Senior Consultant Chinar Verma finds her strengths while facing the challenges of adapting to a new culture.
Senior Consultant Chinar Verma is used to big changes. Born in India, she moved to Tanzania with her family at the age of eight.
“The move to Tanzania was dramatic, but in many ways Tanzanian and Indian culture are similar. There is a great emphasis on respect and deference to your elders, and, especially for girls and women, the expectation to be agreeable,” she said.
At 18, Chinar came to the United States for the first time to attend college. She envisioned a future in the medical field and studied biochemistry as an undergraduate. Her graduate degree, from New York University (NYU), was in healthcare management. When she joined a consulting club as a student, she began to discover that many of her strengths were suited to the field.
“My culture emphasizes listening, putting others at the center, being nonjudgmental and adapting to the needs of others," she said.
Chinar pursued a consulting career and joined Baker Tilly’s life sciences consulting practice in Manhattan in 2019.
The world of work
Adapting to the work world was a challenge. “As a consultant, there were things others took for granted that were awkward for me, including the simple practice of calling people by their first names,” she explained. “That would not be done in my culture, particularly when addressing someone older.”
She also found the expectation of pointing out her own successes to be painful. “In my culture, humility is particularly important. You would never say something good about yourself; you would wait for it to be pointed out.”
Chinar's coach, John Finan, supported her. “A lot of consulting is trying new approaches, even if you’re not sure if they will succeed,” Chinar said. “John told me to go ahead and take risks, he’ll back me up even if I fail.”
Learning and growing
A few months into the job, Chinar reached a turning point. She was conducting a series of client interviews to draft a white paper. The interviews were recorded, and she had a chance to listen to herself.
“I heard myself laughing or talking to fill in silent spaces and apologizing for things that were not my fault,” she remembered. “I realized I needed to have the courage of my convictions for clients to trust me.”
Her subsequent interviews were much different. “I found myself keeping traits that make me effective — the ability to welcome people warmly and make them feel comfortable — while speaking with more confidence and clarity. There’s a lot of middle ground between complete deference and brashness.”
Now, Chinar is taking on a completely new role, as she temporarily co-leads the support center for our firm’s Navajo Nation engagement. “It’s been an amazing opportunity and learning experience,” she said.
“I’ve brought my whole self to the role, including everything I’ve learned at Baker Tilly. The learning just continues.”