My name is Monica Khanna and I grew up in India. For as long as I remember I’ve not been proud of the name Monica. It didn’t feel very Indian to me. In India most names have a deep meaning. I often wondered why my parents did not do enough research to find me an appropriate Hindu mythological name with a that had a deep meaning. Instead they went with the name of my brother’s friend whom he was very fond of.named me after my brother’s best friend.
When we moved to the US a few years back, my perspective changed. I started realizing the advantages of my name. It was easy to pronounce for everyone unlike my husband’s or son’s names. Most people found it easy to say it out loud without having to make an effort. It felt like my Mom had chosen this name with the future view that someday we would be in a foreign land. Life became easy and phone conversations with customer service were effortless.
Now, unlike my first name, I’ve always been very proud of my family name Khanna. For some reason it just fits really well and has a nice ring to it. In India, most women take their husband’s last name after marriage. However, after I got married,I refused to take my husband’s name. My logic was simple; If I was born a Khanna, I would die as one. It is my identity.
After moving to the US, I began my job search.As I was networking and trying to understand the job market an HR professional shared a surprising observation. She suggested that my family name Khanna was standing in the way of landing a job. People could relate to Monica but Khanna was a bit too much to understand, pronounce and be comfortable with. She went on to share that she herself had changed her name and had immediately found a job.I was told to remove it from my LinkedIn and my resume to test the response. In a moment of desperation, I even considered it, but then good sense prevailed.
I built a career with this name and left a mark at many places that I worked at. Now was this name really standing in the way of a career in the US? So, after very little consideration and absolute conviction I decided to be a Khanna everywhere. People have found it difficult to pronounce it but they get around to adjusting. I know that if an employer has a problem with my name being too Indian, it’s not the right place for me. There is also research to show that people associate the most with one thing, their name.
So what if my resume was rejected at many places because of my name? I am happy that it happened that way.
All of us who relocate have to make many adjustments. This begs the question : How far would you go to adjust in a new country?
For me the answer was always clear. I decided to be myself irrespective of where I was living and I’m grateful for my uniqueness.
Let’s adapt but never change so our true self shines out every single day!
And that’s why I say, What’s in a name? Everything!
About the Author: Monica Khanna is resilient, resourceful and inspirational. She relocated to the US from Bangalore, India and after overcoming several obstacles has worked with both of the tech giants in the Seattle area – Microsoft and Amazon. She is a Pistachio mentor and wants to use lessons from her journey to help others.