Devna Shukla is an Emmy award-winning producer. In college, Devna interned for—then—Senator Barack Obama. After graduating from UCLA, she joined CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, where she was promoted to become an editorial producer on the show. Her career has taken her into big tech, spending time at both Amazon and Microsoft, where she is now a business development manager working on monetization and strategy for Microsoft News.
- Growing Up as an Indian-American in Small Town Ohio
- How Devna’s Parents and Background Shaped Her Work Ethic
- “You Have to Go After Your Dream…Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”
- What Devna’s Wish She Knew Then that She Knows Now
- What Stands Out About Devna’s Job Applications
- Connecting the Dots of What You Want to Do and What You Can Do
- The Mistake that Stands Out to Devna and How She Bounced Back
- Being the Realist Person in the Room, Always
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Editor’s Note: We provide a transcript of each episode to make it easy to search and read. Since robots are not ready to take over the world yet, the artificial intelligence isn’t perfect. There may be some typos in the automated transcript.
Devna Shukla (00:00):
If she’s in an airport with somebody else, that means I’ve lost her and I’m probably not going to get her back. And that moment I felt so defeated that I had traveled across the penetrate and I had gone there and I thought things were going super well. And I had given no one, a reason to doubt me. And I did the only thing that I thought I could in the moment, which is I called my executive producer. I called him and I said, she’s not here anymore. She’s on a plane to New York and I lost it. I lost the interview. And I want you to hear from me and not from anybody else
Vincent Phamvan (00:30):
From Vyten Career Coaching. It’s how I got here. A show about business leaders, their resilience, and the stories behind their career moves. I’m Vincent Phamvan, and I’ve interviewed thousands of job candidates over the years in both recruiting and as a former corporate executive. Now I’m on a mission to help you take the next step in your career. A corporate job opening attracts an average of 250 resumes, and just one person is going to get hired. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was nervous and frustrated by my job search, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You can navigate your career with confidence, spend everyday learning and drive to better yourself. You can be excited about the future.
In today’s episode, we meet Devena Shukla and Emmy award winning producer and in college Devena interned for then Senator Barack Obama. Devna’s Career really started when she interned for CNNs the situation room with Wolf Blitzer. After graduating from UCLA, she joined CNN Anderson Cooper three 60, where she eventually was promoted to become an editorial producer on the show. Her career though has led her into big tech spending time at both Amazon and Microsoft, where she is now a business development manager, working on monetization and strategy for Microsoft news. I really wanted to understand though how Devna’s family influenced who she is and her incredible thirst for learning and excelling.
Growing Up as an Indian-American in Small Town Ohio
Devna Shukla (02:02):
Primarily I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. It’s a small town, Northwestern, Ohio, and it was an interesting opportunity for me because I was one of few minority kids in my school. It was a private school, but I had this really rich Indian life outside of school as well. There was a Hindu temple about five miles away from my house. It was pretty unheard of in general. I feel like especially back in the eighties and back in a small town in Ohio. So I had this really rich light, but it was very fragmented where at school I was one person at home, I was one person. And so I often think about sort of how that sort of build where I am today and especially to build a professionally as well.
Vincent Phamvan (02:40):
I can definitely relate to this as an Asian American and son of two immigrants, whether it’s your culture, your food, your music, or really your entire life. It’s like you’re living in two different worlds with one foot on each side. So 2020 has not been the year that any of us expected and even while being stuck
Vincent Phamvan (03:00):
At home, I’ve met a lot of people this year. And I have to say definitely is one of the most impressive individuals that I’ve been lucky enough to meet. She and I spoke at a virtual event this year called launching your career in uncertain times. And well, let’s get back to the two lives.
Devna Shukla (03:18):
So I am, I’m the product of Indian immigrants. My parents moved here for like many people for better opportunities for education. And so being first generation, there is a joke that I think starts really true, which is when you were blank American. So I’m Indian American. You’re never Indian enough for the Indian kids and you’re never American enough for the American kids. And so at school, I think I felt like I had to play a role because I went to a Catholic school. I wasn’t Catholic, but I still went to mass every Friday. And it was still part of this really rich community that talked a lot about spirituality and acceptance and values. But on the other hand I have very vivid memories about, you know, Monday, my mom packed my favorite Indian snack for lunch, and I was embarrassed and I can’t recall anyone said anything about it, or if I would just embarrass myself.
Devna Shukla (04:04):
And so I did the only thing I could think of to do as a second grader, which was I ate it in the bathroom. And it’s interesting of these moments that you have are very visceral memories for me, that I’m super ashamed of in many ways, because nowadays you can go to whole foods and there’s a hot Indian bar and all my friends are cooking Indian recipes and ordering an Indian takeout. But in that time and space, you know, in the small town in Ohio, it was weird and I was different. And I think that you just, especially as a kid, you don’t want to be different. Now. I think being different and unique is really amazing and celebrated and everyone comes and wants to talk. The person has a unique story at a bar at a conference, but back when you’re so little, you really don’t think about how you can be different.
Devna Shukla (04:44):
You think about fitting in. And so on one hand, I had this really interesting upbringing in the education system. And on the other hand, I’d go home and you know what? He, Indian food we’ll learn Indian dancing. We’re going to temple every Sunday. And so it just a mixture of trying to be the best you can be in two different ways, but they’re very different. One world was celebrating diversity and how your beak and how your culture is amazing. And so rich. And on the other hand, you just wanted to surf skate by not have anyone notice you because you might’ve been the only Brown girl in school.
Vincent Phamvan (05:14):
It’s so interesting that you talk about that. You know, I’ve had similar experiences growing up where, you know, I had white friends and they did white people. Things like go to baseball games and, you know, I really relish, you know, some of the memories that I was able to get learning how to do those distinctly American things with my friends, families at the same time, you know, I had this culture and this family life as well. And I can’t even imagine like, and it’s not even fair because now I feel like if you were the kid in school and you brought like a bang me to sandwich, you’d be like the cool kid you’d be like the hip kit, but it definitely wasn’t that way, you know, growing up in the nineties though, what did your parents do? How did that, how did that shape kind of your work ethic?
How Devna’s Parents and Background Shaped Her Work Ethic
Devna Shukla (05:55):
So my dad actually was a nuclear. He had big dreams when he was younger, being an astronaut. The story we were told was that he couldn’t be, become an astronaut because he had bad eyesight. You know, he wore glasses and apparently I’ve directly actually fact check it that’s the NASA requirement, but he then really fell in love with science and with nuclear engineering somehow, which seems so specific and so niche, but really wanted to come to the States to learn more. And so he actually won a scholarship to come to the university of Buffalo here and studied nuclear engineering. My mom by trade and by nature was also a sociologist. She’s a master in sociology. And she actually came here and never formally worked. But I always think about now, as I’m older, how I had sort of the engineering brain and the social sciences all in one household and how that interacted.
Devna Shukla (06:41):
And what’s interesting about my dad though, is that he might’ve been a nuclear engineer by trade, but he had a lot of hobbies and a lot of passions, he loved photography. He loved travel. He absolutely loved journalism. Read the newspaper cover to cover, to cover every morning, watch the evening news every night, Sunday night, we had to watch 60 minutes. And so if anything, I think it showed me the power of hobbies and how things that you’re just passionate about. You can really share them with people and inspire them and it sparked something inside of them. And that’s absolutely how I serve started. My first set of careers in my life was because I used to watch the news, my dad. And one day, I honestly just thought, what if I did that? And can you get paid for that? And is that a real job and sort of went on this really amazing journey, discovering what journalism was as a profession.
Vincent Phamvan (07:23):
That’s really awesome. I’m sure we’re going to get to a little bit more about that in a second, as we start talking about how you jumped into your career, but it sounds like your parents really, I would say a assimilated really well into American culture while also still holding onto the things that were distinctly Indian and made the Indian culture a big part of your family as well.
Devna Shukla (07:46):
Yeah. You know, I know, I think a lot about what it must’ve been like for my dad, especially to go into the office and be different and different ways he may or may not have assimilated. You know, we are someone in a family who was prominently vegetarians. We’ve never changed that my dad who allegedly has a complicated name, you know, always kept his name as it is, but I know that every family has their own unique balance of what they do and how they do it. But I do think that I never felt the stresses of being different when it came from my parents, I always felt like they did the best they could. You know, my parents would host these mega sleepovers for all of my sister and our friends and go to Dunkin donuts and buy like dozens of donuts for everybody.
Devna Shukla (08:28):
And so I think they try to protect us probably as much as they could from sort of how people looked at you being different and not being accepted. On the other hand, my dad was also president of our Hindu temple in Ohio and, you know, gave us all these resources. And so I’m actually really grateful because even though I would learn Indian dancing on the weekends, on the weekdays, I would go learn, tap ballet, jazz, and hip hop. And so I don’t know how much you can really realize what you’re doing for your kids. But to that point, I do feel like I have this really great of culture where I know my culture and I appreciate it. But the same time I’m also American. You know, I also love to go and do also the cliche thing to think in American culture, like celebrate the July and you go to a barbecue. And and so I’m really grateful that at least we had this blending of two worlds, but I just wonder how stressful it was. It wasn’t to do that on a daily basis.
Vincent Phamvan (09:17):
What do you think the most important thing you’ve learned growing up would be? And what would you say life was like before you pick that up?
“You Have to Go After Your Dream…Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”
Devna Shukla (09:26):
Wow. I think the most important lesson I learned was you have to go ask her your dreams. You have to basically put your money where your mouth is, put the pencil to paper. You can dream amazing dreams, but if you didn’t do anything about it, whether it’s taking one step forward, you will live a life of regret. And I think that that’s, you know, came from this place of the reason why I knew that my dad wanted to be an astronaut when he was little, because it was a dream of his, and he apparently looked into it and tried, and it didn’t work out for him, but, you know, he least didn’t leave his dreams be stagnant. He was inspired by them to do something. And so, especially coming from an Indian household, when I want to go into an allegedly nontraditional career path, you know, they’re there, your answer was not like, no, you can’t do that.
Devna Shukla (10:08):
You have to do something mainstream. Right. Doctor were engineer. My dad’s thought was, if you’re going to do this, you gotta be the best that you can be and leave no stone unturned. And so I think that was really where things clicked for me, that dreams are amazing and important to have, and they give you a lot of hope. But the reality of living your dreams comes from a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication. And a lot of knowing that rejection is just redirection and the door that’s meant for you will open, you know, once you find it.
Vincent Phamvan (10:34):
So as you are navigating through different career options, how would you describe what your dream was?
Devna Shukla (10:40):
It’s hard because I think about what I wanted to do when I was little, what my dream is. I think that I’ve also had dreams that change. And so on one hand, you know, my dreams, I think change from industry to industry career, to career company, to company. And I’m frankly taking a lot of time now thinking about what is my dream and what is my dream and how does it, I think my dream of now also translated into what is my legacy, what is my impact? And I think that’s what I sort of connected the dots to that for me, dreaming is a lot about impact. It’s not about success or rewards, but about how I can better other people at the same time. And I think that my dream has always just been like connecting with people and I hate that word connecting.
Devna Shukla (11:18):
Cause I feel like in the corporate world, it becomes very shallow like, Oh, we connected or let’s connect next Friday. But for me connecting means like person to person, story, to story, whatever that you’ve experienced and felt. And how could I learn from you and also share what I’ve learned and experienced with you and have this two way street where we’re better because of the conversations that we’ve had. And I think that that’s my dream overall is to have these set of conversations that leave me better off will hopefully impact other people at the same time.
Vincent Phamvan (11:45):
It’s really interesting to hear you describe that. I think a lot of people go through this journey where your dream, when you’re a child is described pretty strictly as a job title, or it’s a job, it’s a job role, right? It’s a doctor, it’s a lawyer, it’s a dentist. It’s a whatever. Oddly enough, for me, it was a trash man. I really liked to like, yeah, I really liked the car with the arm. And I thought it was just like so cool to be able to, maybe I should have been a mechanical engineer. I don’t know. But you know, when you’re a child, that’s, that’s typically how you describe it. And then at some point in your life, it’s, it’s described as almost like a salary as you start understanding, you know, what bills mean and how to you know, how to, how you have to pay off debt and things like that. And so then it becomes a salary. It’s really interesting to hear folks who are later into their career. Many of them go through this transition that you’re describing, where it ends up being a purpose dream is actually driven by a purpose, less of a title, less of a salary. And it sounds like yours is really about being able to like the interpersonal relationships between different people that that’s really, what’s driving you to give you passion or purpose,
Devna Shukla (12:52):
Because I think transactional dreams also, they have a finite start and end date. So your dream might be, I have to work at X company, but then what are you going to do on day two? Once you get that job, like what is going to actually fuel you and inspire you and my parents maybe should have been more concerned. My dream when I was little, was to be a Disney animator and I have never really connected the dots on that, except maybe it’s about storytelling and nudes or the power of just a magic, but how someone could draw a character. And it turns into this movie and tell this whole story. But I think the purpose is what fuels you. Because as you get older, you realize you spend a lot of time working. You spend more time working and more time in your inbox and in meetings and you basically do anything else in your life. Maybe even sometimes even more than sleeping. And so if you have a purpose, it’ll help you through those really tough days. When you have to have a tough conversation or things aren’t going well by your own standards. But it also will help add more enthusiasm, excitement to those really good days when you have these amazing milestones in your career the purpose will help drive you and keeps I think your engine going in that way.
Vincent Phamvan (13:50):
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. When you started your career, what’s something that you wish you would have known that, you know, now?
What Devna’s Wish She Knew Then that She Knows Now
Devna Shukla (13:59):
I wish I knew that a lot of it’s about opportunities. I could just come up. I had always thought that for a career, you have to have like a plan and a roadmap and say, okay, you know what? In one to two years, I’m going to beat this title. And in three to five years, I’m gonna move to this city. But you know, your career is just like life random things honestly happen. Whether they, whether you take advantage of them or not, or make a decision based on not going down a path, that’s also a decision in itself. And so I think for me, I’ve been really fortunate that sometimes your career is just like life where you will grow and change and evolve, but it’s not because you have these preset milestones. You know, I see a lot of people, especially I went to business school and a lot of people who get out of business school think, okay, well, like in this amount of time, I’ll have this job and then I want this title
Devna Shukla (14:42):
Then I want to do a rotational program and then I’m going to do this. And it’s great to have benchmarks and guidelines, but what if you achieve that goal in six months versus a, or whether it, whether it takes you 10 years to do something like time is so arbitrary to me in terms of needing to reach certain milestones by a certain age. I think that’s why I’ve always found ways to read about myself because I’ve not been limited by, Oh, I’ve already been out of college X number of years, or, Oh, I’m just an age now. And you know, I shouldn’t start over. You can break me, start over at any time you took me willing to put in the work for it. I know that your career is going to be journey as well. It’s not just a set of, you know, destinations and a set of just ways to be successful.
Vincent Phamvan (15:20):
I couldn’t agree with that more. You know, I think as you’re going through college, something that you don’t distinctly understand is getting experience in different departments actually makes you a stronger leader in the rest of the roles that you’re going to be working in and the life, you know, life up until that point is somewhat linear. You go first grade, second grade, third grade, all the way through such. But you know, once you enter the workforce, it’s not as straightforward as that. You know, sometimes they’re a step sideways. Sometimes there’s in the step sideways actually accelerate you accelerate you forward because you gain experiences that you didn’t have before. And the reality too is sometimes there’s, there’s there’s setbacks. And that that’s a big, big part of progress as well,
Devna Shukla (16:07):
Especially being older and, and where I am. I’ve actually looked at all these setbacks that I’ve had, and I can see how they were not setbacks. They weren’t the time they were rejection, they were nos. They were closed doors. They were see you later. But in reality, I can see why, if that door wasn’t closed, how I wouldn’t have gone to the path where I was today, which is actually really cool to see, because I think that in those moments, you work so hard for something or try to make something work out. And it just didn’t and you just feel like the world is up against you and the deck is stacked against you. But I think another thing I wish I knew that I learned later is that your passions are not random. They’re your calling. So if you really love something, there is a trade off now that I’ve gotten older about, do you really want to go after what your PA your, your hobby is?
Devna Shukla (16:48):
Because will you ruin it by working on it? But there’s also something to me that like, there is a little inkling of like, if you love something that much, if you can’t like stop watching every time there’s an NBA trade. And that’s like, what fuels you every single day? There’s gotta be something behind it where you could actually, you know, work on that or work on a part of that, or work on deals or work, you know, and be a corporate work on teams or negotiation. So I always try to think about when I can’t stop thinking about something, it means that there’s something left for me to discover. And now I have that conversation. Okay. Is it a hobby? Is it a side project or is it like, I want to go full steam ahead at this thing that makes me really excited.
Vincent Phamvan (17:23):
Yeah. I like the reflection of what you’re talking about in terms of those setbacks lead to the next opportunities. It made me think about, you know, there’s been milestones in my career where I met somebody because I got laid off from a job and had, I have not gotten laid off. And then at the time, at the time, like you said, it feels like the end of the world, but that really was what unlocked a relationship that allowed me to be able to take that next step. And gosh, I wonder what would have happened if those relationships were never even built. You’ve had quite a few different experiences throughout your career. Tell me about some of the internships that you’ve done. Cause I think you’ve had some pretty notable into internships that kind of kicked off your career.
The Internships that Shapes Devna’s Career
Devna Shukla (18:03):
Sure. So my copy out is always this really interesting story that I still can’t believe it’s true. I was thinking about this morning where I was like, how did that all work out? I actually started interning with CNN in high school. I lived in the DC area and really wanting to get into journalism, but really didn’t like local news. I thought that I wanted to be sort of a center stage of politics and you know, where the president and the Supreme court justice is where I wanted to be on the national stage. And so I applied to an internship in high school and I got it. And that really was a pivotal moment in my entire life. Just who is this like 16 year old girl who’s running around the Washington DC Bureau, helping launch situation room with Wolf Blitzer. It was an incredible experience.
Devna Shukla (18:41):
And so a lot of my internships that I did not only through high school, but also college where at CNN cause every summer there was something new to learn a new show or a presidential election, which is really cool. I took one break. For my time at CNN was actually very difficult for me to do. I loved it. I remember I used to cry on my last day, my internships, I just loved being there so much to center of action. And I did the sort of a pivot, which is I interned for a then Senator Barack Obama. I was poly side major at UCLA and I sort of never had worked in government before and I thought, okay, so what’s it like to be on the other side of the equation when you’re actually a policy maker and was his press intern for a summer this summer, he announced that he was running for president. And that was an incredible experience to have to, to think, to be served in Congress. See how things work over there, how teams operate during a lot of pressure and a lot of national and international tension as well. And so spent, you know, it was very fortunate to have really cool internships that not only built really great relationships, but also opportunities for me full time.
Vincent Phamvan (19:40):
Tell me about that. The internship with at the time, Senator Barack Obama, like how did you go about actually getting that internship? Tell me about the story behind the scenes that isn’t apparent in terms of how somebody actually goes about doing that,
Devna Shukla (19:56):
The story behind the scenes, but I always feel really a little bit guilty about because every opportunity of mine, including my most recent role, it’s been this way, it’s been an application on the job board. I feel like if I had had memoir, it was like she applied and she got it eventually, you know, it really came from, I wanted to work and see what it would be like to work on Capitol Hill. And I remember distinctly applying for senators and Congress, men and women across both party lines. I distinctly remember applying for an internship with Senator McCain, Senator Obama, Senator Clinton. I basically went down the gamut because they have an internship program on the Hill and that I have to just try and somehow some way they, you know, saw my resume. I remember doing an interview, I think, while walking down UCLA Bruin walk one day as well.
Devna Shukla (20:42):
And what was really cool is that they had a press internship role. And so I didn’t really work a lot with the interns who were working on legislative policy, but I was working with the press team, which is really amazing to see how, again, how do they respond and think about you know, journalism and questions from the press and, and dealing with the center’s schedule at that time. And so the story about the stories that really, you got to apply for these things, again, you, you might have dreams and, and all that, but I’m often shocked when people tell me what their dream is or what they want to do. They’ve never actually looked into either an application or requirements or what you have to do to serve, get in front of the cycle to be given some of these opportunities, especially in the summer. And so there’s no, no secret sauce. It’s just a matter of, I just applied and they said, yes. And I was really grateful for the opportunity.
Vincent Phamvan (21:26):
Yeah. It sounds like a big takeaway. There is you just gotta take the first step
Devna Shukla (21:29):
You do, you really do because especially like timing wise, if you want to do something, you know, a year from now or during a certain like, you know, application cycle, you gotta just be prepared and know what you, what do you need? Do you need letters of rec? Do you need a really strong resume and then get yourself ready and meet those deadlines because you cannot be selected for anything. I feel like nowadays almost you’re literally in the sandbox, like in the game, you have to be in the game and be a willing participant. At the same time
Vincent Phamvan (21:57):
You went back to CNN, you spent a few year, a few more years at CNN after that.
Devna Shukla (22:02):
Yes. Then I actually graduated from UCLA and within five days was living in New York city. It’s a city I had never thought about living in and started the production assistant for Anderson Cooper three 60 which is another really incredible opportunity. And frankly, people asked me, why did you choose journalism over being in politics or in PR? And I think another title of my, my second Memorial will be the chips will fall where they will. I applied for jobs that sort of all sorts of places and God, this opportunity at CNN. I think also largely because I had a proven track record as an intern for, at that point, I guess like probably over four years and had people vouch for me as well and have the referrals and recommendations and references. And so I started this incredible career in New York freshman undergrad as a, as a journalist and as a production assistant and ultimately became a producer on his program as well.
Vincent Phamvan (22:51):
I think for anybody who’s listening to this, you know, one thing that really stands out is if you were just applying for that role out of college, you’re literally up against a candidate who has done multiple internships and has multiple years of relationships.
Devna Shukla (23:05):
It’s hard because, you know, especially when I’m talking to young graduates from college, you can’t go back and change things. But I also know a lot of people who have interned during the school year and intern in different places and maybe have local dues internships. I was different though. I was not strategic enough to think, okay, I’ve been turned in DC. I should go to New York and work for Anderson Cooper. I thought that’s, that’s that’s for those people who have their life more together than me or her smarter than me, or more bold than me, or maybe I’ve gone to journalism school. And here, here I was at UCLA that has no formal journalism program as a policy major. And I think it was a, it is a mixture of, I applied for this role. It happened to open up right graduation, which was wonderful timing for me.
Devna Shukla (23:47):
Cause I got to have zeros zero summer break and just jumped right into living in New York city after living in LA. And I think it was though, I was, I was able to lean on those people who saw me every day, you know, at CNN, you really are entrenched in the news of the day and you see people’s colorful personalities and how they handle pressure. And so at least I was able to say, I applied for this role as if you really want to know who I am. You can call this person in your organization and for better or worse, they’ll tell you. And so it’s a lot of the opportunity of what’s available on the job or at that time, you know, I didn’t have this locked in my whole senior year. I had no idea where it was going to go, what is going to do, but it was about using these internship experiences to build relationships that would, I frankly have still followed me today. There are people who I still talk to all the time from CNN at all levels. And even to my mentors are from when I interned there. And so those are some meaningful relationships that I invest in at the time and still invested.
Vincent Phamvan (24:41):
It’s a lot of the statistics that are out there 50 to 70% of roles are secured with some type of relationship in the mix where it’s not entirely blind. If you’re on the other side of the table as an employer, and you’re looking, try to get the best candidate that you possibly can, you know, you just set it yourself. You know, here’s this, here’s somebody else in the organization that can vouch for me and can vouch for the fact that I’m a hard worker. It can vouch for the fact that I can learn quickly. And a lot of the times, those are the things that make a difference. When you’re looking at a lot of resumes that look similar, went to the same school, got the same degree, took the same classes, volunteered was a leader in some type of student organization. You know, this is really what’s going to stand out and really make a difference better. And you pivoted though, you went out of, you went out of journalism.
Leaving Journalism at Being at the Top and Winning an Emmy and Moving to Big Tech
Devna Shukla (25:25):
I did. So I went out of journalism. I, I say that the pinnacle of my journalism career I could’ve never imagined I would become a producer for CNN. You know, I was always a production assistant and associate producer then became a producer. My team and I worked on a project. I won an Emmy award as well. And I did, sir. Thank you so much. I did serve what I thought was normal for anyone to do, which was I decided to leave journalism and start a new path. I just felt like I had the support and blessing everyone on that, on that show staff who I’m very close to still to this day. And I just thought there’s something more for me. I’m so young. And I’ve been here at CNN for some time and I still want to see what it was like to work in surveyed normal job.
Devna Shukla (26:04):
I found a job that was not necessarily a normal quote, unquote nine to five and actually went to work for cancer hospital. So part of my story that a lot of people don’t talk about our sort of gloss over is that I actually went to Sloan Kettering cancer center in New York city. They have a group called cycle for survival, and they were looking for someone who could build relationships with fortune 500 companies to help us support rare cancer research, a hundred percent of all proceeds at cycle for survival. You know, generates goes to rare cancer research, then six months and I thought, Hmm, this is the way that I can use my job at CNN. And the skills that I had about relationship building booking interviews, and traveling around the country with Anderson. I can use that in a more corporate and found this really interesting group that sort of operates within a startup within a very old cancer hospital and start a new adventure there.
Devna Shukla (26:49):
And it is a really interesting pivot for me because sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had stayed at CNN, but I also know that that’s sort of another parallel life that there’s another dev, not living, you know, who might’ve stayed at CNN, but what school is that no matter what I do, I always have the backing of that family at CNN. They’re always super supportive and encouraging and are excited that I’m able to pivot and change careers and directions and certifying what is my, you know, calling, you know, each and every time
Vincent Phamvan (27:15):
After that to other large organizations that you’ve spent some time with Amazon and your current adventures at Microsoft, you know, tell me about what it’s like been been like working in tech.
Devna Shukla (27:27):
Sure. So the, the in between, between texts, I know it’s a Harbor it’s frankly, it felt like a harder pivot for me to make was I had always wanted to be in big tech once I was working into the corporate world, if you will, and actually went to business school, I thought the best way that I could position myself for a job in a big tech company as, or be on the front lines of innovation was to go to school because news was very reactive, right? Something happens in the world and I would have to go as a booking producer and jump on a plane and go there and respond to what had happened in the world. And I started wondering what it would be like to be in a company where you’re setting the headlines, you’re setting sort of the path forward for companies across different industries.
Devna Shukla (28:04):
And so I went to business school and so as part of business school, it was another opportunity to get an internship. And I was pretty fortunate to get an internship at Amazon for the summer as a product manager. So they, you know, Amazon is an interesting company for many reasons, but one of which is it because they believe that anyone can do any job within their organization. So they took a journalist and said, you can be a product manager. So like go and do it for the summer. Which is a really interesting experience from there. I learned the power of big tech and how awesome. And it was, I mean, I met really great people there really enjoyed running around, you know, their campus in South Lake union of Seattle and, and being exposed to people and people were super helpful. But I also learned the importance of culture for me.
Devna Shukla (28:44):
My experience at Amazon was frankly fine, but I had, I saw some people who had really difficult internships, other people who really shined and were really supported. And I thought, well, what’s it like to be at Microsoft where there’s more of a culture of you know, rear development and inclusion and being a company that leads with values. And so I was able to go back my second year of business school and leverage that opportunity at Amazon and recruit for a job at Microsoft. Being in big tech is pretty interesting, but also not as flashy and glitzy and glamorous as a lot of people think I’m super grateful to be at a company like Microsoft that has a long standing history of you know, innovation, but also not at the detriment of anyone else. We really believe that a rising tide lifts all boats and our company slogan is something like, you know, empowering each embryo each and every person on the planet to achieve more.
Devna Shukla (29:34):
And I see that. I mean, I see that every day where I work with business development now working on deals in search ads of news. And I see that oftentimes we won’t do a deal because it might hurt another company. Or we might say no to a deal because it’s not fair. It’s not a win win for everybody. And on the other hand, we’re really amplifying and supporting people with our products, our platforms too. So big tech has been really interesting because the most quote unquote corporate job I’ve had, but it also is really cool to be part of a company that is setting the stage in terms of innovation technology and frankly values and corporate responsibility.
Vincent Phamvan (30:06):
Tell me about what goes into your applications typically,
What Stands Out About Devna’s Job Applications
Devna Shukla (30:09):
You know, I’m someone who, I don’t even think I had that great even of a cover letter system. I have a lot of friends who work really hard in their cover letters. I think if anything, my resume has come to a point where it’s strong enough to tell the story about who I am, what I can do. And I think the law that is quantifying, what is your impact? Especially in journalism, I spent a lot of time working on my resume, especially when applying to business school, because a lot of people think that working at CNN is very cool and very flashy, but they don’t actually understand what you did and they don’t understand what sort of impact you had. And so you have to work really hard as a journalist to explain what are your relevant skills that can basically translate, you know, from job to job from organization to organization.
Devna Shukla (30:47):
So I think for me, at least my story was tight. I can tell you why I’ve sort of went to each center for job, even though they feel sort of different. I can tell you the thread that basically loops them all together. And I think that people see when they interviewed me is that I’m super passionate. Someone wants told me in a certain career office and every job you apply and interview for is someone else’s dream job. So they can tell if you’re basically going in there because it’s like your second or third option. And I’ve really tried to be mindful about that. But every opportunity you get, you have to obviously prepare and get your story ready and your company research, but your heart is not into it. Even though you need a job, you’re still not. You’re still probably won’t move to a different city or different country for the opportunity because you don’t actually really want it. You’re just doing it because you feel like you need that job. You need it on a timeline. You need it because both are tight. And so for me, it’s always come from a place of general, genuine enthusiasm, authentic connection with the companies, and also being able to articulate my story.
Vincent Phamvan (31:39):
Tell me about some of the research that you’ve done to narrow down to the opportunities that you, that you’re really passionate about.
Connecting the Dots of What You Want to Do and What You Can Do
Devna Shukla (31:46):
I think on a company level, it’s I read the news, I read the news and I read to who are the big companies in every field who are the movers and shakers. Cause to me that’s super important, right? For a company who’s in the headlines, making moves in positive ways. That’s super important. I think you also have to realize what are the skills that you have that are like hard skills right now, and what are the skills you want to earn that are stretch skills? So for example, for me, I knew that anyone who looked at my resume would see, okay, she could basically talk to people and connect with them and close a deal and closing a deal at CNN meant getting through on our program at MSK, the cancer hospital. It meant having them sign on as a corporate sponsor. And so I looked for jobs that align with those core skillsets, but they have different titles
Devna Shukla (32:28):
So for example, you know, business development, Microsoft is less is zero sales and more about strategic partnerships. And so I looked at sort of how I could connect the dots in that way. I also looked into product or other basically, you know, roles. We have to tell a story. And so I think that you have to basically, instead of being like, I want to be a product manager of big tech, understand that every company has a different title for that, that role product manager based on who they are and what they’re doing and where you are in the system, whether you’re an engineer out as well. So a lot of it comes down to what you actually want to do, but also what could you do on day one? Cause some, some companies might be more forgiving about having a ramp up and other companies want you to be able to do the job a year ago.
Vincent Phamvan (33:08):
Hmm. That makes a lot of sense in terms of thinking about the core competency behind the job, and then also mixing that with what you enjoy doing. Cause if there’s not a crossover there, you’re going to end up in that scenario that you described earlier, where you’re doing a job, just because you have to do the job, but it’s not actually something that you’re passionate about and go to good at and enjoy doing, which is kind of where that intersection is. Like, what are the mistakes that you’ve made along the way? You know, you’ve had this career that from the surface looks great, you’ve had a few changes in the career, but you know, where are the times that have really defined your grit and the character that has allowed you to be able to do this?
Devna Shukla (33:51):
Gosh, I mean, there are so many, you know, challenging days that I, I feel like you also don’t think about because you just think about the milestones or you think about the things you could’ve done better. I’ve been, when I think about how I applied to Microsoft, that referral, it seems so like sloppy, to be honest, because I’m just like, that could have been the easiest way to maybe accelerate the process. But I’m super proud of my career because I’ve done things sort of intentionally unintentional. So I have wanted to do things in one to do, wanting to change and want to grow. But honestly I think a lot of it’s just looking inside of yourself and thinking about it. I mean, leaving CNN was a huge risk and people, some of my closest friends joke, we thought you’d be a lifer there that you would basically retire from here, but it was a risk and it was a risk I was willing to take.
Devna Shukla (34:30):
Cause I always sort of think that you could go back. I even some days they’ll still think now, you know, if I don’t find what I’m looking for and I really feel like this itch is within me to be a journalist again, I could go back in a different way and I could go back to a different organization or different role. I think mistakes are being super hard on myself. I think I put super hard you know, timelines on myself too about, you know, graduating with a job and all these things that, again, I don’t want to be dismissive about how important it is to be able to pay your bills and, and, you know, basically be independent on your own and, and support your family if you do as well. But I think for me, you know, I graduated from stern and gave the commencement speech.
Devna Shukla (35:07):
I’m have a job. And I think a lot of people looked at me and may have thought like, why, why is she speaking? She doesn’t even have a job as to know what she’s doing yet. But luckily at that school, especially people are understanding you’re not defined by your role because your role can change in an instant and your will can change. They get laid off or you leave or you want to go back to school. And so you can’t define yourself by the company and the role that you have about the person that you are. And so I was super proud to give that speech at commencement and to talk to my fellow classmates and also know that like my story work out to maybe work out eight months before like a lot of other people did, but maybe it’ll work out earlier than I thought too.
Devna Shukla (35:42):
So I think a lot of the mistakes I had were anytime I thought that I should do something different. That was not in my path. I remember one day where I was like, I should go into consulting and my friend was like, you are not going to consultant. You do not like travel like that anymore. It’s not for you. Like the more energy you spend on trying to convince yourself to do things that are relatively mainstream at any group is more time that you’re taking away, that you could be connecting with people and working on yourself and work on your own career path. And so I’m sure I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way. But I’m super proud of the place that I’ve worked at because they were valued organizations. You know, that, that provided me with a lot of opportunities and resources. And I hope that I’ve also made them a little bit better, you know, by my time being there as well.
Vincent Phamvan (36:20):
Is there a particular time where you made a mistake that stands out to you?
The Mistake that Stands Out to Devna and How She Bounced Back
Devna Shukla (36:25):
I was a diff I also, I guess I’ve asked, well, how do you define a mistake? Is it like that you just did something that didn’t turn out well. Was it like a success metric that you didn’t reach? You know I think once one story that stands out to me was as a breaking news producer at CNN, my job was to travel around the country and get people to interview on our program. And I was supposed to basically book this one person actually in the Northwest, which is funny as the first time I had ever been to the Northwest. And, you know, I booked relationship to this person online. You know, I connected with her over text messages and phone calls and I thought it was going to go really loud. I thought this could be the most defining, you know, booking of my whole career.
Devna Shukla (37:01):
If I get this person over anybody else, you know, this’ll put me on the map. You know, I was still pretty young and pretty new in my career will be amazing. And I still, I still don’t know what happened to this interview, but I was outside this person’s house, you know, as you do when you’re an interview producer. And I think I had gone to like get her coffee. I think I’d said, you all need some coffee cause you can’t leave. Cause you’re so, you know, people are recognizing you everywhere and you don’t feel safe. I’ll get you some coffee. And I came back and my colleague texted me, Hey, I just saw online that she’s at the airport right now with another producer, from another network. And I thought, Oh my God, if she’s in an airport with somebody else, I mean that I’ve lost her and I’m probably not going to get her back.
Devna Shukla (37:38):
And that moment I felt so defeated that I had to travel across the penetrate and I had gone there and I thought things were going super well. And I had given no one, a reason to doubt me. And I did the only thing that I thought I could in the moment, which is I called my executive producer. I called him and I said, she’s not here anymore. She’s on a plane to New York and I lost it. I lost the interview and I want you to hear from me and not from anybody else. And he said, okay, so what are you going to do about now? And I said, I’m going to go to my hotel, grabbed my suitcase. I’m going to get into play plane. I’m going to follow her back to New York. And so what I like about that story, most of all is that I think it shows my conviction and my values.
Devna Shukla (38:13):
That there’s a lot of opportunity that you could just squirt behind your personal accountability. You could try to make yourself look better. But at this moment I literally just said, I messed up and I still don’t know what’s cause I left for coffee. Was it because I didn’t do a good enough job for what it was? I don’t know. But I do know my followup. And what happened then is I flew back to New York and I spent the next 24 hours following this person around New York city and trying to convince her that are the opportunity to interview with us. It’s still there. And I remember I didn’t sleep at all and I worked really hard, but I also do that by the time I got back to my apartment and all of a sudden done and I had lost her for good that no one could ever say that I mess up and I didn’t work hard enough to fix it.
Devna Shukla (38:49):
That I was accountable. I was responsible. I was very clear that I was one who was my job to get her and I didn’t get her, but I also did everything I could to follow up and try to make it better. And I couldn’t. And so I think I’m, it was a mistake perhaps in the way I went around or maybe someone else in my and my team could have done a better job and gotten some incredible interview you know, for CNN, but especially on my show team, they said that the person you are then the day is more important than the accolades that you have and the way that you get to successful milestones and you know, highlights in your career, the way you get there is really important too. And so I’m really proud of at least I don’t cut corners and I can be super, super I’m accountable on what my strengths and weaknesses are and just fess up on a good or bad day that I’ve made a mistake and I’ll do better moving forward.
Vincent Phamvan (39:35):
What’s incredible at what stands out to me in the story is, you know, there’s always the cliche interview question of like, you know, tell me about a mistake and yet just hearing like the passion in your voice of how you felt when you knew that that happened, but also your conviction to own it and make it right. Whether that pans out or not are the characteristics of good teammates. And when you think about like the coworkers that you want to surround yourself with, like those are the people that you want on your team with you, you know, I think through like what you said and the storytelling like this is what has likely made your interviews go so well, is your, is exactly this exactly what you’re saying, which is the story telling is a strength, you know, as you tell these stories, or as you think through like these moments in your career, what advice would you give to somebody else who’s thinking, you know, I just don’t have experiences like that.
Being the Realist Person in the Room, Always
Devna Shukla (40:42):
I’m totally mindful that my experiences are so different and unique that by nature, they’re probably a little bit, or a lot of it more interesting in an interview loop, but I think it’s because it takes about probably three minutes for me to be like, hi, how are you? Nice to meet you. So great, thanks for the opportunity to then just like be myself. And it’s a, probably a fault in many ways too, where I’m too authentic and maybe too of myself. But I also think that I would rather go into a conversation and have someone say she was like the realest person I am at all day. She might not be for me and not be my cup of tea, but she at least was authentic in herself and was you know, authentically imperfect too. I probably maybe stumbled upon a few words or maybe like tripped on a cup with a cup of coffee as well.
Devna Shukla (41:25):
But I think for me, it’s, it’s thinking about how can you be yourself in these interviews, but I really do believe the interviews are two way street. It’s your way to also about a company and a person as much as you can in that window too. And so don’t be afraid to talk about yourself or talk about who you are and what’s made you this way too. And to show and highlight things that make you proud of yourself. Cause at least then you can leave an interview saying I was myself and I did the best that I possibly could in that moment, given the circumstances. And hopefully Lisa, even if you didn’t get the job or the role or the internship, you least had someone who can respect you because you were authentic. Cause pretty, I don’t know if it’s easy to be fake or it’s super hard to be fake, but I just think that you are so we’re so used to being a buttoned up version of ourselves and you know, social media and everything.
Devna Shukla (42:08):
It’s the highlight reel, right? My resume is a highlight reel of what I’ve done. But if you ask me about a mistake that I’ve made, I can still take myself to that place where I was in my car, calling my executive producer saying I didn’t get it. And that is so visceral and so real. And I hope that someone will also then think to your point, you know, if she ever messes up here, I will get a similar phone call. You know, like my manager, my director now would get a similar email phone call that said, I didn’t do what I, what I could’ve done, but I’m, I’m owning it now. And I want you to hear it from me than someone else.
Vincent Phamvan (42:38):
Yeah. Cause there’s times in those interactions, when you’re having a conversation with somebody else where they’re saying things and they’re like the right things, but then you don’t actually feel like you get to know who the person is. It seems like a very transactional conversation versus one where you’re actually getting to know somebody. And I think in the way that you told that story, you, you really got a sense for your character, which is oftentimes hard to do in two to three minutes. When you’re telling your story and working our listeners connect with you online,
Devna Shukla (43:09):
You’re welcome to find me on LinkedIn. My name is Devena, it’s pretty easy to find, but send me a message on LinkedIn. I’d love to learn not only what you want to learn more about me, but how I can learn something from you and how it can help you as well. And that’s pretty much predominant way. Find me on LinkedIn. I’m happy to chat, happy to help people and also happy to share where I don’t know and bred brainstorm too, but I know that everyone’s journey is really different, but it’s exciting one. So I hope that people find sort of the enthusiasm and their own journey as well. I’m so online. That’s for sure.
Vincent Phamvan (43:38):
Devin, thank you so much for joining us on this episode today.
Devna Shukla (43:41):
Thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s really amazing to reflect that into my own life models of who I am. So I really appreciate that opportunity.
Vincent Phamvan (43:48):
Absolutely. Always nice to catch up with another burden.
Devna Shukla (43:50):
Vincent Phamvan (43:53):
Thank you so much for listening to the show this week. If this podcast was helpful to you, the best thing that you can do to support is please consider rating and reviewing the show on Apple podcasts. This helps us help more people just like you move towards the life that they desire. Visit our podcasts on Apple podcasts, then score to the bottom, tap the rate with five stars and just leave a sentence or two about what you loved most about this episode. You can subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts, or you can write at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m Vincent Phamvan, and you’ve been listening to how I got here.