Marya Wani is the Business Unit Head, Director of Programs-School of Data Science @ Institute of Product Leadership. She previously worked as Head of Curriculum and Learning Experience Design and has been instrumental in creating high impact programs for senior executives.
Dr. Wani is an internationally published author, a keen researcher, and has been on faculty at various reputed B Schools in India and other global B-Schools. Marya Wani has published papers in reputed International Journals in the areas of Information Systems evaluation, e-Commerce, and Social Media.
Marya is a happy mother of two kids.
We sat her down for an informal chat to get to know this woman of substance.
CB: What are the books which have greatly influenced your life and why?
MW: ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman. It tells you about the flow of life and how it’s very important to look at life from a third person’s perspective. Another one is ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand which talks about the importance of being self-reflective. It helped me during my teenage days to find my individualism.
CB: What purchase of rupees thousand or less has most positively impacted your life?
MW: I bought ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ just recently, priced at around 600 bucks. Nothing can be more valuable than buying a book.
CB: How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success. Do you have a favorite failure of yours?
MW: We had spent a lot of time and hard work designing and launching a product, but it didn’t work because the customers were not able to understand it. It was disheartening and disappointing for a long period of time.
But I realized that success is more complicated than just hard work. You can never have it all. Everybody is fighting their own war and if you’re giving it your best, you should learn to forgive and be kind to yourself.
CB: If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?
MW: I read this quote which says “Instead of looking at people as male and female, look at individuals as static and dynamic. Leave your gender behind the door and think of yourself as an individual”. Women must stop thinking that they are women and start thinking as individuals.
CB: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
MW: Sometimes, when I’m engaged in a conversation which does not resonate well with me, I start thinking about something else and smile to myself. I love this habit because I find it very funny, and nobody has control over me when I’m in that zone.
CB: After all the success, what are some of the struggles you still face?
MW: Self-doubt. Whenever I’m given something to work on, I constantly ask myself whether I’m the right person for this job. It brings me a lot of anxiety thinking whether I’d be able to do it or not. Also, if I had more time, I’d be doing more yoga, travelling often and spending more time with my kids.
CB: Where is your ideal vacation point?
MW: Paris. I went there two years back and fell in love with it. The culture, the streets, the way people dress, the way they smell – everything is just beautiful. I could spend a month just walking through Paris and never get bored.
CB: What does your typical day look like?
MW: I get a call in the morning every day. I get up when my kids have to go to school and then I rush to office. I always have lots of meetings and work, but I try to read a lot while traveling. Then I go back home after work to spend time with my kids. Sometimes, if I get the time, I try to take a walk at night.
CB: What kind of books you read?
MW: Technical books, mostly. I have an interest in data science, so I read about it, watch videos or take up some online courses. I also love reading about management, something like a Harvard Business Review that gives out strategies on how to manage yourself and your organization.
CB: How did you overcome any gender-related roadblocks in your career? Do you think women need differential from them?
MW: The challenges that women face in the world today are very different. There is a lot of stress, especially for working mothers, to be the perfect mom. Men don’t feel the guilt that we do, so it’s easier for them. Both men and women may be equally good at something when they join an organization, but when women go into motherhood, that’s when men take up all the big positions.
CB: In last five years, what belief or habit has most improved in your life?
MW: I used to be a hyperactive person. But today, I’ve become a very mature person when it comes to understanding life. I don’t judge others, nor do I judge myself. I don’t necessarily try to change people because I’m happy the way I am, and the way people are.
CB: How differently are you taking the failures?
MW: Your failure is not you and you are a bigger person than just one incident in your life. So, I don’t judge myself for the failures that happen to me.
CB: What advice would you give to smart driven college students about to enter the real world? What advice should they ignore?
MW: Students today are much surer and more aware about themselves than we were. They know what they want. So, maintain that, and don’t jump for the first job offered to you. The first job that you take is going to determine the rest of your career and switching later becomes very difficult. Negotiate on what exactly you want and don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve.
CB: When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
MW: When I start losing focus, I know immediately that I must change. I’m not afraid of moving on in life. Every time I need to rediscover myself, I just do it and flip the switch. I have changed and rediscovered my career many times this way.
CB: What is your favorite cuisine?
MW: I am not a foodie, but I do enjoy non-veg Indian dishes.
CB: Would like to share any of your experience of the viewers? Or anything for aspiring women?
MW: Make sure that you grow every day, learn something you have not known yesterday. Do something which makes a change in your life, your family’s life, your workplace and people that you need. Contribute to people in the best way you can, because there is enough trouble in the world.