What advice would you give your younger self?
I grew up in very white neighborhoods, and we were often the Indian family on the block. At home I was always proud of our culture and traditions, but I spent so much time trying to hide what made me different in public. But the more connected to my culture and family I am as an adult, it’s something I find to be a great source of strength.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
This might sound basic, but I think the biggest risk was when I was 19 and I moved out of my parents’ house indefinitely. It sounds ordinary but at the time, I was the only kid in my generation of the family to move out without getting married first, and I’m really glad that I did because it let me make huge mistakes and learn from them.
If you weren’t doing your current job what would you be doing and why?
People always ask me if I’d ever go back to kitchen life, and I don’t think so. I do have my own restaurant concept in my head and I haven’t fully ruled out that I might open something in the future, but I really love what I do now.
What should the industry do to encourage more women and people of color into its ranks?
I think it’s something that people say every year: We can no longer say that diverse talent is not out there, or that it’s hard to find them, or that we’ll make plans in the future. It’s important to know what the experience is like once you’re in the door. I’ve had loads of people recently who have specifically requested to speak to a woman of color or a Black employee before accepting any job offer. They want to know, well, what’s their experience been?
Which campaign or other piece of work have you seen in the last year that you wish you had done?
I think it’s been amazing to see what people have made in the past year given these circumstances. The last piece of work I saw that I wish I had made, a friend at Wieden in Portland did a digital comic book for the Jordan brand about a Dominican-American girl with a sneaker obsession. It’s really touching, it’s funny, it’s smart, and there’s beautiful relationships in the comic as well.
See all of Ad Age's 2021 Leading Women U.S. and Europe here.