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

August 24, 2017

thank you

August 24, 2017

Quite inspiring.

September 11, 2017

Thanks, Juma.

Keith Hays
August 24, 2017

Interesting your last point on intelligent monitoring systems, Shyamala. As a specialist in the water sector that has looked extensively at PPPs and 'smart water' projects, we are hopeful for this kind of convergence of innovative finance structures and technologies. Hopefully the workable contractual frameworks for P3s we see on the horizon in many places will have new technology built in as a standard way of de-risking many operational issues. The technology is there, the finance is looking for good projects- let's do this!

September 11, 2017

Keith, would be great to see more of this happening and yes, let us all do this!

Dr. Mohamed Taher Abdelrazik Hamada, Ph.D
August 24, 2017

As, mentioned by Mrs. Shyamala Shukla in her response to question No:10
In what ways do you think the Infrastructure and (PPP) area you work will look different in 10 years?
One can add to her response that in 10 years from now accurate data will be more
available about the assigned developing country to the World Bank , but the
priorities will be different in (PPP)S projects , there will be more focus on poverty
reduction in the developing countries which is a healthy phenomena,because the
cycle of life will be moving forward to both quality and quantity .
Available accurate data that will come as a consequences of global world population's awareness and consciousness will make it easier for the World Bank to be more adjustable about the needy infrastructure projects that are in line with
(PPP)S projects that will prosper as a result of scientific advance in both developed and
developing countries in ten years from now.
Yours Very Respectfully,
Dr. Mohamed Taher Abdelrazik Hamada, Ph.D
Retired Professor at Strayer University,USA
*edited for privacy*

September 11, 2017

Dr. Hamada, many thanks for your comments and do agree with your insightful analysis. We are also working with countries so they can start disclosing more information and in more user-friendly and exploitable formats. Hopefully, there will be much more data from many more countries.

Dr. Mohamed Taher Abdelrazik Hamada, Ph.D
September 13, 2017

Thank you Mrs. Shyamala
Dr. Hamada

August 26, 2017

In addition, there will be more commitments from Governments and support for PPPs, The private sector will be more proactive, and there will be a very strong demand from the Public for Accountability and transparency. The success of PPPs will however be culturally influenced and more informal actors will be drawn in.

September 11, 2017

Yes, Stanley, I agree. We are currently working with 4-5 countries in getting more information on projects into the public domain given the need for more transparency. You are also right in saying that many more informal actors are being drawn in. Important to have a good communication strategy and engage multiple stakeholders in the process as well as performance of projects.

mohammed kachalla ibrahim
August 26, 2017

Very educative,and a good experiance.Thank you very much.

September 11, 2017

Thanks, Mohammed.

umar ibraheem
August 27, 2017


September 11, 2017

Thanks, Umar.

Suresh Yadav
August 27, 2017

Thanks for sharing. IOT will really make Infra green and smart. Each infra element will be interconnected and communicating for maintenance, traffic management and quality check. This smart network of infra will completely change the way financing is happening today and existing models will be disrupted. Another predicted innovation will be move from present model of PPP to community based Partnership with communities in leading role. Technology will make PPP completely tech driven and less complexity than today.

September 11, 2017

Thanks for your insightful and supportive comments, Suresh. Hopefully, we can work with countries to make this happen sooner rather than later.

Ashwini K Sahu
September 06, 2017

As an MPA student and having recently worked in the PPP benchmarking space at World Bank, I find this blog really interesting especially the last 2 questions - the scale of PPP transactions in infrastructure can be definitively complex and reaching an execution phase is a big win for both sides. Also woth the advent of big data and advanced AI and monitoring systems, we are set to see a significant improvement in risk identification & management within the PPP space.

September 11, 2017

Yes, Ashwini. Recently, I was in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and we were discussing with the regulatory authorities there, in the context of information management and transparency in projects, how AI could help in the future. Let us share ideas on these and other interesting issues going forward.

September 11, 2017

Great article, Shyamala. Very interesting to learn your prior experiences and to benefit from your insights on where you see things headed.

September 11, 2017

Many thanks, Emmanuel!

Bijay Kumar
September 11, 2017

I have been extremely benefitted by webinars presented and anchored by Mrs. Shyamala Shukla. This blog is also inspiring and extremely useful. Compliments for Mrs. Shyamala shukla for her clarity of though and superb communication skills. Best wishes for her daughter Lavanya too whose mention in the blog evidences yet another powerful role Mrs. Shyamala plays as a mother.