Who I Am
I am a Motown girl, from the suburbs, from a cul-de-sac with a circular drive.
I am from a dusty village, Bengaluru, where we sat on the floor for our meals.
I am an only child, the only child, a son and a daughter combined into one, an impossible thing to live up to.
I am from immigrant parents, a dad who staked his life on the American Dream and a mom who longed to go home.
I am from internalized whiteness, not seeing my true self in the mirror.
I don’t know Bollywood or ayurveda or garam masala or the Taj Mahal
I know Smokey, Stevie, Marvin, Michael, Aretha, Prince
Detroit and New York. Joe Louis and Malcolm X.
Pizza and beer. Latkes and sour cream.
Who I am is ever-unfolding.
Without my dad on this Earth
With my mother on another continent
I stand untethered, undefined
Surrounded by love and still on my own.
Picking up pieces of myself along the way,
Holding them up, trying them on for size,
Wrapping myself up in them,
Noticing who I become.
(based on The I Am From Project. If you’ve never done this exercise, I highly recommend it!)
I was fortunate enough to meet Angela Reed at my very first Human Resources job. I was a twenty-year-old intern and she was an Associate VP. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what a profound experience it was to see a strong Black woman leader in action so early in my career.
Angela taught me to trust my instincts and apply myself even when I thought I didn’t know what I was doing. She set an example of a smart leader who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind in majority white-male spaces. I was in awe. I still am.
Jim Donna influenced me so deeply that I wrote this blog a few days after his death in 2017. Although it had been many years after he’d been my boss, the lessons he imparted will always be with me.
My Professional Milestones
- Parlaying an unpaid internship into my first Human Resources job.
- Making it to VP and finding it to be hollow.
- Being laid-off after September 11 and deciding never to go back to a full-time HR job.
- Starting MadhuCoach on a leap of faith with a two-month-old keeping me up all night.
- Becoming a coaching teacher and learning more than I did as a student.
- Changing careers from HR professional to coach, full-time employee to business owner.
Things I've Heard While Being a Brown Woman in the Corporate World
- “Wow! You don’t look like you sound.”
- “It’s okay you don’t have experience in diversity work, you have a natural affinity for it.”
- “We almost didn’t call you for an interview because we couldn’t pronounce your name. You’re lucky we took a chance and called you anyway!”
- “This trip to Kansas is going to be a shock for you. You’re going to stick out like a sore thumb.”
- “We’ve never had anyone like you on our team. Most of our employees were born in the U.S.”