In today’s installment of our New Students Series, we’re welcoming Sukirti Vinayak, from Delhi, India. He studied engineering at the University of Delhi in 2011, and is currently working pro bono for the Common People’s Party. He joined SIPA (instead of another policy school we won’t mention) to gain stronger quantitative skills. While he’s not sure which employment sector he wants to work in next, he looks forward to learning from SIPA’s world renowned faculty and all about governance innovations in NYC. Using a gambling analogy, he’s a self-described “Jack” and believes there are no winners when it comes to climate change.

Full Name: Sukirti Vinayak
Age: 28
Degree Program: Master of Public Administration
Concentration: Economic and Political Development

Hometown: New Delhi, Delhi India
Undergraduate University: University of Delhi
Undergraduate Major: Engineering
Undergraduate Graduation Year: 2011

What’s your professional background?
I have been working full time on a pro bono basis with the young, crowd funded Indian political unit, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or Common People’s Party, which was overwhelmingly elected to govern India’s national capital territory in 2015. I had the opportunity to design Delhi Government’s current strategies for combating air and river pollution. I also actively contributed to two election campaigns with my role ranging from developing the manifesto to managing polling booths to monitoring all campaign activities for the National Convenor of the party. I have previously worked with public, private and non-profit stakeholders including McKinsey (past employer), Safe Water Network (past employer), USAID, Indian Ministry of Mines, Energy and various urban local bodies. My focus almost all throughout has remained on policies, their implementation and the politics of all of this!

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?
I applied to SIPA to gain quantitative skills and learn from academicians and practitioners. I also wish to use this time to figure out which broad sector I’d like to go back to- private or non-profit or government, given my personal preferences (work routine, financial security, scope of impact, etc.).

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
I was quite ecstatic! Plus New Yoork! 🙂

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
Better financial aid in comparison to HKS made me choose SIPA. New York CIty is also a big reason why I said ‘yes’! My interactions with everyone at SIPA throughout the process have been very warm, which I think has also subtly played a part 🙂

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
As a Delhite and with some understanding of urban issues, I look forward to stumbling upon governance innovations in NYC. I also look forward to understanding how the academic circle copes with fake news, baseless rhetoric and democratic backsliding. Its a hot trend in my country too!

Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?
Yes indeed! I haven’t studied Maths after 2008 and I have never studied Economics!

What are your goals after SIPA?
When I was making up my mind to quit McKinsey, in 2014, and become a public servant (of some sort) I met people from diverse backgrounds- policy think thanks, bureaucracy, non profits, and I realized that there aren’t a lot of people who honestly have mid/long term clarity. And that people who are at peace with this are leading more satisfying professional lives. I belong to this category of people now. I greatly look forward to 2 years at SIPA and the only part of my goal I am sure of, as of now, is that I will continue to work for changing people’s lives. What agent and what channel are details that I will figure out! 🙂

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
Make them understand that climate change is real and everyone is going to be a loser sooner than later. There aren’t going to be any winners with this one.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:
I believe in experiencing and pursuing diverse activities. Aspirationally, I lean more towards being a Jack than being an Ace. I was an amateur bassist, photographer and actor. Now I look forward to getting back to them artistic realms! 😀

[Photos courtesy of Sukirti Vinayak | Seen here with Arvind Kejriwal, who is sort of like the Indian version of Bernie Sanders. We’ve both lost weight since that day!]
*Note: This series is published in its original form with no editing.