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The Morale Booster

Sonia Narang builds trust with employees. A furry critter gave her a lesson on that.

Sonia Narang (B.A., psychology, '99) is director of leadership and development for Sony Pictures Entertainment in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo by Carlos Puma.
Sonia Narang (B.A., psychology, '99) is director of leadership and development for Sony Pictures Entertainment in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo by Carlos Puma.

Sonia Narang was living in New York City when during her sister’s visit they found a rat in the apartment.

“Remember this was New York City, OK?” Narang said.

The pair stayed up all night cleaning. Narang overslept and missed her morning 1/9 subway to the World Trade Center.

“I was an hour late when my dad called and warned me not to go to work,” Narang recalled of the Sept. 11, 2001, morning. Narang worked in Tower Three. To get there, she exited the subway at Tower One and walked to Tower Two, crossing a bridge to Tower Three. If not for the rat, Narang would have been there when the Twin Towers collapsed.

“Since then my sister has told me, ‘Respect the rodent. A rodent may have saved your life.’”

Narang harkens back to that when she wants to remember to trust. Trust herself, trust the universe, just have a little faith.

After graduating from USC Dornsife in 1999 with a bachelor’s in psychology, then Columbia University with a master’s in organizational psychology, Narang had been working in company effectiveness for American Express. Five years after Sept. 11, she returned to California. Moving back with her parents in Northridge, she was offered a job at Disney.

“It was the brand Disney that I was attracted to, and it was the mouse,” she said. “I took it as a sign.”

At Disney, she managed global programs aimed at retaining executives and making the business more effective, and worked in the company’s London office for six months. She was happy, but then a co-worker moved to Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Narang learned about an opening at Sony Pictures managing the Energy Project, a personal and professional development program for 6,000 employees worldwide. The goal is to bring the best out of employees, showing them how to balance work and home life. 

“What company does this?” asked Narang, who got the job. “I thought that was awesome. And it’s all about behavior change.”

At Sony Pictures, she is also strengthening the employee evaluation system. She became interested in organizational psychology at USC Dornsife, where Professor Jo Ann Farver, still a mentor and friend, was her biggest influence.

“I never thought sitting in Jo Ann’s class I’d be where I am today,” Narang said. “I’ve learned to trust everything happens for a reason.”

Consider it the rodent rebuttal.

 

Read more articles from USC Dornsife Magazine's Spring/Summer 2011 issue