Amchi Puneite Abroad #3 : Meet Pooja Khanna

Pune moulded her and New York applied the finishing touches.

This courageous young woman needed a wider canvas in life and so left the safety of Indian shores to script the story of her success.

Born in Jabalpur, Pooja came to Pune as an impressionable two-year-old. For this resident of NBM road, schooling at St Helena’s and a commerce degree from Symbiosis was not enough, so she went ahead and got an MBA from SCMHRD that led to a three-year stint with Wipro and one year with IBM in Mumbai.

She always knew she wanted to go to business school after getting some work experience and thus began her time at one of the top ten business schools of the US, Darden at the University of Virginia. With a focus on strategy, Pooja loved the global access she got through business school and decided to stay on in the US after graduation.

Initially she worked at Microsoft in Seattle for two years but a long distance relationship made her decide to shift base to New York City where she began working for Amex. After seven years as Director of Strategy for Latin America, she finally called it quits in January 2016 to change direction and focus on not for profit work. She took a huge pay cut and joined a not for profit as Director of Key Relations but decided it was not a cultural fit for her. Currently she is on a break, spending time with her family and travelling, something her previously hectic life had not afforded her.

Her sight is on non-profit work because as the lady puts it, “It is time to feed my soul and not my bank balance.” While she is on a career sabbatical, she is actively supporting a school for street and slum girls, Vrindavan in New Delhi. The school supports 1500 girls and Pooja spends two weeks a year mentoring the girls teaching them, going to their homes and feeding her soul. She personally sponsors six girls while together with her family she supports twenty girls and through her extended friend circle, 75 girls at Vrindavan are taken care of.

In fact, a fund raiser she organised in New York on October 1st, 2015, is what gave Pooja her desire to work in the not for profit sector. She raised $50,000 for the school and got 50 sponsors for the girls. Pooja declares it to be the happiest night of her life. She realized she was happier helping the girls than climbing the corporate ladder and decided to call it quits from Amex and join the world of non-profits. She confided to her husband, Arvind, her life in corporate America no longer fulfilled her and she wanted to be a change agent. Eventually she hopes to return to India and possibly join her father’s organization as an entrepreneur for a few years before joining the Indian government where she desires to have maximum impact in the Ministry for Woman and Children.

What she misses about Pune ?

Pooja is quite categorical. On her first day in Pune, the first thing she does is head off to a small kulfi shop across Poona Station for the ‘best kulfi in the world.’ As someone who grew up with Maharashtrian friends, Pooja candidly admits she misses the simplicity and laid-back attitude of Punekars. She is of the opinion her friends in Pune genuinely care about her as opposed to the people she meets in NYC who are not necessarily authentic.

There is a comfort factor with her Pune friends that is lacking in New York. In fact, one of the reasons she wants to go back is because she misses her family, friends, dog and the good old days of lounging in Poona Club with her friends, eating chaat.




Pune 365: The views expressed here are her own and Pune365 does not necessarily endorse them or subscribe to them.

Monique Patel

Monique Patel

Monika Patel – Monique to her friends – is now a permanent resident of New York City, but her heart is permanently in Pune, her home for 28 years.
Monique Patel

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