Raina Kumra

Raina Kumra, in Tory Burch’s Leena Dress, is photographed by Noa Griffel in New York City

The entrepreneurial and digital pioneer on great advice, technology and finding balance (or trying to, at least).

What did you want to be growing up? I was convinced I would be a neonatologist — a doctor for premature babies, specifically. Of course, over time I realized I’d be better at telling stories than saving lives and I enrolled in film school.

What is your job description? Currently, I’m a contractor for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a federal agency that oversees U.S. international media such as Voice of America, Al Hurra, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and Radio Martí. I’m the Co-Director of Innovation with federal employee Robert Bole. I have such a great team and a board that cares about innovation but also because we’re charting the future of digital and social media as a news and information source. I am also the CEO of the Agency for Holistic Branding, which is a creative strategy and branding firm, and recently launched Juggernaut, an agency that specializes in disruption and innovation across industries.

What inspired Light Up Malawi? My mother was born in Malawi, and I had always heard about it through her stories. When I was doing some research on the lack of power in Malawi — 12 million people don’t have access to energy — I knew that was the first rung of fighting poverty that I could help with. I became convinced that a green collar economy would soon rise in Africa, since a grid was not going to happen. Solar was providing a leap-frogging mechanism — and training folks how to maintain, set up and connect a solar panel would ensure more jobs down the line and create sustainability in energy and in economy.

Best advice you ever received… My dad once told me he didn’t figure out what he was doing until he was 45 and that as long as I did something in the between time, I didn’t have to figure it out right then and there either.

Any social media advice for entrepreneurs and non-profits? Use your networks wisely — and always remember to give and to take. Constantly asking for things, like fund-raising, and not contributing value back to your networks often leaves them exhausted.

How do you see the role of new media changing in our lives? What you see now is a lot more integration between our social lives and our information consumption habits. I believe this trend will continue, but there will be a rising importance given to curators and curators who know you, specifically.

What piece of technology can you not live without? My iPhone alarm clock.

What blogs do you read daily? I’m more of a Listserve girl — curated conversations! — but I do love NYMag.com.

How do you find balance? I wish I knew! I don’t think balance is something I can claim fully yet; however, I do always give myself a few minutes each day to meditate and set an intention, which really brings a lot to my life.

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