Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

They Said No, So She 10x’ed Them with Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

Sometimes, it seems like the universe throws obstacles in our path, but how we respond is ultimately up to us. Growing up in a hotel wasn’t abnormal for Sadhna Bokhiria when she immigrated to Connecticut. Her parents owned the hotel, so it was normal for her to clean the rooms and live there. Her classmates didn’t think so, and made sure she knew about it. Despite facing injustice and discouragement, such as a professor dismissing her dreams of becoming a teacher, Sadhna refused to be deterred. Her response was a resolute “watch me” whenever someone told her she couldn’t do something.

Today, Sadhna is the Founder & CEO of KIRIA Research, an advisory firm for the biotech and pharmaceutical industry that specializes in studying health systems. Her firm is responsible for advising clients who collectively brought in over 283 billion dollars in revenue in 2023. Known for her quick wit and authentic leadership, she is revolutionizing cancer treatment by integrating psychosocial factors and humor into patient care. Recognizing the healing power of laughter, she delved into the study of stand-up comedians, interviewing over 600 to understand how humor impacts psychology, physiology, resilience, and leadership. Committed to giving back, Sadhna partners with healthcare institutions like Banner Health, Mayo Clinic, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital to provide housing for cancer patients traveling to Arizona for treatment. In India, she creates scholarships for underprivileged children, particularly girls, to access education and opportunities beyond societal challenges.

Sadhna’s message is clear: Don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing your dreams. As we celebrate female innovators for International Women’s Day, we’re honored to share Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria’s courageous journey.

Guest: SADHNA BOKHIRIA

President & CEO: KIRIA Advisory Partners

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria (not an MD - much to her parent's dismay…) learned at a very young age there are only three potential career paths for an over-achieving child of rigid Indian parents… Doctor… Lawyer… or Major Disappointment... She chose the latter (and took it up a notch) by majoring in Shakespearean Studies. Now she may not be an MD…but there is never an iota of disappointment when it comes to Sadhna. She is a 2021 honoree of Phoenix Business Journal's 40 Under 40 award, a Tedx Speaker, and a Global Delegate for the American Express Leadership Academy. In partnership with Banner Health, Mayo Clinic, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Sadhna owns and operates housing facilities for patients traveling to Arizona in order to obtain cancer treatment. Her research on the psychosocial factors that impact survivorship in cancer patients was published in partnership with the University of Arizona’s Cancer Center. This research led her to begin exploring the ways in which laughter impacts healing in cancer patients, which later inspired her research on stand up comedians. In her spare time (as if she has any) she is the host of LeaderVoices - a podcast created in association with American Express & Arizona State University that showcases leaders and their infinite ability to change the world. Sadhna’s guests have included experts on Premenstrual Syndrome, Global Nonprofit Leaders, Stand Up Comedians, and entertainment icons such as comedian, writer, and actor John Cleese and his daughter Camilla Cleese. Her Tedx titled, “Comedy is No Joke” explores the relationship between humor and intelligence and has been viewed more than 100,000 times. While writing her dissertation, Sadhna interviewed over 600 comedians and saw more than 1000 performances. Her research explores the ways in which humor impacts psychology, physiology, resilience, and leadership. It supports the notion that humor is intelligence. Sadhna lives in Arizona with her family and enjoys reading, working out, and live comedy.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Title of the Episode:
“They Said No, So She 10x’ed Them with Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria”

2. Host:
Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox

3. Guest:
Sadhna Bokhiria, President & CEO of KIRIA Research


4. Key Topics Covered:

Overcoming societal and personal challenges, the power of humor in leadership and healing, navigating career transitions, advocating for women’s education and empowerment, and creating an authentic work culture.


5. Highlights:

  • Sadhna’s unique upbringing and the challenges faced due to her parents’ limited education.
  • Her academic journey, from aspiring to be a high school teacher to becoming a respected leader in the biotech industry.
  • The research on laughter’s impact on healing and leadership.
  • Sadhna’s approach to leadership, focusing on authenticity, humor, and high trust.
  • Her commitment to giving back to the community and supporting education for women.


6. Quotes from Sadhna Bokhiria:

  • “Watch me do that. I’ll crush it.”
  • “Women have always been in power, period.”
  • “The more I can achieve in my life, the more I can help other people.”


7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

8. Resources Mentioned:

Dare to Lead program by Brené Brown, strategic coaching by Dan Sullivan, and the Chief network.


9. Contact Information for Sadhna Bokhiria:

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria can be reached primarily through LinkedIn.


1
0. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica emphasizes the importance of authenticity, the impact of one’s past on their future, and encourages listeners to dream big and make the most of their experiences.

11. Episode Length and Release Date:
Episode Length: Approximately 54 minutes
Release Date: March 19, 2024


00:00

Monica H. Kang
Sometimes it feels like the world is trying to discourage you from doing everything and anything you want to do. Teachers saying that’s not a career we can do, students and colleagues not understanding why you want to do what you do, and maybe even the pressure we feel from parents of what they wish we could do because of what they couldn’t do. Today’s guest has certainly felt all the emotions, but she has found a way how to navigate those situations into opportunities. And perhaps a powerful reminder that, hey, you know what? 


00:36

Monica H. Kang
Watch me. 


00:37

Monica H. Kang
I’m going to show you how I can do all of it. Meet my friend, Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria. She is the Founder and CEO of KIRIA Research, an advisory firm for the biotech and pharmaceutical industry that specializes in studying health systems. Her firm is responsible for advising clients who brought in over $283B in 2023 revenue. So known for her quick wit and authentic leadership, Sadhna is changing how we think about client care, customer service with humor, and much more. She has a 2021 honoree of Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 under 40 awards, is a TEDx speaker, and a global delegate for the American Express Leadership Academy. And it’s no coincidence why she has been recognized for her leadership. You see, her research on the psychosocial factors that impact survivorship in cancer patients was published in partnership with the University of Arizona’s Cancer center. 


01:39

Monica H. Kang
This research led her to begin exploring how laughter impacts healing in cancer patients, which led her to begin studying standup comedians. She ended up interviewing over 600 comedians and saw more than thousand performances while writing her dissertation to explore how humor impacts psychology, resilience and leadership and intelligence. She’s going to help bring humor into your conversations as well. And she shares about to be a better leader how she strives and rethinks about her time, but also authenticity in her day to day work, given how little she had to start everything from scratch. So yes, she may not be the MD that maybe her parents wanted, but she certainly has a doctorate degree and a two. And she’s excited to remind you that just because others think that you can’t do something doesn’t mean that’s true. 


02:37

Monica H. Kang
She’s also working in partnership with banner Health, Mayo Clinic and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where she owns and operates housing facilities for patients traveling to Arizona to obtain cancer treatment. As you can see, she is adamant about serving the community and also taking the time to explore how she can be a better leader. So today, I asked her all: how did you get to where you were? What helped you navigate those different situations? And what really helps, you know how to stand back up when others say no? You’re in for a treat. She’s excited to dig in the details, and inspire you with practical tips!


03:18

Monica H. Kang
I got so into the conversation that I forgot to even ask some of my core questions until later on. But you’ll get there! So, hang in there and meet Dr. Sadhna. Welcome to Curious Monica. 


03:33

Monica H. Kang
So very excited to have my friend Sadhna here. Thank you so much for joining us as we celebrate International Women’s History Month. I know it’s a mouthful, but it’s an important month and I’m so glad to have you here. I was very excited, particularly because you’ve had quite a diverse journey. But let’s start with the very beginning of how it all started. Bring us back to your childhood. Who was young, Sadhna? What did she wanted to do? Who did she wanted to become? 


04:09

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Sure. So I guess I’ll start with my parents. So I’m Indian. My mother was actually born in Kenya and my dad was born India and I was born in London. And, growing up, I was an only child and my mother was pulled out of school in 8th grade because they felt that she was educated enough, they didn’t want her to be too educated because the fear was that she would talk back to her husband if she was too smart. And so I remember as a young girl, my mom tell me that the reason why she was pulled out of school is because there was essentially a limit to how much power she was allowed to have. And my father was pulled out of school as well in 6th grade, mainly because he was more valuable on the farm. 


05:10

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So my family for generations are farmers in India and so they pulled him out of school because they felt that it was just more valuable to have him working hard labor on the farm. And so, neither of my parents really developed the ability to read and write in any language, which really impacted the way in which I grew up because I felt a certain amount of guilt, and also almost like a responsibility to excel in education because I felt like both of my parents didn’t have that same opportunity. So my parents had an arrange marriage. They moved to England when they were like 17/18, I think they were engaged when they were like children, like eight or twelve or something. And we lived in England for some time and then we moved to the United States, to Connecticut. 


06:15

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And it was kind of interesting because even though my parents, you don’t have to be educated to be quote unquote successful. So even though they weren’t formally educated, extremely intelligent, business savvy. And they ended up getting into which is one of the most prominent industries for Gujarati immigrants, which is the hotel industry. 


06:40

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


06:41

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
There’s a joke. The Patel cartel. Because Indian people own more than 50% of all highway hotels in the United States. 


06:50

Monica H. Kang
I didn’t know that. Wow. 


06:53

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And so my parents…

Yeah, really interesting. So what we do is the families will buy the hotel and then we knock down the wall. So my room was room one, my parents room, actually, my room was room two. My parents room was room one. We knocked down the wall in between. And then it connects to the office and the laundry room. So growing up, I literally grew up in a hotel. 


07:16

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


07:17

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And 24 hours people would come to the office and it was just part of our life where we’d get up, go to the office, rent them a room, and then on the weekends, we would actually clean the rooms, together. I didn’t really think that was strange or abnormal, but I remember being bullied because people thought that we were like the poor family that lived in a hotel. And I never knew the difference. I lived in my parents owning the hotel and me living in hotel. So the beauty of that is that despite the fact that if from the outside people didn’t really treat us as anybody of power, they treated us like were beneath them. Part of it is racial as well, and being immigrants. But that was great for me because it helped me always feel completely out of place. No matter where I was. I never fit into like a clear cut box. And I think that’s part of the reason why my identity is so morphed and diverse because of the experience of that. So then there’s this anxiety as like a first generation Indian person, especially a woman. There’s this fear that I will become too American. And so the same fear that my parents experienced but in a totally different country projected onto me because there was this fear, okay, what if, like now she’s in Connecticut, she’s going to public school. There are no Indians in the school whatsoever at that point in time? Oh, yeah, none. And I remember because the people in the class, like in my classes as students, they’d say to me, are you feather or are you dot Indian? 


09:22

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And I remember being like, wow, you have no concept of what I am at at all. And it was just a very common thing that people would ask. The other thing people would do, the teachers, is they would assume that my parents were doctors or scientists at Pfizer, because Pfizer was like the big employer school. And most of the Indian people that time that they were coming across were heavily educated scientists, and so they would just say, oh, so is your dad a doctor at Pfizer? No, my dad’s not. But ultimately, so what happened is, in order to kind know, calm that fear of me being an American woman, American Indian woman, my parents ultimately sent me to boarding school India, and this was the first time I had ever been in my life. 


10:26

Monica H. Kang
Wow. How old were you? 


10:27

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
I originally went because I was in fourth grade.
I associate everything with grade age. It’s so strange. I have no idea how old. So I went there, and I was in a boarding school where it was like a prison. I mean, it was literally like a prison for the girls dormitory. Picture, like a garage cage door. 


10:58

Monica H. Kang
Oh, my God. 


10:58

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So they would lock it and they’d pull down, and then they’d put a padlock at the bottom because they had to lock us in to protect our honor, aka our vaginas. And the boys dormitory was, like, off campus, basically, and they had no supervision. They didn’t have… What we had were aunties, and aunties were know red aunties that made sure that were not sneaking out or anything, like. Yeah. So, that was a really eye opening, shocking experience for me, growing up in America and being there in school, and I’ll never forget it.  It was just mind boggling. There was an earthquake as well. So one of the evenings when were sleeping in the dormitory, there was earthquake. And we were locked inside. Oh, no. And we had to hide underneath the beds and the windows. 


11:58

Monica H. Kang
Oh, my gosh. 


12:00

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And I remember as, like, an American fire drill and being like, oh, my gosh, we don’t even have fire drills. They are not to code. And I was in fifth grade, like, thinking about these big picture safety issues that never would have really been in my space had I not experienced two extreme differences in education. So ultimately, it was an excellent experience for me because it expanded my mind and allowed me to be not fitting in the story of my life. So India, I was not enough. In the US, I was too indian. So I was like, I don’t fit anywhere. 


12:47

Monica H. Kang
That’s probably how we had synergy when we got up at the American Express Leadership Academy. And just to build on that, you did then come back to. You went to UK first, or was it back to the states after that? 


13:01

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Yes. So then I came back to Connecticut. I was able to do a junior high school here, and then I ended up going to graduate school in Boston. And then I was a visiting lecturer in UK. I got an arranged marriage, and I got a divorce very quickly. But during that time, he was in England. And so I actually moved from Boston to England, and then I was a visiting lecturer. I specialized experience studies. I was a visiting lecturer at the University of Essex. And that was amazing. And I decided that wasn’t the country for me, mainly because of the rain. And I decided, and the way in which I ended up in Arizona is I actually just looked for the state with the lowest amount of rainfall. So we have an average of 360 days of sunshine in Arizona. 


13:58

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So I got into my car, with my little Chihuahua, and I drove here from Chicago – never been here before, no job, didn’t know anybody, and was just like, going there because it does not rain, and I can’t deal with any more rain. I’ve had enough rain for a lifetime living in London.


14:17

Monica H. Kang
You have been Phoenix for a while and settled there. And we got to talk about your professional chapters, too, which is very interesting. I know it intersects with your personal chapters as well. But as you have pointed out, you’ve done a lot of things, I think, that was extraordinary and different, and you’ve shared how your past and childhood has influenced. But tell me a little bit more. Also professionally, as you’re going through these chapters, I’m curious, what career were you interested, what job did you envision and looking at, thinking about where you are now today, is this kind of where you thought you might be heading, or is it something like I didn’t imagine? 


14:58

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Sure. Yeah. It’s interesting. So I fell in love with Shakespeare in 11th grade. In high school, we did Hamlet, and we did essentially a legal, a mock trial. And my job was to prove that Hamlet was not crazy, and the opposition was supposed to prove he was crazy. And I remember just falling in love with English, with literature, with reading. And I went to school, undergraduate, with the intent of becoming a high school english teacher because that was the first kind of mentor that I had based on my 11th grade english teacher. And so I said, okay, I want to be just like her. I’m going to do exactly what she did. That’s what brings me joy. 


15:47

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And what’s interesting is when I was in undergrad, the person who was the head of the school of education was one of my professors, and I’m not really sure what it is about me, but we did not click. He did not like me at all. He thought I was too timid and not strong enough. And so he pulled me aside. He said, listen, I’m on the department.. I’m on the committee. That will decide if you get into the school of education. And I just want you to know there’s no way I’ll ever let you in the school of education. And I was like, oh, my God, what am I going to do? And so what I decided was, all right, if he’s not going to let me become a high school teacher, I’ll be a professor. What do I do to become a professor? And so then I met with my advisor, and she was like, hey, I don’t think you should get a PhD. It cost a lot of money. Most people will quit. It’s really not worth it. I started it, and I quit. And she just said, hey, it’s a horrible idea. Like, don’t even bother. You’ll never even get into a program. And I remember thinking, that doesn’t seem right. I got to figure this out. So then I just researched and said, okay, I have to do these classes, and then I have to apply to grad school and learn how to do it. So that’s what I did. I’m glad I didn’t get into that program. 


17:23

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And so then I went to Boston College for my master’s, and they had a program where you teach the undergraduate english classes as part of your master’s program. So that’s when I really started getting into the classroom as an adjunct professor at BC, and then I started teaching at the mass college of pharmacy and Health sciences. And then I thought, okay, here we go. Now I know what I’m doing. I’m going to work, and then I’m going to become the department chair. That’s my life ambition. I’m going to be a professor, and then I’ll get promoted to head of the department, and then that’s it. That’s all. I’m good. I made it. 


17:55

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And what was wonderful is, when I moved to Arizona at a very young age, I was promoted to department chair at a local university here, and I absolutely hated it. Oh, no. And I just was like, oh, my God, I’m so glad. It’s. I hated evaluating my peers. I love being in front of my students. I love going into the school, teaching my class, doing my thing, leaving. And when I got promoted into this leadership position, it was about evaluating the effectiveness of my peers, which quickly made me very not liked, and I hated it. So I’m like, okay, never mind. I don’t need health insurance. I don’t need job security. Let’s go back to adjunct because they just pay you per class and renew based on whatever they feel like and then I went back to being an adjunct, which I loved more because of the autonomy. 


18:59

Monica H. Kang
I think it’s really…


19:04

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Where do you want next? 


19:05

Monica H. Kang
No. What was something that you wanted to add? 


19:11

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Yeah, so what I was going to say. So I was in education for some time, and then I kind of moved into the nonprofit world. I was very much interested in improving, specifically access to education for Indian women. And so I ended up writing a dissertation on the way in which first generation Indian women like me are actually encouraged to get married, arranged marriage, more than we’re encouraged to get higher education because of that anxiety I was telling you about that our parents brought with them here. Now you’re in the United States, you can do anything you want. You just marry someone who’s Indian, because if you don’t marry someone that’s Indian, then this is all worth nothing. And so I was really interested in the science of that. 


20:02

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And what I found was my research showed that if they had to choose between a son and a daughter, they would invest in their son’s higher education and then encourage the daughter to get an arranged marriage, because it was that anxiety of losing tradition, which is very understandable for immigrants. But I was really interested in how that connected to Indian women India. So if you’re an Indian woman, are those parents encouraging those women to focus on marriage, or are they focusing on education? And what I found is, if you’re a woman, you are more encouraged for the specific demographic that I studied to obtain higher education. There’s also government programs. So if a woman decides to abstain from getting marriage until the age of 18, there’s a subsidy. So they’re incentivized not to get married by the government. 


21:03

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
If they wait until they’re 21, the money goes up, because as an economy, India understands that they have to invest in having skilled workers that can contribute to the economy. And having young people get married at young age causes a lot of a negative ripple effect for their economy in terms of domestic abuse, it’s a whole another episode. But just from getting those women and young men from waiting a couple more years to get married, it drastically impacts the economy of India and the independence and autonomy of the woman and the men. What I’m trying to avoid is having women who are essentially going to finishing schools, and that’s kind of what I saw in my community. So women were encouraged in education, as long as it just made them more of an attractive candidate for marriage. You see what I mean? 


22:10

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
They’re not going to school because they intend on using those degrees. They’re going to school because they know if they want to marry a doctor, they got to have at least a bachelor’s degree. But they have no intention of using that, which sucks, because most of them end up getting divorced, and then they’ve never had any real work experience. And it’s just such an awful thing to witness, and I’ve seen it over and over again. 


22:34

Monica H. Kang
Well, this speaks volume to just how important it is that we normalize, and also, just even having these conversations, I remember you sharing about how even talking about this as you were doing the research, which led to a lot of these other new projects that you are now doing, which I’m excited to explore more. But especially as we’re celebrating international women’s history month, and thinking about women equity, it’s kind of mind boggling to realize that we’re 2024 and these are still things that unfortunately. Would you say that it’s present tense for many of the people, whether they’re India or just Asian American communities, or it could be in other communities, too. And just how. It’s just not fair. But I’m really grateful that for you took that as a drive. 


23:26

Monica H. Kang
And I’m hearing this source of drive for you even from the very beginning, from your parents, how you took that in a way of source of creation and creativity, finding something new, paving new path, has continued to be kind of your source of new thing. Tell me a little bit more about how your project, and I believe you ended up writing a dissertation on this, too, right. For your humor research has started. Because I thought that was a really inspiring journey, too. And tying very beautifully to your strengths of having that drive. 


24:00

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Yes. Thank you. So I ended up for fun writing a second dissertation on the correlation between humor and intelligence. And this was something where I was writing my original dissertation, and I was just kind of like, locked up in my home, not leaving. My neighbor came over and was like, your mustache is longer than I’ve ever seen it. You need to wax your eyebrows. We got to get you out of the house. You can’t just write all day. And so he took me to a comedy show. And when I went to the comedy show, I had a physical reaction. Obviously, I was laughing. But the next day, I noticed that I was breathing differently. I noticed that I felt clearer. It was easier for me to write. 


24:48

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Like, I just had such a positive experience from laughing after being locked up writing on my dissertation for God knows how long. And what I did is, as a researcher, I said, ‘what happens to your body when you laugh?’ And that was it. Like, I went down the rabbit hole, and at that point in time, I was in the Oncology space, really. I was publishing my work in collaboration with the University of Arizona Cancer Center. And what were doing is demonstrating that there are specific psychosocial things that you can do, including laughter, which is directly correlated to reducing tumor sizes and increasing the likelihood of survivorship for cancer patients who are specifically undergoing chemotherapy. So I was in the hospitals, and I noticed that they were designing the spaces with more plants. They’re not using abstract art. 


25:42

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
They’re using pictures of nature and creating actual zen gardens in the hospitals. I was in these spaces in the hospitals, and I noticed that they were actively paying attention to the way in which the design of the hospital would impact the patient experience. And so laughter became kind of this incredible space for me to study. And so what I did is I started paying attention to the way in which laughter is connected to cancer treatment or oncology care. And then at this point, I’m studying the people in the audience and saying, whoa, if you’re laughing in the audience, you’re going to have a positive physical experience and higher ability to fight illness. Then I said, whoa, what’s going on with the comedians? 


26:37

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
If the people in the audience are having this much of a physical experience, whether it’s healing physically or psychologically, what happens to the comedians who literally spend all of their time finding and practicing humor? And so then I started interviewing stand up comedians. I interviewed more than 600, still counting, and I learned that there’s a very specific pattern that stand up comedians follow, which in turn allows them to have a higher intelligence than most of the general population. So it just blew my mind. People who are funnier and who actively practice humor are smarter than people who don’t. 


27:24

Monica H. Kang
I don’t think most people would usually think about that. And 600 people. I mean, how long did it take you? 


27:34

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Years. I mean, I still do it, so just years. I moved across the street from a comedy club, and I still had a home, but I apartment across the street from comedy club. So every time a Comedian would come into town, if I was interested in learning more about them and their story, I would just cold message them and say, hey, I’m working on my dissertation. This is my research. This is who I’ve interviewed so far, and this is what I’m interested in talking to you about. And it was phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. One of the best experiences. And that’s why I can’t stop doing it. Dissertation is done. Graduated. I got my doctorate, but I can’t stop interviewing them because they’re just fascinating. I ended up launching my own company. And laughter is a huge part of our organizational culture. 


28:30

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And so when we talk about leadership, we talk about vulnerability and authenticity, and you have the Bernay Browns and be vulnerable, lean in all this incredible advice. And one of the cores of our culture is laughter because it builds trust, it boosts creativity, and it allows people to truly be themselves without kind of that fear of being judged or being ridiculed. It’s a safe space where you are building lifelong relationships with your peers. 


29:06

Monica H. Kang
I hear your passion, your dedication, your diligence, which I know speaks very much to your leadership style. Tell me a little bit more. If you had to look at yourself as a third party, how would you describe your leadership style and where you bring out your strengths and areas you want us to improve too? 


29:29

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
That’s really a great question. I say, as a leader, my team would say that I am very much. I don’t think there’s any formality. I recognize that there’s no such thing as professionalism. So we don’t have stuffy interactions in any way, shape, or form. Our interactions are high trust, high respect. My team is 100% remote. So I have about eleven people in Arizona, one in South Korea, one in UK, one india. And everyone has unlimited PTO. They’re allowed to work from anywhere they want in the world. There’s no set hours. It’s just project based. This is what we want you to do. So on average, I spend 8 hours a month talking to my team and just having, we have one meeting on Mondays, all team meetings on Mondays. So it’s high trust, high independent autonomy. 


30:37

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
These are self starters, and so when I think about the way in which I interact with them, I mean, I interact with them like they’re my family, my friends. We joke around. We actively try to find humor in every single aspect of our work, and it’s wonderful. I don’t know how else I would explain it, other than if you’re one of the meetings with us. And this actually extends to our customers as well. So we’re an advisory firm for biotech and pharmaceutical companies, so we’re responsible for the national commercial strategy for new drug launches in oncology and all therapeutic areas. So we have lots of calls, know people who are the heads of the United States oncology business units for Pfizer, Gilead, and they’re authentic. 


31:33

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
I noticed that these people are extremely successful in their own right, and they’ve had so much leadership training just like the American Express Leadership Academy where we met, where they’ve had so much training and emotional intelligence and authenticity, all the stuff that interacting with them is a complete delight because it’s like they’re over that traditional hump of what it means to be professional. So I’m not sure if I’m really answering your question. 


32:03

Monica H. Kang
No, this is fantastic. 


32:05

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
But I’d say my lead, exactly what you see right here. This is how I talk to everybody. 


32:12

Monica H. Kang
What are also areas that you want to improve as a leader? 


32:17

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So I am a big picture thinker. And the details, when someone goes into heavy details, I mean, I just want to rip my hair out because it’s me. I don’t want to know. It’s like, I trust you. Just give it to me when it’s done. 


32:38

Monica H. Kang
Okay. 


32:38

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
I don’t want to know every detail. Like, it just kills me. I’m more on the introverted side. So I think that I’m really interested in protecting my energy because I know it’s limited. So when I wake up in the morning, it’s like I’m holding on to my energy and being like, okay, I got to hold it. I only got so much of it. So I would like to improve on my understanding of other people who tend to be comforted by talking about each step in each detail. And I also want. I have a diverse team, so I’m intelligent enough to know that if you have everyone on the team as big picture outcome thinkers like myself, nothing’s going to get done because all the people who are thinking about all the details are missing from the team. 


33:29

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So it’s just a matter of embracing our differences and understanding their strengths compared to mine. 


33:35

Monica H. Kang
And I think given your diverse journey into where you are, as I mentioned earlier, you’re really great at kind of paving your own path, paving new ways. When somebody says, no, we discourage you. You shouldn’t do it. Why do that? Ph, I’m like, okay, whatever. I’m going to do it because I care. What helps you to continue to have that drive? 


33:58

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Yeah, I was saying, if someone says to me, hey, maybe you shouldn’t do that, maybe you should think about this. You don’t think I can do that? Watch me do that. I’ll crush it. So drive. Okay, so I’m into personality assessments. I’m an enneagram three, which is a competitive achiever. There is something deep within my personality and my drive and my genetic makeup. Whatever it is, nature, nurture. I am a doer. I get things done. I take great pleasure in crossing off my to do list. Sometimes I write things on the list just so I can cross them off because it feels so good. But I am so driven because, again, it goes back to India, the village where my family is from. 


34:41

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
I have an entire community of people, and I see it as the more success I experience and the more accolades and resources and network building that I have, the more I can help other people. And that’s here in the United States in terms of my circle, my family, my friends. And it’s also from a historical kind of ancestor and my community and people in my family that they’re distant relatives. But I want to make sure that I am giving them everything that they need to be successful because I recognize that I have a lot being just here compared to the opportunities that they might not even be able to have. So we set up scholarships. We have a school india that’s named in honor of my grandmother. 


35:35

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And so we’re constantly running donation drives to make sure that the kids have computers, which, interestingly, the lowest need. Everybody sends computers. We sent desks. They didn’t have desks. They were sitting on the floor. And so were like, what would you guys? And we asked the kids, and the kids said, we want desks. That would be awesome. And I’m like, oh, my gosh. I would have thought it would have been like, iPads and computers, but that’s what everyone gives. 


36:01

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


36:02

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So we focus on, what do you need to be successful? And the more I can achieve in my life, the more I can help other people. 


36:14

Monica H. Kang
Thank you so much for humbling us. I mean, even just in that story, you’re sharing about the power of the generosity, that giving mindset, knowing also customer focus, which you carry both in your personal, professional and in your giving world. I think the other part that would be remiss to address is like, how in the world are you managing your time and energy? I mean, you shared an example of how you want to protect your energy and be mindful, but already just a glimpse of your world and where you have gone through. There’s a lot on your calendar. And so tell me a little bit more, what helps you manage your time and energy and what tips you will share to our listeners who’s trying to figure out how to juggle everything. 


36:54

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Okay, so all the listeners are going to think I’m completely neurotic, which I am proudly. And I’m going to tell you what I launched in 2024 thanks to. There’s a gentleman that I follow on LinkedIn, and he just has so many insights that have been really just direct improvements in my productivity. I’m that junkie who’s online like, okay, what’s the latest productivity hack? How can I be more efficient? How can I utilize my time? I’m obsessed with this conversation. So in January 2024, his name is Sahil Bloom. He posted something and he said, if you use Google calendar or whatever calendar thing you use, break down each type of activity, each type of meeting, color code it. And so I color coded it between revenue generating activities, operations, and management, which are team meetings with my team to ensure everything’s going smoothly. 


37:56

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Then we have wellness, exercise, meditation, eating, sleeping, reading. Then we have actual activities that are content generating. So that’s like a different color. And then we have a color for consumption. So I have a personal board of directors, I have leadership coaches. And so that goes under the yellow consumption. And so at the end of the month, I’m actually able to say, okay, throughout the month, there’s about an average of 177 working hours a month. If we say 40 hours a week, out of those 177 hours, where did I spend my time? Where do I want to spend my time? And it really clearly, I hate operations. I mean, not hate operations, but like I said, I don’t want to have those conversations about measuring people and things like that. I coach, inspirational kind of leader, not okay report to me kind of thing. 


38:53

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So I reduced it to 8 hours a month. Wow. I don’t need to keep micromanaging my at all. I don’t need to micromanage them at all. I don’t need to manage them at all. I don’t need to manage them at all. I hire the right people and then I let them do whatever the hell they need to do. And I trust them that they’re going to do it because they’re excellent. So got that down to 8 hours. Problem is, I spend 100 hours reading a month. It’s my biggest section. And it’s interesting because I’m like, is that bad? Is that too much? I’m spending more time reading and learning than anything else. So it’s nice because I can see it in a visual way and then measure it. 


39:40

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And then the other aspect of this, if you didn’t think that was psychotic and neurotic, I’m going to blow your mind. Then what I did is I created a centralized dashboard. So think about it like this. So I have this aura ring. It measures my sleep and every single aspect of my heart rate. And it tells me, am I ready for the day? Am I rested enough. Then I have my Apple watch. So you have your data that, you know, you weren’t really active, you didn’t stand enough. And then I have my meetings and my other measurements that I use as like, my KPIs to see how successful I am. I integrated all of the data, so I have a life dashboard. 


40:24

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


40:24

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And so it says, hey, you’re probably a little bit more hangry today because you skipped breakfast. And guess what? That 02:00 p.m., meeting, you probably weren’t listening as well as you could have been because you didn’t eat it sounds, but it’s so powerful. So, yeah, that’s how I manage my time. I obsessively track it, color code it, put it in front of me, and then adjust like a psycho. 


40:57

Monica H. Kang
No, I think that’s really powerful because what you’re sharing is an example of self awareness, being aware of what works for you and actually implementing, taking action. Where would senate like to be in the future? 


41:12

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So a lot of people know in the future, I want to be doing this, I want to be doing that. I want to do as little. 


41:22

Monica H. Kang
Tell me more. 


41:23

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
I want to do as possible. And when I say as little as possible, the goal is full time with my son, my family, my friends, doing things that are 100% based on the stuff that makes you feel alive, the stuff that makes it all worth it. So as I get older in my career and as I have more autonomy and power in my schedule, I’m able to say I don’t want to wait until I retire. I want this to be part of my everyday. So slowly, every day, I do incorporate more of those things that really matter to me. The reason why you do everything, right. So the goal is as much of that as I can keep infiltrating into every day until I’m no longer doing anything. That’s nothing but that. 


42:18

Monica H. Kang
Wow, that’s really powerful. I mean, what’s an example this year that you’ve tried doing that’s been helping you so far? Because that’s quite a transition. I think for most of us, the busier we are, the more ambitious we are. We do have a busy schedule and it’s kind of hard to kind of cut it down. 


42:38

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Yeah, it’s interesting. So I follow the Dan Sullivan strategic coach methodology. So I did a program with them. I think it was a ten month or twelve month program. And so what they do is the whole program is about who, not how. So instead of focusing on essentially how am I going to do all this, how am I going to get through this to do list? How am I going to get everything I want to get done? What we’re doing is we’re saying, who can help me get there? So it’s not all on my shoulders. And that’s about with the right team and being able to say, hey, I trust this person to handle this, and that will allow me to spend more time doing things that really make me shine. So what makes me shine is me talking to my clients. 


43:34

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So I spend all of my time focusing on how can I interact, how can I engage, how can I serve my clients better. And I think that what I’m trying to say is when you’re focused on the things that really, it’s like the Eisenhower matrix, is that what it’s called? Where it’s like you delegate the things that suck your energy. You just want to crawl into a hole. 


43:58

Monica H. Kang
Really nice visual. 


43:59

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Yeah, but then you’re always. Oh, absolutely. And then you’re increasing the things that really make you shine and make you feel good and make you feel like you’re doing what you were born to do. And I was telling my chief research officer this morning, I was like, I was born to do this. I was born to do this. And that makes me feel so good because it’s like, I know I’m on the right path and there’s nothing that can stop me. 


44:29

Monica H. Kang
Love it. Building on that, what’s an advice you want to share with somebody who’s still searching for that answer for themselves that they haven’t found or they’re not sure? Is this really the thing that I’m going to love doing? What would you advise them? 


44:45

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Yeah, that’s such a great question because like I said, I thought I was going to love being department chair, and I thought, this is it. I got it. I’m done. I made it. There’s no such thing. You can’t make it. There’s no such thing. There’s no destination. My advice would be, surround yourself with people who are better than you in every single way that means something to you. Surround yourself with people who inspire you. In particular, I prefer to interact with people who tend to be a lot more mature. So, for instance, in my neighborhood, everyone is probably 60, 70, some people, 90 plus. 


45:26

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


45:26

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And we get well because we’re very much aligned intellectually. So my advice is surround yourself with people who intellectually stimulate you, who are emotionally intelligent enough to handle your greatness. And if you come across someone who is essentially a blood sucker or, like, taking your energy, just recognize that you have all the power in the world to say, hey, this is a great person. Maybe right now is not the best time for us to be. Maybe there’s something in their life where right now is not the best time for what my path is. And later on, we could connect again based on different variables of growth. But I think trusting your gut, never letting anyone put you into a box, never ignoring that inner feeling that we all have. 


46:25

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And the more we listen to it, the easier it is to really know who you are. And it’s a lot easier to be like, no, that does not work for me. You know why? Because I know what works for me. I’m used to that. I’m getting used to that. 


46:40

Monica H. Kang
I love it. No. Sana, thank you so much for sharing all these different wisdom. You’ve actually answered even one of my final questions, which is what’s wisdom? And final advice you want to share with innovators, which you have hit many in your last comment. So my final question to you as we wrap up, which I’m sad, but I know folks are looking forward to diving into this and they can listen again anytime, which is what’s the best way they can stay in touch with you? 


47:06

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Oh, yeah, great question. I don’t know how to get on to. Okay, let me put it like this. I hate Instagram. I hate Facebook. I never go on there. Every time I do go on there, I feel like I was abused somehow and traumatized. I’ll go on real quick and go, oh my God, get me out of here. Get me out of here. LinkedIn is where I live. Join me on LinkedIn. Follow me. Connect with me. Drop me a message. I live on LinkedIn. 


47:34

Monica H. Kang
Thank you so much for joining us. We so appreciate your wisdom and especially reminding us in how authenticity and bringing our whole selves, no matter what journey we have come from, we are always in the driver’s seat to create that change. Really appreciate you being here. And folks, again, thank you for tuning all in and taking the time to be here with us. We’re so grateful you’re all here. Look forward to diving into another story next week, so stay tuned. And again, folks, we always shouldn’t. Oh, I almost forgot. One final question I was yes, going to bring is, as we celebrate International Women’s History Month, we like to ask. I got so tuned into the conversation, folks, I even forgot my core question. I’m sorry. I like to ask how we can better educated. 


48:19

Monica H. Kang
And so I’ve asked all my guests to educate us to share three people that you love and respect, and you recommend that we follow who happens to be a female leader. Who are these three people that you would say we should learn from? 


48:35

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Wow, that’s a great question. The three leaders. The first one, her name is Eileen Rogers. She’s changed my life. There’s nobody like her in the leadership space. Eileen is a dare to lead facilitator, and I’m doing the dare to lead program right now, where she certifies you in the daring to lead program. So she’s the founder and CEO of one creative view. She’s my coach. And when I say she changed my life in every aspect of my life, she’s the woman who does everything. She’ll go through my financials with me and explain things to me that I’m like, I don’t understand what this means. And she explains it in a way where I just feel so much gratitude and joy. She helps me also understand what drives me and what matters to me, too. 


49:39

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
So she’s the first person, I would say, for other people who I’m following online that are prominent in the leadership space, I would say in the nonprofit sector, I would follow. First name Toral, last name M-A-H-E-R. She’s the executive director of the Liberty Bank foundation, and she does a lot of incredible work in the community space in terms of improving everything from education to feeding the hungry. Her name is thorough Meher, and she died of Connecticut. And then the other person that I’m thinking of, her name is actually Jodi Berrientos. I’m butchering her pronunciation. And she’s the CEO and chief business officer of ribbon Biolabs. And the reason why I say her is because she’s also part of an organization called chief. And chief is actually a networking group for female leaders at the C suite level. 


50:57

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
And their slogan is, women have always been in power, period. That’s all I have to say. She’s incredible, inspiring, brilliant, and it’s true. Women have always been in power, period. And I think I’ll end there. And then one more thing. 


51:19

Monica H. Kang
Yes, please. Mom. 


51:20

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
I’m sorry. So that’s my mom in the background, and she decided, come in. She has no idea that this is recording and this is a podcast, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her. So, everyone, that’s my mom, and thank you for letting her interrupt us. 


51:39

Monica H. Kang
Well, thank you so much for highlighting those colleagues, and also shout out to our moms and parents, really lovely, especially since we know the story that you have started our conversation today. So, folks, again, you know the drill. I usually share all the notes and the key links of our guests at our blog. Find [email protected] or send me a quick email at [email protected] thank you so much. This was such a treat to have you here. We look forward to seeing in touch. And folks, again, we’ll see you next week. Thank you. 


52:11

Dr. Sadhna Bokhiria
Bye. 


52:14

Monica H. Kang
You definitely want to check out her TEDx comedy is no joke, where she explores the relationship between humor and intelligence, which has been also viewed more than hundred thousand times around the world. Sana continues to explore how to do something differently and is passionate about paving paths while also advocating for her team to grow in authentic ways. I really appreciated her authenticity and reminding us that the past is what’s going to help you grow, but it’s up to you and how to make use of the experiences and time that you had before. So, innovators, what are you dreaming today and where do you want to go tomorrow to continue to change the world? Starting from where you are? I’ll see you next week. 


53:02

Monica H. Kang
You’re currently tuning into curious Monica with Monica by InnovatorsBox next week we’ll continue the conversations as we celebrate International Women’s History Month with more stories to inspire you. Have a great day. 


53:23

Monica H. Kang
Thanks so much for tuning into today’s episode. Your support means the world to us, so we’re so glad you’re here. Want to do a little shout out for those in the team who made this possible. Thank you to everyone at InnovatorsBox Studios. Audio engineering and production is done by Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering Assistance by Ravi Lad, Website and Marketing support by Kree Pandey, Graphics Support by Lea Orsini, Christine Eribal, Original music by InnovatorsBox Studios and executive producing, directing, writing, researching and hosting by me Monica Kang, Founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. Thank you for continuing on the journey of how to build a better workplace and through bribe with creativity. Visit [email protected] and get some free [email protected]. Free we look forward to seeing you at the next episode. Thank you and have a wonderful day. 

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