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Dona Sarkar is an entrepreneurial force of nature. By day, she's the so-called Chief Ninja Cat of the Windows Insider Program at Microsoft. By night, she's an author, speaker and newly minted fashion designer.
So what's a Ninja Cat? Sarkar describes herself as "someone who is completely dissatisfied by the way we make products and software today." So she aspires to deftly -- much like ninjas and cats -- innovate everything she touches. And she adds, with a sly grin, that ninjas and cats make everything "10 times more awesome."
Sarkar says the Windows Insider Program is a community of 16 million people all over the world who have a hand in what she calls "co-creating" Windows software. The program and its offshoots have taken her around the globe, including Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where she met one of her favorite success stories, Dr. Moses Keller. He drives to rural villages performing ultrasounds for women who can't afford to go to a hospital.
"One of the biggest problems that exists in Africa, and Nigeria specifically, is one in 13 women die in childbirth because of lack of good medical care," Sarkar explains.
Back in Seattle, Sarkar is working on technology to help Dr. Keller expand his outreach — as well as a kaleidoscope of other professional projects. In a single day following her around the Microsoft campus, we found her leading a seminar on coding for a group of teens with special needs, helping new acquaintances work through start-up business ideas over lunch, meeting with her team of engineers in the afternoon and capping off the day with another presentation to new hires. And that's just her 9 to 5.
"I believe that just because someone joins a corporation, it doesn't mean they now become a corporate drone and then they die of boredom one day," says Sarkar.
So what does she do when she's not at work? Work on something else, of course. She breaks down her day like this: 5am to 9am to work on her fashion line or other ventures, 9am to 5pm at her day job, 5pm to 9pm to socialize, relax or write. Rinse and repeat. Every workday.
"I have several side hustles, which I'm very open about," she says of her office environment.
Her latest creation is a foray into fashion, having recently launched her own line called Prima Dona. It's a high-end bespoke brand of dresses and handbags using artisans and fabric from around the world. The vibrant colors and bold patterns were a big hit at her fashion launch at Armoire in Seattle's bustling Pioneer Square.
"What I'm hopeful is that I can use this as a platform to showcase talent and fabric from all over the world," says Sarkar. "When we think fashion we think Milan or Paris or Tokyo or London. But we never think Lagos or Jakarta or Johannesburg."
Sarkar owns 13 GoDaddy websites, each tailored to a specific side hustle, small startup or big idea she's spearheading; though her primary site is donasarkar.com. She's pitching and generating ideas at home, at work and seemingly at all times in between. She recently visited her father, who had undergone a career change, back home in her native Detroit. By the end of her trip, her father had a brand-new website up and running for his new business.
"I believe that no matter what kind of secret goal or ambition you have," she says, "today is the day that you have to overcome your impostor syndrome and go forth and do the thing."