A free spirit thriving in the modern world, Shivika Sinha is a study in contrasts
This story is a part of Mia Women Series, sponsored by Tanishq, where we showcase bold, beautiful and colorful stories of inspiring women. (HerStory exercises full editorial control over all the posts.)
Shivika Sinha’s musically lilting name has an unusual meaning- a palanquin. “The meaning is random and frankly quite irrelevant to me. What I like about it is the association to Shiva and the creative spirit,” she says. Readers of HerStory may recognize Shivika from her amazing 20 Lessons from my 20’s post that has been wildly popular since last week. This conversation deconstructs how she came by this spectacular wisdom at such a young age. While she may be excelling at her corporate career where she works as a digital marketer for high fashion brands, it is creativity and her artistic expression that rule her life. Gorgeous to a fault, Shivika opens up about her nomadic childhood, her love for the arts and everything else fabulously wonderful:
My upbringing was very global. At the time I thought it was normal because I only ever met kids who had the same lifestyle as me.
Now I realize that this constant relocating gave me a true sense of humanity. I was able to understand the differences that drive human beings apart are so overrated.
The friends I made while living in Africa had the same motivations, the same hopes and dreams and the same joy for life as did people in Vietnam or Bangladesh, India or USA.
I left India when I was two years old. My childhood was spent across Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Bangladesh. I came back to India when I went to a boarding school in the Himalayas for two years before moving to upstate New York for my undergraduate degree at Manhattanville College. I worked as a professional dancer in Manhattan, New York City, for a year after my graduation and then moved to Chicago for grad school at Northwestern University. I worked in Colorado for a while before moving back to New York.
There were so many professions that flitted through my mind while growing up. But what I wanted most was to be a professional dancer. There was just something about standing on a stage and performing before an audience that fascinated me. I have that feeling even today and that is why I do marketing. It allows me to showcase talents before people. So I knew I would do something like that, but I didn’t know how or what I would end up doing.
In my undergraduate degree, I studied fine arts. I was supposed to go straight for my postgrad from there. But I deferred my admission for a year and went headlong into that dream. I worked as a professional dancer for a year in New York City. At the time everybody thought it was crazy. But I knew in my heart that if I didn’t do it then, while I was young and free, I would not be able to.
My current job at Intermix is all about helping brands increase their sales and improve their branding through digital technology. I am focused on high fashion brands specifically. It is a lot of creativity, thinking strategically and coming up with new ideas. At the same time it is also analytical and numbers oriented. I like it because it is the best of both worlds, the right brain and the left brain thinking at the same time. Fashion in New York City is a very fast paced industry by itself. Combine that with digital technology and new media, that’s how fast paced my job is.
I feel proud of the way my career has shaped up. I have been able to do a lot of different things in a short amount of time. When my interest in marketing first started, I did internships in every aspect of it- from magazine publishing to non-profit work with UNICEF. I have served as a consultant and worked in high fashion. Now I work in retail. Apart from my work in marketing, I am an artist. I have been a professional dancer. So I have had a wide variety of experiences.
As for tips on how to climb the ladder, I would say work really really hard in your twenties. Take risks. Stay very curious. As Steve Jobs said, “”Stay hungry.” Keep learning. Keep asking questions. Talk to as many people as you can.
Never underestimate the power of social capital. Everything you do in your twenties will pay off in five to ten years. Whatever it is you want to achieve, no matter how crazy the idea is do it. If you don’t then you will regret it.
In your thirties and forties, it will be so much harder to make that same decision. My decision to take a year off and be a professional dancer, if I had not done it in my twenties, I would never have been able to do it later on.
The driving force behind my ambition is the opportunity to shape ideas. Marketing is very powerful tool in modern societies and has tremendous impact on this generation’s culture and ideas. Getting to be a part of that force fires my ambition. The other source of my ambition, and this is not related just to my career, is to achieve my full potential. I want to wake up every day and be as sharp as I can be, be the smartest version of me possible.
What I am most looking forward to this year is to help the brand grow and increase revenues. I have made considerable headway with those goals, so I am very excited about that. Being able to impact the lives of the people I manage in the course of my work is the other thing that I am most looking forward to.
I came into the business side of fashion because I was interested in that aspect but my initial interest in fashion was non-existent. But over the years however I have gained such an appreciation for the role that fashion plays in the daily lives of women. I think fashion and women go together so well because it can be like an armour for women. It’s like going into battle every day and you put on your suit and your sword. You dress to kill! You are dressed for that day specifically, everything you want to do and how you want to be that day. That can really have an impact on how you go about that day.
My personal style has changed through the years. Now my style for work is chic and non-fussy. I usually opt for a sheath dress and heels. Or a good pant, a tailored jacket and a shirt. It is well tailored, simplistic and hopefully elegant. On the weekends I like to have fun, play with colours and have fun with fashion more.
My accessories are minimal as well. I think a classic watch that goes with everything is important. I keep a set of understated earrings that will go well with my outfit of the day. I like strong lines and geometric shapes. I like a lot of colour in my jewellery. I invest in classic pieces with a twist.
My favourite stone is the moonstone. I love its colour and how intricate it is.
When not working, there are a number of creative pursuits I follow. I am a trained artist. I paint a lot. I am an avid photographer. I spent many years of my life training in dance. Though I had to give it up professionally after my accident, I am still an avid passionate dancer. I enjoy writing my blog.
The biggest challenge I have faced till now was recovering from severe spinal injury when I was working as a professional dancer. The doctor told me that I might not be able to move freely ever again. I was determined to go back to graduate school and continue living a normal life. It was sheer will power that got me through it. It taught me a lot about mind power over the body.
I think failure is my best guide because I failed a lot. I have taken so many risks and done so many things that were outside of my comfort zone and new to me. I have tried to achieve as much as I could, sometimes rather foolishly. I have not learnt much from my success. I have celebrated them for sure. But not been as wise from them as I have been from my failures. For years after my spinal injury I could not dance or live my life as I had done for years before. It was a very cruel blow. But years later I realize it has taught me survival, strength and hope. A few years later I was hiking, dancing and being active again.
If I could give one advice to my younger self, I would be more loving towards myself. I would listen to my body when I was in pain more. I would take more time to rest, may be take more vacations. I worked very hard during my twenties. I still am a very hard worker but I would have liked to have balanced that with more rest and fun.
I would realize that the grand plans boil down to the little things. Developing daily good habits early on will take me a long way.
The biggest secret to happiness is being authentic and true to yourself and living a life that is aligned to who you truly are. I know that sounds so simple, but it is very difficult to actually do. We have obligations and outside pressures, people and standards to live up to. It takes a lot of courage to stick out, be who you really are and figure out what your life is going to be all about. This is the secret to happiness and it is worth working hard for.
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