Shyamala Shukla – 10 Candid Career Questions with Infrastructure & PPP professionals

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Editor's Note: 
Welcome to the “10 Candid Career Questions” series, introducing you to the infrastructure and PPP professionals who do the deals, analyze the data, and strategize on the next big thing. Each of them followed a different path into infra and/or PPP practice, and this series offers an inside look at their backgrounds, motivations, and choices. Each blogger receives the same 10 questions that tell their career story candidly and without jargon. We hope you will be surprised and inspired.

1. What was your first job?

My first job was as a trainee officer at the Reserve Bank of India, India’s Central Bank. The first thing I did as I got ready to dash off to the Bank in the morning was to repeat over and over in my mind: “Issuer of currency, banker to banks, financial regulator and supervisor….” It was a very long checklist with several sub-lists, and I decided I would only drop an item from the list once I felt I had mastered it. However, the more I knew about something, I realized how much more I did not know, so all items stayed put throughout my time at the job.

2.  What was your best job?

As a member of the Indian Administrative Service serving my country in various positions – working on national flagship projects, building rural and urban infrastructure, travelling to remote areas and most importantly connecting to my clients, the public .

3. What do your family members think you do all day at work?

In my last job, when my daughter was little, she thought I must surely be no less than a Minister. Now she is a teenager. Yesterday, while in a lunch meeting with the government in Beirut, Lebanon, I received this text from her: “Dude, you are a legend.” I could not help smiling, although I knew what she really meant was: Dude, what do you really do all day in all those exotic places?
4. What do you really do all day at work?

A large part of the day is filled with talking to clients in countries, identifying new business, administrative details of getting funding for activities, identifying and preparing teams, answering team members’ technical and non-technical questions, planning for and organizing missions, not to speak of the time spent in clicking on new flight routes to a client country, which seem to change by the hour, writing and reading emails and so on. 

5. What do you wish you did all day at work?

I wish I worked all day on substantive technical issues and core project management. Wishful thinking?

6. What is your go-to industry website?

IJ Global to keep abreast of what is happening on deals, but I have an additional list of about a 100 favorite sites ranging from PPP Unit websites to multilateral development banks including our very own World Bank.

7. What did the book that made the biggest impact on you professionally teach you?  

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I learned that to be romantic and rational at the same time keeps you young at heart professionally.

8. What are you shocked to hear yourself say when you give advice to young professionals?

When I tell them about something from 27 years ago when I was new at my job like they are now, and I realize they were probably not even born then, and why am I telling them about it.

9. What is the most rewarding thing you have experienced in the course of your Infrastructure and PPP practice? 

The feeling when:
1) The project has reached a tipping point and will surely fly.
2) The client has reached a tipping point and needs that small nudge to go into the territory of trust and working together.

10. In what ways do you think the Infrastructure and PPP area you work in will look different in 10 years?

Every infrastructure project will have intelligent monitoring systems that will provide real time data with continuous cloud backing, with analytics and visuals that can be accessed by all. Although that has humongous potential, what it will also mean is infrastructure services being adjusted for quality with negligible response times, and pricing adjusting in real time too, all over the world, not just in those few examples we have today.


Shyamala Shukla

Senior Public Private Partnerships Specialist, The World Bank Group

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