Sonya is an inspiration to women who strive to have it all: balancing a fortuitous career as an Experience Designer for Deloitte and an adventurous lifestyle. Working for one of the Big Four accounting organizations in the world, Sonya lives a globe-trotting lifestyle while prioritizing self care. Her strong willed yet gentle nature is fascinating to be around, and she always has a good story to tell. In her favorite KOVASKY outfits and true New Yorker fashion, Sonya reminds us to be gentle to yourself, love what you do, and experience all that you can. 



What’s your favorite piece from the KOVASKY collection?

I wore the Bauhaus Jumpsuit on a trip to India, which was incredible. I took this ridiculously long flight from JFK to Abu Dhabi to Bangalore, and for over a day I just wore this jumpsuit to first class lounges and fell asleep in it, it was beautiful throughout the entire thing. 


How would you describe your fashion aesthetic?

Casual chic, boho chic, confident and bold. I do like a lot of black as a New Yorker, but I also like pops of color.


In one word, how would you describe your career?

Unexpected. I've had a lot of happy accidents that I couldn’t have predicted. I came out of college with an international relations degree thinking that I would work in that field, either doing diplomacy, or some kind of international human rights work, which I did for a short while. But there have been a lot of unexpected pivots either because there's been a recession, or I hated the manager I was with, or by sheer serendipity, meeting interesting people who have just led me to where I am today. It’s been a very strange and winding path that has taken me to be an experience designer at Deloitte where I design and facilitate client strategy and corporate innovation workshops.


Where did your journey to your current position begin?

It’s a very funny story: I got this job, purely by chance. I met a friend of a friend who was passing through Singapore, and at the time I worked for a consumer trend agency there. We met for dinner and hung out a couple times, and one day he said, "we've been looking to hire an experience designer, and I think you'd be great at the role." Essentially it's a lot of research on the back end, but also client management, and then some sort of creative outlook or background. I was intrigued and flattered that a big MNC like Deloitte would be interested. The eventual job interview for the job was probably the most interesting I’ve ever had: I met his boss on a Sunday afternoon for a drink by the river and I didn't realize it was an interview at all! Two glasses of wine later, she said I should come in to HR on Monday, and I walked in and it was basically a done deal. Very random, there is no advice to anyone around that. I really don’t think you can engineer a situation like that. But it was a real happy accident, chance encounter that got me there.


Sonya Pillay in KOVASKY Ren Racer Dress


One of your side research projects at Global Greenhouse is noted as “The Future of Work" - can you expand on that?

One of the really interesting things happening right now is this broader idea of “what does the future of work look like?” Whether it's the rise of AI, automation,  people being scared for their jobs... The reality is that the future of work will look like more mobility, more accessibility, and just more freedom for us to pursue the creative side of things; so what does it really mean to be a human doing work in 2020? A lot of the “future of work” things that I do is helping big enterprises reframe that idea, changing the way their workforce looks, changing the way processes look, to free up that potential. 


What we pay attention to grows- what are you paying attention to these days?

I am paying attention to self-care. The job that I’m in is very high pace, and I’ve realized I’m either going at 50% or 200%. So the self-care when I come back from my trips, seeing clients… includes just getting in a bathtub and soaking, or seeing friends and unwinding… that decompression time, the rest and recovery, is what I’m paying attention to. 


Do you have a daily practice or routine?

I do not have a daily practice! I wish I was one of those people that was like ‘I woke up at 6AM and I did my meditation and journaled in my gratitude journal.’ I strive for that, but I think the daily practice is trying to find the energy to balance everything, whether it’s work, friends, health, and having a lot of coffee.


What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you?

Be gentle to yourself. I've moved cities a couple of times, I've changed jobs a couple of times and I think the pressure that you can put on yourself to work hard and play hard and to kind of look good doing that all the time. Just be gentle to yourself.


Sonya Pillay in KOVASKY Madame Dress


Who or what inspires you?

I think so many things inspire me, and I'm so thrilled and privileged to have a job where I have in some city in the world every other month, where I can pop into The Prado in Madrid one week and then the next week I'm back in New York, and I'm at some kind of fancy dress costume party. So I think it's that diversity of color and experiences that are really inspiring.


Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to say I’ll still be in New York, although who knows. I definitely see myself with some kind of dog, living a wonderful life, hopefully near the beach, but still working in some type of creative industry. The corporate innovation and corporate strategy world.


What career advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

I would tell a younger version of Sonya to stop partying on school nights because I definitely have rolled in with bad hangovers and just not given the 110% I should have done earlier in my career.


*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.