Your Life By Design
Interview with Mollika Gupta
September 25, 2021
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Dr Sundardas: Hi, welcome to another episode of Your Life by Design. Today, we are delighted to have Mollika Gupta with us. Mollika has got a really interesting background and Mollika Gupta is a transformational coach, public speaker and co-author of “Redesign your  nine to five”, who is  on a mission to catalyse 10,000 expat spouses, women who relocated to a new country for marriage or career by 2025. 

Mollika is also an intellectual property licensing consultant, and is a double master's degree holder in biotechnology from India and intellectual property management from Chicago Kent college of law. And she has worked with fortune 500 American companies. I was happy to meet her at a summit and I was delighted by her energy and passion and all of that. Welcome Mollika. 

Mollika Gupta is a transformational coach, public speaker and author who is on a mission to catalyze 10,000 expat spouses (women who relocated to a new country for marriage, career or love) by 2025. Mollika’s mission is to inspire expat women to make a comeback in career and life, stop playing small and go for opportunities in the workplace, step in their power in personal lives by starting their side hustles and show up as the braver version of who they have become after their international move. Molika is also a patent licensing consultant and is a double master’s degree holder in biotechnology from India and Intellectual Property management from Chicago Kent College of Law, the second oldest law school in the state of Illinois, and she has worked with Fortune 500 American companies including General Motors. Mollika loves speaking on embracing uncertainty and victory through her own story as an expat spouse and has been a guest on several Women's Leadership podcast, online summits and stages on topics including women rebirth. Mollika is also the host of the podcast “The C Factor”, an upbeat podcast where she connected with sixteen women professionals from eleven countries in lockdown to find joy and connection amidst the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Most recently Mollika had the honor to author a chapter in “Redesign Your 9 -to-5: Advice and Strategies from 50 of the World’s Most Ambitious Business Owners and Entrepreneurs”. Most recently Mollika also had the honor to sit on board as a council member for Western USA-India Business Council of the Women's Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She also has bylines in publications such as The Detroit News and was interviewed by PBS, and Fast Company. Molika lives with her family in the lush green suburbs of Detroit, USA. She is addicted to drinking Indian ginger tea; loves reading non-fiction; can spend her entire life in the city of Chicago; and when not being a nerd, she is dancing her heart out on Bollywood songs.

Mollika: Hi, thank you for having me, 

Dr Sundardas: You know when we were talking before, I was really fascinated by a background and your history and a little bit about your journey or how you found out what, what for you and how you moved on. Right? And that is a story that while all of us need to go through and not everybody does property. So when you share with us your story of how you shifted careers and then expand a little on your journey as an expert spouse of dealing with transitions and overwhelming changes or moving countries and making a go of it.

Mollika: Yeah, absolutely. Well, if we cover all of that for you gonna keep talking about my story but I'm glad that, that, that, you know  you want to make me share all the transitions and all the career shifts. So I come from India and growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor like, like most of the, you know, most amazing Indians

Dr Sundardas (laughing): Either Doctor, lawyer or Engineer right?

Mollika: Either a doctor engineer, lawyer, that pretty much is the basic three professions you can always think of. And I was and I went on to then pursue my biotechnology and I was working to study medicine further and all of that. And, and that's when things happened when I quickly realized that I don't want to be in biotech. I don't want to be surrounded with my mice and rats and monkeys. And I, I did a little research project and I was, I was really, you know, so searching in that time period, and that's when intellectual property program happened to me. So I then went on to study an advanced degree in intellectual property. And that, that really was a time when in India, intellectual property was still very new. And so there was a program sponsored by department of biotechnology, government of India.

And I got selected in that program. And here's when I remember to that day, which was like now around 10 years back. I remember that morning I was literally, I was on a call with my father and my father had pushed me to go that morning and give that exam. And I was telling him, I got selected. I don't want to be here. It's because of you, what do I do? And he's like, don't worry. Just, just give the next interview. And then if you don't want to continue, just come back. And I remember giving that interview and I'm like, Oh my gosh, shoot. My life is screwed. I wanted to be a doctor. And I got to be, I don't know. So anyways, I followed that path,

Dr Sundardas: But it's great that your father actually allowed you to divert and explore other things. 

Mollika: Absolutely. 

Dr Sundardas: I don't think any of the ladies in your situation would have been given the same opportunity. So he was an enlightened man.

He's yes. My father is a blessing and he is my hero and, and I mean, he's, he's just, he's just amazing. And I'm blessed to be, you know, his daughter and I always taught him. So it comes from a place of thank you for choosing me, your daughter kind of place. So and so anyways, I went on to, you know, study further in the intellectual property and I was doing my things. And then when the marriage thing happened and I, and I, I married my my, my my childhood friend now my husband and then moved to the U S happened. And that's where, you know, when you are in the shadows of your parents and especially as an Indian daughter, you know, you really are not making your own decisions. It looks like you're making the decision as an adult, but it's, you're, it's, it's, you're really in the cocoon and shelter of your, your, your, you know, your wife's parents 

Dr Sundardas: And you left the nest.

Mollika: And now I live in America. And when I tell, well, I stayed with my parents until my 25 and 26.

Dr Sundardas: Nobody can understand it if it's like inconceivable, because they need a lot earlier, they strike out. Yeah. So it's another paradigm shift.

Mollika: Exactly. And I was like, I was ready to live with them all my life, just, it was, it was, it was not even a question. And so my journey really started when I, when I, when I came to the us as a new bride. And and, and that really was when it, it made me what I am today, because I went through what many expats and, and many women, when they move countries, especially as a spouse, you don't have a plan. You are following your partner, or you're following a marriage you are in love, or you, you, you know, all of that, that part. And, and so I, I, I came here and then I quickly realized that I cannot work because I came here on a spousal visa. And that really is the reality when you are, when you're moving countries. And, and so that's when my story really started. And I can, I can go on that. Yeah.

Dr Sundardas: Yeah. I agree. That's a great start. So what happened when you came here and you realize you put in what the normal way? 

Mollika: So I had, my husband had, had given me a few clues that, listen, this, this won't be a cakewalk because, you know, and I was like, of course, you know, I was already working in India. I was anyways, I never shared what happened after I did my course and patent. So I went on to then work in a, in an Indian law firm as a patent associate. So I had done that time to two degrees and master's in biotech, masters and in patent. And I was having, I was, I had a thriving career in India, so I was like, of course, I'm in a great field. What's what more can happen? 

You know, I just I'll just wait and enjoy America for four or five months and I'll figure it out my way out. But I very quickly realized that that's not the case. And so what happened was I, I then went on to pursue my second masters in America in, in intellectual property management, because I really wanted to study further in intellectual property and to really understand the market and everything. 

So I graduated from Chicago, Ken college of law with a master's degree in intellectual property management. And then I went on to work with fortune 500 American companies in patent licensing and intellectual property licensing and management. Yeah.

Dr Sundardas: So you managed to work in America after all. 

Mollika: Yes, so, but, but yours are interesting to us, Dr.Sundardas does which, which we didn't discuss during, before we started recording. And that's, that's a surprise for you too. I was, I was living my American dream, doing my things. I was on this corporate ladder, you know and, but what happened was so in order to continue working as an international worker and in the last, your company needs to sponsor a work visa. 

And, and so it's called H1B and, and people who are in America and other countries, they will definitely resonate with this. And, and so I, wasn't a student visa. And for me to continue working with that company, they had to sponsor my work visa and the way immigration work in the US especially for India, Indians and Chinese, is that it has to go through a lottery process. So they have defined number of visa applicants who can be, who can stay here in this country as an international worker.

Mollika: And the number of applications you would imagine is like three, four times the number of, of, of available resources. And, and that, that, that really is a random lottery process. I mean, you have a say, it's just a computer-generated process and that that's where the immigration, you know, loophole is there, but we're not here to discuss about that. So anyways, my application didn't get picked up in the lottery and what that means was that I have a way to continue with the company I was working for because my, I was on a student visa. And so what happened after that, and that really is the Genesis of the work I'm doing now as a coach and as a speaker was that I had to convert myself back into a non-working spousal visa. Right. so now I was facing this jotting reality of waking up at home and asking myself, what the heck am I supposed to do now?

Mollika: Because now, I don't know. I really had no idea about how do I go about this? Who do I blame too? Is it, am I at fault? I mean, how do I even make sense? And how do you make sense of something that you have given your, your, your time, your energy, your money to study, you got hired and, and you were working amazingly and things were happening in suddenly there's a pause. And then you were asking, okay, what is happening here? I think something is happening. And I'm not able to notice that. So, yeah,

Dr Sundardas: In a way that would reflect the journey, many of your clients will go through when you go to another country and they may have been working very gainfully where they were, and they were on a track and suddenly they go somewhere else. And it's all disrupted.

Mollika: Exactly. So in those, it took me two years after that to really get back on track and to get another work permit because I did, they ended up getting the work from it, which allowed me to work again. But in those two years was really when I went to a soul searching journey. And, and even though, you know, if you, if you look from an outsider point, you would like, well, it was two years. You would have just enjoyed it. You would have just, you know, had some break and you knew things were getting better, but that was not the point. The point was…

Dr Sundardas: Especially if you are used to working, you're used to being goal-driven, you're used to going after your targets, even when you're doing this, you'll be still doing the same thing. You can’t just chill. Right?

Mollika: My problem was not about taking a break. My problem was that the question that you kept asking was why me? I just couldn't understand that out of so many possibilities and lives why didn't my application got picked up, you know, and why it happened to me, what was life telling me here? And that, that why me just kept me, you know, made me question this situation that I was doing everything right. I followed everything. Right. You know.

I think marked all the boxes and, and still life happened to me and in a way I had to question. And so what happened was during that soul searching process I really asked myself these questions, okay, what happens if this job gets away from me? What happens if the titles are no more than if the job is no more, the degrees are no more that, who am I hiring? Who is Mollika Gupta? What does she want to do? And I don't think these questions would have ever emerged then from me, if life wouldn't have happened the way it happened, right? And, and my statement that life is happening to me, then I would say very slowly and painfully changed to life is happening for me. And not to me

Dr Sundardas: It’s the process, the awakening journey. You don't actually do that months later. So you're kind of privileged. You got to do that earlier.

Mollika: I mean, we can, we can have a completely different podcast interview on that.

Dr Sundardas: Right. Right now in my practice, I get people who have the break down between their 42 to 55 and they come and ask me this questions as they are really in a bad way. Right? 

Mollika: Yeah. I agree. 

Dr Sindardas: This is a question you all need to answer sooner or later. So yes, it was tough. It happened when you were younger and you know, you and the spores, my, once you answer that, you know what, then you live life on your own terms.

Mollika: It does, it does. It, it opened me up to the, the, the, the sad part of that journey, what really was, and, and which, which victim I mentioned was that I was alone at the time. And I was dealing with that because people around me, friends around me and then took it on me. They were not able to understand what's happening to me. They didn't have the answers, which I was asking. And, and, and when that is happening to you, when you're asking him, when you're at that point where you feel like whatever you have built up to now, doesn't make sense anymore. 

But, and what's out there feels like unknown and uncertain, and you don't know what's out there. And it just feels like, I don't know if my life is breaking off, my life is building up. You need someone to make sense of all those answers.

Dr Sundardas: Have you read “The path less traveled path”, 

Mollika: Path Less Travelled? No.

Dr Sundardas: And the thing is when you travel the last path less traveled, there is nobody else to follow

Mollika: Exactly. You just alone, and you have to embrace that, that,

Dr Sundardas: And that's what gives you the moral authority to become a guide to others.

Mollika: But it all makes sense now, but it really was not making sense. I really was struggling and depressed and, and, and in a country like America, where there are less people. And as much as I love being here, it's difficult. You, you, you, you, you don't know the next person or the neighbor, or you don't have friends. And at the time I didn't even have any friends because I was on this career journey, starting and meeting. 

I didn't have time to make friends. So what happened after that was during that time period? I really, when I was asking myself these questions, I felt a nudge. I felt something was emerging within me, and I kept, you know following. I wanted to follow that. So what, what happened after that was that I had the urge to work women like me, who has gone through a journey similar to me in terms of transformation, in terms of coming to a new country, making sense of all of that work, going from fear of getting judged or fear of getting seen, or, I mean, I really was Dr Sundardas of a person and you won't believe now, but I remember being fearful of getting judged or not being able to order my coffee without making the other person repeat my order and say, you know what?

I was, I was very conscious about my heavy accent. I was very conscious about not making the other person or somebody behind my, behind the queue, waiting as my, either I finished the order. And as she asked me questions, so for me to even embrace this path of putting myself out there and speaking and doing all of that was like, I don't think I'm meant for this. I don't think it's it's... I was very comfortable sitting behind the desk, in the cubicle, doing my things and doing what I was, you know, but doing, but now as life force pushing me to do something bigger than myself, have a mission, right. That really was a journey of transformation. And putting myself, pushing the envelope of comfort zone and to really ask myself what will be my legacy, you know, and not just a legacy I'll believe, but what is a legacy I'm living? And so, yeah.

Dr Sundardas: Yeah. And you can only do that by going through your own journey. You know, this is the hero's journey, Joseph Campbell, they all speak about this going through that whole ups and downs, going through  the depths, and then coming out of it. And then you you bring your gifts and you're ready to share with other people you're describing a hero's journey. 

Mollika: Yeah. I, at the time, I didn't know I was, I was living a hero's journey because I felt like I'm living a ditch, a sucker's journey, just like I'm the loser in this world. But after when things when I found this new version of me, it really felt like new version of me. And what emerged from there was the mission to work with other expats to help them make sense of this journey, to really make them see that, that they are the hero in the journey, because what happens and what has happened with my clients is that they're often doctors, engineers, scientists in their home countries. They are, they have the striving career, or at least they have a vision of what's going to happen in the next five, 10 years when it comes to the career. 

And when they come to a new country and irrespective of where they are moving, they have to go through that disruption. They have to make sense of the new reality, the new environment, right. And the careers many times take a back seat because they are, they're dealing with the rest of the, of their, of their world. And when they come to me, they're like, well, you know what? I was this person, Mollika. So they are mentally living in their glorious past, but physically what they are facing is a career break, physically. They are facing, listen,

Dr Sundardas: I don't have to rewrite the stories. The narrative has changed.

Mollika: The narrative has changed. So what I have them as to really make them see that a, this journey has happened in a way where it has transformed them in a good way. So the minute they start seeing it from a place of, okay, I have grown, I mean, the person, here's the thing, the person who, the version of me who took the flight from new Delhi to JFK nine years back, I'm not that version anymore.

Dr Sundardas: You moved and grown and become something so much more.

Mollika: And so that's, that's where I had them to see that, that this version of them is asking them to become more. It’s demanding them to embrace this journey and then to really have them to break the mindset part of the career, break off, I'm a loser. How do I make sense of this? How do I go out there and find myself again? So I have them to make a comeback and their career and life, if they are in a situation of a career break. And the second portion of my audience is who are already in corporate jobs. 

And so, because I, I have, my whole journey has been various stages of career break to being in a corporate job, to starting my own thing and being an entrepreneur. So I, the second piece of the audience is where I help them to make sense of the inner knowledge they're having that there is more than the corporate job, the nine to five, and that's where I had them to make a sense of it, what exactly that means. And then I held them to start a side hustle or a business out of it. And, and that's where it all comes together of helping  them to redesign their life depending on where they are in their immigration journey. Yeah.

Dr Sundardas: Right. So tell, tell, tell us a bit about the program that you have for them. I know you, you have a program and you help them on their journey. So tell us a bit about the elements of the program, what you do, how people can you know engage with you, if they want to do this work with you, how does it work?

Mollika: Absolutely. So one on the program is called ‘Loss no more” and ‘Loss no more” is really for women who are in career break. And they're asking themselves, how do I go about from here? So that's where I worked with them to make sense of that career break and to really come back and, and have the courage and have the plants, really the plan and a system to make that happen. And the second is called ‘Follow the Nudge. Don't wait, don't wait to get started.” 

The national way to get started is also the chapter title of my chapter in the book, “ Redesigning a nine to five”. And that's where I have them to make sense of the nudge they're having off. There's more things for me assigned. It feels like I can do more with my life. And that's what I, I take them to the journey of making sense of that, and then really helping them to bring it all together and start a side hustle. And if they feel like there's something happening in that side hustle, then we can go and build a business. So the way it works is that you can reach out to me through LinkedIn. Then I'm very social on the I'm very available on the social media. I also have a Facebook group called immigrant spouses, write your story. And that's also a way to reach out to me and, yeah.

Dr Sundardas: Yep. And so is this an online program or is it ahh…

Mollika: Yes, it is. It is all, it is all virtual. So you can join from anywhere. Yeah, it's, it's all virtual.

Dr Sundardas: And how long does it take?

Mollika: There are various stages…

Dr Sundardas: Different versions basically…

Mollika: Yes, exactly. There are different versions, depending on where you are in your journey. It typically, I typically do group program and then it went on to work with me for one-on-one. So we totally can explore once they are, you know, they, they, they, they, if they feel nudged to work with me, I would say, totally explore, come and let's talk. It will typically take 8 to 12 weeks. 

That's how I work. And, and then, you know, depending on how much my clients typically get quicker results, and that has always been my question when I meet other business, coaches help me design this program because my clients get quick results. 

So, so yeah, in typically eight weeks or less than that, you will find yourself. Literally you will actually see us at the version of you, which was existing before working with me is not existing anymore because that's how quick the transformation starts happening. And, and more so, because when you meet someone who has gone through a journey like yourself, you don't feel like I'm alone anymore. And that's where the shift starts happening. Okay. I'm not the only nutcase and this one,

Dr Sundardas: You're part of a community. There are others like me. I can hang out with them. I'm not alone.

Mollika: Exactly. Yeah. And that's, that really is which makes a difference when you see that there are others and, and you see an entire journey because my journey covers all the aspects of an expat spouse who has gone through transformation, transition and things, which happened on along the way. And then I found myself and really reinvented myself to do the work I'm doing. So, yeah.

Dr Sundardas: That's great. So what's the one thing that you can share with your audience? The one is like the one thing you can say that will set them thinking about what to do next, what would that be?

Mollika: It's okay to fail.

Dr Sundardas: Yup.

Mollika: Absolutely okay. To fail. Yeah. And what is not okay. Is to quit. Yeah.

Dr Sundardas: Yeah. It's okay. You just want to learn from your mistake and you're going to move on.

Mollika: And, and the way I see failure is that failure is a data point. Failure is when you collect data points at what's not working in her life. I felt like when things were happening in my life, Dr Sundardas it I felt like I'm failing, I'm failing at all levels, but now I know what was not working for me.

Dr Sundardas: It’s the learning curve is the way, let you try things and you find they don't work and that's feedback.

Mollika: Exactly. So our society puts a lot of pressure on not feeling. I think I would say we as a collective should fail because if you're failing, that means you are trying, that means you are putting yourself out there. That means you are actually not just talking, you're taking actions. And so one thing would be is that let's, let's normalize failure. Let's not, I think normalizing failure wouldn't allow each one of us to try things to really take a chance on the results.

Dr Sundardas: Yes. Well, thank you very much. That's really fabulous. And you, do you have a URL or something that you can tell them? I will have all the other things you put down there, but you have a URL?

Mollika: Yeah. So they can, they can redesign your nine to five is the best way to get me, get in touch with me, or you can follow me on the LinkedIn. That's, that's also the best way to reach out to me.

"How To Feel Hopeful & Joyful In less Than 5 Minutes Even as An Expat"

Dr Sundardas: They'll all be in your show notes. Thank you very much.

Mollika: Thank you. Thank you for having me. This was great.

Dr Sundardas: The pleasure was all mine. 

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