This week we chat with Lavanya Ashok, brilliant private equity investor and accomplished dancer about her passions, interests and hugely successful career. Lavanya lives with her husband Arjun in Mumbai, India.
Q: What does a typical day in your life look like?
I'm an aspiring morning person and try to start my day with morning yoga at least every alternate day :) While I usually stumble in to class half asleep at seven, by the end of an hour, I'm bursting with energy and am always thankful I gifted myself that time. Mornings are a bit of a blur, made beautiful by a cup of tea, a bite of breakfast on odd occasions when we are well stocked with food and a goodbye hug from the hubby. My office is a blessedly short 15 minute commute away and I rush to work in beaten up black and yellow taxis. I'm usually at work by 9 am and no two days are exactly alike which is really fun. Our workplace keeps pretty late hours and I'm often there till odd hours of the night but make it a point to get away in time for dinner on friend's birthdays and other fun Mumbai events. Before bed, I try to get in an hour of reading (or recently watching Suits Season 4) and am usually asleep between midnight and 1am.
Q: How did you choose your career path?
I spent the first fifteen years of my life promising I would have nothing to do with finance because that's what my mom did and seem to have spent the next fifteen proving myself wrong and throwing myself into building a career in finance and investing - life's little ironies :). I work in growth equity investing in India and really love my job. I was always nerdy and loved math. I also really enjoyed collecting random bits of information. I think I love investing because it gives me the opportunity to read expansively on a variety of topics and form narratives on where opportunities for value creation lie. It is also a special high to be an investor in India at a time when the economy is going through a period of painful transformation on multiple fronts.
Q: What do you do for fun? What are your favorite hobbies?
Through all the places and life phases I've moved through, dance has been the one constant in my life. Be it learning Bharatnatyam in Basavangudi, to hip-hop in NYC, Bhangra in SF, Zumba in Palo Alto and back to Bharatnatyam in Mumbai, life has come full circle. I love hiking outdoors and wandering through city streets, discovering hidden eateries, galleries and other city secrets and photographing them. Recently, I've become a big fan of long rides on a motorcycle with my husband. Nothing makes me smile like a lovely conversation with my family, close friends or even random strangers (I have had many of these). I am also obsessed with cats and babies :).
Q: Who is the most interesting person you have ever met?
Adolescent throwback no-brainer - my hero and the King of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan :) It was the summer of 2003 and I felt like all my dreams had come true - I got a job at Goldman Sachs NY as an intern in investment banking and SRK happened to be shooting for Kal Ho Na Ho on Wall Street. Talk about serendipity. We made friends with a spot boy on the set who told us SRK was going to be watching Bad Boys 2 in the Lowe's theatre on 33rd Street on Sunday night. As luck would have it, the trains weren't working and I ran down 20 streets from the nearest station at top speed to wait with my friends outside the theatre and got my long awaited SRK hug! We ran around the streets squealing after that. Best. Day. Ever.
Q: What is your favorite piece of clothing?
My favorite outfit is a fun off-shoulder jumpsuit crafted by my dear friend and amazing designer, Shreya. I love the asymmetric sleeves, the detail on the neckline, the breezy linen top and the funky screen printed design on the shorts.
Q: What advice do you have for young women who are just starting their careers?
Whether you are embarking on your dream job or down a career path you never thought you would end up going down, it helps to keep a positive and upbeat attitude and try to do the best you can. No job I've had has been perfect, but each one has taught me important things about myself and what I eventually want my life's work to be. Especially if you are choosing to build a career in a field where you look up and see very few women (like mine), in the tough moments, it has really helped me to remind myself of a Marissa Mayerism I really love which is "Passion is a gender neutralizing force".