My approach has always been to stay true to myself, to be fearless and take meaningful risks, to strive for excellence, and to never blindly accept the status quo. This outlook has allowed me to thrive professionally, and I encourage other women to adopt it.
For many years, I have been very involved with a large, national organization for legal professionals called NALP. Within a year of joining the organization, I was asked to participate in the Conference Planning Committee and a year after that, I was elected board treasurer. I did not set out to stand out, but people saw me as a leader because I always questioned the status quo. I came to board meetings fully prepared, with a list of questions to spark discussion. I certainly don’t believe in reinventing the wheel at every turn, but am also not afraid to hit the reset button if I think change is warranted.
Paradoxically, another thing that helps me stand out is that I am willing to check my ego at the door and work behind the scenes to accomplish my goals. I very strongly identify with my firm and its success. My goals are centered around achieving this success over the long term, rather than personally getting to the next level or earning higher compensation in the short term. Because people see and believe in my absolute commitment to the good of the firm, I have been entrusted with great responsibility.
Finally, I truly believe that as a leader you are only as good as your team. I strive to build healthy teams where individuals can challenge each other and bring their diverse perspectives and experiences to the table. I believe that this intentional and inclusive leadership is key to my success.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
I have been fortunate to have mentors at several points in my career, but my true role models are my parents who instilled in me the importance of integrity and hard work early in my life. My mother, who came from a traditional Indian family, never let herself be bound by stereotypes and always took on nontraditional roles. She encouraged me to be fearless and to always be gracious and courteous, while remaining a zealous advocate for what I believed in. She taught me that people are inherently good, and that you can tap into that goodness with kindness, respect, and compassion.
Sonia’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Always be authentic and respect your career as part of who you are. Do what inspires you and what you are passionate about. If you don’t love your work, you probably will not be very good at it. You will never be everything to everyone, but if you respect yourself and pay attention to the things that balance and challenge you, you will thrive at work and at home. The fact that my husband and daughter support my work life brings me great joy. Don’t compartmentalize your life—create synergies that allow you to recognize how each experience impacts your success.