Nina Godiwalla on Learning Work Ethic From Asian Immigrant Parents

In Chapter 2 of 18 in her 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, author and entrepreneur Nina Godiwalla answers "Where Did You Learn Your Work Ethic?" Godiwalla notes how her parents had a tireless work ethic and always put the needs of children and family before their own. Their behavior sets a role model example that teaches young Godiwalla that with hard work she can achieve anything. This helps prepare her for the hundred-hour work weeks of in her first Wall Street job. Nina Godiwalla is an expert on diversity, leadership and women in the business world. She is CEO of Mindworks, which provides leadership, stress management, and diversity training to companies all over the world. She is also a bestselling author and public speaker. Godiwalla earned an MBA from Wharton, a MA from Dartmouth and a BBA from the University of Texas.

Erik Michielsen: Where did you learn your work ethic?

Nina Godiwalla: Oh, I think from having immigrant parents, there is definitely a work ethic. There is a tireless work ethic from my parents, and it’s also selfless, life was never about my parents, it was all, always, about their children, and I don’t know if that’s being Asian, immigrant, or maybe a little bit of both, but everything—I can’t—you know when I was writing my book about Wall Street and my family, I had to go back and think about it. I could not remember a time where my parents would buy something for themselves. I still—I mean I still can’t think of a time where my mom had said, “Oh, you know what? I need to go buy this for myself,” or my father, ever. If they got a piece of clothing or something, it was for Father’s Day or for Mother’s Day, but, in general, everything was for their children. There was always an opportunity to do something else for their children, and I think that they had that mentality with work. They would work, work, work, either at their traditional jobs or doing something for us, and I think that was a huge part of it.

On top of it, I started off, when I went into Wall Street where the culture was you work day and night, you work day and night, and I think that kind of preparation, being with my family, was the perfect preparation for pulling off a hundred-hour workweeks on Wall Street. And there were a lot of things that I—pros and cons about my—starting your first job on Wall Street in this kind of environment where it’s work, work, work, and one of them, by far, was getting that very strong work ethic so early on because every job to me afterwards has been kind of I can do this. This is no brainer, I can do this pretty easily, so I think those two things were definitely huge.