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Coming from showbiz, I found my purpose on an unexpected stage

13 June 2022

By Irene Cyrilraj

Quote by Irene Cyrilraj

With my diverse and artistic background, I now work to support conferences for researchers and medical professionals

I love working at Elsevier because customer-centricity and employee engagement are not merely words spoken but underlying values that define everyday actions and shape everything we do.

I hold a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. However, after completing my studies, I followed my passion and became a dance instructor.

I had started learning the vibrant South Indian classical form Bharatnatyam when I was 10, and at 17 had completed my Arangetram - the first public stage performance of an artist of this dance form. It felt like academic graduation, where one transition from learning to doing.

Then my dancing took an interesting turn after my final year of undergraduate studies. I wanted to be productive over the summer vacation days, and I came across an attractive ad in the paper for coaching in various styles of Western dance, such as jazz, ballet, salsa, and hip hop. I was tempted but was unsure if I would be able to cope, as it would be huge shift from my Indian classical background.

It's when I'm out of my comfort zone that I feel challenged the most. So I bravley signed on for a 30-day summary camp, which then out to be a career spanning a decade.

This brought me in touch with showbiz, and I was fascinated by all the action behind the scenes. So naturally, I gravitated to event management.


Irene Irene Cyrilraj perform her Arangetram at 17

In the events industry, one tends to become a jack of all trades. Not only did I learn about event management but also branding, marketing and corporate communication - and doing all of this with a unique, creative twist.

Still. I never imagined would one day be working to support researchers and medical professionals in a global organization like Elsevier. Here I am now after nine years still loving every minute of my day. I know my work matters, my colleagues are great, and I work in a wonderfully divers, respectful environment which helps me grow everyday.


Irene Cyrilraj performs hip-hop during her 10-year career as a dance instructor

1. Purposeful work

At Elsevier, we strive to find the best ways we can support researchers and clinicians. This includes providing insights derived from extensive data analysis to help medical professionals make informed, even lifesaving decisions. This data also helps governments and institutions formulate policies that benefit society. Meaningful work — a higher purpose — that has a positive impact on society is what motivates me to give of my best every day.

2. Great colleagues

Given my artistic background, the fact that I am now part of Elsevier speaks volumes of its diversity and inclusiveness. I am not alone in my journey, and there are several colleagues who have traveled very interesting, diverse paths before joining Elsevier. That is what I find most fascinating about Elsevier: its people. We are from different walks of life with various personal experiences. When we all come together, the richness of our shared experiences helps us see new perspectives and push boundaries.

3. Personal and professional growth

The past years have been very enriching for me, and I have grown in bounds both professionally and personally, thanks to the various leadership programs available within Elsevier. I successfully completed the Harvard Business Publishing RELX Emerging Leader Programopens in new tab/window and the Elevate Leadership Coaching trainingopens in new tab/window among others.

A common thread I found holding the key to unlocking most leadership traits is communication. As the late James Humesopens in new tab/window, a professor of language and leadership and speechwriter for five US presidents, said: “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

At Elsevier, my favorite Employee Network group — Connect to Communicate — gives me a platform for my creative expression and an opportunity to hone my communication skills while satiating my desire to make a positive impact on people around me. As part of this group, I had the wonderful opportunity of heading a series of global webinars about Effective Communication Across Cultures. The sheer numbers of colleagues who attended these webinars shows how much importance they place on this topic. I feel grateful for all these opportunities, and the sense of accomplishment helps fuel my passion further.

There are also several learning platforms, training and mentoring programs, and Employee Resource Groups and Employee Network Groups within Elsevier that provide various avenues for employees to pursue their passions and make a difference.

I have a purpose in what I do for a living

These three factors — purposeful work, great colleagues and growth — are key to a highly engaged workforce. Motivated employees find solutions, innovate, collaborate effectively, and serve customers better. When I wake up every morning, I am intentional about having a great day. So I start my day with heartfelt gratitude, and when I count my blessings, one of them is that I have a purpose in what I do for a living. Working at Elsevier has provided me that higher purpose that drives me every day to give my best.