As a little girl, Joya Dass would sit next to her father, captivated by the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. Since the young age of four, she had big dreams of becoming a TV anchor someday. However, her Indian parents weren’t behind her ambitions, hoping that she’d pursue a career as a doctor instead. “Being a journalist was a big unknown,” Dass said.
Growing up in Harrisburg, Penn. in a home of domestic violence, where her father beat her mother, Dass knew she had to get out to build a secure future for herself, she said. She went on to Bucknell University to major in English and psychology, but had to fund her education on her own. She wrote letters to people to ask for help and convinced a doctor in the Midwest to give her a scholarship, while taking out additional student loans. “I not only funded college and graduate school,” Dass said. “I funded every move from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. to Boston to New Jersey to New York to Wyoming and back to New York City to realize my dream.”
For the past 20 years, Dass worked as a TV anchor, covering the financial markets from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. She was broadcast daily on the Jumbotron in Times Square.
Dass credits her success to the support system she built. “I needed to create my own support system by installing strong men and women as my supports,” she explained. This inspired her next business venture, LadyDrinks, a professional network for South Asian women that started about eight years ago and now has 1,300 members and an outreach of 8,000 women across social media. Dass left her full-time job in November 2018 to pursue LadyDrinks full-time. Today, there are three tiers of memberships: $125 per quarter for the “networker,” $190 per quarter for the “connector” and $249 per quarter for the “mayor.” The social networking group organizes about five events per month in various cities around the country. This September, for example, LadyDrinks will host a private tour of the Met in New York City during Fashion Week, where up to 15 women will explore the evolution of fashion over the years. The group caters to women who are between the ages of 35 and 55 and are senior to mid-level management or entrepreneurs.
Dass advises women to be very direct when networking. “When you reach out to someone for advice, be it a mentor or a sponsor who is going to make important introductions, be very specific in terms of your ask,” Dass said, suggesting that it’s helpful to state two times when you’re available during the next week. This shows maturity and gives others a clear sense of what you plan to do with their time, she explained.
Dass also believes that women should focus on nurturing their professional relationships without waiting until they need someone to leverage the relationship. For example, she suggests sending an interesting article about Napa Valley to someone you just met at a networking event if he or she mentioned plans to travel there soon.
Within five years, Dass hopes that LadyDrinks will be hosting events in every major city around the world and helping women forge the types of relationships that hold the power to change their careers and help them reach their full potential. She feels that the time to give back is now. Her professional support system helped to make her dreams a reality, and she hopes to give other women the relationship-building tools to realize their dreams as well.