Creating Connections That Matter

You know those people who command a room as soon as they walk in? There’s just something about them. It’s not their clothes, their haircut, or their fashionably late arrival. It’s more about the way they carry themselves; something of their essence demands to be noticed.

For the rest of us, the act of getting noticed does not come as easily. It’s something only achieved through careful thought, planning and practiced action. But with today’s ever-growing collection of mediums for social and business connection, networking has never been more relevant. Knowing the right people — and forming a solid relationship with each of them — can, at times, have a greater impact on your career trajectory than your education background and experience, combined.

I'm excited to share my new slideshare: How to Get Noticed, Hired or Anything You Want that highlights my top lessons from my own journey. Enjoy! And sign up for the Get Noticed Workbook here that comes with it!


Top 5 articles you must read on workplace innovation

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan /

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan /

 1. Keith Harrell's article, Attitude in the Workplace, in Success talks about some of the challenges people face today in the workplace. When was the last time your attitude, good or bad, made a difference?

  2. What is the perfect place to work? Here is an article showing some characteristics of a truly great workplace. 

  3. While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and impact your physical and emotional health. Here are tips to reduce and manage job and workplace stress. 

4. This is one of the diciest challenges of office politics, one that invades the cubicle farm and executive suite alike: How to deal with workplace whiners.

5. "Don't just Hear- Listen." One of the tips for effective workplace communicationTo improve communication within your team and throughout your entire company, you need to implement a few easy but important changes to your corporate philosophy and practice. 


Top 5 articles you must read on Generation Y

Image courtesy of stockimages /

Image courtesy of stockimages /

 1. Millennials aren’t fond of the top-down leadership style that has until now dominated the professional world, preferring instead to collaborate in teams. Here is a post about Millennials Who Quit Jobs To Get Ahead by Angelina Chapin in The Huffington Post.

 2. Penelope Trunk's article on Millennials in Quartz, discusses about the various traits of Generation Y that we don't know. Gen Yers are not risk takers, they are not conflict-seekers, and they are generally respectful of institutions and organizations.

 3. "The idea of work being an activity and not a place — that is more important to Generation Y" – Alsion Maitland. Generation Y is set to transform the way we work in the next 10 years. 

4. Are baby boomers more entrepreneurial than Gen Y? This article written by Charlie Osborne was published in SmartPlanet gives a comparison between Gen-Y, Gen-X and Baby Boomers.

5. Bea Fields's article, Marketing to Gen Y, gives us ideas on how to approach them and get their attention. Hang out with them, experience life with them, respect them and if you do, their outlook on life will change you.

Top 5 articles you must read on leadership


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

 1. The best leaders don’t just hire people for today. They also weigh their potential. They keep their eyes open for their personal interests, since that’s where their people will ultimately find their underlying abilities. 12 Ways to Be the Leader Everyone Wants to Work For.

 2. When leading an organization you must learn when to compromise and when to stand firm. Click this link to see Why Great Leaders Compromise.

 3. The best leaders of the future will be the ones who understand that what they do must align with what they say. Body Language Will Make Or Break Future Leaders.

 4. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world-Great story on the Stoos Network. Toward The Tipping Point In Leadership And Management.

5. Leaders must become more socially focused in today's workforce where change is constant.  If they don't, people won't innovate and organizations will suffer. The New Social Leadership: Move From Fear To Freedom.

My keynote on unleashing innovation across the multi-generational workforce

Here is a clip from my recent keynote speech at Rotman School of Management. I touched on some of my new material around driving innovation across multi-generational workforces, thriving in 21st century work environment, and reframing generational dialogue altogether. More keynote sneak peaks to come as I'm travel to over 5 cities in the next few months for speaking events. 



Hire Erica Dhawan to speak at your next event. Click here for more information.

TEDxWomen this week

This week, I am pleased to be a blogger in NYC for TEDxWomen on Thursday. TEDxWomen is a continuation of the conversation which began last December at TEDWomen about how women and girls shape the future.

I have also been organizing millennial women to get engaged in the TEDxWomen conversation by joining the online forum, blogging about the event, and creating local forums in your community to continue the conversation. See here for my most recent Huffington Post article entitled Gen Y women need to take the stage.

Movement building is a generational task

“Product building is a five-year task. Movement building, on the other hand, is a generation-long challenge that requires much bolder vision, patience, and ambition. What this moment of inflection demands is exactly such a movement – a movement that creates a fundamental mindset shift in how society mobilizes resources to address our social and environmental challenges..” –Judith Rodin, President of Rockefeller Foundation at Acumen Fund Investor Gathering

4 years ago, I had a dream. I was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers and I was also a first generation Indian-American activist and social change agent.  I wanted to bring these two worlds together somehow. I believed that I could be part of a bigger social movement despite my day job demands.

In January 2008, I pitched Acumen Fund on an idea for bankers, marketers, consultants, students, designers, entrepreneurs to volunteer their time to fundraise and educate people on Acumen Fund’s work in patient capital.

Acumen said “we like it.  Now Erica, go do it.”

1 volunteer meeting turned into many more, often stretching late into the night because everyone had busy full-time jobs.  We organized a panel on how young professionals could get engaged in social entrepreneurship work at NYU, we held an awareness event at SAKS 5th Avenue and then with the help of Nuru Project, we organized a DIGNITY photo auction and fundraiser that raised $25,000 for Acumen Fund in one night. The seeds of New York for Acumen were born…

This was the start to a speech I gave four years later, last week at Acumen Fund’s 10 year Investor Gathering. Acumen Fund chapters are now in 10 cities with thousands of members from Vancouver to Dubai to London to Tokyo.

As I spoke on stage with other chapter leaders, I felt a movement start to take shape around the ideas of dignity, of patient capital and of moral leadership.  My dream came true and now this is a collective dream.

Most importantly, I recognized the power of the decentralized local chapter model to build a movement for patient capital. The volunteer chapter model is an important growth opportunity for nonprofits and helps organizations like Acumen Fund move from ‘product building’ to ‘movement building’ as Judith Rodin described. The Acumen Fund local chapters are teaching Acumen Fund how to collaborate across sectors, generations, and cities in ways that they haven’t seen before, infusing leadership trainings and activities at a more local level, and deepening conversation and action in communities.

The phenomenon of launching local hubs led by volunteers is becoming more and more common (i.e. TEDx, World Economic Forum Global Shapers). I believe this is the model for movement building in the future. Join the Acumen Fund chapter community here. Movement building is a generational task.

If I ask a big enough question, I need more than one discipline to solve it

“I’ve always been fascinated by asking why things are the way they are. It’s about how you take a questioning mind into the world around you and go somewhere else with it, into something unknown.” –Michael Singer

Michael Singer, an artist in the public realm, has been instrumental in transforming public art, architecture, landscape, and planning projects into successful models for urban and ecological renewal.

I met with Michael recently and he reminded me of the value of keep one foot in the leadership change world and one foot in the art and dance world, knowing that these worlds inform each other and challenge one another. When I ask a big enough question, I need more than one discipline to solve it.

A major theme in Michael’s work is concept of questioning assumptions. On his website, you’ll see a variety of questions. He asks these questions not to find an answer, rather to offer a different way to see what’s around him. A scientist will ask ‘why’, an engineer will ask ‘how’, and Michael asks ‘what’.  The way he uses language is very much the way he communicates with the world.

His advice for artists, changemakers and policymakers is to go out and find a problem and get people together from different disciplines to solve it. With this approach, he believes groups can rethink infrastructures to create spaces that serve more than one purpose.

Next time you are working an idea to solve a problem, reflect on Michael Singer’s approach for questioning assumptions.

First, make a list of all the stakeholders related to your idea. Then explore a set of questions: Who is asking for it? Who’s paying for it? Who’s using it?  Who in community will agree and who in community will resist? Lastly, put your idea statement into a question that can engage each of your stakeholders. When it’s a question, we ask people to engage as stakeholders and this helps us to solve the problem and observe our own assumptions.

I’ve found questioning assumptions and cross-disciplinary collaboration to be so useful in my leadership change work. When I actually question my assumptions and use more than one discipline to solve a problem, I shift my own way of seeing the world.



Was Steve Jobs really a leader?

As I read the eulogies for Steve Jobs over the past week, I’ve been particularly observing what my friends and colleagues praised about him. I was most puzzled by the word ‘leader’ that was used in so many articles lauding his contributions to the world this week.

I deeply admire Steve’s message and contribution to the world. He reminds me to follow my inner guidance and live each day to the fullest.

Many blogs and articles from my peers cited his uncanny vision, his Stanford 2005 speech to ‘stay hungry and foolish’ and his leadership and perseverance to ‘accomplish the unthinkable.’ I agree with all these sentiments. Jobs’s presence encourages Gen Yers to move forward and act on our desires, rather than be paralyzed by fear and anxiety.  He reminds us that we have nothing to lose, except the opportunity offered in the present moment.

At the same time, I wonder: How exactly is Generation Y defining leadership and praising Steve Jobs as a leader? When I talk to those who knew Steve and read old articles about him, I’ve heard another story.

“He was completely ruthless, hard-nosed, unwilling to listen to others, and was used to get what he wanted to get done” said one Apple employee. Others who have worked at Apple thought he was also extremely top-down and unfair. He was described as a brutal micromanager who didn’t source wisdom from his employees. Instead he used his inspirational force to guide people towards a vision he led.

On October 6, Mike Daisey wrote a NYTimes op-ed entitled Against Nostalgia which said “We can admire the design perfection and business acumen while acknowledging the truth: with Apple’s immense resources at his command he could have revolutionized the industry to make devices more humanely and more openly, and chose not to.”

To what extent is this top-down approach a healthy leadership model for Generation Y? To what extent is it not?

We tend the praise leaders who were ruthless about their creativity and vision and inspired a pack of followers. While I do believe Jobs was an inspirational genius, I am left wondering if we are also lauding a ‘leader’ who was in some ways a dictator who only listened to his own intuition. Most leadership books read that CEOs must listen to others as well as be creative and brilliant. Is Steve just an outlier to these rules?

I admire Jobs’ genius, yet I want to be wary of how we interpret this period of tributes. Being true to yourself as a leader doesn’t mean you have to be exactly like Steve Jobs. You can be an inspirational genius and you don’t have to be top-down, stop listening to others in your community, or ruthless.

3 years after Lehman, where do we stand?

On September 15, 2008, I sat at a trading desk at Lehman Brothers (my first job out of college) watching the collapse of the firm and the Dow’s 500 point drop as a panic period peaked across the world.

Three years later, I wonder, where do we stand now?  Watch this BBC video hosting a trader who frankly said that the Eurozone Market will crash in the next year.


This video gives me recurring chills-it was direct, confirming, and shocking all at once.

At the same time, I’ve been following the #occupywallst protests escalating as we speak in downtown Manhattan. I still wonder how much Generation Y is preparing for these crises, as we enter the workforce, launch ‘hot’ start-ups, and amass the tuition loans of undergraduate and graduate education. This is the leadership challenge of our generation.