Season 1, Episode 24

Follow your Passion

with

Kritika Kulshrestha

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Today’s Guest

In today’s episode I am speaking with Kritika Kulshrestha.

Kritika Kulshrestha is a computer engineering graduate from India with a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. Her career and education are a beautiful blend of art and science. She grew up in Bahrain, Mumbai and lived for a few years in the U.S., primarily in Austin and New York.

She is a brand storyteller and communications expert helping global brands amplify their voice and grow exponentially using content that sparks new conversations and drives positive change. She has over 10 years of experience in tech consulting, content, and communications and has written everything from taglines to features to banner ad copy to whitepapers to children’s stories.

She currently works as Senior Associate Global Communications at Duff & Phelps, where her team helps promote and ensure writing style and tone consistency across all internal and external communications and marketing materials.

She was recently named a finalist at Women’s Web’s Women in Corporate Allies 2020 virtual conference in the Luminary WICA for Growth category.

She’s also VP at the Cornell Club of Mumbai, where she’s part of a leadership committee that drives activities and engagement for Cornell alumni in Mumbai. She’s a community builder and runs her own Lean In circle for women in marketing, communications, PR, advertising, sales, and personal branding.

She also wrote children’s short stories for a non-profit called Tale Weavers. She has volunteered with several organizations in the past, including Teach for India, Rang De, Samhita Social Ventures, Acumen Fund, and Junior Achievement India. Her zeal to engage and interact with people who can inspire the creative soul within her is limitless.

A travel aficionado, she has gone glacier hiking, ice caving, ziplining on the longest urban zipline in the world, and snorkelling with sharks. She’s also one of those lucky souls to have seen the Northern Lights!

 

If you love the show please leave a rating or a review.

If you have a comment or question please reach out to me at malini@malinisarma.com or on Instagram @gladiatrixpodcast

Guests

Kritika Kulshrestha

 Get This Episode

Malini Sarma 0:01

Hi, Kritika thank you so much for being on the gladiatrix podcast. I'm really excited for you to be here because I think a lot of young women would really benefit from hearing your story.

Kritika Kulshrestha 0:14

Thank you, Malini. It's a privilege to be here.

Malini Sarma 0:18

They know thank you, thank you for being on the show. So let's dive right in. So you said that you were young, you grew up as an only child, both in India and in the Middle East? So what were some of the experiences that shaped your upbringing?

Kritika Kulshrestha 0:32

Yeah, thank you. Um, so yeah, I'm an only child, and both my parents are doctors. And, you know, early on, my parents instilled the importance of hard work in me, and, you know, like, family time was always important. So, even though my dad was busy, as a doctor, he used to work in the western railways, and he worked there for over 25 years, up until 2002. But even then, you know, considering that it's so crazy, working as a doctor, you know, your workers are so erratic, he would still take our time to, you know, spend time with me spend time with the family. Also, sometimes spend time with homework, you know, so he would help me with my Hindi lessons. Of course, mom gave up her career when I was just three years old. So she's also a doctor. But then she stopped practicing when I was three years old, because she wanted to focus on the house and on me, and, you know, so clearly, you know, family was important back then. And, you know, she wanted to take care of me and pay attention to my, my academics. So academically, I was always very strong, I was always, you know, among the top 10 in the class. And, you know, because both my parents had chosen difficult professions, it's not easy to get into a field like medicine. So they always encouraged me to focus on my academics, but also give enough time for sports. So, you know, I was in the marching squad. In school, I used to take part in the school choir. So I was always good at singing. I'm not a dream singer. But I used to take part in the school coil I used to participate in into school, singing competitions. I always loved love dance as a kid. So I would also participate in dancing competitions. And, you know, even outside, I would enroll for classes over the summer. So every summer was time for me to kind of pick up one new hobby. So whether it was calligraphy or dance, or music, or painting, my mom would accompany me to all those classes. And so summertime, you know, those two, three months that you get, it was time to kind of focus on a different activity to do a lot of reading, so I would love books as a kid. So there was enough importance given to sports to extracurricular activities and to academics. But of course, my parents definitely wanted me to choose a professional career. And, and both of them were strong role models for me, growing up.

Malini Sarma 3:12

Okay, so I'm considering that both your parents were doctors, but you didn't go into medicine now. Right? Yeah. So what did you study in college?

Kritika Kulshrestha 3:24

So, um, you know, medicine is a very difficult field, and it takes years to settle down, you know, and so my parents had seen the struggles of the profession, and they didn't want me to go into medicine. And, you know, personally, as a kid, I didn't want to come back home and talk, you know, have those conversations at the dinner table about you know, what happened to which patient, you know, because, like, I grew up hearing all of that, and I just didn't want that for myself. So, yeah, so engineering just seemed like the, you know, next choice. Because most of my family, they're either doctors, lawyers or engineers. We have no one in the arts in our family. So you can say I'm the first in my family to actually pick a career in the arts. But yeah, so I did engineering in college, four years of engineering in computer science. And after that, I did work for two years with Deloitte Consulting as a quality assurance analyst in their Mumbai office. So yeah,

Malini Sarma 4:28

okay, so so you're kind of different from the rest of the family cuz you moved from engineering to the arts. But you're young. I know, you said your dad passed away when you were young before you went to college. Right? Yeah, yeah. So how did that affect your decision? Or how did that change or did it change anything about your outlook to life?

Yeah, so, so 2002 like I had mentioned, we moved to Bahrain so my dad did work in the railways for 25 years, and And then he took voluntary retirement because there was a great opportunity in Bahrain. So we moved there for two years, and we live there from 2002 to 2004. So living in Bahrain also shaped a lot of experiences. And you know, how I started viewing the world. It was the first time that I was getting out of my comfort zone, where I had literally given up the life I had known back in Mumbai, to, you know, completely live in this new place. And so I had to make new friends, I had to, you know, understand the local culture, I had to also find a way to fit in. And, but Bahrain was a great experience, it taught me a lot of things. And we move back in 2004, to Bombay, and we were here for two years. And so during that time, I was preparing for my engineering entrance exams. And I was scheduled to give them in June of 2006. And, yeah, just a few weeks before my engineering entrance exams, my dad passed away, and he had a heart attack. So it was quite sudden, even though he had been a heart patient for years, it was quite a shock to the family. And I was only 17, at that time, and, you know, my exams were three weeks away. So literally my, you know, it was it was, it was just me and my mom, and you know, all of a sudden things changed. You know, we had to find a way to do things by ourselves where the wind was figuring out, you know, the family finances. For me, it was more about focusing on my exams, you know, getting through those three weeks, being able to focus amidst all of that chaos. And because I did have to get a high score to get into the College of my choice. So it was a difficult period, but to a certain extent, the preparation, the studies, they kind of took my mind away from the grief, it did take a few months to process that grief. And to figure out, you know, what we were going to do now as a family, and you know, this was it, you know, eventually the acceptance started coming in that this is what our life is gonna be. And now you have to move forward with all the good memories, and somehow through all of it, I remained strong. At that point of time, I didn't label it like that. But I somehow just ended up being a pillar of support for my mom, because I didn't want her to break down or to lose hope. So we, so we literally fought together, and we kind of got through that phase. And I am thankful for that experience. Of course, nobody really wants to lose a parent. But it definitely, when you're exposed to loss at such an early age, you become resilient to a certain degree. You know, you use you stop taking things for granted. And it's a it's a real reminder that, you know, life is short, and you should be making the most of it. You know, so it does, it does grief, like that teaches you a lot. So I am thankful for the lessons that have received. And the person that I've become as a result of it knows,

for someone so young, you seem to have a very good grasp of, you know, of how to handle life, I'm sure your mom must be just a strong personality, you know, for you guys. I mean, I can imagine you one being the only child and that you know, a daughter, and then I'm sure the extended family had probably, you know, a million things that they wanted to either say, or do or say, Oh, you should do this and do that, you know, considering you like, and you had exams going on? And I'm sure that everybody has an opinion or something. Sure, that must have been really, really hard for you guys.

Kritika Kulshrestha 8:50

Yeah, yeah, it was, um, but then, you know, like, most of my family, you know, they know how strong my mom is. And you know, of course, they had tons of advice to give. But, you know, after the first week or two, you know, everybody has to get back to their lives, you know, at the end of it, no matter how close you are, you have to pick yourself up and you have to find a way to do things. Yes, the family's there is support. But, you know, if it's like figuring out the family finances, or you know, managing stuff in the house, that's something that you need to do. And so my mom had to learn to do it by herself. Because up until that point, the majority of you know, the financial side of the house, and everything was taken care of my dad, right. My mom's like, he's still involved my mother in all of those decisions. But you know, it was his responsibility. And my upbringing was her responsibility. And you know, whether it was school, whether it was studies, it was all mom. So I do credit her for, you know, the fact that I'm a writer today. I do credit her for that. But yeah, but then suddenly, you know, overnight, she had to take up all of those responsibilities and You know, be more aware of what was happening with the finances and then ensure that I went to a good college, and that I was settled. And I had, you know, figured out my career and all of that. So I would say yes, she is a very strong woman, and she has been, she has continued to remain one of my biggest troll modules. I feel like I have half the strength that she does, she's way stronger than me. And so even if I fumble, I know that I have a strong support in her. And sometimes we joke and say that, you know, I'm not as strong as her. And you know, she can't really rely on me for support in that sense. You know, so we kind of have that internal joke. But But yeah, she is one strong lady.

Malini Sarma 10:46

So um, so considering that your mother had to kind of figure out her finances, you know, like, all of a sudden, like, pretty much overnight, I had to figure out how to do things. And you know, we budget college and everything. What was the conversation between the two of you as far as finances? I don't know, were you exposed to knowing how to do finances before your father passed away? Or was that a topic for you as well? And did you and your mom discuss it? You know, now that it's just the two of you?

Kritika Kulshrestha 11:15

Yeah, so I think after my dad passed away, yes, my mom and I had discussions about, you know, how we were going to invest the money and make, you know, she was going to get a pension, because my dad had retired from the railway. So you know, the spouse does get a pension. So they're, you know, figuring that out, and, you know, completing the formalities for that. Then, you know, you know, even in terms of the house, and you know, getting all the other registration done, all of that needed to be done. But she kept me involved throughout the process. Because, you know, when it comes to finances, my mom wants to involve me and wants to make sure that I know where the money is going. So even my first paycheck, I gave it to her to invest, you know, my first job, which I got in 2010. And so I gave it to her to invest, because by then it had already been for years. And, you know, she had kind of, you know, she started understanding more about the stock market. And, you know, what are the best mutual funds out there to invest in and, you know, what are the SI B's that you should be looking at, so she started really improving her financial knowledge. And, you know, so she started kind of including me in those conversations, and whatever information she is to get, she would pass it on to me. And I would have obviously, soak in as much as I could at that point. But yeah, she definitely kept me involved at every stage. And we even today, we constantly have those discussions, you know, today, when I get my salary, it's, it's about, okay, how do we grow the money? Or how do we invest? You know, I have never been a kid who has pledged money. I mean, that's not the upbringing that I've been given. So, right, from an early age, I would never really demand things like, Oh, this is the Barbie doll that I want, or this is the game that I want. Like, I never did that. If If, if I got gifts, I would appreciate them, I would be extremely happy. But I would never demand it of somebody. So I've never been that. So even if I get my salary, I like to see my money grow. When I get like, I kind of like to protect it and save it and grow it. I don't like to spend it alone. So I'm very mindful of when I spend. So that's something that's been ingrained in me from an early age.

Malini Sarma 13:36

So So when after your dad passed away, your mom, your mom didn't go back to work, because she was able to manage with the pension and whatever else she was getting. Right. So she was home. Yes.

Kritika Kulshrestha 13:45

Okay. She was home.

Malini Sarma 13:47

Yeah, yeah. Okay. Because I mean, there's a lot of I mean, nowadays, you know, even today, there are a lot of women who don't understand finances, because the husband is usually the one who takes care of it. And then something happens and all of a sudden, you know, you're kind of thrown into the mix, and you have to figure out things. So, so I'm glad your mother included you and stuff. So you're probably much more financial savvy than most young women your age because, you know, they probably wouldn't even bother about it, because you're like, I don't need to worry about it. I'm okay. Yeah, something happens. And then you're like, crap I needed to do yeah. So um, so. So your dad passed away, right before you entered before you did the engineering exam. And then you got into engineering, and you went through engineering, but then something happened for you to change your mind and change majors, right or go into a different industry? How did that transition happen?

Kritika Kulshrestha 14:36

Yeah, so I completed four years of engineering and my first job was with Deloitte Consulting, and I spent two years with them. So in the second year, when I was at Deloitte, I realized that I do not want to continue pursuing a career in software development and testing. I realized that you know, even engineering, it was not something that I was passionate about. I did it because I was always I was always a nerd in school. And I was good at science. So 2012 was when I made the decision to quit Deloitte. And it was, in a way, a completely random decision, I had no plan whatsoever. But I knew that I wanted to do a Master's. So an MBA was definitely on the cards, because, you know, most engineers, they end up doing an MBA. And at that point of time, the MBA was on the horizon, I thought, okay, let's get an MBA, but I wasn't really sure if I wanted to do an MBA in marketing, or finance. You know, no one in my family has done marketing and finance was always something I was not interested in finance, you know, I always considered it as something that I was forced to do, or that I just have to do. It's one of those life skills, you should know what's happening with your money. So it's a life skill, but I wasn't passionate about doing a two year course in that so. And then I just sort of reflected on my high school years. And, you know, I was always, you know, I loved writing poetry in high school, and a couple of my poems had been published in the school magazine, I used to write for myself, so you know, to write to express, you know, when I used to feel low, as a kid, I would like to express my emotions through writing. So I poured back to all of those experiences, but I figured that I can't make a career out of writing poetry. And I do not want to become a novelist. So I kind of considered a few options, I did give a lot of the MBA entrance exams as well, because I wanted to have a backup, you know, so I did give MBA entrance exams in India, I even applied to, you know, I gave the G mat as well. So once I gave the G mat, I even apply to MBA schools in Canada, and one MBA school in the US. But then somewhere along the way, I realized, let's explore, you know, the field of writing, let's see what writing has to offer, because you do an MBA only if you want to continue in that same field, or if you want to specialize in something like marketing or human resources or finance. And I didn't, I was not sure about any of those courses. So I looked at writing courses in the US. I looked at journalism courses as well. And during that time, I started doing a lot of internships, you know, back here in India, I thought, let me get some experience in writing. Because I had zero experience in that professionally. So I thought, let me get some experience and simultaneously let me look up courses as well. So I did internships with the youth Havas. I did a couple of writing gigs with a couple of boutique firms. So one of them was pixie dust Writing Studio. And I can say that that was my first writing experience. I did a lot of ghost writing for different clients. And I spent that you're doing that. So from 2012 to 2013, I did a lot of ghostwriting. I did these internships to get as much experience as I could. And as I started doing those, I realized that I love telling people's stories. I like interviewing them and you know, talking to strangers and finding out you know, why they why they do what they do. And so then I zeroed in on journalism programs, I figured, okay, let's get a journalism degree, I'll at least get some useful skills. And then I will decide what to do next. So I did apply to about 10 journalism programs in the US. And, you know, I wrote my own SRP and I prepared my own recommendations, I went back to all of those people who had helped me get those internships with whom had worked and that one year, and I got recommendations from them. And you know, set every stage I feel people sort of validated my decision, you know, they liked my writing. And it was really a good experience working with them. They they saw the potential in me mom to pursue a career in this field. And that also made my mom a little more confident because even for her, you know, she thought, okay, I've spent my whole life doing science, I've done engineering, and now suddenly, I want to pivot and get into content writing and journalism, you know, so it just came out of the blue even for her and, you know, even for the rest of my family, but then my, you know, even for my mom when she started seeing those recommendations when she started seeing that, okay, people are appreciating my work and I'm good at what I do. It gave her that confidence to, you know, push me and, you know, she she always wanted me to go abroad, to live by myself and to have that kind of exposure. So she was very supportive of the decision. She just felt that I should do an MBA.

But you know, when when she saw that, okay, you know, people are appreciating my work. She was like, oh, If this is what you want to do, if you know journalism is gonna make you happy, and you know, you're not going to have any regrets after this point, then go ahead and do it. So. So yeah, so then I applied to journalism programs in the US. And I then got into all of those 10 programs, and then I had to make a decision to choose the school. So that was another tough decision. And I, you know, had different criteria in my head about, you know, cost of living as a student and public transportation and the university's reputation and the program and, you know, so many different factors. And eventually, I zeroed in on UT Austin, in Texas. And, yeah, so I chose that journalism program. And I spent two years there at UT Austin.

Malini Sarma 20:47

So, um, so I know where you're going through the process of deciding, you know, which college and how to do it. And I'm sure you like you said, Your mother was a big supporter. But if she had told you don't go and find something here, would you have stayed,

Kritika Kulshrestha 21:02

I would have tried to convince her that I want to go and I would have definitely tried. And, you know, I would have made her understand why this was important to me. And I think she got that because, you know, this was one of the things that I told her that, you know, I can make a lot of money now being a computer engineer, or sticking to software development. But I am not happy going to work every day. Like when I wake up on a Monday morning, I am dreading it, you know, because I find it to be very tedious, you know, the work that I do and spend 10 hours at your work, doing something you don't love, right? That was something that I told her that that's not me, that's like, I can't do that, you know, I've done it for two years. Like I did it the first year, it was exciting new job. But you know, by the second year, I couldn't do it anymore. I just did it for the paycheck. And I remember a lot of my colleagues also, they said, oh, let's make money now. We'll figure we'll think about our passion later. You know, there's plenty of time to, you know, fulfill your passion. But I knew that I had to love my job. Like, if it gets me money, if it's serving a purpose, if it's, it's, it's helping fill some gap in the industry. And at the same time, I love what I do. You know, that's the best combination ever. So that is something that I really wanted to explore. So, yes, I mean, if she had me stopped me from going, I would have respected her decision. But I would have, you know, 500%, right, if I really want to go, and this is something that I really want to do.

Malini Sarma 22:31

Okay. No, I mean, that makes sense. You know, I wouldn't expect anything less. So you, you would want to do that, if you so passionate about it. So you move to the US. And you were here for a couple of years. What was that experience? Right? Because you've been you were coming into the US for the first time, right? You're living on your own for the first time and surviving in a completely new environment. So what were some of the good things and some of the hard things about you know, being over here, living by yourself?

Kritika Kulshrestha 22:59

Yeah, so I remember in so I moved to the US in 2013, and August 2013. So the summer of 2013, most of the time I spent in you know, looking up apartments. So I was you're in Mumbai, I was looking at apartments in Austin, trying to figure out the bus routes, from my apartment to campus, trying to find roommates. And again, trust me finding roommates. Hard, like the process is so taxing. So I was just looking for another girl to be my flatmate. But even that was so hard. And I remember that this was my first time living abroad. And you know, I, I wanted my own room might not want to share a room. And I remember a lot of girls wanted their boyfriends to come over. And you know, it was just a very different experience for me. So I did not I was not comfortable with that. So that was one reason why I ended up rejecting a lot of flatmates because everybody wanted their boyfriend to live with them. And it was just a very crazy experience. But in the end, I decided that you know, at least for the first year, let me find a studio apartment. I'm okay living by myself. And yeah, so my mom also decided that she would accompany me for the first three months, so she actually got a tourist visa and she was like, Okay, I will come, I will help you settle down, you know, like, set up your apartment and all of that. So I had her for support for the first three months. You know, so yeah, the first three months it was, first of all, Texas heat is is horrible. And we moved there in August and it's worse than Mumbai, like Mumbai can get humid but I remember Austin was drive from the airport. Yeah, yes. dry heat. And yeah, that was August weather. So yeah, just figuring out the grocery store and you know, dealing with my landlord. My landlord was thankfully very nice. But you know, it was it was a new experience for me like, you know, setting up my own apartment and You know, getting a mattress, or a mattress online and you know, everything you have to do by yourself, like you don't really have help like, like in India, you know, if you want to get furniture or you want to get anything like even back then in 2013, like, you can just go to your neighborhood store, he will make you your chair or desk or whatever you need, and you know, he's gonna send one guy, and he's gonna help you fix it, like you have to help you have a maid at home, you can always get someone to come and help you, with the cleaning with the numbering with, you know, there's always some help. But I think that was interesting setting up the apartment where we had to do everything by ourselves like get a microwave or a mattress. And

Malini Sarma 25:45

usually, when we come from India, they always say that, you know, coming to the US makes you very humble. Because if you come from a background that you have, like servants and driver and you know made and all that we hear you are the driver, you are the maid You are the server, you are the plumber. So it helps me in one way keeps you humble, and it teaches you everything. So when you go back, you know, it's very, it takes a while to get adjusted back to that kind of environment again,

Unknown Speaker 26:10

exactly. And you I mean, you don't have to be from, you know, a rich family. Like even if you're a middle class family, they know that you have that guy down in, you know, your neighbor can help you or anybody else can help you. You're like we didn't know our neighbors, because I was moving into that apartment. And, you know, we had to figure out everything by ourselves. You know, sometimes, you have to figure out how the geyser switch works on everything is then the sockets, everything is different.

Malini Sarma 26:36

So it's not up and down enough. Yeah, yeah.

Kritika Kulshrestha 26:39

Yeah. So it's, it's, it's that plus mixed with the anxiety of starting a course which, you know, I had no idea if that risk could pay off like, Yes, I, you know, I had some confidence that I was good at what I was doing. But I did not know if journalism school was for me, like I, you know, it was just I knew that two years, I was going to do this, I had no intention of quitting. Like, I know, a lot of students, they get homesick, and many of them want to, you know, run back to India after the first year, right. Or their home country, basically, like many people do give up as well. So that was not on the cards for me, because, you know, I had taken an education loan, I was serious about this, this was a course I wanted to complete, but I had no idea if my choice was, you know, the right one. So there was that anxiety, there was the anxiety of just setting up the apartment, figuring out, you know, the campuses well, and registering for classes. That's again, something that you don't do in India, like engineering, you just automatically get enrolled in all the classes that you're supposed to do. And this is where you have to go, you have to go to the registrar's office, you have to complete the formalities, you have to choose the courses you want in the first year you have electives. And so you have to make all of these decisions. You know, setting up a bank account as a student getting a credit card, because hey, your credit score is so important. So it's doing all of these things, but also the anxiety of Hey, am I going to be able to make new friends? Am I going to like my professors? Or am I going to Am I gonna suck at this? Or am I gonna, you know, really Ace my classes like. But so the first three months, even though my mom was there, it helped having her there so that I didn't have to worry about cooking. And, you know, of course, she had obviously taught me a lot of her recipes before I moved so and she'd even prepared a recipe book for me so that I could cook prepare her recipes. When she wasn't there. I had all of that. But at least the first three months, I didn't have to worry about cooking or really managing the apartment because she set it up for me. But after those three months, it was all on me. Like I had to go out there and you know, make friends in my class and figured out the campus as well figured out what clubs were on campus. What were the different societies, what were the different options available to me. So we did have those introduction nights where you could go and meet other students on the campus. So that helped. But each time you know, you've got to show up, you've got to have the courage to kind of go out there, introduce yourself and make new friends. You know, so that was all a very intimidating experience. Mm hmm.

Malini Sarma 29:25

So you, so you were there in Texas for about a year, or was it a two year program?

Kritika Kulshrestha 29:30

It was a two year program. Okay.

Malini Sarma 29:32

Yeah. And so after after you graduated from there. Did you go you said you you lived in New York for a bit in New Jersey. Prove it before you move back? Yes.

Kritika Kulshrestha 29:43

Yeah. So I did. Oh, yeah. So I completed the two year course in Texas. During that time, I did work with the student newspaper. I did a couple of internships as well because an internship is mandatory when you're an international student. So over the summer, I did want to keep myself occupied but I also wanted to learn something so So I did an internship as well. And 2015 is when I graduated. And after that I was again looking for jobs, because you have the odd period where you can work for a year on your student visa. So I was looking for jobs, it was really difficult. I did interview with a lot of people. And you know, that was another, I would say, that was another headache. Because if you have to send in dozens of applications, and you're an international student, and at some point, you know, employers know that they have to sponsor your h1 b visa. So that was another big hindrance. Obviously, when I was in India, people had told me that, you know, if you want to stay on in the US for a few years, don't do a journalism degree, it's going to be hard to get an h1 B with that. But you know, I still wanted to pursue the course. So I went ahead with it. But you know, like it like three years later, in 2015, like I realized that, Oh, this is hard. So I got an internship with financial publishing firm. So it was a temporary job, like, I just did it for two months. And during those two months, I was still looking out for a full time job. And luckily, I managed to get this full time position with Cornell University Cooperative Extension, which is like a small organization, which is part of Cornell University, but they conduct a lot of programs in the community, you know, regarding healthcare, education, and so I got a job with them as a communication specialist. And this was in their Manhattan office. And yeah, so that was, one reason was it was Cornell, I loved the interview process. You know, because through the interview, I got to meet about six to seven people on the team. And, you know, during the interview, I kind of liked them, like I felt that these were the people that I could work with. That was one reason and the second reason was that I was getting to be in New York. And I honestly did not know where I'm going to get the opportunity to be in New York next. So I just grabbed the opportunity. I realized, okay, this is it. Let's move to New York. Let's get out of Texas, like two years in Austin was great. Like, I love the city, and you know, the people. But you know, I wanted to go to New York, which is always been my dream city. So I was super excited at the opportunity. And I made the move there in August 2015.

Malini Sarma 32:22

Okay, so you moved to New York in August 2015. Yes. Okay. And you ended up staying there for a few months.

Kritika Kulshrestha 32:32

Yeah, I stayed there till June 2016. Yeah. Okay.

Malini Sarma 32:35

So a little less than a year. Before you headed back. headed back? Yeah. India. Oh, okay. So, so then once you move back, what were your plans would you do?

Kritika Kulshrestha 32:51

Um, so, I was always like, when I was in New York, I had mentally prepared myself that, you know, I will have to move back to India, if I don't get the h1 visa. And I, by that time, I had started looking up companies even in India. So I was doing a bit of research to see what the market was like here. And, you know, I had a journalism degree now, but then, you know, after talking to a lot of alumni talking to a lot of people in the industry, you know, my ex bosses, I realized that, you know, I can pretty much do anything in the communications related field with a journalism degree. So I moved back in 2016, in June of that year, and I took about three months. So from July, yeah, July, August, September, I took a bit of time to look for jobs here. And at that point of time, content marketing, as an industry was really booming in India. And, you know, I realized that every team is hiring, you know, for a content writer, you know, whether it's a media agency, or even a corporate, a larger corporate, they are, they're looking for content writers, and content is really big right now. And I already had the skip, I could write well, I had done a bit of SEO writing as well. So I was familiar with what was expected of the role. And I realized that I could even apply to corporate communications related roles, because your skills are the same, you know. And so I did, you know, look up a lot of people on LinkedIn, I contacted them. Luckily, there was a person I had randomly connected with two years ago, it was one of those cold LinkedIn requests. And the only connection that we had was below it, but I still you know, I connected with her so I did make a lot of connections on LinkedIn. Because you never know where a conversation can take you. You know, any person anywhere can help you in life, you never know or you might be able to help them like so it's good to you know, have those connections then to keep at it. So 2016 I joined the firm called zurka digital solutions and they are digital solutions company offering a variety of services like grinded content development, advertising related solutions as well. So I worked with them as a content writer for about two years. So I've worked with on a lot of campaigns, social media campaigns, branded content campaigns with a lot of insurance companies who are clients. So I also handled internal marketing as well. And yeah, I've worked with them for about two years. And so they were a small firm. They're still a small firm, but you know, 8090 employees. And, yeah, and then 2018, I found this opportunity via that LinkedIn contact that I had made two years ago, I saw her, you know, post an ad for a communications associate role with Duffin Phelps, which is a financial advisory firm, which is headquartered in New York, but they, they have a global presence. So, you know, she posted this ad on LinkedIn, she was already my connection there. So I just reached out to her. And the rest is history. You know, I interviewed with the hiring manager, I then met the rest of the team. I really like the vibes and the people that I met. And it's a global company, a huge marketing team. So definitely a lot more opportunities, opportunities to handle bigger projects to work with a global team. And I made the switch in 2018 in November. And yeah, so currently, I do work with Duffin Phelps, and I'll be completing two years with them now. And it's been a fun ride, I still feel like I joined them just yesterday, you know, it's, um, and it's really about the people that you work with. So I remember someone asking me, you know, how long do you plan to stay there, and I can say that, you know, I never have a definite plan that, Oh, I'm gonna be in this company for two years or, and, you know, like, none of the company for three years. It's really about the people and the bosses that you work with. And I love the people that I work with, it's a really young crowd, you know, so my whole marketing team is quite young, in a way, you know, so we vibe well together. And you know, we, whether it's happy hours, or whether it's just, you know, socializing or, you know, having fun having those water cooler conversations, they really make work fun. And so that's why, you know, I don't have a plan yet. I just love my job right now. Yeah.

Malini Sarma 37:23

So, um, that's really cool, that you know, you love what you're doing. So based on what you have done in where you are, right now, what are some of the things that you've learned about yourself?

Kritika Kulshrestha 37:38

So, one thing is that I really never expected to be in in this career. I was talking to someone this morning. And I said that, you know, I told her that I used to be a very introverted kid, a person who is shy of speaking to strangers. So while I would love performing, you know, whether it was singing or dancing, it was always accompanied by anxiety, you know, performing on a stage wasn't easy, I was always scared going up on stage performing in front of strangers, I would still do it any way, but it was not easy doing it. And, you know, even you know, attending those parties growing up as a kid, I would, I would just talk to my friends, I would not talk to someone I didn't know. So I was always shy as a kid in that sense. And that's true today, I can talk to pretty much anyone. And she said that she couldn't believe that, you know, that I've just set up a conversation with her. And you know, we don't know each other, but we're still able to have a good one hour conversation. So she said that, truly your you know, education and your journey has transformed you. And I said, Yes, you know, that's one thing that I that I see in myself that I have changed a lot as a person, you know, being, you know, being in the US or just studying abroad. Even my experience in Bahrain, you know, meeting people from other cultures, knowing a little bit about where they come from, what their culture is like, and how they've been, have been, how they've grown up, you know, I can see so many similarities, I can see the differences, but I can see so many similarities that you know, at the core of it, we're all the same, you know, we have the same anxieties, we have the same hopes. And it has taught me so much more about the world, it has exposed me to so many different kinds of ideas. That today, I incorporated in the way I am as a person, you know, like today I run a community, a lean community for women in marketing and communications. And, you know, I kind of translate all of the experiences that I've had into how I run the community into how I participate in conversations. You know, it's made me more giving as a person thoughts have made me more confident, more self aware. And, you know, just willing to learn. You know, I'm insanely curious, I realized that. So and you know, that's something that I don't want to lose. And it's also made me more humble, you know, because with so many experiences that you have, you should know that it's not come easy. But, you know, remember to be grateful for those experiences, you know, because a lot of times people let it get to their head. But I have just become more humble, more confident, I'm still proud of whatever ever achieved, and I don't shy away from talking about my accomplishments. But at the same time, I'm also grateful and humbled have had those experiences. That's

Malini Sarma 40:47

pretty cool. So now, based on your experience, if you had to speak to a group of young women going into college, what are the top three things that you would tell them?

Kritika Kulshrestha 40:58

So number one, I would tell them, don't underestimate your own potential. A lot of times, we let self doubt get in the way, we think we can't do something and we have so many fears. So don't underestimate how your life can turn out. Don't underestimate the your own potential of what you can do in this world and how you can contribute. The second thing I would like to say is, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take those risks, you know, even if they are calculated risks, take them because you don't want to be 80 years old, having regrets you know, you know, you'll be 80 years old, and you'll think back on your life and say, Hey, I got an opportunity to do this to go to this country, but I didn't take that opportunity. Because I was scared. You know, that's the worst reason that you can pick that you were scared to do something, you know, so don't have regrets. And the third thing that I would like to say is just be grateful for every experience that comes your way. And experiment. Try a lot of different things. Because, you know, passion doesn't come to you, you know, if you're sitting on the couch waiting for passion to come to you, that's never gonna happen. You have to go out there take action, you've got to show up. And then one day, you will discover your passion just because you did things you tried something new. So yeah, so those would be my top three pieces of advice.

Malini Sarma 42:26

That's awesome. I think I think there are a lot of young women or young people actually who would, could really benefit from that, especially in this time of uncertainty. So thank you so much for the guy really appreciate your taking the time to spend with me and have this conversation. And I will be talking to you soon.

Kritika Kulshrestha 42:47

Thank you so much. Malini. It's a pleasure being here. You're very welcome.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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