Nina Godiwalla on What Makes a Professional Women's Network Valuable

In Chapter 13 of 22 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, author Nina Godiwalla answers "What Makes a Professional Women's Network Valuable?"  She shares how a network of female professionals supports her career development as well as allows her to support helping other women succeed.  Godiwalla also shares how she has built network relationships with more senior women professionals.  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:  What makes a professional women’s network valuable?

Nina Godiwalla:  I’ve really used my network, so part of my, I think, my success with my book has been leveraging the networks that I’m part of and 85Broads is one of those and I think they’re an incredible women’s network.  I’ve had so many people that helped me.  Part of it is we share a passion for helping other women succeed because we have seen that there’s challenges out there.  Everyone’s coming from a different field and you can see how sometimes it’s not as easy to make connections and some of the organizations were most of them are in male-dominated environment so you see that connection.  What I think becomes so successful is that passion that people have for each other and what’s interesting about that particular environment is people are from across the board so when I’m interested, here I am.  I was a corporate executive.  I’ve been in the advertising world, the finance world, marketing.  I’ve just switched through so many worlds and now I’m into publishing world and the writing world and the reality is, is I need – as I switch through different things, I don’t necessarily have a network all piled up.  What I’ve found is through the women’s network, I do have a network all piled up.  I have – I can reach out to all these people in different industries and say, “Hey I just got a book deal and I have no idea what to do.  Do I need an agent?  Do I not?”  And not everyone takes the risk of going out there and just reaching out to people they don’t know but I think that’s one of the best things that I do is I’m very comfortable with it and the reality is I help so many people that you have to – it’s an exchange.  I’m always looking out for who can I help and I always have people reaching out to me and I make it within any kind of busy day that I have to help, you know a certain number of people that week.  That’s just - you make the time for it because so many people have helped me along the way and the fact that, you know, when you have that accessible – it’s just a diverse group of people that we have and it’s so accessible that I think it just – it makes it completely you know people are able to do -- kind of get whatever they need out of that environment which I think is amazing.

Erik Michielsen:  Do you tend to find yourself working more with people at your level or work, reaching up and dealing with more senior individuals or is it, does it vary?

Nina Godiwalla:  I will grab any which way and I don’t have a problem reaching out to the senior people. I think you always have to be careful and it’s one of the advice I give to younger women when I’m talking is, one of the things I wasn’t scared of and I haven’t been is, I typically do reach out to very senior people but there usually needs to be a reason so I mean I’m not talking you don’t walk into a 50,000 person corporation and contact the CEO right away but I’ve seen a lot in my environment.  I worked at Johnson & Johnson and I was interning there once and there was a president of that whole organization that I was in-charge that -- she ran that whole organization and I mean my boss’s boss’s bosses probably didn’t talk to her very often but I just decided we had a connection that we talked about meditation.  I heard her mention it to someone else.  I didn’t speak directly to her and honestly, I just wanted to meet her.  I was interning there.  She seemed really interesting so I reached out to her and nobody else would reach out to her.  My boss wouldn’t reach out to her and I just let her know I wanted to get to know her a little better.  I was interested in what she’d said about meditation and there it was.  I mean I ended up meeting her and she is one of my biggest advocates for the rest of the time and the reality is, is I think a lot of people are too scared.  We see the hierarchy and – but when I think there’s a natural -- I wouldn’t be persistent about reaching out to someone incredibly senior but sometimes you take that risk and it really pays off and I’m one of those people that are very comfortable taking that risk.