Career Interview Style Travel

Interview with Sonita

Today’s interview is with someone I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the past few months – the lovely and accomplished Sonita. I admire Sonita greatly because she has been able to achieve success and happiness on her defined terms. She’s built a fantastic career, made and stuck by her own family choices (you’ll read more on that later), and dedicated her time to worthy causes. Along the way, Sonita has also gathered together an enviable closet and travel schedule – with amazing style to match. Enjoy meeting her!

Lovely Sonita

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

Hi, I’m Sonita. Professionally, I am an executive at a venture-backed green technology company in Silicon Valley. I am a passionate advocate for green technology and for advancing more women leaders in the still male-dominated area of technology in general, and green technology, in particular. I am a frequent speaker and contributor on clean energy, technology and women leadership topics and have appeared in and written articles for publications such as Forbes, Fortune, CNN, etc.

At the Women Powering Technology Summit

Outside of work, I’m active in several organizations. I am a professional mentor for the TechWomen program, a program spearheaded by Secretary Hillary Clinton. I’m also a contributor to the Clean Energy Empowerment & Education (C3E) program, and serve on the boards of several non-profit organizations focusing on clean energy, education, and women leadership. Additionally, I serve as the working liaison for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a group founded in 1978 by David Packard of Hewlett-Packard. Last but not least, I’m an active member of 85 Broads, a global network for high-achieving women which has expanded to over 30,000 members from 92 countries.

Personally, I am a fun-loving person who loves traveling, meeting new people, and exploring new restaurants. I live in the beautiful city of San Francisco.

Sonita a few days ago, with the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

You are clearly very accomplished! What would be some advice to fellow women who are just starting out in their careers?

Ideally, you should have a rough idea of a plan of where and what you want to be in the short term (2-3 years), medium-term (5-8 years), and long term (10+ years). But this is easier said than done as sometimes, life has another plan for you. Also, many young people are still exploring who they are, what they are good at, and what they want to become.

Life is a journey, but have a set of guiding principles to guide you through your journey.

My guiding principles are:

1) Work hard and deliver outstanding results. There are no short cuts in life. You have to work hard and deliver. Period.

2) Keep an open mind and be open to possibilities. See the glass half full. Take that tough assignment that no one else wants as you may actually learn something from it and grow stronger. You never know where and when opportunity will knock, so always keep an open mind and learn from every situation, no matter how uncomfortable or tough it may be.

At the 2009 Breeders’ Cup

3) Combine your passion (what you like) with what you’re good at and what the world needs (purpose). I think many people mistakenly only focus on the first (passion), but forget about the second and the last. I’ll explain in more detail later on.

4) Find good mentors AND sponsors, both men and women. Most people understand the concept of mentorship, but not so much of sponsorship. A mentor is someone you exchange and bounce ideas off of. A sponsor is someone, usually more experienced and quite powerful in the organization, who is willing to put his/her reputation on the line to advocate for you to help advance your career. A good mentor gives advice.  A good sponsor advocates for you to earn the opportunity to get ahead.

In the political world, this is analogous to the more-established, famous Presidential candidate acting as a “sponsor” for his/her less-established, not-so-famous Vice Presidential candidate to advance. Read the article “The Sponsor Effect” by the Harvard Business Review, which explains how women often times do not know how to leverage the power of good sponsorships to get ahead, unlike most of their male counterparts. Studies have shown that leading companies that foster successful sponsorship programs are able to advance and retain their best female talent.

Another thing I’d advise is to become a mentor. I understand this may not feel natural to someone who’s just starting out in his/her career, but in the long run, it helps build your leadership skills tremendously.

In action speaking at a panel

5) Have confidence in yourself and ask for what you deserve. I cannot stress enough how important confidence is. This is the one area which I believe women sometimes shy away from. Men ask for what they deserve (even sometimes for what they don’t deserve), but women sometimes expect others to notice them, and don’t ask for what they deserve.

Now that I’m a bit more established in my career, I also find that being authentic helps me become a more effective leader. By being authentic, you gain the trust and respect of superiors, colleagues and team members, which enables you to set a vision that resonates with them. And once you set a vision that resonates, you can more easily marshal the resources necessary to achieve that vision and create a collective common goal that everyone can rally around, and inspire the team to achieve greatness. Good leaders produce more leaders, not more followers.

In Donna Karan

At the 2010 Kentucky Derby in a custom top

What’s a mistake you made in your career that you would advise others to avoid?

I’ve made many mistakes in my career, but the biggest one was probably thinking that following my passion alone would make me happy. I think sometimes people mistake their hobbies as passions for their careers. Of course some people are fortunate to be able to combine their passions and careers. Instead of blindly focusing on your “passion,” I encourage people to focus on finding a purpose where your passion and skills can be put to good use in helping solve a problem in this world.

People who are working hard to solve the biggest problems are often compensated in the biggest ways, not just in financial terms, but also in human satisfaction terms. Having a purpose shifts the focus from you to others. It shifts the conversation from what you like doing (having a passion or hobby) to how you can be a valuable contributor in helping society solves its problems (having a purpose). This paradigm shift in thinking is empowering as it shifts the frame of reference from ourselves to how we can help others. We become less self-absorbed and ironically, more likely to be genuinely happy. Don’t you sometimes find that you’re happiest when aren’t thinking too much about how to become happy?

True happiness comes from the intersection of doing what we love, what we’re good at, and what the world needs. People tend to focus on the first because it’s the easiest, but let’s combine it with the second, and most importantly, the last.

At Amanjiwo, visiting Borobudur

You wrote an article in Forbes (here) detailing your choice not to have children. How did you come to this decision and how has the experience been for you?

To be honest, I never really thought too much about having children. I personally do not think having children fits well with my life outlook. Don’t get me wrong, I like children and truly enjoy playing with and mentoring children. I actually believe having children must be one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences a human being can have. I just don’t believe, however, that it’s a good fit with my own life. Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband who is completely with me on this decision.

I think the judgment we’ve received has mainly come from people who don’t know us that well. I understand how some people with children cannot fathom why others can even think about not having children, given that it must have been one of the most important decisions they’ve made in their lives. I find it interesting though that most of the time, a child-free person will have to defend or explain their choice, but those who choose to have children seldom have to defend or explain their decision. Maybe that’s because having children is way more common in our society than not having children.

In the beginning, some family members would sometimes ask, “Why not?” but after a while, they understood and respected our decision. Surprisingly, after that Forbes article, I had people, both whom I knew and didn’t know, reach out to me with supportive messages. The messages ranged from “Thank you for writing this article. I’ve been feeling the same way for a long time,”  to “Bravo for your decision”.  I think at the end of the day, whether or not a person chooses to have children is such a personal decision. Everybody’s situations, desires, and aspirations are different and people should respect others’ decisions and choices.

In action with her Parchemin Birkin

You’re a long time Hermes collector. Can you describe how you started with the brand, and where your collection is now? How do you feel about the availability of goods, and the explosion of the brand over the past decade?

I’ve always been a fashion lover and started with Hermes when I was 12 years old, with Hermes scarves. Then at 14, I got my first Kelly bag from my mom. At 18, I started collecting Hermes on my own. The first bag I bought was a navy, Box 28cm rigid Kelly. At that time, I think Hermes only made gold hardware, no palladium hardware. A few years later, I sold that Kelly on eBay and actually became pretty good friends with the lady who bought it.

My collection is at my home in beautiful San Francisco, in my badly-in-need-to-be-organized closet. The majority of my Hermes collection consists of Birkins and Kellys and the occasional Collier de Chien, Jige, Garden Party, Herbag, watches, and scarves.

Hermes collection

Blue Jean Kelly

From the early to late 90s, I almost always purchased my stuff from the Hermes store, except for the occasional pieces from Cameron Silver at Decades in LA, and a few others. I also once bought a bag from the assistant of a famous Hollywood movie star! I got my 32cm black alligator Kelly that way. I flew to LA with a cashier’s check in hand to meet the lady at the airport and inspected the bag in person, paid for it, and flew back to San Francisco. That was quite an experience. That gator replaced my older 32cm  crocodile Kelly, which I then sold.

With her Vert Anis Birkin

Way before Birkins and Kellys became so popular, I worked with a lady named M as my sales associate at Hermes. M was great, but left Hermes in 2000. I have noticed that it’s become incredibly tough to get Birkins and Kellys from the store these days. Earlier this year, I went back to my local store, but didn’t recognize any of the associates. But one kind lady, R, recognized me from the old days and helped me. I’m still an avid Hermes fan and will purchase items that have high quality, which I appreciate. To me, if you show that you genuinely appreciate a brand – that you’ll be a loyal customer and purchase things you truly appreciate – the relationship will be developed organically.

I feel the quest to get a Birkin or a Kelly has become too crazy these days and am a bit miffed! But like I said, if you’re truly a loyal customer who appreciates quality, you’ll purchase what you love and your Hermes relationship will develop organically because it’s based on genuine interest.

I’m still amazed at how the brand has exploded over the past decade. Today, seems everyone wants a Birkin and/or a Kelly. How did that happen? Although I still appreciate the craftsmanship very much, I personally feel the whole Birkin and Kelly craze is just getting to be a bit too much. Lately I’ve been thinking of getting a Bolide as they are also so classic, but still somewhat under the radar.

With her shocking pink Veneta hobo

What are some other items you collect and love? Can you share some of your favorite items in your wardrobe?

I love fashion and collect many other brands and items, but what I love and use has evolved over time.

With a YSL Muse Two

For handbags – in the past few years, I’ve collected Bottega Veneta. I find their bags to be very comfortable, classy and easy for everyday use. I also like Gucci, Chloe and Prada. Although I don’t usually like logos emblazoned on bags, I find these brands very useful for my everyday life. Other bags I’ve found a lot of use for are the YSL Muse Two bag in tri-color burgundy, purple and tan, and my trusty tan Balenciaga motorcycle bag. I guess I like “larger” bags for everyday use and put comfort before style. In the past, I’ve also collected Chanel and Fendi, but don’t get to wear them that much anymore, because my lifestyle has changed and the sizes I bought in the past were not big enough for my everyday use today.

Dessert and a gorgeous Asscher cut diamond

With a cheery yellow Bottega Veneta hobo

On the shoe front, I collect mainly Louboutins, Blahniks and Choos with other brands (Gucci, Prada, Miu Miu, etc) mixed in. I also collect watches and jewelry. My favorite watch is a gold Cartier Tank Francaise that I got when I was still in college.

I also collect diamond and pearl jewelry, but most of my more-significant diamond pieces are actually from my mom. My mom has a quite impressive diamond collection that would be too difficult for me to match on my own at this point. For everyday flats, I love Tieks. I have many favorite items in my wardrobe and usually go through a phase where I love an item and wear it a lot, and then move on to others.

With her treasured beige-pink croc Birkin

The two perennial favorite items I really love are the 35cm pink/beige alligator Hermes Birkin I got in 2003 and a special order red couture top I wore to the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Both items are one-of-a-kind and though they may not be the most practical, are very special and beautiful nonetheless.

Casual in a red Bottega hobo and Tieks

What are some of the items that you wear the most?

These days I wear Birkins, Kellys, Bottega Veneta bags, and Tieks flats the most as they’re the most comfortable and easy to use for my everyday life. I also wear a lot of tops from Thomas Pink, Anne Fontaine, Banana Republic, Theory, J.Crew and jeans from various brands. For work, I sometimes wear suits by Theory, Narciso Rodriguez, and Chanel.

I also find Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses very easy and comfortable to wear. They are my go-to dresses for semi-formal events.

I go through phases on jackets and coats, too. My everyday staples are from Burberry and Valentino. I used to wear a black Yohji Yamamoto coat a lot, but don’t find it too practical these days as the design is a bit too severe.

On the jewelry front, I wear many of my simple diamond studs, solitaire rings, pearl earrings and pearl necklaces.

Beautiful in striking blue

What is a piece of advice about shopping/style/budgeting that you’ve learned over the years? What pieces have you learned to invest in vs. not?

1) Buy only what you can afford. If you have to buy on credit, that means you cannot afford it. Buy high-quality items that are classic and will stand the test of time. Set a budget and stick to it (though this is hard for me too, sometimes).

2) Invest in high-quality, classic items. I’ve learned that at the end of the day, the classic items are the ones that stay with me. Hermes, Chanel, Bottega Veneta, Louboutins, Blahniks, and Choos. Cartier and Rolex. High quality diamond and pearl jewelry. How many times have you bought that oh-so-trendy, can’t miss item, only to find it sitting in your closet collecting dust a few years later? Even if you no longer want them and want to sell them, the trendy items won’t retain their values.

A rainbow of Bottega Veneta

3) Buy something you will use, instead of pieces-of-art you think you’ll use, but most likely never will. I once bought this really over-the-top, floor-length Yohji Yamamoto coat. It was such a spectacular piece and I thought I’d be able to wear it often. But, in the reality, I wore it only once and even then, didn’t feel too comfortable in it. It’s been sitting in my closet in a hard-to-reach section ever since. It’s the same sad story with numerous extravagant evening gowns I’ve purchased over the years. Some of them are very beautiful and represent a piece-of-art, but I hardly ever wear any of them.

4) Do not buy things just because they’re on sale. Especially if deep down you know you don’t actually like them. In the past, I’ve bought things just because they’re on sale. Often times, they end up sitting in my closet with their price tags still on. You always know deep down whether you really like an item or not. If you find that your heart is not really in it, but that small voice in the back of your head says, “Well, you should buy it. It’s on sale after all,” DO NOT buy it. That means you don’t really want it.

5) Be confident in yourself and buy what looks good on you and feels comfortable, regardless of brand names. How many times have you found yourself buying a certain bag or shoes just because it’s a famous brand, even though it doesn’t look good on you or feels comfortable? As you develop more confidence in yourself and your style, you will be able to buy something because you like it, because it looks good on you, and because it feels comfortable.

Sonita’s Rose Jaipur Birkin

In your daily life, where do you splurge and where do you save? 

Personally, I splurge mainly on fashion.

Flying in style

My husband and I splurge on restaurants and travel. We love exploring new places and enjoy trying out good hotels and restaurants. But we balance it out by being smart about our travel arrangements. For instance, instead of flying first class on expensive airlines during high season, we upgrade from business class during non-peak seasons. Once in a blue moon, we’ll also travel via private jet on routes that aren’t too popular during non-peak seasons, or hitch a ride on a friend’s jet. We apply the same principles on booking good hotels or private villas during non-peak seasons.

Although we love eating out, we’re not splurgers on grocery items. We buy most of our staples from regular supermarkets and Costco, not from organic or specialty food stores.

Casual and comfortable, ready to travel with her orange Kelly!

What are some of your other passions and hobbies?

I love writing. It allows me to relax, clear my mind, and express my thoughts. These days I write mostly for professional reasons, but I’m hoping that one day I can write more fun stuff, maybe a fashion, food or travel blog. Wouldn’t that be fun?

I also love meeting new people and truly enjoy getting to know others and what makes them tick. Instead of the usual networking, I enjoy building long-lasting, genuine relationships. So while I may not know as many people as a networking guru may, the people I know, I know very well. There is a certain mutual trust and respect. Someone once told me that “relationship-building” is like a natural muscle I have developed (if there’s even such a thing) without much effort, as I genuinely enjoy meeting and getting to know people on a personal basis.

In Narciso Rodriguez

And finally – please share something surprising about yourself!

Okay, this may not be what you’re looking for, but domestically, I’m very disorganized. I don’t cook, don’t clean, don’t do laundry. The last time I “cooked” was probably around 1996-1997. I remember a long time ago in college, I wanted to impress a friend and offered to cook for a group of friends at someone’s apartment. Minutes later, not only did I cause the fire alarm to go off (and the fire trucks to come), but my “cooking” also inadvertently caused a minor burn to the host when he was trying to put out the fire (luckily, everything ended well). I think many people assume that I take care of domestic things for some reasons. The good news is, I am very fortunate to have a very organized dear husband who keeps things in ship shape.

I also love to sleep. Sometimes I may not get as much sleep as I want. But when I can, I love to sleep for 8, 9, 10+ hours. Sleeping makes me so much happier and more productive!

The Bali traveling Birkin

And lastly, I may be the only person who has taken a Birkin river-rafting in Bali!  I’d brought my 35cm black Togo Birkin with me on the trip because I thought the river rafting company would have a locker where I could store the bag. Alas, they didn’t! So, they folded the poor Birkin in half, flattened it, put it into an air-vacuum plastic bag, and strapped it into the raft. Fortunately, the Birkin survived the trip. Unfortunately, it lost its shape and acquired a “bowing” shape to it.

I brought it to Hermes for a treatment and they did all they could, but the “bowing” shape stayed put. I’d recently asked the “Doc” for advice to restore its shape and may do the treatment the Doc recommended. Lesson learned, do not take your Birkin river rafting, ladies!

 

I adore the river rafting story – it’s wonderful that Sonita uses her luxury items everywhere, and has a great sense of humor. I’ve read through Sonita’s advice (on career, style and life) several times and each time I find something new that I identify with. For me personally, Sonita’s words have been fascinating and very much educational. Thank you very much to Sonita for taking the time to share some of her style, wardrobe, and learnings with us all today!

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  • Olivia
    October 3, 2012 at 7:25 am

    What a smart, intelligent woman – thanks for sharing this interview Katherine! Sonita is very inspiring!

  • Sonya
    October 3, 2012 at 7:29 am

    What an inspiration. I am off to order the article through HBR, unless you know of a place where a free preview is available (?)

    • Katherine
      October 3, 2012 at 9:26 am

      I’ll definitely take a look around…will post an updated link if I find a free version!

  • Karen
    October 3, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Thank you for this interview Katherine and Sonita! It came at a time where I’m seriously re-thinking my career and looking inward to what my passions are. Great advice, thought-provoking and I’m very much looking forward to putting what I’ve learned here to use!

    • Katherine
      October 3, 2012 at 9:58 am

      Hi Karen, so glad that this was helpful for you. The passion vs. purpose bit was very thought provoking for me as well. Good luck! 🙂

  • adele
    October 3, 2012 at 9:29 am

    What an amazing woman, I enjoyed reading all about her & her career advice! Of course the Hermes collection goes without saying!!
    Happy Wednesday Hun xoxo
    http://www.intotheblonde.com/

  • Eva
    October 3, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I really enjoyed the interview! She must be an amazing person! And her Birkin collection is simply divine!

  • Aesthetic Alterations
    October 3, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Thank you, Sonita, for sharing so much with us, for I’ve been inspired on so many levels by your words—and importantly, also by your smile. It’s as if we can feel your energy-filled personality just by looking at you. As a woman approaching 40 who decided early on that having children just wasn’t me, I appreciate you writing about it in a public forum; I do believe that the larger world has become more accepting of this decision in the past five or so years, but it helps when a role model like you stands up, too.

    And thank you for sharing the intimate details about your beautiful garments and accessories. I swooned at the sight of your custom top for the Derby. I grew up in Louisville, and how I wish I could have been around to see that. But speaking more generally about the style you show, it very much sparkles. You clearly have a gift for mixing the classic with the energetic.

    • Katherine
      October 3, 2012 at 10:28 am

      Catherine it is so good to hear from you 🙂 I really appreciate Sonita’s candor about her choice about not having children – I do believe that it’s one that is becoming more and more accepted in society. In Asia it’s quite common actually (to the point where there’s issue with population levels), I always found it a little strange how in the US there is still some judgment.

      • Aesthetic Alterations
        October 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm

        Thank you, Katherine. I love visiting here, and this interview is an example of why.

        Yes, that makes sense about Asia. In truth, I may be a little protected by my profession and that of my partner, in that it can be increasingly normal to know people of our age who also do not have children. It’s been a while since I was treated strangely because of my decision, even in rural America, so I have my fingers crossed that family planning will be something respected as private (and okay no matter what).

  • Maria Niwa
    October 3, 2012 at 11:04 am

    I know this amazing young woman personally and lucky to have some visits with her in the past. I remember coming back from a very long and tiring 40 hours trip, I was on my P.J. (I am not kidding) and hadn’t had any shower for the past two days, and she picked me up at the SF airport with her classic dress as always and her Mercedes, helping me carrying my two tons weight luggage into her trunk and take me to the most delicious and quite fancy restaurant somewhere in the downtown SF area and not even once she looked ashamed or down on me. She then took me to her condo, feed me, and gave me place to sleep for the night. She didn’t even know me by then, we were just writing each other on e-mails.

    • Katherine
      October 3, 2012 at 11:33 am

      What an amazing story – thank you for sharing Maria

      • Maria Niwa
        October 24, 2012 at 10:26 am

        my pleasure Katherine and what a wonderful interview…looking forward to read more of your writing.

  • Anouka
    October 3, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I found this interview so inspiring and she is so right on many points. I also believe in investing in classic pieces, not buying items on sale and only get what I can afford (not spending beyond my means).

    LUXESSED

  • DSK Steph
    October 3, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I want to be like her when I grow up!! lol She’s awesome!

    • Katherine
      October 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      What a sweet comment 🙂

  • littlefishw
    October 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    wow this is the best interview ever! great work !

  • Catherine
    October 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    More than her bags and luxury travels, I envy her resume and prestigious education! Her advice on not assuming a hobby should be a career is going to make me think differently for sure. I even read her article on Forbes on not wanting to have children. However, I take issue with this quote;

    “Career trajectory can arguably be steeper for the childfree. A mother’s devotion to her career can contradict her devotion to her children. There is a reason why women comprise 50% of law students but only 10% of law partners.”

    True, but why only mothers? What about fathers? Perhaps, instead of blaming mothers for having children, we should take a look at why children hinders a mother’s career more so than a father’s in today’s society. Businesses should also be required to protect a woman AND a man’s right to have children. There are many great reasons not to have children, but career SHOULDN’T be one of them.

    • Katherine
      October 3, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      Catherine I agree with your sentiment. For me, Sonita’s statements in that article are correct – but the reason why also lies in how society and businesses treat working mothers vs. fathers. Career shouldn’t be a prohibitor – but unfortunately right now in our society for many women it is. I hope that is changing soon.

    • Mica
      October 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Catherine, I have a toddler and I guarantee the responsibilities for a mother are different than that of a father. Also, as a mother, my company was more generous wrt doctor’s appointments, nursing breaks and working from home. My husband only had a week of Paternity leave and he was given a hard time for taking even those few days to be home.

      I agree with Katherine that this is reflective of our values as a society. The glass ceiling isn’t great, but it’s worse that it’s actually a mirror.

      • Katherine
        October 8, 2012 at 1:11 pm

        Mica it’s always good to hear from you!

  • Chic 'n Cheap Living
    October 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    She is such an inspiration! Her comment about mistaking your hobbies as passions for a career is really interesting, but definitely true. I increasingly know more and more people that are switching careers (me too!) because they may feel really they are not passionate about their industry or function. But it is also true that not all of those passions are viable career choices (as many times as I hear that people love my baking, I can’t imagine doing it full time). I am actually a part time career coach and definitely agree that it is the intersection of ones passions and skills that really help determine what one should do professionally.
    I’m definitely reminded to think about my career path again. If my reward at the end is a similar collection of BV and Kelly bags, that would be a crystal encrusted H on the cake!

    xoxo,
    Chic ‘n Cheap Living

  • Anna
    October 3, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Wow Katherine, Sonita has some very down to earth advice about success – I’m especially glad to read that she too believes that the best occupation lies somewhere in the intersection between passion and worth to society. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this at home 🙂

    One thing I’m quite disappointed to read is that she doesn’t shop for high quality groceries (organic is not a trend/boutique lifestyle. It’s one very basic way to take care of your body). She gives the image of a shell: all adorned in five figure clothes but full of ramen. It knocks down the level of respect a bit for me but this was one of your best interviews nontheless.

    • Katherine
      October 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks Anna – I’ll let Sonita respond to this if she likes to clarify but for me I read it as she largely supplements bulk items from Costco, etc – but I’m not sure so I’ll let her answer 🙂

  • Jennifer
    October 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Great interview! Love the confidence advice and insights on women in the green technology field; there ought to be more! Definitely true regarding the intersection of passion, capability, and purpose. Currently struggling a little and finding my way and have wanted to find a career amongst my passions but chose something more purposeful but lacking in the passion area. I will definitely take the intersection advice to guide me to find a career that suits me!

    • Katherine
      October 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks for your contribution Jennifer. I hope you find a great career and fit for you!

  • Sonita Lontoh
    October 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Dear all:

    Katherine, thank you for the interview.

    Ladies, thank you for your kind comments. Apology for not being able to respond to each comment. If you’re interested to read more details on the passion and purpose topic, please check out a Forbes article I wrote a few months ago titled “Passion, Hobby, or Purpose?”: http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2012/05/29/passion-hobby-or-purpose/

    Thanks again for all your support.

    Warm regards,
    Sonita
    Twitter: @slontoh

  • Ammu
    October 3, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    You find the most interesting women to interview! I attended a women’s college in the US, and reading some of your interviews feels like I am attending an alumnae gathering. The bags and jewelry are gorgeous, but what I love is all the other advice wrapped into the interviews. So thought-provoking and inspiring. Thank you for presenting us with such strong female role models 🙂

  • Lamia
    October 4, 2012 at 4:33 am

    Inside out amazing woman !! speechless !!
    Lamia
    http://www.ginger-chocolateandhoney.blogspot.com/

  • latkesanddimsum
    October 4, 2012 at 6:32 am

    What an amazing, accomplished lady, Kat – thank you so much for this post.

    Also loved: “Today, seems everyone wants a Birkin and/or a Kelly. How did that happen? Although I still appreciate the craftsmanship very much, I personally feel the whole Birkin and Kelly craze is just getting to be a bit too much.” – YES!!

  • Jan
    October 4, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Loved reading
    Sonia is very insightful
    Would love to have her as a mentor

  • Desert heels
    October 4, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Tiger, Yes. Mom, No.
    Fierce.

    What an outstanding woman! And her views resonated with me. I have been happily married for nine years and yes, we constantly have to defend our “childless” existence simply because we choose to live our life in our own terms.The pursuit of happiness is purely abstract and personal.
    We are not in the dark ages anymore, and as a woman I don’t need children to till my soil.
    This is a remarkable interview, Congratulations!

    • Katherine
      October 4, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Glad that you enjoyed it..I’m happy that Sonita’ views have resonated with you so much 🙂

  • Marlene @ chocolatecookiesandcandies
    October 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I’m just blown away by Sonita’s accomplishments. She obviously came from a privileged background and instead of taking it easy, she took the narrow road and pushed herself. Furthermore, she involved herself in altruistic programs and ventures. I’ve copied and pasted a few pearls of wisdom from her. They’ll be inordinately helpful for me and a reminder to continually strive for my best.

    It’s so true about what she said about being childless. We married young and didn’t think of having kids until we were in our 30s. Some treated us a little us a little better than social pariah. I had some of the rudest comments I’ve ever heard due to our decision. I’ve had many younger friends since who often seek my advice about having kids. I believe it’s a person’s prerogative to choose to go down this route or not.

  • Sonita Lontoh
    October 4, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Ladies, the term I like to use is “child-free.” Slightly different from “child-less” in that there is the choice factor — the decision on whether or not to have children. It’s just semantic, but quite interesting nonetheless.

    • Katherine
      October 5, 2012 at 10:38 am

      Thanks Sonita 🙂

  • couturecoco
    October 6, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Sonita surely must be one of the most accomplished and truly inspiring women in your interview series – I am in awe! I just love her career and life advice – imagine if everyone were able to achieve those 3 things, the world would be a much better place for each and every person.
    I always feel sad that in this day and age, people still judge others who happen not to have children. I mean it’s so intensely private and sometimes beyond complicated either way. It’s a very brave step to take in choosing to put her decision in the public domain.
    Thank you for sharing this interview!

  • Kat
    October 16, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Thank you so much for featuring this amazing woman.
    As Indonesian, I’m so proud to see how successful she is and how amazing her work are.
    Really inspiring! ^_^

  • sesy hasan
    November 5, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Katherine,

    Iam very proud to have intelligent,confident,aspiring and practical woman from my community in your blog. I actually printed her interview and writings from Forbes and pinned them on my wall, as a brilliant piece of advice to help me go through,not only in career making decision,but also in other aspect of life.

    • Katherine
      November 5, 2012 at 10:46 am

      Sesy you are so kind, thank you – I am glad that you enjoyed Sonita so much! She’s an inspiring woman.

  • elaine
    March 8, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Dear Katherine, lovely Sonita is the most i love among all interview articles up till today. do you know does Sonita write a online blog that you can share it with us?
    thks and have a fab weekend ahead!

    • Katherine
      March 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks Elaine, so glad you like Sonita! Unfortunately she doesn’t have a blog yet but I’d love for her to start one!

  • The obvious questions | Five Foot Gal
    April 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    […] their lifestyle choices/expectations/perceptions onto others. I liked how technology executive Sonita Lontoh put it “I find it interesting though that most of the time, a child-free person will have to […]