Sonal is an editor who loves introducing nuance; focusing on the process behind the outcomes; and taking a human-centered, ethnographic approach (that often ‘marries psychology, intellect, and technology’). The throughline of her career so far — which has spanned education, tech, and media — seems to be all about broadening audience and advocating for new ideas.
Sonal directs the editorial effort (which is part of the marketing team) at Andreessen Horowitz a.k.a. a16z. Since early 2014, this includes everything from setting the content strategy to producing (and also co-hosting) the a16z Podcast; curating thea16z newsletter; managing our online presence (website + social media); and editing/co-writing op-eds, primers, Q&As, listicles, decks, and more. Many of these pieces are drawn from or inspired by the ideas and domain expertise of the general and other partners at a16z.
Before joining a16z she was a Senior Editor at WIRED. There, she built up the opinion section, which had been struggling until then and soon became one of the consistently top performing sections on wired.com. Much of her job involved editing non-professional writers — researchers, business leaders, academics, politicians, others across various domains — who were rockstars in their fields with lots of expertise to share but limited experience doing so outside a captive audience.
Before going to WIRED, Sonal directed content and community at PARC, a Xerox company (née Xerox PARC). PARC had become an independent subsidiary a few years before, so its challenge was doing business — and therefore communicating — with a broader world than when it had been a captive R&D center. Working at PARC immersed Sonal in the ABCs of high tech, in domains ranging from automation, bioinformatics, and cleantech to flexible electronics, natural language, networking, optoelectronics, ubiquitous computing, and many more. She was also exposed to the research agendas of various government agencies and innovation roadmaps of major Fortune 500/Global 2000 companies, since that was PARC’s “open innovation” business model at the time, doing business with entities outside Xerox in non-competing fields of use.
Before PARC, Sonal worked as an ethnographer/ researcher/writer as part of an NSF-funded study on professional development and organizational change. During this time she built and managed her first online community — over an email listserv(!) and through an online resources hub of education stakeholders. It included teachers, administrators, teacher union representatives, textbook manufacturers, policymakers, and education researchers all interested in a specific Japanese teacher professional development practice that had surfaced through the TIMSS international education comparison study.
Sonal undertook a PhD in developmental/cognitive psychology in the School of Education at Columbia University, after completing her BA in English at UCLA.