When I started with my search for management programs, I dreamt of pursuing a degree that could provide opportunities to business, government and multilateral agencies. Working at the United Nations would be the ideal opportunity, I thought. Joining Masters in Public Administration Program (MPA) seemed to be the ideal path and ‘value for money’. I started applying to MPA programs across global universities. The School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University was my dream school.

With infinite diverse elements in my profile, building my story was not that easy as I had thought initially. I started by thinking the end – my long term goal. Based on a broad overview of my profile and my own motivations, I started working on my vision statement in one line. A 2-week effort of midnight discussions with my friends helped a lot. This is what it looked like finally – “Working with the government, NGOs and other businesses towards bringing about greater efficiency, transparency and professionalism in the Indian non-profit sector by pushing for greater technology penetration, accountability, public participation and required change in the legal structures.” Lengthy, boring and complex but true to my heart.

I then started fitting in my IIT background, Prudential’s work experience and social initiative (Godparents) into the jigsaw puzzle.

My IIT degree meant two straight things, problem solving skills and technology orientation. These two aspects fitted into the story as enablers to meet challenges at Prudential – building large complex financial models, gaining an expert hand in software tools and identifying trends in astronomic amount of data. For Godparents (an organization with an objective to enable Indian NGOs to raise funds online for underprivileged children), they meant building the technology platform and resolving operational issues with the NGOs. The IIT network implied easy reach to people with donation money, willingness to support and immense expertise.

But where does Prudential fit into the story? As my first corporate playground. At Prudential, I learnt to apply analysis tools specifically to finance and business problems in general. And where does it fit in the story? I had used these experiences and tools learnt to make Godparents more efficient and system-driven. In my essays I explained how during the day, I would deal with a multinational having well-developed systems, Ivy-graduate individuals and resource-rich projects while during the nights, I would carry the learnings to address governance, operations and technology issues at Godparents.

Founding Godparents proved to be the pivot of my story and the last piece of jigsaw puzzle which held everything together. What started as a passion for me was soon an organization serving multiple NGOs across several states in India. It was a connection to my past experience. All that I had learnt at IIT and Prudential helped me in building the social initiative. It was connection to my future by setting the base for what I planned to do in the long term. For me personally, appearing at CNBC TV-18 in their program ‘Young Turks Transformers’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-55wBiDdnA) was the most memorable experience.

All of the pieces were now fitting well and making perfect sense. With the story of my past, my long term goals gained immense credibility. It helped the admission committee to get convinced that my decisions were conscious ones and that I had the ability to apply my skills in diverse situations. The media coverage of Godparents did the magic, I still believe.

Our life has a flow. The decisions we take, the situations we fall into, the people we meet – the elements in our lives have a flow. This is what we call the story of our lives. We may not live our lives consciously as a story. But it is one. And while writing the essays it is important to think that story through. With the infinite data points on our lives that we have, the task is a mammoth one. And getting some help from your closed ones and good sparring partners always helps.

I finally joined Columbia in Fall 2010. And a small dream that I had seen last year is coming true soon. I am just starting with my short internship at the UN Headquarters in New York. This indeed is the next phase in my story.

 

© 2011, Shivam Srivastava | Columbia SIPA. All rights reserved.

Shivam Srivastava | Columbia SIPA

Shivam is currently pursuing Master of Public Administration program at Columbia University and did his B. Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He plans to specialize in International Finance and Policy. His profile is distinguished by his social initiative Godparents, an organization that has gained popularity in the IIT fraternity and was covered by CNBC TV. While most social involvements are today looked at by business schools with skepticism, Shivam distinguished himself not only by taking the organization to a new level but also by giving it a strategic importance in the story. Prior to Columbia, he worked with Prudential Process Management Services, Mumbai as an Actuarial Analyst. Earlier Shivam has also worked as a Research Assistant at Center for Metal & Fibre Research, Deakin University, Australia. He has a keen interest in music and likes to play keyboard in his spare time.

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