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How She Got There: Erica Dhawan, Author & CEO of Cotential

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Name: Erica Dhawan
Job Title and Description: Co-Author of Get Big Things Done and CEO of Cotential
College Name: University of Pennsylvania
Website: ericadhawan.com
Twitter Handle: @edhawan

 
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Erica Dhawan: There is not a real typical day—I spend my time right now marketing my new book Get Big Things Done, consulting with clients, writing articles, researching new ideas, connecting with people and solving challenges related to improving connectedness across teams and workforces through my firm Cotential.

What is the best part of your job?

ED: The best part of my job is learning and sharing the stories of amazing innovators who are getting big things done in today’s world. They inspire me and teach me that greatness involves challenge, hard work and persistence. They remind me to focus less on myself and more on sharing with others because the endgame is what’s at stake.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

ED: My first job was at Lehman Brothers, a top Wall Street firm in 2007. I found the job out of recruiting while in Wharton’s undergraduate program. I joined Lehman Brothers at the peak of the financial boom and worked through the bankruptcy collapse. This experience taught me about the changes needed in these large institutions and why we need more young leaders to spark a revolution in the workplace.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

ED: I wish I knew how valuable it was to be ok saying no if an opportunity didn’t feel “right” but it was easy. There are a plenty of opportunities that will come along in today’s world and for much of my twenties I thought I had to do it all, but in fact, I only had to do the ones that truly mattered and made a difference. When you ask yourself [if it really matters], it will help you be more mindful about your choices.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

ED: My co-author Saj-nicole Joni of our new book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence is a big inspiration for me. As a renowned business strategist and confidential CEO advisor, she has taught me to continually ask better questions and think more critically about my choices. She has also helped me to better focus on what’s really at stake and how to play big for the endgame.
 
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

ED: “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” – Katharine Hepburn

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

ED: Being a woman in business, I first thought I needed to spend more time in the women’s leadership space to help women in corporate America. In my career, I’ve learned that the opposite is just as important. Spending time speaking in entirely male boardrooms and audiences has completely helped me understand that it is desperately important to engage men in the leadership conversation to truly create change around gender diversity in the workplace.
 
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

ED: I look for passion and those committed to continuous personal development and leadership.  We always have things we can learn from each other. I hire for attitude first, then skill.

I’ll be hiring a social media intern in the coming months! Reach out to me at erica@ericadhawan.com with your resume in the coming weeks.
 
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

ED: For much of my twenties, I tried to “do it all.” I lived someone else’s vision of success, not my own. I ignored some of my greatest passions, like writing and dancing, until I burned out.

It was when I took time off that the dots started to connect for me. I began to act on what I cared about rather than focus on what I thought I should say. Within just a few months, I was published on The Huffington Post and Forbes. All of this led me to speaking at Davos and building my business Cotential where I work with clients like Pepsico and Deloitte. In short, I began to own my life rather than letting it own me. I have never had this much fun or felt nearly as creative and productive as I feel now.

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