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Navigating Corporate Culture

Nina Godiwalla, BBA ’97, found that no class could have adequately prepared her for a career on Wall Street. After enduring the hazing corporate culture in Manhattan, she shares her experience in "Suits: A Woman on Wall Street," described by The New York Times as “The Devil Wears Prada” of investment banking. The book peaked as the third best-selling non-fiction book in Austin.

Godiwalla spent almost a decade working for Fortune 500 corporations including Morgan Stanley and Johnson & Johnson, but she now serves as CEO of Mindworks, which provides stress management and meditation training to corporations and professional organizations.

After building her career on the east coast, Godiwalla moved back to Austin three years ago.

How would you describe your BBA experience at McCombs?

I grew up in Houston, and the reason I chose McCombs is that it’s the best business school in Texas. I really wanted to be a part of an institution that was very focused on providing a good education. One of the things I love about McCombs was that there are so many opportunities to get involved. I was very involed with the undergraduate business council and helped create one of the first intern expos. Because the school is a little bigger, there are so many opportunities.

How did your educational experience at McCombs change you?

I attended two smaller private schools after UT and learned that you have to be a lot more independent at a larger school. I feel like I had to grow up a little bit more because things don’t fall into your lap. You really have to take initiative and seek out opportunities to see what’s out there, and I love that aspect of it. It helped me become the kind of person that is comfortable with taking initiative and finding their own path.

Did you have any mentors who guided you throughout your time as an undergrad?

One of the things I think that is absolutely exceptional at McCombs is the career services office. I ended up becoming good friends with the employees there. I had my first internship as a freshman on Wall Street, which was rare. I spent a lot of time with the career services office asking for advice and guidance. They served as mentors to me on a one-on-one basis, and they do a phenomenal job. I did well while I was in school, and there were so many opportunities for me when I graduated that I just got to pick and choose. Not all universities are able to do that!

Suits: A woman on Wall StreetWhat career path did you take upon graduation?

I knew I was bound for New York. I grew up in the suburbs of Texas and was dying to get out and see something different. I started a career in investment banking with Morgan Stanley and then worked in the financial industry for a couple more years in NYC. Then I got an MA from Dartmouth in creative writing and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. After that I worked in brand management with companies like Tylenol, Splenda and Johnson & Johnson. I really enjoyed that process.

After that, I had written a draft of a book about my experience at Morgan Stanley, and I had an opportunity to publish it. I left the corporate world and worked on finishing the book and traveling around the country speaking about my experience on Wall Street. I spoke to business professionals and provided tips on how to carry yourself and navigate through corporate culture effectively. I feel like I graduated and got a job, but the challenges were not necessarily how to do a spreadsheet, but how to navigate the culture.

What do you love most about your current job?

I love meeting the people I work with. I speak professionally around the world about the importance of diversity in the workplace and how to manage stress and will also teach a course to McCombs students this year about leadership for business professionals. I also own my own business called MindWorks that focuses on teaching leadership and stress management. More than anything, I love getting to have an impact on people who are very ambitious, self-aware and eager to succeed.

What pieces of business wisdom have you tried to abide by in your career?

You teach people how to treat you. I like that advice because so much of what I want people to learn is that they are in control of their lives, stress and choices. A lot of times we tend to think things are happening to us and they’re not within our control, but we do have control over our mind, thoughts and feelings. I think we can all be trained how to treat ourselves in a better way and can then teach other people how to treat us.

What goals do you have for the next year?

I grew up in Texas but was so eager to leave and see something different because I didn’t travel often growing up. I have spent most of my career, about 13 years, on the East coast in Philadelphia and NYC. The truth is that I love Texas. My family is here, and it’s my home. I travel a lot with Mindworks but moved back to Texas three years ago, and I love being back. My goal is to build my business to be focused in Texas within the next few years.

As CEO of MindWorks, you have shown yourself as an expert at stress management. What do you like to do outside of work to relax?

My husband and I both went to McCombs and we both wanted to move back to Austin because we love it here. We love the outdoors. My favorite thing is the hiking trails, and we live in an area surrounded by them.


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