In Chapter 7 of 22 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, author Nina Godiwalla answers "Where Has Audience Feedback Been Most Helpful Finding a Sense of Purpose?" Releasing a book focused on workplace diversity for women working on Wall Street, Godiwalla finds her message appeals not only to women outside finance but also minority men. The stories remind Godiwalla she has a greater purpose to speak for people whose voices go unheard. Godiwalla is the author of "Suits: A Woman on Wall Street". She is also a public speaker on workplace diversity and founder and CEO of Mindworks, where she teaches mind-based stress reduction techniques to help organizations improve employee wellbeing. Godiwalla holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, an MA in Creative Writing from Dartmouth University and her BBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Erik Michielsen: Where has audience feedback been most helpful in refining your sense of purpose?
Nina Godiwall: What’s helped me with purpose is I went out with a story about Wall Street, a story about my experience particularly as a woman, also as a minority but less so as a minority and so I expected my audience would be women probably on Wall Street and what surprised me is I do have – I have a very strong woman audience but what I didn’t expect is I didn’t expect it to be all across corporate America and other organizations. I’ve had so many people write me, contact me and say, “Thank you so much for just telling your story because I had a similar experience in X.” So I’ve seen that with the women in terms of all different industries, that surprised me and it reminds me that I have a bigger message that’s just not so limited to this small world that I thought it was.
The other part that surprised me even more is I was doing a media interview -- I was doing a TV interview -- and after I was done with the interview, I got several guys who worked at that station email me, someone from a different country -- someone in Europe -- and then someone who came to me, it was a minority man who came to me afterwards and he’s a very senior person at the company and he pulled me aside while I was trying to walk out the building and he said, “I just want to thank you so much for saying what you said.” And I thought I didn’t necessarily say anything profound, at least I didn’t think so. I just said, “Hey, it’s a difficult environment and you spend so much time hiding what you are to be in this culture.” And that I never expected to strike so many men and one of them was an international guy and this other guy, he was American but he was – he talked to me a little bit about how people don’t get that I have to work so much harder and it’s not because it’s difficult for me, it’s just I’m constantly having to prove myself so even two years into this, when I’m established and everyone knows I can do a good job. When I mess up, when something goes wrong, there are those people there that thinks it’s because I am who – it is because of who I look like. Whereas I don’t get those cards all the time that just say, “Uhh you know. No, we totally get you, you’re fine.” And he said I always have to be on and I had to explain that to someone in a meeting who was trying to tell me, “You know what, we’re just going to pull one of your things together, we’re not going to put…” You know they worked on life events and stuff and he was like, “I can’t pull something together sloppy.” You don’t understand, he said I have to pull him out aside and quietly tell him, “I can’t be sloppy.” That’s not a card that I have. And that was striking to me.
I carry his story around all the time because I never expected to be touching him in that way and for me it just reminds me that I have a bigger purpose. It’s not about me. It’s about something much bigger and speaking for people that don’t necessarily have the opportunity or chose to speak up for themselves.