Entrepreneur, Math Genius, Traveller, New York City
I've seen her grow up from a 17-year old student into a mature and talented woman you see in these images. But in so many ways she has remained unchanged. The same inquisitive, interesting and interested soul, sharp as a tack, eager to solve problems and boost those around her (as you can see from her ambitious undertaking with ChicPea initiative). Rachel wants to help women become more mindful about spending decisions in order to plan better, have greater financial freedom /independence and at the end of the day retain control of their lives for a more certain and stable future.
I'm so impressed by Rachel's entrepreneurial spirit, her multi-faceted talents such as fearlessness on a comedy stage (see Q#11) and I'm sure I will be in awe from her future endeavors. Can't wait.
Rachel Nirmala Reddy.
2. Where is your hometown?
I grew up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, then went to high school and university in Toronto.
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of?
Long & winding, with lots of moving boxes. I spent many years believing I needed to balance ‘side-hustles’ before realizing I could combine my passions in a meaningful way. I feel like I’m finally there now: building conversational tools to make financial decision-making better for women.
The accomplishments I’m most proud of are the riskiest ones. I left a prestigious consulting firm in London and moved to Los Angeles to study acting and writing, made short films, signed with an agent in Toronto and got paid work.
It was scary and lonely and I didn’t have any degree or experience to stand behind, it was like leaping into a dark deep pool, and it’s what I’m most proud of.
5. What did you study in school?
I studied statistics at University and have an MBA.
6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?
Worlds apart. I thought I’d be living in a suburb of Toronto, raising a family and working part-time as an actuary, wearing heels to work.
Instead, I’ve moved to Manhattan for the third time in ten years, haven’t had children, am working on a startup 7 days a week, and I almost never wear heels.
7. What was your biggest disappointment and plan to overcome it?
I wrote a pilot script that some TV execs liked, but they told me that all the main characters would need to be recast as white. Also, I could only be a junior writer on it. Full disclosure: I had described the main character as myself and other as ‘a tall, British, Taye Diggs type’.
It was a gut-punch, and my plan to overcome it was: I’m going to hold on this script, go find something else that makes me happy and hopefully one day, I’ll dust it off, make it better and see where it goes.
And that’s still the plan. I didn’t want to give-up, but after countless auditions for stereotypical roles and other casual racism and sexism in that industry, I didn’t want to spend more time fighting and I moved on to something more meaningful.
PS - It was a dramedy about management consultants serving organized crime after becoming unemployed during the ’08 financial crisis.
8. Advice for other women?
Be more compassionate to other women, and learn to code. That’s advice for myself too.
9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it for "feminist values”?
No, I don’t think we can be ‘all that we can be’ because there are a lot of systems that bias us from an early age and put limitations on how we see ourselves or what we can imagine for ourselves. And it’s hard to dream of what we can’t imagine.
In the past, feminist was unfortunately perceived as anti-male by many and I remember hearing things like ‘she’s a femi-nazi’ at work. But I’m extremely optimistic because it feels like “feminist values” are starting to mean demanding systems change so they don’t limit equal opportunities for women. That seems like a productive way forward that men can also be allies in.
10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?
Queen Mary’s Gardens in Regent’s park, on stage, and walking along bodies of water.
11. What hobbies are you most proud of? Most recently, training with Upright Citizen’s Brigade improv into the upper levels during the evenings while working full-time. I’ve been taking evening acting classes for the better part of the last 13 years and it’s always been a great way to use another part of my brain.
12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?
Calmer and stronger, physically and mentally. Two future goals/challenges: learn how to properly ride a bike and how to ski.
13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
Cliche but true: whether I’m good enough and what other people think.
14. Anything you'd do differently if you had another go at life?
I would’ve been kinder to people around me and to myself.
15. What inspires you?
Risk: watching other people ‘go for it’ and starting something I don’t know how to finish.
16. What are you hopeful about?
That social media will do more good than evil. There’s been so much talk about data privacy recently, and while some regulation makes sense, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have allowed people to form supportive communities and access information in life-changing ways. I’m hopeful we’ll figure out how to build on those aspects rather than just focus on the negative.
17. What are some ingredients to a good life?
Saying yes to adventure and laughing, loudly and often.
18. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
It’s okay not to fit in… and you certainly don’t need pleather pants from le chateau to do so.
19. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. It’s fascinating - it uses Google searches, PornHub queries, etc. to understand what people are really thinking.
I’ve never gifted a book because I always hated reading. When I discovered audiobooks a few years ago, it changed my life.
I love nonfiction, especially if it’s funny: Bossypants, Yes, Please, Is Everyone Hanging Out With me?, Born A Crime are a few of my favorites - I get through them quick while walking around town and laughing to myself.
20. Who is a WOW Woman in your world who inspires you and why? Can you nominate three women you know who perfectly fit WOW WOMAN description?
Reshma Patel is a friend who inspires me. She used to be in finance and research, and now runs Impact Network, an organization which educates children in Zambia using an innovative e-learning program.
21. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?