How Deepa Purushothaman Quit Corporate America In Order To Help Change It
Ep. 195
| with
Deepa Purushothaman

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On this week’s episode, I talk with Deepa Purushothaman, a former partner at Deloitte turned author and speaker. In her new book, The First, The Few, The Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America, Deepa draws on conversations she had with hundreds of women of color about their experiences in the workplace. Her book lays the groundwork for how women of color can unearth their power and channel it to redefine success for their most authentic selves. This topic is so important and is just the beginning of the change we need to create real change in Corporate America.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • How to exercise your power and show up for yourself
  • How colleagues can be advocates and allies to women of color
  • How to find community during a pandemic
  • And so much more

Find Deepa here:


To purchase her book:

Show Transcript
Part of what I'm talking about is not just kind of being authentic always all times. You know, that kind of advice is not helpful. What I'm really talking about is I think a lot of things happen to us. Like for example, women of color I spoke with end up doing what I call the job in the job, all these extra tasks are beyond what they were hired to do, right? Whether that's mentoring because there's so few of us, whether that is culture building…

Hey, welcome to Lessons From a Quitter where we believe that it is never too late to start over. No matter how much time or energy you spent getting to where you are, if ultimately you are unfulfilled, then it is time to get out. Join me each week for both inspiration and actionable tips so that we can get you on the road to your dreams.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to another episode of Lessons From A Quitter. I am so excited to have you here. You are in for a really important conversation today. If you have been around these parts for awhile you know that I tend to focus on our own individual mindset and how we show up in our lives and our careers but I never want to give the impression that I ignore the very realities of what happens out in our world. Uh if you have been a long time listener, you know that in the past I've covered episodes on how racism shows up both in our country and in corporate America, as well as patriarchy and misogyny. And the reason that I really focus on our own personal options is because oftentimes we've been programmed to internalize the patriarchy and white supremacy. And so we gaslight ourselves, we take ourselves out of the game, we give up our own power and I see that a lot of our power comes from recognizing how we're doing it to ourselves and how we can show up differently. But that's not to say that there aren't huge changes that need to happen across corporate America. This is a conversation that is now happening more and more often, and hopefully is leading to some actual sustainable change but there's a lot of work ahead of us. And so I am so excited today to have the incredible Deepa Purushothaman on the podcast to talk about her book, The First, The Few, The Only: How Women Of Color Can Redefine Power In Corporate America. Deepa, like many of the quitters that come on this podcast has an extremely impressive resumé, she climbed the corporate ladder at Deloitte for over 20 years and became the first Indian-American woman to ever make partner. And just under two years ago, she decided to walk away and we'll talk about what was the catalyst for her leaving for making this life-changing decision but more importantly, what she started noticing afterwards. She interviewed over 500 women across the U.S., women of color, and started realizing the commonalities in their stories and the struggles that they shared and oftentimes how alone they felt in that struggle. And so she is now on a mission to help us change corporate America, both structurally and as individuals. She has created a company called nFormation that allows for a safe space to create community amongst women of color, to have these really important conversations. And she details, both in the book and in her Ted Talk and all the other amazing things that she's doing, how we can get started on changing the landscape, how we take our own power back and show up as our true selves and stop editing our us to fit into corporate America, how corporate America can start benefiting from the massive value that women and women of color contribute and how we can just make it a better place to work for all of us. It's such an important conversation and I am so honored to have her on the podcast to really dive in. So without further ado, let's chat with Deepa.

Hi Deepa. Thank you so much for joining me today.

I am so excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

Oh, I am so excited to have you and to cover all the things, so many important things. Why don't you tell us a little bit about what your job was and why you ended up walking away a couple years ago?

Yeah, absolutely. So it's about a year and a half [Wow.] so it's not even um I guess it's getting and closer to two but yeah, it's not years and years and years ago when I left. I wanna just state at the beginning of the pandemic. So I left right before we even had the term the great resignation. So when I left, I got a lot of feedback of like you can't leave now like why would you leave in the middle of a pandemic? Like it just the opposite of logical. Um but I did it anyway. So my story is I spent 21 years in corporate America. I was a partner at Deloitte uh and made the partner there very young. And I was the first Indian female partner we made. And so as a result of those things, I think there were a lot of eyes on me I suppose. You know, some of it I think uh self-created. I think some of it true like on the outside, just a lot of visibility, a lot of opportunity that came with being a first, right. And in addition to being good at my job which I feel like I need to say cuz sometimes people think they're tokenized roles. I mean, I was good at what I did but in addition, I think because of the things I was and because I spoke my mind, I really moved quickly in the process and I had joined outta grad school. So I spent, you know, most of my adult life there and I chose to leave about a year and a half ago, almost two years ago, somewhere in that range because of a fact couple of factors. So one is after the election, you know, not this past one, but the one before I think I had growing questions around like what's my purpose and what am I doing in the world? My background was actually politics. I'd gone to policy school. I'd always thought that I would return to that. I was getting a year or two of private sector experience. And there I was for 21 years. So I had that growing question. In addition, I think some questions around purpose. Like I loved my work and, you know, again moved really quickly and had all the accolades and the things that come with a fast-paced job but just some growing questions about like what else do I wanna do and where do I wanna have impact and that sort of thing but it collided with a health issue. And so I started to get really sick in my last few years um and really that continued to grow and to a point that I had to pay attention to it. I struggled though with the quitting um because I felt like all eyes were on me so I think that it's important to mention too. As a first, I think when you think of leaving like you feel like you're holding the seat for others. And so it was really hard to leave. And so it took me three years to actually get the courage to leave and to to kind of exit. Cause it's also something where I think a lot of, you know, people liken a partnership to kind of a tenured professor role like I had fought so hard to get to the seat, it didn't make sense to leave at the height of my career when I have 20 more years left of, you know, I don't wanna say guaranteed but it's kinda like you fi- once you get there, it's, you know, that's where you wanna be. For me, it was a little bit of all those things coming together. Uh part of why the book came into fruition of my work now with women of color is because in an attempt to figure out if I could actually quit, I started meeting with women of color. I started meeting with them to figure out like where does one go after 20 years in the same place? Like what else do I wanna do? Is some of what I'm feeling around the struggle of like not being able to leave mine or inherited? And those one-on-one dinners turned into eventually a dozen dinners across the country with 20 and 30 women each. So I ended up meeting 300 women of color.


We would get into these rooms, I thought having one or two hours of conversation, 6-7-8 hours later, we were still meeting talking about these things because all of these women had stories about being first, about being onlys and the microaggressions, racism, the challenges, the opportunities, the pressure and so that it kind of really uh allowed me to leave and allowed me to quit. But it also kind of showed me there's something here pattern-wise I wanna explore and understand more.

I love so much about that. And there's so much to unpack, I wish we had six or seven hours because I wanna go so slowly but

That was a big answer but I feel like that's important to understand why everything else.

And it's such a, I mean, it's an answer that I think so many people can relate to. And so many different parts. I know uh I've talked about this a lot. I used to be an attorney and there's so much to like when you've worked so hard to break a glass ceiling and then decide like well now I can't walk away. Like what am I supposed to? This was like where I was supposed to get. This is the holy land. We got here.

This was the dream like and the dream doesn't match what you know.

Exactly. And there is, like you said, like I love how you said like is it mine or did I inherit it? Because there is also like hey, pave the path for other people. And like you can't just kind of walk away, there's so many people coming behind you. I also love what you did because I think there's so many people that struggle with that same question of like what is my purpose in this life? What am I doing here? Is this it? Could there be more? And we can get stuck for so long sort of ruminating in that. Like I hear so many people that come to me where it's year after year the same question. And [Yes.] it's not a question that you can ever really think your way to kind of an answer, right? Even just as an example, I hear this all the time. It happened with me too where it's like following some curiosity kind of just leads you, you know, to the next thing and the next thing. And so even, you know, starting with a couple of conversations leading into this basically like nationwide tour of talking to women of color about their experiences is not, you know, correct me if I'm wrong, it's not something that you sit and just like plan out. It just sort of happens when you start uh kind of following those breadcrumbs of your own curiosity. Like where's this leading? There's something deeper here. So

I think that's so true by the way. I think wrongly for a long time, I knew that there was this growing question around purpose and I was waiting for that lightning moment where it was gonna become clear to me. Like I almost felt, and I hate to say this cuz it was it's a really great job and, you know, quote unquote like a really prestigious important job in those kinds of circles. I really, you know, sitting there for a really long time questioning like is this what I'm supposed to be doing? But I was waiting for that lightning bolt moment of like this is what you should be doing. And I think what I have come to realize and I left, so I to be clear, like I left without clarity in what I was doing next, without the book deal, without anything. I just decided I was leaving. And I got a lot of feedback. You need to know what you're going through before you quit. Like you're what you’re doing is not what we teach people. I think sometimes you just have to get out to even be able to see it. Like I had to unprogram myself or unplug from the machine to even know what was possible. My entire identity was my job. And I think it was really hard. I would also say being South Asian, there was a lot that is cultural. My parents sacrificed so much to come here, all the things. And I interviewed 500 women of color in writing the book, and by the way, that is a common story. [Yes.] Like we end up in these roles as women of color staying longer than we should because we've been taught to be grateful and thankful and appreciative for even being at the table. And as a result, I mean, some of us leave because we just are done but some others stay in, you know, traumatizing situations cuz they've been taught to stay. So I think those are all really great observation.

Absolutely and I think even saying that I would love to know more uh because so many of us maybe even find whether it's the purpose or something that we we really are passionate about that we wanna pursue. But, and especially like I would love to know your experience because when you, you know, now looking back hindsight is always, you know, wonderful. And it's like you get the book deal and your and it's really seems like I'm coming into my purpose but there is still so much fear even if you are clear. Even if you like have the clarity there's so much fear, let alone when you don't. And when you, you know, I'm sure talking to all these women and seeing this as a pattern can help you maybe get a little bit of distance from your own thoughts about it but there is still, I mean, I'm certain there was people around you being like what are you doing? Like you cannot walk away from this. And so many of us, even when we have that passion or the purpose or we want that thing, that doubt that creeps in, the questioning of everybody else. When we start really thinking like am I crazy for throwing all this all away or walking away or regretting it later or whatnot, how did you deal with that? Not having the clarity of like where is this gonna even go?

I think that's where, for me, I think if I was just ruminating on purpose, I might not have had the courage to leave because I had fought so hard and given up a lot to to get the seat, right. Like hours wise and even, you know, I got married very late in life. Like a lot of things like that I sacrificed in order to kind of do the climb. I think for me it just became a health issue. And in some ways I think the health issue became a gift, right. I I got really sick. I had to take eight eight months off. I was that sick. And so it was almost like my body was not gonna let me continue to be in that place and serendipity and you know, the universe kind of intervened to kind of help figure it out. But I I I think it's true. You know, I was, as you were talking, it's not in the book but it's definitely part of my life experience. I went to to grad school with Reshma Saujani who started Girls Who Code and my sister uh works at Go- worked at Goldman Sachs for a couple years. And she coined the term BRICS, right, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So I was surrounded by these women that had really kind of made their mark early on on things. And so to me, I really did think purpose was like that that you would like find this thing and it would be what defined you for so long. You know, as I've had more conversations with both of them, I don't know that it's like that even for them. And so part of that, the dissonance I think that we have when we're taught is that it has to be this big thing. But I agree with you. I think sometimes you have to trust yourself and go. You know, I'll share with you one one other thing that's really funny about this one. When I announced I was leaving my role on LinkedIn, I got hundreds and hundreds of messages from Asian people and I I mean all kinds of Asians and the message to me was like what did your parents think when you, like what did you tell your parents? I left when I was, you know, in my forties, like why am I telling my parents anything? [Yeah.] But it was fascinating. Like there is a real sense of like what are you doing? You know that's real in our community.

Absolutely. And it's, I mean, it goes back to what you said too. Cause I think so many of us really know and saw the sacrifice that our parents made to come over here as first generations. And we saw the amount that they had to work to not have as much as we have. And so there is that real sense of guilt that we put on ourselves or is placed on us, like depending on, you know, the family, that it's sort of like how can I walk away when they didn't have these opportunities? I know I felt a lot of that guilt leaving the law where it really was like my parents came here to give me this opportunity and I felt like a spoiled brat. Like I just don't love it, you know? And it's like who cares if you don't love it, it's work. You're not supposed to love working.

Yeah, no, absolutely. You feel selfish.


And you almost feel like a lot, I had some people say to me like you're not a millennial, you can't you can't you can't go focus on being happy. Right. As if like when did that stop being connected? [That’s crazy.] That's, you know, for me, I think what I've realized and it's come very late in this process is I think that for me, success now has to be tied to health. Like you can't have success without health. And I think you can't have success if you're not satisfied or happy. I don't know what the right word is yet. Like I'm still figuring, but it's almost like there has to be that deep sense of knowing or success is fleeting I think. And those are new thoughts for me.

Yeah, absolutely. And I love that. That's really what we talk about so much on this is really changing sort of the paradigm that we've been given and and yes, maybe for previous generations where maybe there wasn't even as much possibility. So the only way to really have a stable life was to go down these paths. I think for so many of us, we are privileged to be able to think about happiness and success and what it means. But, you know, I always think about this like why would I waste that privilege just because my parents didn't have it? Like I do have it so why not sit and think about what is gonna make me fulfilled for the rest of my life? And I think something else that you brought up that we haven't covered so much but really does come up is this idea that so many of us really push ourselves to the point where our body just stops. [Yeah.] And it's like I can't I can't do this anymore. And sometimes it's like a blessing in disguise where like it's unfortunate that you have to go through that. But I see that all the time too, where it's like we keep ignoring it. Right. Like I I have so many people I've worked with. And when I was a lawyer, so many people who constant panic attacks, like breaking out in hives, ending up in the hospital, ulcers, all this stuff. And it's like when do we stop and be like what are we doing? Is this is this really the way that I'm gonna spend the rest of my life? And so I'm sorry that you had to go through that. But I think that it is oftentimes illness, tragedy are the things that put things really quickly in perspective of like [Yeah.] is this worth all the pressure of that I'm putting on myself from my family and my culture, you know, women, everything so

That's absolutely one of the things I found most women that I interviewed, who'd kind of ha- came into their power as I call it, have had a life event, whether it's divorce, you know, some sort of tragedy, health issue or something didn't go their way at work. Like something was actually unfair or discriminatory. And it really caused them to look around at the system around them and say all these things that I bought into, do they actually work for me? I also would say the number one shocking thing in the 500 interviews is that two outta three women I interviewed were sick. So exactly as you described, so not not a known illness like cancer or something, that's diagnosable. I call it, you know, mysterious illnesses because it's a non-diagnosable, right? So it's skin rash, hives, headaches, migraines, fertility issues, adrenal fatigue. I mean, list goes on and on but it's like this. It's not a list of a hundred, it's like a list of 12 things and they all have it. [Yeah.] It was fascinating. [Yeah.] And I think it's because of not being seen and heard in organizations and the stress of really trying to fit in and conform and give up parts of yourself.

Yeah, I would love to just jump into that. I think that this book that you have written is so needed and everybody should absolutely go get it right now. It's The First, The Few, The Only: How Women Of Color Can Redefine Power In Corporate America. And, you know, I talk a lot about mindset on this podcast but I have talked, I used to be a criminal justice attorney and I was really, I've always like in my adult life been very active in social justice movements. And I've always talked about this, how like you talking about how we wanna show up and stuff doesn't negate the fact that there are societal forces and systemic issues that we need to change. And so I would love your thoughts on one, like what is happening in corporate America. But like while that is there and that's not gonna change overnight, like what can we do as we show up in these spaces that may not have not been created for us order to be able to like keep our peace, feel heard, show up as ourselves. You know, I know that's a a big question, so we can kind of break that down in parts but I would love your take on this.

Yeah, I mean, if I I tell people if they get nothing out of the book, the one line I want them to get is that corporate America's not a meritocracy and it's okay to talk about that, right. I I think that's a very recent conversation. I think that it does show up differently for different groups, you know? And we can unpack that if that's of interest but I think that that's true. And I think part of the challenge is that as, you know, little black and brown girls were taught that if you just work harder and do more like you will get your dues. Not everybody, but most of the women I interviewed other than a handful of black women were told like just keep working hard and you’ll be okay. And you end up in these structures and it's not okay. And we don't know what to do. And it's almost as if we're being gaslit because the system is actually stacked against us. And the more we try, like the more it actually doesn't work for us. So I think the first part is recognizing that there is something systemically happening and that's really what the book is about. It's yes, there's things you can do personally but I'm also gonna acknowledge the system is broken for us. And so that's part of it. What I talk about in the book is understanding the power of me and the power of we, right? So the power of me is really the work that you need to do to kind of write your own narratives, to set your boundaries, to figure out for yourself, not from your family, not from school, not from our everybody else what's important. What really matters to you, whether that's success, leadership, health, like we get told a lot of things, but what is it that is important to you? And then I talk about the power of we, because I think in order to change structures, you need other women of color, other people. And so it's kind of finding community. So many of the women of color I interviewed were isolated and thought it was just happening to them. And when you end up in these dinners or these communities, you realize it's not just you, it's very freeing cuz then you can kind of take what's yours and push back on the system what's it’s, right. And then kind of really figure out what do you wanna do? So that is how I think you start but it's a lot of inner work. It's a lot of, you know, clarify and you're right, I think most women only do it when something bad happens to them because it's hard work to do otherwise.

I think you're absolutely right. And I think that, you know, when we even like gaslight ourselves a little bit where it's like we think and we're made to feel this way, but really not knowing like what is actually happening and what am I maybe perceiving? And there could be both going on. You know, it's not to say that there's it's ever cut and dry. Like a lot of this stuff is very nuanced and yet it does happen. And so do you have any advice for people where it's sort of figuring out where is it worth me trying to stay and show up in my own power and change, you know, the way I'm showing up and how do I know if like no, this is just maybe a toxic work environment somewhere where it's going to take more of a toll on me and I should find a different place?

Yeah. I think I wanna also clarify like part of what I'm talking about is not just kind of being authentic always all times. you know, that kind of advice is not helpful. What I'm really talking about is I think a lot of things happen to us. Like for example, women of color I spoke with end up doing what I call the job IN the job, all these extra tasks are beyond what they were hired to do, right. Whether that's mentoring because there's so few of us, whether that is culture-building, whether that is, I call it in one section representing your race, where you are literally like by default kind of talking about all current events and you know, representing all Indian people or all black people cuz you're the only one. And so there's just this extra toll that happens. Right. And that we have to kind of be aware of that and really unpack that and understand that. Part of what I think is not as clear to us sometimes is how that shows up and how that gets put on us. And and that, you know, if we aren't really clear, we can sometimes feel like we're losing our our power. And what I'm really talking about is being clear what we're asked to do and then being thoughtful about what you actually want to do. And so it's really about agency. [Yeah.] So for example, if you keep getting asked, I'm gonna make up a really, you know, bad example, but to get the coffee or to organize meetings or these housework sort of activities are called in a lot of spaces. I think it's okay to say you know what I've done that 10 times like is there a way that we can make this a collective effort so that we share the responsibility? There are ways to have those conversations that are, you know, palatable in corporate spaces but a little bit of is how you frame that and how you make it more of a collective good conversation. I think the quick answer on if you know if you should stay or go and, you know, there's a a chapter in the book about that is really figuring out is your company willing to listen to you? You know, are do they share your values? You know, when you do speak up, are there processes that allow you to, you know, share your truth? I think a lot of companies are early in the journey around conversations on race at work. Like most of my data suggests that when women of color do speak up, it's actually really hard because the process and the systems and the people in the seats aren't set up to really hear our truth. So I think you have to figure it out. But I also think the positive is there's more demand for us than ever before. There are more opportunities in general because the great resignation than ever before. So part of my message is have agency, be clear, don't just kind of inherit what you're asked to do without, you know, being clearer about it, but also know you have more choice than ever before. So there’s a moment where we can also exercise our power in a really different way.

Yeah, absolutely. I love that so much. And I it's something that I try to teach the people that I work with because I think oftentimes, we catastrophize a lot of things in our mind. And I think that we think like if I ever speak up and say anything then I will get fired. And I think both those things that you just speak to really speak to that is that one, understanding like in what way can I speak up? Is it really true that I'm gonna get fired? Is it true that I can't speak up? And I think a lot of us, like you said, especially women and women of color, like have just learned to be a team player and always do what we're asked and go above and beyond. And you know, so when they say jump, you know, we just say how high instead of really questioning like why, I always hear this too, people say like I do the work of two people or three people. I'm like why? Why is that happening without having a conversation? Like this was my role and now you're giving me all this extra work like am I gonna be compensated? Is there what's happening? [Yeah.] And I think we've we've inherited this like idea of be grateful, smile and be grateful that you've been given a seat. And I think that really is what needs to shift, where it's like I belong here, I'm doing great work and I get to advocate for myself. And even if we go to that worst case scenario, let's say they fire you or you end up wanting to leave. It is a lie that like I am so desperate to keep this job that I will do anything. And I will kind of work myself into the ground, really understanding our worth and our abilities to realize like okay, if I'm not valued here, there are other options for me. And I'm willing to advocate for myself regardless of what those consequences end up being.

I think that's absolutely true. I think that's really what the message is: that we have agency. I also wanna acknowledge maybe you can't do that for financial reasons or it's not a moment in time that you can do it in this moment. I talk about that, but there's a one one woman who shared that she needed to stay where she was because her son was in college and she was paying full tuition. So she's like I'm just gonna get him through college and then I will look for the next thing. That's a different job market than it is now but that was kind of the issue, you know, two and a half years ago, three years ago. So I just think you have to really also bide your time and there's things you can do even while you're in the role to look for your next role. And so it's never an either or I think it's a, you know, and what else am I gonna do right now to kind of get to a place where I can be happier while I find the next best thing? I think a lot of people just don't know what the next best thing is. So they're they're more okay with sitting where they are versus taking action and I think you and I are saying like let's take some action to kind of forward for forward momentum.

Yeah, absolutely. And that's what another thing I think a lot of times maybe people misinterpret also is like I don't think everything has to be like guns blazing, you know, like I'm gonna go in and be like I'm not gonna do this work anymore. Right. It's more of how can I open up these conversations so at least I'm voicing like hey, you're give me too much or I have too much on my plate or I can't take this on. And that can be really in a diplomatic kind of way of like okay, listen, which one do you want me to prioritize? Like I can only get this much done in a week. When we start learning to just at least be able to voice it uz I think so often we are still under this impression that like I shouldn't say anything. Don't rock the boat ever. Don't ever speak up and it comes in learning like hey, are there ways that I can advocate a little bit here even while I stay? And maybe ultimately, I learn that I I have to bide my time until I leave. They're not gonna change. Okay, at least I know that now as opposed to like so many of us seethe in so much resentment because we keep bearing everything and never vocalizing it and then getting mad that they're not doing anything about it.

I think that's really true. I think that part of this work is us getting using our voice more to be honest with you, right? And again, we have to figure out the right containers, the right ways, how that all works, but it's it's not a, you kind of hold it until you can't hold it anymore situation.

There does seem to be some kind of sea change where people aren't realizing this is a bigger issue in in corporate America and whether companies are only playing lip service and aren't actually doing something but there's more discussion around it than there has been in the past. So for people that are listening who maybe want to be allies, who want to be colleagues that help women and people of color in corporate America, what are some things that people can do to start making more of a change instead of just, you know, doing the the bare minimum of like posting something on social media and not actually making change?

Part of this is understanding that it's their work too. And that if they see something, you know, in a moment, whether it's an action or something is said, it's their work to correct it too. Um just as a very specific example, like a lot of people will wait for the woman of color, a person of color to speak up. And I wanna be really clear it's even if you have something happened to you and you know it's wrong, it's hard to speak up. It's hard in that moment. Like a lot of us feel shame when it's not even us that said something, right. Or did something. And so for, you know, I call them co-conspirators, I I I uh saw that term elsewhere and I really like it because I don't think we need more bystanders. I think we need people to take action. And I think that really comes in the way of doing things to make culture better. It's not just our responsibility as the ones that are impacted directly. Like it affects all of us and culture-building and culture change has to be everyone's work. So I think that's part of what really has to change is that we feel even as allies or co-conspirators that we are responsible and that there are things we can do.

I love that. And now, going back, why did you decide to write the book and what are you hoping that it does?

It was really simple. I wanted the book I wish I'd had when I was growing up when I had to constantly tell myself I had a motto that I kept, you know, in my in my draft emails that you don't have to see it to be it. Cause I didn't necessarily see it. And so I wanted kind of how do you navigate when you don't feel seen? And I again, saw that from so many, even of the senior women leaders that I interviewed. So I really wanted it to be that guidebook. And so people didn't feel alone. I wanted it to be um permission to understand and to say the system is also broken and I’m only gonna be responsible for what's mine. So often we tell women and women of color they have to change everything. You have to do all the work. Lean in more. Do this, do that. That's not what this is about. You can lean in as much as you want but the system is still broken and let's have that conversation. So that's really what I wrote it for. I hope the impact is that people have conversations and realize that there are different ways of making change. And that we're also in a moment that change is possible unlike ever before. I think everyone, not just women of color or not even just women, but I think everyone is asking like what space do we want work to take in our lives? Like does this even make sense what we're doing anymore? And so if we're gonna ever gonna change it, if we're gonna make work work for women of color, I think it's also a process to make work work for all.

I couldn't agree more. And I think that that's the thing is oftentimes I know companies are slow to change and are afraid of change. And I think what we don't realize is making it better for some really does make it better for all. It's not taking away and learning how to create inclusive and like truly inclusive and equitable companies really just creates a better work environment for every person involved. It's something that like not only should be our work, but, you know, even if you're doing it for selfish reasons like it's what keeps people in jobs and stops employee turnover and actually allows people to be happy. So yeah, I completely agree. And you said earlier that really a lot of us when when we are the only or the few, it can often feel like it's just you and when you come into community, it really it's just like a a little bit of that burden gets lifted. Like ugh, it's not just me. I'm not just experiencing these. I talk about that a lot on here but I'm wondering like if someone is feeling like that, very lonely in whatever it is, in their work environment, how do you recommend people find that community?

Yeah. I think things have changed. I think it, you know, four or five years ago, I think it would've been really hard to cold call somebody or message someone over LinkedIn or, you know, even text a a friend you haven't spoken to in a long time and say, you know, I really had something come up. Can I run something by you? I I think people just would've been like okay, maybe, you know, I don't know. I think we're in a moment where everyone's craving community. So I have found that women are able to find it in a very different way. So I know a lot of women who are just cold reaching out on LinkedIn, for example, and saying, you know, you have a similar role to mine. Can I just ask you two questions? Right? Or I I need your help with something or, you know, I'm being bullied. Can you give me some advice? I mean, it's it's happening in a very different way. I also think that there's more empathy I think than on some of these things than ever before. So I think I wouldn't overthink it. I think, yes, I understand why historically it's been hard to find community but I actually think it's easier. And it's just a question of reaching out to people.

I love that. And I I agree you with you. I think we're often so afraid of like bothering people or whatnot and people genuinely, even on the other end love connecting and want to help. And I think especially for a lot of us who maybe either feel like, you know, we're one of a few and stuff. I I know that for me and for the people that I've reached out to, it's like you always want to help people that are in that situation or want that advice. So I think if we can get out of our own way and take that first step, there's a lot of people that are waiting to be in community. And I think there's probably a lot more just community now online, like talking about these things. And even if you can't do it in person, like putting yourself in those groups to have these conversations can feel very validating.

Absolutely. That's why we created nFormation. I mean, the whole idea is that it was to recreate what we did in the dinners. We did not know when we were thinking of launching it, that it would turn into a two year, you know, online only sort of format but what it's been surprising, we have been able to recreate the magic of the dinners and that personal sort of conversation, even on Zoom with women who have never met each other across the country, up into Canada, across all industries, all age groups, all sectors, because there, again, I think our sense of community has really changed in these last couple of years. So whether it's us or somewhere else, I I think there's a lot of online community or a lot of different ways you can find people these days.

That's wonderful. Can you tell us a little bit more about what nFormation does and, you know, how people maybe can find it or get involved if that's what they're craving?

Yeah. So I think the easiest way is just to direct everybody to my own website and we have all the information there about whether it's the book or information. So it's deepapuru, D-E- and everything is there. nFormation we created to be a safe, brave, and new space for women of color. And so it was an attempt to bring us together to have conversations, you know, around some of the patterns that we found during the dinners. Um but then also to actually create safe space so we could have discussions that are really different. And so we've had conversations, for example, the the two that really stick out to me, although every month feels like this, is I remember when um Naomi Osaka stepped away from the French Open. We had a conversation about boundary setting and health and what does it mean to walk away from situations that don't work for us? And it was a really deep, profound conversation amongst about, I know 60, 70, 80 women, which is really unusual. Just a few months ago we had a conversation because some of our Latina uh sisters said, you know, the term women of color, some of our some of them are white-passing. And so they said that term, women of color, you know, sometimes they struggle with and so we had a conversation around what it means to be a woman of color, how it means to present, how we talked about race growing up. I have never been part of a discussion with, again, like 50, 70 women and Zoom with women, again, who've never met each other, who where they talked about how they grew up talking about race. It was so personal and so vulnerable. So I just think these are conversations I think that are really helpful but I don't know other places where they're happening. And so it's, it feels very special.

I love that. And I think that it's so important cause you mentioned this before earlier and you talk about it in your book but I think, you know, we always say like no group is a monolith and even within, you know, women of color, every one of our experiences, whether you're an immigrant, whether you’re black American, whether, I mean, we have so many vast different experiences, how we're stereotyped, how how we're looked at, the opportunities we have is all very different within that bucket of like, you know, uh people of color. And so those are the conversations that need to happen though. Like it we can handle nuance, we are complex people. It doesn't have to be like all or nothing, black and white where it's like, you know, we're either in this bucket or not. And I think having these conversations, even within ourselves, right, to be like how do you know, I'm sure for me, somebody who is first generation but grew up here versus somebody who comes over, you know, in their 20 it's a different experience and even really figuring out like what is that experience for someone else? I don't know what it feels like to come here and have an accent and, you know, work in a corporate America with that. And so I think the only way we get past this is by putting aside the BS like color blind and really figuring out like what is your unique experience and how have I been overlooking that because I don't have that experience?

I think that's completely true. Where possible I've tried to pull out that nuance in the book where people have different experiences but, you know, I think that there's so many stories around being, you know, immigrant women or, you know, to your point be I tell stories about women with accents. Like there are all these stories we don't talk about. And I think there is a lot of pain and shame as a result of not talking about them. So I do think the devil is in the details but just even beginning to crack open the fact that it is a very vast container and that we need to also be supportive and helpful to each other. One of the most challenging things in the messages that I heard is that as women, we're not always supportive of each other, you know, especially white women to women of color but even amongst women of color like we've been set up, you know, the system sets us up [Totally.] to kind of fight and be competitive with each other. And how do we start to do that differently? But I think those are all things that we have to work through and it comes from more empathy and more conversation and more understanding.

Well I love all of this and I think everybody should definitely go pick up the book. I will link to the book and your website and everything but so for you now, year and a half, almost two years, this is incredible, right? Like the to walk away from that, have a a book out now, have a new uh company, all very exciting. Has it been as scary as you thought it was gonna be before you quit?

No. I mean, there's moments that are still scary to be clear, right? Like I had a very uh very padded, hefty, safe paycheck in my old world, right. That comes with being a partner for a large firm. And I walked away from all of that. So some of the day to day challenges that come with starting something are are real, right. How how we're we're gonna make money and how this is all gonna be profitable. But at the same time, you know, some really big things have shown up. You know, Ron and I, my business partner, were on Main Stage Chat in December with 12 day’s notice, right? Like big things have happened. Right. I was just on South By Southwest earlier this month. Like so I just feel a little bit like, and it took me a long time to get here, it's not something that I fully believed when I was in corporate and it came with all the health, you know, discussions and finding really alternative healers and different ways of of doing this. It's funny, someone called the book a little bit new agey today and I was like I'm okay with that. You know, maybe there's an aspect to it. I think that you get rewarded for being brave. I think the universe provides you what you're supposed to do when you're in alignment. I think so many of us sit in fear so we're out of alignment and we think it's hard and I truly believe and I I start to follow this more and more that if something is easy, I kind of lean into it. And if it's hard, then it's not meant to be and it's not mine. And it's okay.

I love that so much. And I the reason I ask and stuff and I bring in guests for this reason because I can say it until I'm blue in the face. But, and I know it's hard. I know how visceral the fear was before I left, before I quit. And I think every single person I've talked to has said the same things and you can call it whatever you want, whether it's God, universe or whatever. It's like oh, it all of a sudden provides. But whether it's a shift in you and you just see opportunities more and you go for it and you have to be bold now that you've kind of jumped. There's like, you know, you gotta you gotta make moves or whatever it is. I think we often make it so big in our head like so scary as if like the world is gonna swallow me up as soon as I quit, you know? And then when you get out and you're like this isn't as bad as I thought. And even what I thought was possible was so much smaller than what's actually available.

That is exactly true. I actually, in the book call it my work obituary, I literally wrote and rewrote and wrote it again cuz I literally thought my life was ending in that sense. Or my entire identity was all caught up in work and I have an identity outside of work but it took me a minute to realize that I did. Right. So yeah, I I think there's a lot that we tie to that, especially uh when you come from, especially an immigrant background in particular is what I found with the women I interviewed. And so I think sometimes you just have to trust yourself and put it aside and know that everything will be okay. And by the way, I got to a place where early on, I was like well, if it doesn't work, I'll go just go find another job even, right.

Oh my God, yeah.

It's not an all or nothing sort of equation.

Totally. That like the funniest thing is every time I coach people and they’re like but if I quit and all this and I'm like okay, what would you do? And it's always like I'd get a job. And I'm like yeah, it's like it's not as we make it so big in our heads but this has been so helpful. Thank you so much. If you have maybe some parting words for the women of color that are listening that are maybe in that job that they really do feel like I am being undervalued and taken advantage of and I don't really know what to do. Any parting wisdom or encouragement that you might have.

Yeah, my parting wisdom is simple is that we all have power. I think sometimes we forget that we have it or the systems or the people around us wanna remind us that don't but I think we all have power and it's a question of one, you know, one small step will lead to another step. And to your point, then you kind of end up on this path of a alignment where things start coming too fast, right? So it's it's trust your power. Like we all have it. And even if you don't feel it in the moment, if you feel boxed in, it's just a question of like knowing that you have it and doing what what really helps you feel stronger and feel better and and follow that.

I love that, that's perfect. Deepa - thank you so much for joining us. This has been wonderful. I will again, link to the book but everybody needs to go out to Amazon or wherever you buy books and order it today because it is uh what all of us need to read to understand, whether you're a woman of color or not, to understand really where we wanna start taking corporate America so that it works for all of us. Thanks for joining us.

Thank you for having me.

Thank you so much for listening. If you liked this episode, share it with someone else. I promise you know somebody who also hates their job and wants to quit, so why not share the love? And if you want to come follow along for more, come join me on Instagram at LessonsFromAQuitter and make sure you say hi. I'll see you next week for another episode.