Amanda Sodhi was in a hurry to graduate because she wanted to jump into her career ASAP — a career she has worked hard at and scripted a success story on her own.
The Indian-American singer-songwriter has worn multiple hats as a filmmaker, model, theatre professional and entrepreneur (she is the founder of the startup Pen Paper Dreams). More recently, she is the lyricist for the web series “Made in Heaven”.
Born and brought up in Washington DC, Sodhi relocated to Mumbai in 2012 to pursue her career.
Media had always been her calling. “I always knew I wanted to pursue a creative career in India ever since I was a child,” says Sodhi, who studied at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, the U.S. She describes her college experience as being intense thanks to her hurry to graduate. “I double majored in Communications and English and minored in Business. Normally, this is a four-year programme. But, I took a ton of classes during summer sessions and actually graduated in three years. I was on a generous merit-based scholarship that covered most of my tuition, so I had to make sure my GPA was high. It was pretty intense because I was also interning and juggling a part-time job in retail.” Juggling between courses, part-time jobs, and freelance work helped her develop “solid multitasking skills.”
On the other hand, she also owes a lot of the initial push to her passion to her college. “I think the professor who really played a huge role in my life would have to be Professor Ellen Herbert. She helped me discover the writer within me. She helped me find my voice.”
“Another element of my college education that really helped me with my career goals is that my professors allowed me to explore my filmy passion through independent projects. For example, one of my marketing professors allowed me to do a large-scale Bollywood marketing research study, which ended up generating a lot of marketing buzz because there was no data available in the public domain about this subject back then,” adds Sodhi.
internships have played a big role in guiding Sodhi towards her career goals. “At one point, when I was taking on internships related to public relations and marketing, it helped me realise what sort of work environments do and do not work for me, so I could make well-informed and healthier career choices later on that would suit my personality and needs.” She also undertook an internship at the Voice of America Hindi Services’ radio department which helped her connect with a lot of industry professionals in Mumbai.
Carving a niche
Despite the learning, training, and contacts, the music industry is tough to crack. Take it from someone who chose to shift base from Mumbai to Kolkata in 2017 after encountering a lot of harassment. And this was after her three singles — “Jigsaw Puzzle”, “Behind My Sunglasses”, and “MainKhaali” — had released and were received well.
Sodhi feels despite the music industry not changing for the better, there is still hope for those willing to work from the ground up. And here’s her secret to not having to compromise on one’s passion: “I have personally chosen to juggle freelance work as a content writer and social media consultant alongside my creative projects in music, theatre and film so I don’t have to compromise on what sort of creative work I dabble in. The minute your passion becomes what you depend on to pay the bills, it becomes difficult to say no to shitty work if good work isn’t coming your way. Of course, everyone has their own journey.”
Having pursued her education in the U.S., and based on conversations she had with students here, Sodhi has a few observations about what the education system in India lacks — three in particular. First is the diversity of classes that a student can opt for: “Abroad, even if you’re majoring in Biology, you still need to take classes in other subjects like literature, philosophy, visual arts, and so on. It makes one more well-rounded and well-informed.”
Second — independent thinking: “Students abroad are really pushed to think independently, troubleshoot and question things, Here, a lot of students seem afraid to say anything “wrong”.”
And third — communication skills. “The Indian education system seems to be failing in making sure all students walk out of college with strong communication skills. Written and verbal communication skills, in my opinion, are necessary in any field, so you’d think this would be a no-brainer!”