Sejal Thakkar - TrainXtra

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This is a podcast episode titled, Sejal Thakkar - TrainXtra. The summary for this episode is: <p>Today's episode highlights Sejal Thakkar, a civility officer, leader, mom, and entrepreneur. </p><p><br></p><p>Sejal teaches us a little bit about ourselves through this episode. She created her company to try to help other companies create a positive and constructive workplace. She provides legal advice, consulting, and training in creating constructive employee relations. Sejal helps companies avoid costly litigation, but more importantly, she helps companies elevate their culture with training and sound personnel policies.</p><p><br></p><p>As you will hear in today's episode, Sejal is also a public speaker, she has been a keynote speaker and even appeared and TED talks. She discusses her own experiences of discrimination, bullying, and harassment, and how that is shaped her career and addressing the importance of diversity and inclusion, sexual harassment prevention, anti-bullying, and unconscious bias.</p><p><br></p><p>In this episode we hear how she got her start, where she plans to go, and some of the hurdles she's had me and mitigate through along the way.</p>
This clip is an intro to Sejal and her background.
01:02 MIN
Sejal shares a bit about the goals behind her career.
00:28 MIN
Short clip of Sejal's duality of her Indian American upbringing.
00:46 MIN
In this clip Sejal explains more of the movement behind the company
00:26 MIN
Sejal talks about her favorite quote from Wayne Dyer.
00:27 MIN

Michelle: Give us a little sparkle. Welcome to From The Basement Up. Today, we have a very special guest who teaches us a little bit about ourselves. Sejal Thakkar founded her company, TrainXtra, to help companies create a positive and constructive workplace. She provides legal advice, consulting, and training in creating constructive employee relations. Sejal helps companies avoid costly litigation, but more importantly, she helps companies elevate their culture. As you will hear in today's episode, Sejal is a keynote speaker and she's even appeared on Ted Talks a couple of times. She discusses her own experiences of discrimination, bullying, and harassment, and how it has helped shape her career in addressing the importance of diversity and inclusion, sexual harassment prevention, anti- bullying, and unconscious bias. Sejal, welcome, and thank you so much for joining us today.

Sejal Thakkar: Thank you for having me, in this opportunity.

Emily: Oh yes, we are so excited that you're here.

Michelle: So actually, really quickly before we move on, Emily, can you explain how you met Sejal?

Emily: Oh my gosh. Absolutely. I think it was because of my mom. She was doing this women connecting, kind of all remote experience. And I think that you guys came across each other on LinkedIn. And we were actually out in California. We were living in Indiana at the time, and we were in California on a family vacation, and we just stopped in San Francisco at this little cafe. And my mom was like," Oh, we're going to meet this really cool, interesting woman." And I just remember, I kind of just took the entire conversation over because I was like, this is a really... You were a lawyer and you were doing all this stuff for inclusion and diversity. And, it just was speaking to my soul, and I just wanted to learn everything I could about you, in that one meeting at the cafe. And then I reached out during COVID, and you kind of helped me as much as you could, given the circumstances. And so, thank you. And thank you for coming on the show, and staying in touch with me for three years.

Sejal Thakkar: Of course. I mean, absolutely. From the moment we met, I was like," Okay, I want to help you in whatever way I can." So when you asked me to come today, I was like," Absolutely. Sign me up. I'm there."

Emily: Thank you.

Michelle: So you're a mentor, but I would love for you to introduce yourself and share a little bit about your background, before we move into your business.

Sejal Thakkar: Yeah. So, I always say that my full- time job is being a mother, right? So that's the first thing that I always say, is that takes up a lot of my time, as what I'm doing is working from home so that I can be as close to him. He's going to be 10 in a couple months. So aside from that, I'm an employment law attorney. Been licensed in California since 2003. Was a defense attorney for, like you said in the intro, for a number of years, primarily representing managers and supervisors in cases that focused in on harassment discrimination. So, I did that for a majority of my career before I started my company in November of 2017.

Michelle: Wow. I know after looking at your website, and your company's name is TrainXtra, and the website is fantastic where it gives you some background of who you are and how, I guess, your childhood and some situations that you ran into have kind of helped shape your career. And, I'd love for you to share that as well.

Sejal Thakkar: Yeah. So, I thank you. I just had that website redone, by the way.

Michelle: Beautiful, yes.

Sejal Thakkar: So, I'll pass it along to the person who did it for me. But yeah, as far as my background goes, I've always been, and I think this jumps out at you at the website, right? Hopefully, because that's the point, is I've always been a social justice champion, for as long as I can remember. And that's just because of the experiences I had growing up as a child. I've always been very passionate about doing what I can. As far as I'm concerned, it's always been a goal that I think we all need to move towards, is how do we create a world with dignity and respect for everybody? That's just been something that I've been striving for, and all along in my career, I've looked for opportunities that I can contribute to that goal. So, starting my business was one way of doing that. LinkedIn, where I share resources, and data and research on topics, on how to create better workplace cultures and create better communities. It's all around that same goal, of what can we do to advance that. And so, the only other thing I'll add on this, is because I made a point to bring this up. That, I think that it's important for everybody, especially right now in the time that we are in, that whatever your capacity is, to be an advocate and push for social justice right now. Because, I think the last couple of years have brought to light a lot of issues that result in inequality for a lot of different groups, and now those gaps are on the surface. And so the more that everybody does to help push that forward, I think we can go a lot further, a lot quicker.

Michelle: And, Sejal, I would love for you, if you don't mind to talk about your childhood and how some experiences in your childhood have really had an impact on you and help shape kind of your destiny in a way.

Sejal Thakkar: Sure. So, my parents are immigrants from India and so we were... I grew up in a town called Elmwood Park, a suburb of Chicago, predominantly Italian. We were the only Indian family there. So, as far as my background goes, I think there's two different sides of it. And those are the two different TEDx Talks I've done. Right? So one is, goes really, my experiences as a child growing up, as the only Indian family in an all Italian neighborhood. And, dealing with the bullying and the harassment, and the discrimination as a child, and how that's impacted me. And then the other part of my background that I think really adds a lot of different flavor to the work that I do is, I've always sort of battled between the two cultures, the Indian culture and the American culture. My parents came from India, they barely spoke English. They literally went to work right away. And so, they tried to raise me inside the house as Indian, culturally Indian, as they could. Meanwhile, everything outside of the house is completely different. Right? And so that duality also brings a lot of different intersectionality into my different identities, and gives me a different perspective. I'll just share one incident. And I think, that sheds light on both of these experiences is, I talk about this in my TEDx talk where that there was that one incident. And I dealt with a lot of different incidents, but I'll just point out this one, because to what Emily, you were saying, sometimes something like Black Lives Matter movement can inspire something in you. Right? And for me it was this incident that happened, is where somebody had put a note on my locker door that said," Go back to your country." Right? And I mean, I was born here, so this is my country. So, but that's what it took to hit the wrong nerve, the right nerve. I don't know. However, you want to say it, because I acted out a lot after that, but that I'll never forget. That was the switch that got flipped, and that's where my really, I felt like, this is, I got to do more. There's more that I can do, and I'm not going to just sit here and be victimized in this way, and just let this happen to me. I'm going to figure out a way to turn this to my advantage. And, law school came right after that and all these other kind of things start. But Emily, all I'll say is, you've gone back and gotten your Master's, you're getting Master's now. And you're inspired. Keep going. Believe in yourself, take this leap of faith. And this is the time, we need more people to, again, in whatever capacity that you can, and in whatever social justice area you're passionate about, but do it, do it. So I'm so proud of you for going back and doing that too.

Emily: Thank you.

Michelle: I was curious, what did the school do when that happened? Did they stand up for you and help?

Sejal Thakkar: No, that was a totally different time, right? I got disciplined for... So there was more to that story. Right? But I got disciplined many times. In my last TEDx Talk that I just did, I share another story that dealt with the school situation, where we had a history class, and we had a segment we were doing on India in the history class. And I talk about how, again, the only Indian person in the entire school, besides my brother. The entire textbook depicted all of the ugly parts of India. The slums, the filth, the poverty and just, and the only good thing in the entire book was one picture of the Taj Mahal, and that was it. And I talked about how it felt like a lightning bolt pierced through my body in that class, where I was just, I just got up and I walked out. And, I got suspended again for walking out. But sometimes you got to walk. And, I just said," I'm not sitting, putting up with this. This is ridiculous. You're trashing one of my cultural identities in public. I'm not having it." And so, I've always sort of pushed back in small ways, and now I'm pushing back in much bigger ways. So, but it has to start somewhere. Right? But, yeah, it's these little moments that happen in our lives that really can shape our trajectory, in some profound ways. And we don't even realize it when it's happening, but then later on now, I'm talking about it. Right? Like, who knew?

Michelle: I love that. I love that you walked out.

Emily: I do, too.

Michelle: Good for you. I think it's great. And so, I'm curious. You were a lawyer, and then what made you kind of cross over and become an entrepreneur? What made you start your business?

Sejal Thakkar: Yeah. So I'm still a licensed attorney, right? So I still do that. I just decided to stop litigating itself, and doing more of the training piece of it. So, this is one of the things, I think, one of the questions you had sent me this morning, was what is the lesson or hard lesson you've learned? And so this is my hard lesson, is I stayed as a litigator for way too long. I knew right when I got into it, this is not my thing. I'm a conflict resolution person. I want to resolve conflict, not litigate it. And I knew that, but I did what I was supposed to do. Follow the normal, go to law school, be an advocate, and I learned a lot. And so, I don't regret it, but I would've stopped a lot shorter, and switched gears to educating and training a lot earlier, because I just realized that we've got the cultural wrong around litigation. And, it's more about issue escalation versus, let's help resolve these from happening in the first place. So, it just took me longer to get there, but education and training has always been a sweet spot. I feel like, I think it's because I've had to do it my whole life. My parents, always explaining to them the difference between the cultures, and trying to get them to see why things are the way they are. It's just something that's natural. And so, to be able to break down complicated concepts and really explain them to people, so that it resonates and sticks with them, so that it makes an impact. Right? And so, just kind of kept working on that skill, and being a litigator definitely helped. When you're arguing cases in front of a judge or a jury, you've got to learn how to tell your story, right? And so, everything kind of helped me get to where I've gotten. But the real, the main thing that sort of pushed me into opening my business was, my son was born. I didn't want to work around the clock as a litigator. I'm not doing that. I wanted to be at home with my son. So that really was where I'm like," Okay, I got to figure out a way to do this," and then started my company a few years later.

Michelle: So, that's very smart. And I'm curious, when you decided to take that leap, and you know you have this work life balance that everybody's always talking about, how did you plan that out? From," Okay, this is what I want to do," and then take those next steps.

Sejal Thakkar: So, at the beginning, right when he was born, I was very blessed to have a lot of connections with other attorneys. And so mentors become super important. Emily, always stay in touch with that. Right? But, I had a lot of mentors and people that I'd worked with, that I reached out to and said," I want to work from home." And so at the beginning, I didn't really have a plan, honestly. I just knew that this is what I was going to do. And I believed in myself. And so, that's where the networking and sort of reaching out to your connections and mentors comes into place. And then, I started dabbling into different parts of the law. So, doing workplace investigations. I started teaching at some universities as a professor. And so, I was like," Oh, well, now I'm getting closer to what feels good." And then, so it wasn't really planned, honestly. I didn't know, this is what I want to do. And then after a few, two or three years of doing that, when my son got older, I fell into that trap of," Well, I got to pay the bills and I need to get a full time job now." So as a mother, and at this point, now as a single mom, and so I was trying to figure out like," What do I do?" And so, I went back to work full time, and I hated it because I was away from him again. And I needed to figure it out. So, I did it for two and a half years. I worked at UCSF Medical Center here. And, I just said," Nope, I got to do this." And then finally, it was a birthday that came and I said," Sejal, if you're going to do this, and you truly believe you can make a difference, and this is what your passion is, go for it." And I just said,"I'm going to do it." No plan, had no idea that I ever wanted to own my own businesses. Actually, I always said, I wasn't ever going to do that long term. My parents own their own businesses, and I know how hard it is. But you know what? I just said," This is what I'm good at. This is where I want to be." And it was the best decision I've made, even though maybe financially speaking, didn't pay off the way other choice would've, but I am more happier and more fulfilled than I ever have been in my whole life. So, it's wonderful.

Michelle: Well, I love that you followed your heart and you took that path.

Emily: Yeah.

Sejal Thakkar: Yeah.

Emily: And something that, we talk to a lot of entrepreneurs who are moms, I would say, predominantly. And, it's so sweet and heartwarming to hear that they're like," I started my business because of my child. I wanted to spend more time with them."

Michelle: And, to start your business, to make a positive impact on the world, which is wonderful. And I love, because Emily has talked about you so fondly, so obviously you're a mentor, but I could see you as a professor, too. Do you see yourself going back to, even traveling to universities around the country or even high schools?

Sejal Thakkar: I would love to speak to high school. I would like to start talking about these topics, and the same exact topics that I'm talking about, to adults. I want to start talking to kids about it. I'm talking fourth, fifth, sixth grade, the earlier, the better. And we can improve their quality of their lives in so many ways. And that is, so I'm going to put the intention out there, right here. I'm open to those opportunities. As far as going back as a professor, that's always an option. That's always on the table. Right? So I let things kind of unfold organically. And as opportunities come my way, I evaluate them. But, absolutely. Oh, my God. If I would've learned about this stuff a long time ago, I would've started with high schoolers a long time ago. So, it's always on my list of if I can get there, I'm going to do it. And so, the more and more I talk about it, I keep putting the intention out there and I'm like,"Somebody's going to hear this one day and they're going to say, let's bring her in to talk to our kids," and I'll be right there to do it. No worries.

Michelle: I love that. So we actually interviewed, his name is Jeff Bryan. And he started The Positivity Project, and he's a co- founder of that. And it's very similar. It's the 24 characteristics of, I think, it's positive education and it's positive psychology.

Emily: Yeah. And like soft leadership skills, and that kind of stuff. And he gets, he travels to, I think, elementary schools. Right?

Michelle: And, high schools. I love that parents are realizing that we need to have this curriculum with the kids.

Emily: In schools, yes.

Michelle: Yes. And it's great. So right now, and I was curious, because we're in New York State and New York state has, we have trainings and different things that we have to do. Have you ever worked with the states around the country, to kind of get the process going in the companies?

Sejal Thakkar: I haven't. The closest I've gotten to that was when I first started my company, I was consulting for a company that did a lot of the training for the public sector managers and supervisors in California. And so I hit the jackpot. I was consulting with them, and when I started my company, I said," Are you looking for additional facilitators? I'm available." And in California, you have to go through 80 hours of what they call basic supervisory training, for any public manager. So, if you work for DMV, if you work for any of the public state agencies, you have to go through that mandatory 80 hours, and it teaches you everything from A to Z on how to be a good manager. And so, I've done all 80 hours of that training. For a number of years, I did that. And so that's the closest I've gotten to working with state employees, but not actually driving legislation or any of that. I never, I was more in private practice for most of my career.

Michelle: Okay. And as far as, now you've worked with companies and you've been involved with their training. Do you see, and I was curious about this, because you cover a lot of different topics. Are things cyclical? Do you see things kind of ebbing and flowing, or concerns coming back, and then they might disappear for a while?

Sejal Thakkar: Absolutely. For sure. And, again, I don't know what the reality is. I can tell you what social media and what the news, and how they take us through these waves. But, like for example, when I started my company, it was, I was right on the heels of the Me Too movement. So everything was all around preventing harassment, and sexual harassment, and all of that. And then the Black Lives Matter movement happened. And then now we see all the racist discrimination training. So it definitely goes in waves. And I'll tell you, I've been working with companies my whole career. I am seeing such positive movement right now in all of the workplaces that I'm working with, and just people that I'm talking to. Even on LinkedIn, you see it that, that's why I said right at the beginning. Do what you can to help continue to push that needle, because companies are paying attention. And it's not going to happen overnight.

Michelle: Correct.

Sejal Thakkar: It's going to take some time, but at least they're more open to it. They're more receptive to it. So, we're in a good place right now. So, yeah. Really exciting stuff.

Michelle: So as far as when you go into a company and you might, can you identify if there's like a couple bad apples that might be impacting the whole bunch?

Sejal Thakkar: Oh, yeah. There's always a few bad apples in every bunch, pretty much, but there are more good apples, and that's the point. And that's what I always remind myself of that. Especially, when I was representing a lot of those bad apples, I realized it helped me see it from a different perspective. And a lot of times, those bad apples were also victims of the culture and what had been ingrained in their unconscious biases. Right? And they just continued to engage in these behaviors that nobody talked to them about before. And so now, it looks like they're being racist or they're being, sexually harassing somebody. But in reality, we've allowed that to continue. We should have put an end to it right at the beginning. And, a lot of times, organizations are aware that these behaviors are happening, but they've become normal for that organization, right? So, in some ways we're going backwards now, where we're redefining what culture should look like. And every organization has to define that for themselves. There is no one everyone's going to be... We say dignity and respect, but what does that mean for your organization? You need to define that, communicate that and make that the norm. Right. And, that means everybody from top to bottom has to follow the same rules. Right? A lot of times it gets normalized because those few bad apples are at the top, making all the decisions. Right? And so people underneath, and that explains the great resignation, and why so many people have walked out the door, because people are not putting up with it anymore. They're like,"We want better. Better communities, better cultures, better people, period." So, it's good.

Michelle: And, I love that you just said that, because a lot of people are like," Oh, people just don't want to work. What's going on?" And it's so much more than that. And I love that you just said that, because you don't really hear about that side of it. People want a really healthy and safe place, and enjoyable place to spend their time at work.

Emily: Yeah. And I was going to ask, why do you think that this is, because and I was going to like tie it kind of to cancel culture, and ask what your thoughts are about that. Because, I feel like we're overcompensating in a way, and your approach is really gentle.

Sejal Thakkar: It's because there isn't adequate education on what to do in those situations. So I've done a lot of your anti- harassment trainings. I've done a lot of your diversity inclusion trainings. And I'll tell you, one of the things that I wanted to make sure is, how do people react in these situations? Whether it's happening to you, or it's happening to somebody else. And that's the big bulk of why it's gotten to this point, is we see people, they see something going on and they don't know what to say or what to do. They want to help. They don't want that to continue, that behavior, but they don't know how to say it. They don't know what to say. They don't have the words. And they're scared that if they do say something, that they're going to get retaliated against. So we have to create that safety first, which isn't there in a lot of different organizations for a lot of different reasons. A lot of times it's just because, a lot of these companies didn't have diversity, right? So they were set up on a different culture, but now you've got diversity coming in. And now when I talk about diversity, I'm not just talking about race or religion. I'm talking about everything. Diversity from all sides of the spectrum, right? Your personalities are different. Your cognitive skills are different. What are your, I mean, there's just your perceptions, your beliefs, your biases, everything's different. Now you throw a bunch of people together that are different, regardless of the diversity of those differences, it's going to create some challenges. And people need to know how to navigate through those challenges. So, that's where I think the problem is. And, so that's what I try to address in my trainings, is when people walk out, they should know what I should do. If I see somebody making an inappropriate comment, here's what I think. And, it's not just about, let's punt it over to HR. It's giving them the skills to be able to try to resolve that themselves. HRs got plenty of stuff to do on their own without having to deal with every single interpersonal conflict that might happen.

Emily: It's sharing, and we wouldn't get anywhere.

Sejal Thakkar: But that sadly, that's what a lot of companies have done." Let HR know." And it's like," No, no, no." There are certain things like sexual harassment. Yes, you got to let HR know. Right? But if somebody just says something that's inappropriate, you should know how to address that. But sadly people don't know. And what we know is what we've seen in our homes, or what we see on the news or the media, and that's not something that we want people to rely on. We want to give them helpful, incorporating the positive psychology and giving them the right tools to empower them, not take their power away from them.

Michelle: So, Sejal, I know that you create kind of custom plans for different organizations. And when you, typically, what do you do? Do you go in, do you do like an audit, or do you just talk to, I guess, the leadership team, and then you kind of come up with a strategy?

Sejal Thakkar: Yeah. And, it's going to depend on the situation, right? Are they bringing me in proactively? Is this the first time they've ever done something? Is it something because there's been a complaint filed, and now they're trying to address that and rectify that situation? So, really the approach in determining what workshops or what kind of training they need is going to depend on a lot of different factors. But typically, I'll talk to their HR person, somebody in their C- level suite, who's making the decisions on culture and training. And we'll do a deep dive on what their culture is, and what their diversity is, and what their issues are, and really kind of understand, what is the problem they're trying to solve. Right? And, what are their goals for bringing me in? And so, based on that information and depending on what they've already done in the past, we create a plan. And, with my trainings, I always try to encourage my clients like," This is not a one time deal." Right? So I mean, no matter how good I think I am, I can't solve all your problems in one training. So, we usually set up a plan where it's like," Okay, I'll come in once." And then we'll come in every three months, and continue to build on the topics so that people get a deeper understanding. Because I saw this happen last time, a couple years ago when Black Lives Matter first really got going again. And everybody, all the companies were trying to figure out how to address what was going on. They started bringing in a lot of consultants to do your deep, anti- racist workshops, but the people weren't ready for that. It was too quick to go into such a deep conversation, without even touching on the fundamentals or creating that safety first. And so it backfired for a lot of companies, right? And so then they started going backwards and saying," Okay, maybe we need to start with civility first, and then start adding on and going deeper into these conversations."

Michelle: We have about 20 employees here. And, for just the thought that these big companies have so many people, and so many different personalities, just, and then needing to think that you have to start with civility. I mean, in a way it's so sad that we just have to start at that baseline.

Sejal Thakkar: Yes, it is sad. And actually, I'll share a funny story. When I started my company, which was before all this happened, right? So I started in November of 2017, and I called myself the chief civility officer at that time. Right? And one of my mentors came to me and said," Are you sure that you want to call? Maybe you need chief respect officer." And I'm like," No, I'm not just talking about respect. I'm talking about civility." And so she's like," Well, because that word could be perceived by somebody in some negative way." And I go," That's okay. I'm going to take that little risk because this is what I'm going at, is civility. And, if it rubs somebody the wrong way, then so be it." But, if you get to understand the content behind why I call it that and why I think that's important, then you'll understand that this is where you need to start. There's no other way around it. You can't just have these deep conversations about white supremacy and privilege, and all this, when we can't even establish civility as a starting point. It's not going to work, right? So, yeah.

Emily: It's so sad, but I'm thinking, and this is my favorite analogy to use. And I think it applies nicely, and I'm going to take it even a level deeper, but you can't get a group of 10 people to agree on a kind of pizza. Right? That's my favorite thing ever. So why would you get them to agree on something, anything bigger than that? And so, I think that you kind of laid out the crust. If you're going to make a pizza, then at least we need the crust, which is civility.

Sejal Thakkar: Well, and if you've never made pizza. If you've never even made the pizza, you can't bring all the toppings on it at the same time. You got to kind of start with cheese and then layer.

Emily: Flour and yeast, make the crust and...

Michelle: And build on it. That actually is a very good analogy.

Emily: I love that analogy. So I mean, I think it fits perfectly with what you were talking about.

Michelle: So, this also brings me to, because I know that you also do online sessions for companies. And, knowing that you have to start at the level of civility and building on this, how do you find... Are people receptive to the online work, and how do you fortify that?

Sejal Thakkar: Yeah, so this was something that I struggled with, when COVID happened. Because prior to COVID, I was actually doing all my workshops in person. So I was traveling everywhere, even internationally. So, when COVID happened, I was like a lot of people, out of work for a few months, trying to figure out where am I going to pivot? How am I going to pivot? And I made the decision really early to pivot. And, luckily I got a couple of good contracts that came in, where I didn't have to figure everything out from scratch. They had a virtual producer. So, I got to learn the Zoom and all the different basics behind it, with something I'd never done before. And so, I did what I think was very smart. I put myself on a probationary period, right? Because if you look at my website, if you know any of the work that I do, I do this all because I'm passionate for this work, right? So, I do it for impact. My workshops are all about impact. And so, I'm like," If I'm not getting the same impact from people doing it virtually, I'm just going to figure out a different approach or something else, because that's the reason why I'm doing this." Surprisingly though, once I got going, and I had to create all brand new PowerPoints and learn how to use this technology, get comfortable with doing this on the screen. But once I started doing it, I found that my evaluations actually came back the same, if not better than in person, because of all the interactive elements that Zoom offers, like the breakout rooms, the polls, the white boards. You get people doing more things in a shorter period of time, typing in the chat un- muting. I could see right away. Everyone's like," Okay, this person's kind of, I got to bring them back into the conversation." But, really the way, my approach didn't change. So, my foundation is around storytelling and when I do my workshop, so that stayed the same. Storytelling is a very effective tool, right, in getting that engagement, whether you're doing it live or virtually. And I do a lot of the, what I call it, I bring my law, my courtroom antics into the training room. So, I'll have them pretend like they're a jury, and I'll do arguments on both sides, or I'll do an opening statement. So, I do a lot of the lawyerly kind of fun stuff in my trainings, to get people to stay focused, and try to reinforce the important concepts through different approaches. But yeah, so it's been an interesting journey and I'm always challenging myself to learn, because there's always different ways. Putting different backgrounds, different lighting, and just kind of figuring out like," How can I make this the best experience for people?" But it takes a lot of work. It's a lot of, I feel like in a lot of ways, it's more stressful than actually being in front of a classroom full of people. Because there's so many factors you got to be aware of, when you're doing the virtual training, right?

Michelle: Well, and also getting people comfortable on their own computer, and using Zoom on their own. So, that was tough in the beginning.

Emily: Totally.

Michelle: I'm always asking Emily for some help on something. So, I know that there was a couple of things I definitely wanted to know. And if you could make one wish just for, I guess us as people, or for our country, what would it be?

Sejal Thakkar: Ooh, you threw in the country part.

Michelle: Okay. Sorry. Okay, for us as people.

Sejal Thakkar: I mean, my wish right now, my one wish right now is that war in Ukraine just stop. I have been, it's been so hard dealing with. I've been posting about it on LinkedIn. It's just, it's been really hard to just see that this is happening there. And I know it's not just happening there. I know there's a lot going on there, but my one wish that I'm going to put is for that. That's a just, and there's so many innocent families getting ripped apart because of what's going on there. So, that's my one wish that I'm going to put out there.

Michelle: I love that. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And then, is there anything that you want to add, that I missed in my questions?

Sejal Thakkar: No. You did ask me if I had a favorite quote. So, I do have a quote here. I pulled it out. I had to pull out my document, but I love this quote, and I'll just add this because you asked about my background, right? And so, for anybody that's watching or listening to this, I've gone through it. I've been there. I've gone through a lot of different challenges. And this quote always kind of helped me keep moving forward, when I was dealing with challenges that I know a lot of people are dealing with right now. It's just one by Wayne Dyer. Right? And I've posted about this many times." You can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose." And I just, I live by that. I say, radical responsibility for what's going on in my life. I can't control it all, but how I react to it, we can change. We can do something different. And so again, do what you can to push for social justice, in whatever way you can right now. That's what, I'm going to leave on those words.

Emily: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Michelle: Yes. Beautiful ending. I appreciate it. Sejal, thank you for coming and for telling us about TrainXtra, and really just teaching us. And, it was just so wonderful to meet you.

Sejal Thakkar: Oh no, thank you both. And Emily, if you need anything, you know you can always reach out to me. I'm here.

Emily: Thank you so much. Thank you. I will be in touch, definitely, for sure.

Sejal Thakkar: Thank you.

Emily: Thank you so much for joining us today on From The Basement Up. Please be sure to check namebubbles. com for our blog on the podcast, and all of the show notes, resources and links for our guests every Thursday. And, please be sure to leave us a five star review wherever you get your podcasts. See you next week, and thank you.


Today's episode introduces a very special guest, Sejal Thakkar, civility officer, entrepreneur, TedX Talk speaker, and founder of TrainXtra. This episode sheds light on conversations about diversity and inclusion.

Sejal teaches us a little bit about ourselves through this episode. She created her company to try to help other companies create a positive and constructive workplace. She provides legal advice, consulting, and training in creating constructive employee relations. Sejal helps companies avoid costly litigation, but more importantly, she helps companies elevate their culture with training and sound personnel policies.

As you will hear in today's episode, Sejal is also a public speaker, she has been a keynote speaker and even appeared and TED talks. She discusses her own experiences of discrimination, bullying, and harassment, and how that is shaped her career and addressing the importance of diversity and inclusion, sexual harassment prevention, anti-bullying, and unconscious bias.

In this episode we hear how she got her start, where she plans to go, and some of the hurdles she's had me and mitigate through along the way. Join Emily and Michelle for this wonderful conversation with a wonderful woman! 

Today's Host

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Michelle Brandriss

|Founder of Name Bubbles
Guest Thumbnail

Emily Flanagan


Today's Guests

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Sejal Thakkar

|Founder of TrainXtra