me.
Growing up, my family had high expectations for me. But I don't think anyone thought I would be a successful business owner. My parents, who live with us now, often talk about me to their friends in India. I don't mind if they brag. Being an example to other daughters back home makes me feel so good.