Beyond the Boardroom: A Closer Look at Justine Dharni’s Journey

Beyond the Boardroom: A Closer Look at Justine Dharni’s Journey

Imagine growing up in a community that values service to others above all else. This is the world Justine Dharni was born into as a member of a Punjabi community. This upbringing has left an indelible mark on her approach to achieving professional success, where she has spent decades advocating that brands design thoughtful, seamless, and customer-centric experiences across digital and traditional touchpoints. 

This mindset of intentionality and consideration has also informed her commitment to making a social impact, both in and out of the office. Justine firmly believes that, as individuals and brands, exercising traits such as compassion, empathy, patience, courage, and honesty is the backbone of nurturing lifelong relationships and navigating complexity with integrity.

The First Steps of a First-Generation Graduate

As a first-generation graduate, Justine’s voyage into academics was anything but a cakewalk. However, her relentless spirit refused to bow to the pressure of the unknown. Despite the odds and obstacles, she now stands proud with a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Columbia Business School. She attributes her growth to a ceaseless learning spirit, a generous community of support, and the grace of a higher power.

Justine’s career tapestry is vibrant, having worked in partnership with giants like Google, Intel, Uber, American Express, and Sony Entertainment. Raised near the Bay Area, she grew up witnessing the evolution of digital media firsthand. She says her fascination “began when Tom from Myspace was still on your top 8”. She enjoyed and appreciated the ability to connect with others over shared interests, learn diverse perspectives, and develop and maintain trusted bonds. She finds these values to be central to the work that she does as a liaison between brands and their communities.  

Whether she’s launching new channels and products, leaving her stamp on influencer campaigns, or driving strategic partnerships, her “people-first” mentality remains at the core of all that she does.

Advocating for Inclusion and Empowered Workplaces

Justine’s approach towards leadership is as unique as her journey. She gracefully wears the Workplace Belonging & Culture mantle, creating a nurturing work environment for colleagues to bring their ideas and experiences to the table and promoting inclusive storytelling in her consultancy with clients. 

In her world, lived experiences matter, brave voices have worth, and honest stories deserve a chance to be heard. “Inclusion is a win-win for all. You want every employee to feel engaged and every market to be represented. That is how we all move forward.”

Dreaming Beyond Boundaries: Upscaling Representation in Media and Beyond 

Justine’s future vision revolves around upscaling representation in industries where representation is sparse (e.g., the intersection of tech, media, and mindfulness, an area of personal interest). 

“If I could do anything, I would work in entertainment. I know that I would contribute a unique and valuable perspective. I was raised in a rough neighborhood, spent my teenage years living in an orchard, matured in Silicon Valley, and went on to chase my Columbia MBA dreams in New York City. I’ve lived a lot of life, from interviewing billionaires for an international talk show that aired on Sony Entertainment Television to driving thousands of passengers as a rideshare driver to support myself while teaching myself the art of content development. 

Through my history of jumping in and out of diverse worlds, I have had the privilege of getting to understand people across different walks of life. The perspective that comes from navigating vastly different communities is paramount to understanding culture and markets. While I nerd out on capturing and analyzing data, I have developed the heightened qualitative and quantitative intuition essential for any storyteller, as we are tasked with the immense responsibility of being society’s tastemakers.”

From a young age, Justine knew she wanted to work in media, with specific interest in entertainment. Observing the weekday magic of Oprah Winfrey, ABC’s TGIF, endless Saturday morning cartoons, and Sunday night headliners on HBO, she was obsessed with the medium’s ability to bring people together for laughs, tears, and expanded consciousness. 

While the industry is historically challenging to enter, especially at middle management and senior levels, according to data, Justine aspires to help drive inclusion across mainstream media. She hopes unique perspectives are met with the compassion and curiosity meant to foster understanding.

Leaving Space for Personal Growth and Extracurricular Passions

Justine’s priorities include personally relevant upskilling, which she describes as “education that feeds my soul.” She wears the badges of an IPEC Certified Energy Leadership Coach and Cornell Workplace Inclusion Certificate holder. A self-described “nerd,” she prizes being a lifelong learner. She also enjoys spending time with the community. As a result, she has found ways to get involved with Cycle for Survival, Asha for Education, Pratham, Random Acts of Kindness, Jagriti Foundation, and the U.N. Global Development Agenda.

Justine’s idea of relaxation includes analyzing TV series and films, baking, and reading for personal development. For her, true strength originates from self-care and well-being and extends to supporting others. She spends quality time with loved ones, explores the culinary scene, and practices self-defense.

Justine’s story is marked by resilience and grit, which she reflects upon with equal parts gratitude and self-deprecating humor. If there’s one thing we can learn from Justine’s narrative, it’s this: true happiness transcends professional achievements. Happiness lies in living in alignment with values we identify as our own—in every role, experience, and interaction. For Justine, those values include living in awe of life and consciously making a positive impact in the lives of others, whenever possible.

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