life coach
Sonali Bhattacharya (third from right) is a devoted life coach seeking to empower others. Source: Sonali Bhattacharya

Like many driven women in Asia, Sonali Bhattacharya owes her success today as a life coach to a matriarch in her family: a forward-thinking grandmother. 

“My grandmother grew up in a time where the girls in the family did not have access to education,” Bhattacharya says. 

Sexist traditions? She wasn’t having any of that. “She learned to read and write with her own initiative and ensured that all her children had equal access to education,” says Bhattacharya.

That one decision had a major impact on the generations of women to come in Bhattacharya’s family.

Without it, Bhattacharya would not have gone to school and later to India’s College of Engineering and Technology to join a heavily male-dominated discipline: electrical engineering. She was one of only four women in a programme with 60 students.

That made them the prime targets of senior students upholding a long-standing practice of hazing new intakes.“I remember they would stop us and make us sing or dance and even say things we didn’t want to say,” she recalls.

Though the girls reported the situation, little was done to change it. “The ragging went on for a few months until the boys eventually got bored,” she says. 

Her resentment over the many biases she faced as a woman in her country of origin only fuelled her determination to work harder and become better. 

life coach

Sonali transitioned from engineer to counselling and executive search before becoming a life coach. Source: Sonali Bhattacharya

She set her sights on Singapore — a decision that would lead her to not just safety, but equality. “From the second I landed, I knew this was home. I have never felt safer anywhere else,” she says. 

After becoming a mother, Bhattacharya took a break to focus on her family. She chose to prioritize her family over her work as she had no support system in Singapore. 

When she felt it was the right time for her to return to work as an engineer, no one would offer her an appropriate role. 

Refusing to just stay at home, she decided to switch careers and become a  Counsellor instead. Then, she pivoted into executive search before finally transitioning into coaching.

“I have transformed and reinvented myself several times, having faced various life-changing challenges,” she says. 

Today, Bhattacharya is a trained career and life coach and has co-founded an executive search firm with her husband called Invictus Search. 

She partners with clients and individuals to navigate risks, explore possibilities, level up their careers, and discover their potential as leaders. “I am passionate about guiding people in repainting, reconstructing and reshaping their lives,” she says. 

life coach

As a life coach, she helps her clients discover their full potential. Source: Sonali Bhattacharya

She knows how hard it can be for a woman to juggle a family and a career to this day — she lived through it. And in this role, she gets deeply personal insights into how women face many more hurdles in their careers.

“I had a client who was taken off projects and site visits because she was pregnant. This decision was made without any discussion with her. It was based on the assumption that as she was pregnant and could not work,” she says. 

As if to make a point that women can have it all — a family, a life and a career — Bhattacharya is now on another venture. She is halfway through the Executive Master in Change (EMC) programme at the INSEAD Asia campus in Singapore. 

“I am a life-long learner. I constantly seek opportunities that will support me, challenge me to come out of my comfort zone and help me grow intellectually and professionally,” she says.

She is part of the school’s Ambition Has No Gender campaign celebrating ambitious people who place no limits on the size of their dreams – and dare to push beyond barriers to conquer obstacles in their lives.

“I must admit that the EMC programme is very different from all the leadership training programmes that I have attended so far.

The course has helped me to connect with my inner self, and I am on a journey to self-discovery, awareness and awakening,” she shares. 

She adds that the programme has not only helped her to grow as a person, coach and leader but is also guiding her in developing her emotional intelligence and becoming the best version of herself.