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Monika Agrawa

#SOMBFF: The Women’s Leadership Program Leads to Strong Friendships

Generations of students have made lifelong friends at Yale SOM. Monika Agrawal, an IT tech sales executive, reflects on the strong connections she made during the Women’s Leadership Program Online, a Yale SOM Executive Education program offered in collaboration with 2U.


Clockwise from top left: Susan Soloman, Monika Agrawal,
Kim Barberi, Nina Liguda, Sonja Kirschner, and Prathna

I began a unique journey during the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of finding my true self. I met Susan Solomon, a Boston-based senior IT business partner in a brewery industry, while she was completing Yale SOM’s Women’s Leadership Program Online. Her experience motivated me to enroll in the program’s next online session in 2020.

I was in the initial days of a new job that incorporated a leadership role. I was experiencing anxiety and doubt that were hampering my self-esteem. To prepare myself for the role, I enrolled in the Women’s Leadership Program Online, in order to gain insights into various aspects of leadership.

On top of that, I met my “women squad” through the program—specifically, Sonja Kirschner, who works as an executive coach and consultant based out of NYC; Nina Liguda, a senior operations manager in the San Francisco IT industry; Prathna Sabapathee, regional head for a nonprofit organization based in Toronto; and Kim Barberi, a U.S.-based human resources business partner in the public government sector.

“Their insights have helped me to overcome difficult situations, and this collective brainstorming has always ensured that I look at any given issue from a variety of perspectives.” —Monika Agrawal

All my #SOMBFFs are unique and diverse. Since the beginning, they have been so warm and encouraging and have become constant companions in my professional/personal battles. The passion and endless energy that they all bring to the table is admirable. In short, they are my wing women. Their insights have helped me to overcome difficult situations, and our collective brainstorming has ensured that I look at any given issue from a variety of perspectives. With time, our bond is getting stronger as we have created a safe space to share vulnerabilities and to strengthen our positions.

While we may be miles apart, our chemistry is undeniable, and we openly share our experiences and our learnings to inspire and empower each other.

Susan brings forth innovative and thoughtful ideas that encourage deeper discussions and create an inclusive atmosphere. She is a highly motivated, creative, persistent, and adaptable professional who enables others to do their best work. She manages to bring out the best in me, as well as in everyone else.

The emotional quotient that Kim brings has always helped me to think positively, communicate effectively, and empathize with others. Her humble, warm, and kind heart makes us enjoy being part of this small, yet dynamic group of women who support and encourage one another. 

Prathna’s enthusiasm and energy is contagious. She strongly advocates for women in entrepreneurship and leadership, so it’s no surprise that she is our champion and personal cheerleader.

The one who often guides our discussions with thoughtful ideas from her coaching experience is Sonja. She always goes the extra mile to support each member as needed. Her professional and personable approach brings multidirectional thinking to any discussion, helping us expand our thought process.

And finally, Nina is our solutions-oriented go-getter. She empowers others in the group to explore their true selves. She is bold, fearless, and inspiring. She has always helped to uncover my unique characteristics by helping me tap into my strengths.

As the program and our group is truly international, we have fellow women who join us on a regular basis from a different timezone, and I want to give a special shoutout to them, as they are connected to us in our hearts and activities: Anna Andersen and Maja Seggerman in Europe. 

The Women’s Leadereship Program Online fundamentally changed my life. It helped me to connect with my values, strengths, and goals, and enriched me by transforming my mindset to be more innovative and experimental. More important, it gave me my most precious support system.

Furthering Our Connection on LinkedIn

By Sonja Kirschner

I met Monika and the rest of the women squad through our self-directed learning sustainment group on LinkedIn, Keep Learning - Share Insights - Sustain the Good - Inspire Each Other. It was an idea I presented to my cohort in September 2020, and it has taken root. 

Our group has enriched my life with deep connections around the globe. I’m most grateful for how open we are with each other and how much we trust each other without having ever met in person. It was this kind of connectedness I had hoped for when I started our learning group, and it worked.

We meet virtually on the first Tuesday of the month in two time zones and support each other in our professional endeavors. We always welcome new members! If you’re a Women’s Leadership Program graduate and want to join, contact us through our LinkedIn group or reach out to me directly.

Learn more about Yale SOM’s Executive Education programs for women leaders, offered in a variety of formats.