OUR GREAT MINDS

Shifali Gupta

Shifali Gupta

Columbia University, New York - Climate and Society

Shifali is a multi-faceted, extremely passionate person. In her 22 years, she has been an IT engineer, a dancer, a photographer, a debater, a teacher, a leader and an ‘enernerd’! It is her life’s mission to explore and travel as much as possible. Her ability to solve 5000 piece puzzles, is stems from the fact that at her core she is a problem solver. Her philosophy in life is to keep innovating and keep learning from people, places, experiences and all the cute dogs, tigers and whales in the world! #HealTheWorld

We asked Shifali:

The OGM: As you embark on your career path, how important is the culture of the organization you choose?

Shifali: Really Important. If the culture of the organization lets you grow, that’s great. Otherwise, it’s a lose-lose situation for both, you and the organization.

The OGM: Describe the impact work flexibility will have on your career path.

Shifali: Flexibility in terms of learning paths and being able to explore various viewpoints is what matters. Starting off in the energy field and forming your own opinions is really important. Your career in energy is doomed if you are forced to pick one side over the other against your wishes.

The OGM: What does a strong cohesive, team-oriented culture at work mean to you?

Shifali: It is definitely one of the most important aspects of work culture. Team-work gives you perspective, pushes you and generally makes work more fun. Strength and cohesiveness is what makes the team-work successful.

The OGM: Is a transparent work environment in regards to compensation, rewards and career development important to you? If so, why?

Shifali: Transparency is important in all areas of life, not just with regards to a job. Ideally approval shouldn’t matter, but for me it does. Whether its criticism or appraisal, I feel feedback is what keeps me connected with the people I’m working with.

The OGM: How does technology impact your day-to-day?

Shifali: I don’t know if I can survive without it. Being an IT engineer and now entering the energy industry, it’s literally my bread and butter. Over and above everything, I am programmed to help develop technology, so it’s importance to me is infinite.

The OGM: What does the phrase, ‘sense of community’ mean to you?

Shifali: A sense of community is the definition of the entire system we are part of. Its what we derive our resources from and it is the final entity we deliver to.

The OGM: Are acknowledgment and support an integral component to your career needs? If so, how?

Shifali: Going back to what I said earlier, acknowledgement and support are extremely important to my career needs. I need to be learning and growing constantly to be of value to the industry and I don’t think I can do that without a good support system.

The OGM: Tell us about a struggle you faced when transitioning into the workforce?

Shifali: Switching from IT engineering to environmental science with no work experience was a huge shift. It has been extremely difficult for me to convince people that I am passionate about this field and even harder to show them that I am capable of delivering good work despite a lack of formal work experience. I have received rejection after rejection from companies I have wanted to work for. Working with Student Energy has been very valuable for me. I have tried my best to make up for the gaps in my knowledge with concentrated hard work and an open mind. The struggle is ongoing and the transition is still incomplete, but I’m positive that I will be successful.

The OGM: For other students just figuring things out, what words of encouragement would you offer?

Shifali: If you believe in it, carry on! There is always a way, even if it’s not so apparent right now!

The OGM: Did you always know what you wanted to do?

Shifali: Definitely not and in a way, yes. Two things I have always wanted to do: give back to nature in some way and be involved in a field that is constantly evolving and not stagnant. For the longest time I wanted to be a nuclear physicist, then a biotechnologist, then a cardiac surgeon and even a dancer at a point in time. It was only when I came to Columbia, met the wonderful professors who are now my mentors and got introduced to Student Energy and suddenly all the scattered pieces seemed to fit. The abstract ideas I had of what I wanted to do in life took shape and I realized that by working in the energy industry, especially focused on renewables and sustainable development, I could give back to nature, be associated with innovation and above all, travel the world.

The OGM: Where does/would your sense of satisfaction come from at work?

Shifali: Constant innovation is the single biggest source of satisfaction. I get to learn something new in this field every single day!

The OGM: How important are further education and training to your career development?

Shifali: I think it is the most important part of my career. I know that I am definitely going to be following my Masters up with either a PhD or an MBA down the line.

The OGM: How did you differentiate yourself in the workplace as a Millennial?

Shifali: For me, “Millennial” signifies a perspective. It is the belief that we can change. We don’t have a myopic view, and are able to think long term and about the broader system. We believe that things can be different and things evolve. With this perspective, I am able to differentiate myself.

The OGM: If you could be stuck in an elevator with anybody, who would it be?

Shifali: I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with a whole bunch of people! Larry Page or Sergey Brin or Elon Musk. I want to know what inspires them and what makes them who they are. How do they do it? Where does their inspiration come from? What makes them so forward-looking? These are just a few of the questions I would hound them with!

The OGM: Did you pursue University right after high school?

Shifali: Yes. So far I have only been a student. High school then undergraduate, and now graduate school.

The OGM: Will/Did your University program play a role in your career path? If not, why?

Shifali: My undergraduate program gave me the time to explore a lot of things. It gave me insight into one of the most exciting industries and at the same time allowed me to explore some of my other passions like dance and biology and climate science. Columbia (graduate school) has put me right at the centre of my career focal point.

The OGM: What are the three most important aspects you feel an organization should offer to retain a Millennial?

Shifali: 1. Openness to learning and forming opinions,
2. Encouragement to be creative,
3. Guidance to help them think for themselves

The OGM: Describe your ideal organization, one that you could grow and develop your career in?

Shifali: My ideal organization would be a Google or a Tesla; Organizations built on the premise of innovation, new ideas and creativity. I cannot imagine a better place to develop my career in.

The OGM: From a scale of 1 to 10 how important are the following: incentives and rewards, compensation, training and development, global opportunities? 1 being least important.

Shifali: Incentives and rewards: 7,
Compensation: 5.5,
Training and development: 10,
Global opportunities: 9

The OGM: Tell us about your most memorable achievement or milestone thus far?

Shifali: Getting accepted to Columbia. This convinced me that if I really want something, and work really hard to get it, eventually I will. I was told by everyone I knew that it would be the hardest thing to switch from IT to environmental science. The fact that I’ve successfully done this makes me believe in my own abilities a lot more!

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Tina Olivero

Tina Olivero

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