Listen to your body. Your body is telling you when you are hitting your breaking point. Your job is to listen to it. When I’m overworked or have been in intense work sessions, I run a fever. It’s like I’m overheating from all the thinking and brainstorming. It’s my cue to take a break and rest. Have boundaries around your time. My weekends are reserved for time with my boyfriend and friends. No work. No accepting invitations to work. Or give a talk. Nothing. I’m pretty militant about this.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Joya Dass. She is a long time TV anchor in New York City. delivering live business reports from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for Bloomberg, CNN, ABC, CBS, NY1 for the last 20 years. She spent a career interviewing CEO’s of Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Today, she takes that dynamic from the behind the TV cameras to a live audience. Today Joya runs a network for women executives in New York City called LadyDrinks. She creates events to connect like-minded South Asian executive women, Her popular fireside chat series have included speakers such as Misty Copeland, Payal Kadakia, the founder of Classpass, the CEO of Flywheel and the Chief Diversity Officer of Pepsi. She is a sought after public speaker and hosts her branded leadership development workshops at corporates and organizations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
There are two pieces that define my childhood growing up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I wanted to be a television anchor since I was 4 years old. Every night, at 6:30 on the dot, my Indian immigrant father watched Tom Brokaw deliver the news. I would emulate Tom by gathering as many 8×10 pieces of paper I could find and spread them around the coffee table. Somehow, I never had enough paper.
I was also raised in a home of domestic violence. My father used to beat my mother mercilessly. My brother has served five federal felony sentences. I picked up on this energy. I vowed to leave my home someday and never meaningfully return.
When I got to college, I got a rude awakening that my parents had not saved for the very expensive college they had enrolled me in. Second semester sophomore year, I couldn’t register for my classes. The CFO of the college said to me, “You have to go home.” I told him I wasn’t going anywhere. I found a list of scholarships in a book and wrote letters until my fingers hurt. Meanwhile, the letters saying I owed money kept piling up on my dresser. It was too late to go back and reclaim the many scholarships I had gotten to attend state schools such as Pitt and Penn State. To make a long story short, my penmanship paid off. A doctor in the Midwest agreed to fund half of my education. I jerry-rigged a series of state and federal loans to bridge the gap. “There is still a $2000 overage,” the CFO of Bucknell said to me, peering over the rim of his glasses. I told him my parents were out of the picture. He needed to write up a loan agreement for whatever interest rate he wanted. “I need you to get me through this.” I think he saw, that even at my young age, I wasn’t negotiating. I was steadfast in my resolve to stay in school. I paid for college, I paid for graduate school, I paid for every move from Pennsylvania to Washington DC to Boston, to New Jersey, to New York, to Wyoming and back again to make my television career happen.
And I know this much. In the absence of family, I wouldn’t be standing here today if I had not build my own support system. These were strong men and women who believed in me and believed in my dream, and stood in as support pylons when I needed it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I got to interview Jeff Bezos at the Nasdaq Marketsite as part of my interviewing responsibilities This was long before Amazon became the etail giant it is today. He was joined by tennis player and celebrity Anna Kournikova.
I was flown to Monaco to interview a series of American CEO’s who were raising money for their companies in Europe. The leaders were in verticals such as gaming and pharmaceuticals. The camera was set up on a terrace of the Fairmont Hotel, with the stunning blue of the Mediterranean sea behind me. It was by far, the most stunning backdrop I have ever enjoyed. An Indian wedding was happening at the hotel at the same time. It was surreal, to see the ‘bharat’ or wedding processional coming up the stairs, as I was getting readying for my interviews.
My side hustle for 15 years was that I was also the host of a Saturday morning show. The target audience of AVS was first and second generation Indians living in America. I enjoyed hosting the show because it kept me connected to my Indian heritage. I grew up on a steady diet of Bollywood film. It was something I did with my family each night before bed. As part of my interviewing responsibilities with the show, I interviewed veteran actor Amitabh Bachan. He was a curmudgeon. I was still a young interviewer, following the script I was given. As I asked my tenth question (“What are you looking forward to?” ) he answered, “This interview to be over.” Today, I’m much better at reading the room and my subject. .
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have two personas.
The on-air and professional one. Serious. Well spoken. Always on time. To a fault. Then the ‘just with my friends-one.’ That persona is a bit louder. More raucous. Cheeky.
One of my professional contacts overheard me in this mode and cast me to perform standup comedy at Caroline’s on Broadway. My immediate response was NO. I said, “That’s not even my brand.” She came back with a smirk, “I’ve heard you off-line Joya. You can do it.”
The business model for the evening was this: The line-up was a series of professional South Asian comics. Every other person would be a first-timer who had never done comedy before. Naturally, the latter group would invite 10 friends to witness the debauchery on stage.
I might have had 18 people. I’m not sure. A South Asian tv outlet interviewed me right before the show started. “Are you nervous?” Nah. I wasn’t nervous. I was on television everyday. The speaking in front of people part I had down. It was the comic timing I was worried about.
I used my dating life as fodder for my 3-minute-act. I had been saving up every story I lived through for this very moment. I opened with a story about the fellow who had broken up with me recently. My mistake? He was in the audience.
The upside? People still ask me when I’m going to do comedy again. I’m like, okay. This is not the new trajectory of Joya’s career.
My lesson. I should believe in myself more. I’m a good writer. I’m funny. And I should let that side of Joya out more too.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
Both influencers and thought leaders work to punch out content. Both are speaking from their own base of expertise. Both have a handle on their market and customer. I think of an influencer as someone whose medium is largely visual. I think of a thought leader whose medium is largely spoken word or written. Cerebral.
The original influencer was Kim Kardashian. She is beautiful. She is rich. She is a celebrity. She influences purchasing decisions because battalions of women want to BE HER. I’ll admit it. I bought a peach passion Yves Saint Laurent lipstick at Kim’s suggestion. But let’s talk about why. She hires the best makeup artists money can buy. So I look to her for this for this brand of knowledge-share.
But I’m not going to consult her on how to network, how to stand up for myself, how to speak up in meetings, and how to negotiate. That is the domain of a thought leader.
Thought leaders may be less glamorous (and not a size zero), but they have the intellectual capital for valuable knowledge share. They can be journalists, academics, industry experts or professional advisors. But I’ll go one step further. They are thought leaders because they are SHARING their expertise consistently and widely on blogs or Linkedin articles. The domain of influencers are Instagram and blogs.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
- Increased sales. The thought leaders I follow give away all kinds of content for free. It’s a way for them to show their expertise and connect with their audience, which couldn’t happen if they asked for money right off the bat. I publish thought leadership several times a week through video, Insta-stories, Facebook stories, newsletters and written articles on Medium, WordPress or LinkedIn. It also builds trust. By creating a valuable funnel of free information, I can engage with potential customers and clients, and hopefully convert them for my events or membership.
- Community driven, Buy-in from the community. With articles I’m writing, oftentimes, I’m answering questions from women in my membership. If one person had the courage to it ask it, chances are, others are thinking it too. By publishing it, I’m publishing articles that are driven by the community I have built. Great thought leaders understand their niche. They know where their expertise is most helpful and what their audience values, and they connect those two.
- Increased opportunity. I have gotten many speaking opportunities by being out there in a critical way. By publishing my book “The Perfect Indian Daughter, I hope to glean more.
- Visibility. By creating and publishing content consistently, I’m meeting and engaging with new and existing audiences daily.
- Increased access. I am perennially seeking CEO’s and other thought leaders to interview
- Demographic. I have above average access because of my 20 years of business reporting. But I’ve come off the air. I still need access to folks. Publishing thought leadership in both articles and videos keeps me in front of people and reminds them of the movement I’m leading.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
- What is the one thing you are an EXPERT at and can speak for an hour about? I know, deep down in my bones, I’m great at putting on excellent events. It’s something that I’m incredibly passionate about. I could talk about it for hours. I also spend a lot of my own free time researching interesting and out-of-the-box adventures for myself. Everyone around me knows that, and is more than happy to ‘have Joya plan stuff.’ I’ve also been planning events for my women’s movement professionally for 8 years. I have the experience to back it up. I’ve spent almost 20 years as a business news television anchor. I can speak to how to be a better public speaker. I’ve had to do it in front of millions of people everyday. I can also speak to how to get media coverage and what constitutes a bad pitch, because I’ve been on the receiving end of so many. For the last 8 years, I’ve built a networking platform for women executives. I am constantly educating myself on the space. I spend a lot of time reading female leadership books such as Sally Helgensen’s “How Women Rise” or Fran Hauser’s “The Myth of the Nice Girl.” Daily, I’m listening to audio, listening to other speakers, CEOs, authors, and thought leaders. I spend a lot of time asking women in my membership about what keeps them up at night. I’m interviewing other thought leaders who have written on topics such as ‘finding your voice in the workplace.’ All of these daily activities are additive to my capabilities as a thought leader.
- A thought leader publishes content on the ONE thing they are an expert on. A lot of it. Pumping out content each day is WORK. I do it everyday. But all the tools you need to be come a thought leader are FREE and available to you at a consumer level today. Linkedin. Instagram. Blogging tools. Twitter. But — -you have to be consistent and publish good content. Why do it? I think of Gary Vaynerchuk’s story. When he first started posting videos about wine, his father’s liquor and spirits NJ store was making $3 million. After 5 years of posting videos everyday, the business went to a valuation of $60 million. Daily, I’m sharing collateral that helps to build the LadyDrinks brand. I’m sharing interviews I have done with other women leaders. I’m sharing interviews I’ve done with my members. I’m writing blogs on LinkedIn. I’m writing a weekly newsletter. I’m writing posts on Instagram. I”m recording podcasts. I’m recording myself sharing a tip of the day. I’ve connected with some really wonderful people as a result of this.
- A thought leader isn’t afraid to share their personal story. I often joke, when I was online dating, that men would come into the first date knowing WAY more than they should because they Googled me. One line would be the ‘tell’ he had seen my Tedtalk. In the talk, I share about growing up in a home of domestic violence, leaving that home, building my own path to becoming a tv anchor, and the sponsors and mentors I enlisted along the way. I’ve told my own personal story, that with pure grit and persistence, I achieved the goal I had since I was four. The story informs why I do the women’s work I do today. It also gives viewers a few more handles with which to relate to me.
- A thought leader is a resource for others. I should become a concierge. Everyone from my members to my own boyfriend asks me for venue advice, restaurant suggestions, and “I’m turning 40, where should I go on vacation?” I’ve built a network. I’ve built a treasure trove of resources. Folks know that, because I post about all the places I like to go and places I travel to. And so now I”m seen as a resource.
- A thought leader does a lot of public speaking. I do a fair bit of public speaking I record and photograph everything everything so I can post about it on social media and hopefully inspire other corporates to ask me to speak too.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
As I’m writing my memoir, I’m revisiting a lot of painful memories. It’s been a tremendous awareness-building exercise in understanding how much trauma is infused into the topic of money. I’ve always been a good survivor. I’m not someone who thrives financially. But I actively want to change that narrative
One day, I googled ‘affirmations’ and ‘how to manifest what I want.’ Up popped a video by a surfer dude, reminiscent of Sean Penn from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” His name is Jake Ducey.
He punches out a video every single day, and he shoots all of his content on an iPhone. While he sports a surfer hairdo and speaking style, he’s well read and very bright. I’m drawn to that. He will cite quotes from Aldous Huxley and simultaneously weave in content and experiences from his own life. He’s providing actionable steps I, as the viewer, can take in real time.
I like that he’s being himself. Quirky. Clearly in love with his wife. But he still manages to share an exhaustive knowledge about the subconscious mind and how to harness it with the power of affirmations.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
- Change your environment The key to living in a city as intense as New York, is TO GET OUT OF a city as intense as New York. Often. I schedule a trip outside of the city as often as I can. This weekend I’m doing a fishing clinic in Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s outside my comfort zone, outside of my routine, and outside of my borough. But this change of environment hits the reset button for me.
- Listen to your body. Your body is telling you when you are hitting your breaking point. Your job is to listen to it. When I’m overworked or have been in intense work sessions, I run a fever. It’s like I’m overheating from all the thinking and brainstorming. It’s my cue to take a break and rest. Have boundaries around your time. My weekends are reserved for time with my boyfriend and friends. No work. No accepting invitations to work. Or give a talk. Nothing. I’m pretty militant about this.
- Sleep. I recently read an important book called “Why we Sleep” by Michael Walker. The book was a real eye opener. When we sleep, our learning from the day gets cleared out, and put into ‘long term hard drive.’ so we can retrieve it later. In deep sleep, we process things we are struggling with. When we short circuit sleep, we short circuit all of these processes. We live in a culture that celebrates overwork and “Sleep when you die!” slogans. I shudder to think about all the damage I have done to my body over the years buying into this way of life.
- Workout. For the better part of 17 years, I got up at 230 am or 345 am to do the news. I wasn’t going to get up at 1am to work out. Now that I have left that life behind, I get up at 530 am each day and work out. It’s my first win of the day. Because, as an entrepreneur, not everyday is a ‘win’ But at least I set the tone early. While intense workouts such as Crossfit, Soulcycle and Boxing are great for the physical re-set, I also throw in at least two yoga workouts a week for the mind re-set. I always knew the weeks I didn’t take a yoga class the minute I faced the camera. My mind wasn’t as sharp or on point.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
While I already have a movement that is a platform and resource for South Asian women professionals, I would like to create a cohort of South Asian women executives who are powerful referral and sponsorship resources for one another. It would culminate each year in a retreat like ‘Summit at Sea.’ The very limited cell service and wifi while at sea forces guests and speakers to put away their phones and focus on being present.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Believe in yourself. Believe you can have, do, or be anything you want, regardless of what anyone says.
I’m currently writing my memoir. This will inform why I do the work I do today with women leaders.
As I revisit some unpleasant memories from my home life, I’m understanding how much trauma, sadness, negativity has been stored up in my subconscious. The subconscious mind is your personal hard drive. It’s storing everything that has ever happened to you. If left on autopilot, what has been programmed in, will continue. In my case: Lack. Don’t deserve better. Not worth investing in.
All is not lost. I can reprogram this with daily positive affirmations around what I want from life. I can write the script, BUT I have to believe in myself.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Michelle Obama. Huda Kattan.
How can our readers follow you on social media?