Our founder, Farah Bala is an Intercultural Leadership and Communications Specialist, Coach, and Speaker. She facilitates and leads individual and group programs globally on an across all tiers of leadership, from Fortune 500 companies to non-profit organizations. Her clients include C-suites, emerging leaders, creatives and entrepreneurs in wide-ranging sectors, including finance, law, technology, media and entertainment among others. She is also a faculty coach at multiple learning and development institutions. Farah believes equity and inclusion are the foundational pillars for effective leadership and communication.
Farah’s speaking engagements have included Yale University, the Ford Foundation, Voice America, NY Travel Festival, Travel Unity, Adirondack Diversity Initiative Travel Summit, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Asian American Arts Alliance, Rising Circle Theater among others.
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Farah holds an MFA in Theater from Sarah Lawrence College, and is a graduate of the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) Program. She is an Associate Certified Executive Coach (ACC) with the International Coach Federation, and is certified in the Energy Leadership Index (ELI), EQ-i 2.0 and EQ 360 assessments, and Character Strengths Intervention. She is featured in Umbrage Edition’s national award-winning book Green Card Stories as one of 50 profiles of recent immigrants from around the world.
Having worked as a performing artist and producer for over two decades, Farah has used the tools of the theater in arts education developing social-emotional learning in NYC public schools and international volunteering initiatives, and as of the last decade, in professional environments across multiple industries. If you would like to learn more about Farah’s artistic work, please visit her website.
A PERSONAL NOTE
There is a famous story in Parsi history that has always stuck with me, both as an ancestral point of reference and as a rather apt metaphor for a recurring theme in my work and life.
Like Sugar in Milk - Per the centuries-old legend, Persian Zoroastrians (known as Parsis) arrived on the shores of Gujarat, India, seeking asylum from war-torn Persia in an attempt to save themselves and their faith. On arrival, the group’s priestly leaders were brought before the local ruler, King Jadhav Rana (aka Jadi) who – conveying that the land was already filled to the brim with people – presented them with a bowl filled to the brim with milk. Understanding the message, the Zoroastrian head priest responded by slipping some sugar into the milk to signify how the strangers would dissolve into life like sugar dissolves in the milk – sweetening and enriching the society but not unsettling it. Impressed with the gesture, Jadi granted the exiles asylum, land and freedom to practice their faith unencumbered.
As my ancestors (and perhaps many of yours) became a displaced population, creating community and a sense of belonging became central to their, and in turn my, life. As someone who was born in Lagos, Nigeria and grew up in Bombay, India, the challenge of finding a true sense of belonging and community is not lost on this Persian-Indian-American. Fortunately, I found theater early in life, and it was in that world of improvisation and self-expression where my invisible, voiceless teenage-self first found “belonging”, my diversity not only embraced but welcomed.
Gaining the essential life skills of communication, empathy, collaboration, and creativity opened my eyes to the power of the arts as an applied form of education – a form of learning that combines the tools of theater and improvisation with social emotional learning and development. I’ve spent the past 2 decades applying these tools in professional environments, classrooms and volunteer initiatives all over the world, witnessing the “magic” of performing arts coupled with the science of human psychology acting as a gateway to develop personalities, address conflict issues, and foster collaboration that transcends language, culture and ethnicity.
When I think back on the first time I stood before an audience of Wall Street business leaders and management professionals, I remember that distant but familiar feeling of being the “other” – a fish out of water. I took a deep breath, grounded myself in the very principles I was about to share, and as the mental noise faded away and our workshop began, I looked up to see that the participants were hooked - thirsty to learn, to practice, to discover. I realized that day that regardless of what professional field, stature or degree we carry, our desire to grow, develop, and acquire new skills is a lifelong journey we all share, and in that, we can never truly be “other”.
My work at the intersection of creativity, self-expression, and cultural and human development is about belonging, understanding, nurturing our talents – both to create community and to sweeten it…like sugar in the milk.