Masters of the Turnaround: “The people who matter will love you unconditionally and respect your strength” with Amita Mehta and Jason Crowley
As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amita Mehta. Amita is a passionate and dynamic business strategist with more than two decades of financial services experience. Working at major financial institutions, she developed a track record as a trusted advisor and consultant to C-Suite executive management with a unique talent for building bridges between businesses and the communities they serve. Mehta’s distinct perspectives as a refugee, a lesbian, and a resourceful self-starter intersect with her business acumen, resulting in funny, relatable, and inspirational speaking and consulting engagements which can help companies hone their corporate climates for sustainability in the long term and help individuals discover their passions.
Jason Crowley: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Amita Mehta: Out of college, I worked for Fulton Bank right in my hometown of Lancaster, PA, which I loved because it felt like I was working in support of building the community in a meaningful way. There, I discovered there were so many more aspects to financial services than I initially thought. I realized I could branch into sales, finance, marketing, and diversity & inclusion, and I found that there was a human aspect that really energized me. I also felt ignited by the challenge of being one of the few women in the industry — I saw that as something compelling rather than intimidating or isolating, and it uniquely positioned me for success.
Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.
Mehta: Ironically, my career was humming along — I was working as a Vice President at JPMorgan Chase — but my personal life was in chaos. I was beginning to face my truth that I am gay, but I was hiding that from just about everyone I knew, which meant routinely telling small lies and covering. I was living two lives, and both in a constant state of fear of being discovered.
Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
Mehta: I was terrified of derailing my career and losing everything I’d worked so hard to achieve if my colleagues, family, and friends discovered my truth. Out of desperation, I shared my secret with my twin brother. After a few tense moments, he reminded me who I am and that I had the courage to face my truth head-on, instead of hiding at work and in life. My professional ambition was a significant driver for me — even when my personal life was in disarray — I took great pride in every aspect of my career, and that alone helped me face my fears.
Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
Mehta: Once I was able to trust some of my friends and family with my secret, I began to trust myself, and that was a huge turning point. When people saw me being authentic, it began to work to my advantage. As I focused less on my fear of being rejected and more on the tasks at hand, I became more creative, more productive, and more engaged in my work, which led to growth. Colleagues began to see me as a role model, which opened doors as a mentor, advisor, and even for advancement opportunities.
Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)
-Live authentically at home and at work.
When I started a new role at JPMorgan Chase, my new boss took me out for lunch, and we started getting to know each other. I took advantage of the clean slate and told her I had a serious girlfriend, setting us up for an honest relationship moving forward, which opened doors and set me at ease.
-Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
About a year ago, I took time off from work because I was fighting a serious illness, and doctors suggested I take a break and minimize my stress level. When I returned, I was afraid to admit to my colleagues what was happening behind the scenes — corporate culture often dictates that we keep our private life separate. But when I leaned into the relationships I’d cultivated, I discovered they not only respected me, but they also cared for my wellbeing and wanted to help me get back on my feet.
-Being a leader also means being authentic.
In my most recent role, I was asked to write a leadership blog, and instead of writing about my job, I talked about authentic leadership. To demonstrate, I gave examples of my early life as a Ugandan refugee and my personal struggles with coming out. I was overwhelmed by the response — the blog received tremendous traction, and people reached out to me to share that they were inspired to create inclusive climates for their own teams.
Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Mehta: My twin brother was the one person who gave me perspective and helped me turn things around when I was in my darkest period. He truly saved my life. He helped me see that no matter my sexual orientation, I was still the same person I’d always been, and that gave me the confidence to lean in and trust myself.
Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Mehta: After giving so many people advice about being bold and betting on themselves, I decided to take my own advice. I left my corporate job in the fall, and I launched my own brand, Amita Mehta Possible. As a motivational speaker and consultant to C-suite executives, I inspire people to be authentic doers and unapologetic dreamers, empowering leaders and organizations. As they endeavor to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, I work with businesses to leverage their most important assets — their people.
Crowley: You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Mehta: You don’t have to look further than your social media feeds to know that we spend a great deal of time and energy projecting a certain image. In my own life, I learned that being honest with myself and open with the people who care for me helps me live a real and authentic life and be the best version of myself. Through my business lens and personal journey, I’m sharing stories of perseverance to inspire others to experience life authentically on their own terms.
Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?
Mehta: I wish I could tell my younger self to own who you are and don’t try to live up to expectations set by others. The people who matter will love you unconditionally and respect your strength.
Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?
LinkedIn: Amita Mehta Possible
Crowley: Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.