Podcast

Episode: 16 |
Julie Gupta:
Pro Bono Consulting:
Episode
16

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

julie-gupta-bain-alum-new-york-ny

Julie Gupta

Pro Bono Consulting

Show Notes

Our guest today is my friend Julie Gupta, who has a Masters in Material Engineering from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Julie started her consulting career at Bain & Company, and after a series of roles in the tech industry she started her own practice, Gupta Consulting, in 2006 – so she has been a successful independent professional for 11 years.

In our discussion, we focus on Julie’s pro bono work, which I find incredibly inspiring. She has done pro bono consulting work at fantastic organizations that include Guide Dogs for the Blind, NPR, the Girl Scouts of America, Boston Public Schools, City Year, the Humane Society, among others.

Julie shares one question that has shaped her thinking and her life: “Are you optimizing your resume or your eulogy?”

We talk about how as an independent professional to find those pro bono opportunities, and some best practices to make sure that you have impact and that your time is well spent.  We also talk about the unanticipated benefits – such as relationships that have led to work with for-profit clients, and skills she has learned.

Read more about Julie’s practice at www.ConsultGupta.com.

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Hey there podcast listeners, welcome to Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top-tier independent management consultants. I’m your host, Will Bachman. 

Julie Gupta: You know, people get wrapped up in low-level Maslow’s hierarchy of needs you know. And we as consultants are able to do these things and make these differences.

Will Bachman: Our guest today is my friend Julie Gupta who has a masters in material engineering from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business school. Julie started her consulting career at Bain & Company and after a series of roles in the tech industry, including AOL, she started her own practice, Gupta Consulting in 2006. So she has been a successful, independent professional for 11 years. 

In our discussion we focus on Julie’s pro bono work, which I find incredibly inspiring. She’s done pro bono consulting work at fantastic organizations that include Guide Dog’s for the Blind, NPR, The Girl Scouts of America, Boston Public Schools, City Year at the Humane Society, among many others. She also does pro bono work with small businesses that couldn’t normally afford her services. Julie shares with me one question that is shaped her thinking and her life, are you optimizing your resume or your eulogy? And she lives her life optimizing her eulogy. 

We talk about how as an independent professional how you can find those pro bono opportunities and some best practices to make sure that you have impact and that your time is well spent. We also talk about the unanticipated benefits such as relationships that have led to work with for profit clients, and skills that she’s learned.[00:01:58] Can read more about Julie at her firm’s website, consultgupta.com. That’s consult G-U-P-T-A dot com. I had a great time in this conversation and came away inspired and I hope you do, as well. Julie, thank you so much for being on the show. I’m really excited for our conversation. 

Julie Gupta: Oh. Me, too, Will. Thanks for your time.

Will Bachman: Now, Julie, we’ve known each other for a number of years and I have been particularly inspired by the work that you’ve done pro bono and the volunteer consulting that you’ve done, alongside your paid work. I was really hoping to spend some time on that on the show, today.

Julie Gupta: Absolutely. Happy to talk about it. 

Will Bachman: So, let’s plan to get into that. Maybe first, can you give us just a minute overview of your background and where you were trained and the scope of your paid practice? The types of industries you worked on and then we can get into the pro bono type stuff.

Julie Gupta: Sure. Absolutely. So, I actually am fairly atypical from long ago, as a consultant. I have a bachelor’s and masters in engineering and an MBA, which that is much more typical. I cut my teeth at Bain, so your classic consulting background. Then, went off into product management and some marketing at technology firms in the heyday of Silicon Valley. 

What I realized relatively quickly is that the world of W-2 employment and working in the same area for a long periods of time wasn’t my strength. My strength is diversity in projects and transferring that information to other clients and working on high-value-added projects. It’s funny because someone once commented on being an independent consultant. He also was an independent consultant. He said, “You know the great part about independent consulting is that you never know what your day is going to look like or your next month is going to look like.” 

Meaning that if you go and become an employee at a company, you know in two-and-a-half years you’re going to be promoted to Y and two-and-a-half more years you’re going to be promoted to Z. With independent consulting, you never know what your next project could be. That kind of uncertainty is a bit of jazz, so the next project can be the most interesting thing on the planet and can really add to your existence and add to your experience. Oftentimes, that doesn’t happen as an employee. So, 11 years ago, before it became fashionable to be an independent consultant, I became one, falling into it, to some degree. [00:04:53]

Since then I’ve had tons of clients in numerous industries and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’d say in terms of my … the kind of work that I do is all over the map. I do strategy. I do innovation and facilitating innovation. Project, running projects that often involve strategy. Business planning. In terms of industries, technology, [Farma 00:05:23], finance, non-profits, consumer retail. So in 11 years I’d say I span the gambit. And oftentimes, word of mouth is how I get clients. 

Usually as often as typical you get brought in for one project and what you quickly realize is the impact you can make across a lot of different areas. So I’ve been very fortunate to be able to look at a lot of different parts of businesses when I come in. Again, mainly because the initial part I come in to do may be broken, but there may be many others, many other areas that may be broken as well.

Will Bachman: So it really does make life a bit of an adventure. To you point about not knowing what the next month will bring. And sometimes that can be a little bit stressful. But sometimes it also is incredibly exciting having that variety. And it sounds like you’ve worked really across a bunch of different industries and it’s tough to be a generalist like that at a large firm. But I think that’s one of the things that attracts some people to the life of an independent professional. 

Let’s talk a little bit about the pro bono work that you do. I know this is a really important part of your life and your practice. Talk to me a little bit about the types of work that you do, and what motivates you to do that.

Julie Gupta: You know, it’s an interesting question. I would say before I could articulate why I do it, I was doing pro bono work. So way back when, I’d say even before college, goodness, which because I’m so young, is merely a couple years ago. I was doing pro bono work. And it fed me. It fed my soul. It was important to me. And then at Bain I did pro bono work. Post Bain I did pro bono work. 

And I didn’t really … I would say I did it because I liked it, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why. And then I heard this talk later, where the gentleman who’s giving the talk basically said “Are you optimizing your resume [inaudible 00:07:28] in life.” And it really struck me. At first, I though neither. And then that kinda bothered me. But I thought, the reason we’re on this planet is that question that hits all of us at some point. Though I love my work, I truly do, and I’m thrilled every day to do it. I think there is this larger reality that we’re in which is, how do we want to be remembered. 

There are lots of people that can be remembered in lots of different ways because of certain skills they bring to bear. And not that I don’t have other skills, but my strongest skills are certainly my business skills. And so it became quickly apparent to me that marrying the fact that I needed to do this pro bono work, with that comment, sort of solidified it for me. That the reason I’m doing it is really to make my mark and make the world a better place.

And so, I would say my pro bono work falls into two categories. One is the work that I do for non-profits specifically one that wouldn’t be able to afford the services of an independent consultant. And the other type is for people that have small businesses that also wouldn’t be able to afford the skills of an independent consultant, but need that help and don’t know people to grow. So they’re both pro bono. One is for non profits and one is just to help your fellow man. 

In the area, I have done work for Guide Dogs for the Blind, for NPR, for the Girl Scouts, for Boston Public Schools, for City Year. Boy the list is long. For Washington Opera, for Humane Society. So, it’s quite vast. And I’ve also joined boards of non profits. Not paid. Actually I’d say I pay more in, in areas that are of interest to me. Which happen to be around animals, and children and education. That focus has been really important to me in terms of the types of projects. 

Again, it depends a little bit on the way I get the projects. Sometimes organizations have a question they want to answer. A funny one is for the Girl Scouts. They wanted to know why their cookie sales were down. They just didn’t understand it. So it was a lot of data analysis and market research. Some understanding of why Susie’s mom doesn’t want to send her out in the snow to sell cookies, which is a pretty obvious answer. 

Some of the work also is saying, well let’s look at your business, quote unquote, business. Non profits are still a business. And what effects your businesses the most. So for example, for an organization like Guide Dogs for the Blind, where is most of your cost? And it’s in training the dog.

Will Bachman: Let me ask about that one. So for independent professionals, let’s break this into steps. So maybe the first step is, how did these conversations start. So for an independent professional who’s listening, who’d like to do some pro bono work as part of his or her practice. Maybe if you could go through some of the organizations that you mention and talk about how did it happen. Did you approach them and just call them up randomly? Or get introduced by someone. Or did they contact you? How did the conversation start?

Julie Gupta: I would say there’re two ways the conversation can start. One is the non profit is looking for help and they have questions they want to answer. And the way you source those … I have either sourced them through my alma maters that already do pro bono work. So that would be either Harvard or MIT. And then typically I have friends that are involved. Either they work at non profits, and these are lifelong friends, and in the case of Guide Dogs for the Blind I have a friend that was working there. I mentioned that I love animals and I would love to be helpful. So the conversation, either they’re sponsoring projects and they go to resources that you can tap into. Or, and I think the more interestingly for me, is there’s certain topics that I care about. And I go to organizations that deal in those areas. I reach out to them and say “Here’s my background. I’d love to be helpful. And I have X number of hours a week. Do you have time to talk?”

And usually you’ll get time with the executive director or CEO who’ll sit down with you where they have this free resource and are typically thrilled.

Will Bachman: And do you just approach the executive director of the Girl Scouts USA, or you get introduce through someone, or … interested in the real tactical piece of how you went about doing that.

Julie Gupta: Sure. I think it is varied. Again I have been introduced. If I know of a couple of organizations, I see who I know on LinkedIn and get an introduction. If I don’t, then I do a cold call to the executive director. Write a letter. Either I call or I email. Give them my resume. Give them some background. In this world now we have one to two degrees of separation. Say at most. Especially for someone who’s quite senior at a non profit. So I think it’s relatively easy to get an introduction.

But again, in these situation, I sometimes do a bit of homework too and say “I’ve noticed that you only put through 380 dogs a year and you have a $20 million endowment. Tell me more about that.” So you know what I mean? You can start asking, as a business person, you can look at numbers pretty quickly and start seeing where there’s opportunity to have a conversation. And of course, EDs especially love from people that love what they do and want to get involved. Most non profits have volunteer arms. Where typically talking at a different level of volunteer, meaning it’s not just walking dogs or handing out programs at the theater. This is a much more strategic and detailed conversation, often at the board level.

And the other piece that I wanted to mention is, for one non profit, I sat on the board for 13 years. It was a non profit that was just starting. So they had a dollar and a dream, so to speak. And I was introduced through one of the board members. Previous board member who was a friend of a friend. So a lot of it was a little roundabout. But I think independents, looking for the opportunities, I would say again, find areas that you’re passionate about then find non profits that are in those areas. Do a bit of homework and access where problems could be. Find someone who can make an introduction for you. And if not then write a thoughtful letter and send it in, and land or reach out. And reach out to several that are in an area of interest and see what bites you get.

I definitely recommended this to many people and they’ve done it and gotten all kinds of great responses. The other thing I also want to mention about that is, the way it comes back to you is in multiple ways. So it’s not just that I do this interesting work that I care about and that optimizes my eulogy, so to speak. But what’s happened is, it feeds on itself.

So for example, when I did a project for one organization, I ended up liking it so much I joined the board. The funny story is, it was a really hot day one day when I first had joined the board and I had my dog with me. And, I wasn’t gonna leave her in the car so I took her in to the board meeting. And one of the board members who was sitting there was a huge dog fanatic. And he also sat on the board of the American Red Cross from years ago. And it was also a consultant who sells to a buncha different organizations. So we became lifelong friends. And out of that relationship, beyond getting a great friend, I got three consulting projects.

People say do things that you love, because you’ll meet people that you like and you never know what will happen out of it. So some things I never have anticipated, which is some paid consulting, interesting paid consulting work, coming out of my non profit endeavors. And it just was very kismet. So I think looking for those, not necessarily seeking those opportunities, but they come as you’re doing things that you love.

Will Bachman: That’s a really inspiring story and I gotta just jump in to say that an earlier episode of Unleashed, I spoke with Srikumar Rao who created Creativity and Personal Mastery. And he talked about an exercise he does with his students in this course that he developed of … it’s sort of a reverse networking where he talks about reaching out to find someone that you want to help. And offering just something very specific to help that person.

And like what you’ve done is just a beautiful case study of how that can work in practice. That’s a great story.

I wanted to ask you about lessons learned that you have about how to maximize the impact that you can have as an independent professional. In a lot of cases people kinda value something by what they pay for it. If you’re offering free advice, people might kinda value that at exactly what they paid for it. Or might not act on it.

So what are the tips, if you’re doing pro bono work, to get people to treat it as seriously as if they were paying for that support?

Julie Gupta: That’s a really good question. I haven’t had that come up that much, but I do think formalizing the process is important. Just as you would a paid consulting project, you’d have a timeline, deliverables, people that you have to present to, decisions that need to be made. Formalizing that relationship, whether it’s in a contract or in a timeline, in reviews, in specifying, presenting to the board, if that makes sense. Those are all very important steps. So that it is … it feels more formal. 

I think it hasn’t been as much of an issue, just honestly, because when you’re going … Even when I’m going in, I’m not going in in jeans and a t-shirt. I’m going in, in business wear. It is informal, but it’s also formal in that I’m spending exactly this amount of time. I’m asking for specific meetings. If I need data, I’m expecting responses. So I think as much as you can formalize the informal, so to speak, I think that is really helpful.

Will Bachman: So that’s a really key point. Could you just elaborate on that a little bit more. It sounds like you formalize these with an actual written proposal. While the fee is zero, you’re doing a proposal. You’re going through a context discussion. You’re treating it like a real consulting project. 

Julie Gupta: Absolutely. Statement of Work. That’s right. There’s a contract, there’s a statement of work. This is the data I need. This is when I need it by to be able to finish a project. I have interim reviews, interim deliverables. If there are challenges, I do bring them up. So I do treat it very much like a consulting project.I

If there is a shift in timeline, I will bring that up as well. And I have to say there has been times where I have started a project and they haven’t been able to meet my data needs. Or people are very laissez faire about the work. And I fire the client, so to speak. I say, “You know what? It doesn’t feel like this work, as important as it may be, you guys just don’t have the time for it right now.” 

And it’s rare. I’d say in my 20 years of work, I have maybe done it twice. But I’ve had to do it. Either people are not taking it seriously or it’s just not having the impact that I care about. The other thing on impact, it’s a very good question. Because sometimes the work is for one organization but it can benefit many, I ask if the work at least, not the actual data, but if the results or the analysis can be sanitized to share with others. 

For example, if we’re doing analysis of why cookie sales went down, sending the process that we went through, or the results of the analysis and the takeaways. Whether it’s formalizing training for 6 year olds, or changing what they win instead of a bandana. Whatever it may be. Can that be shared across multiple organizations.

Will Bachman: The bandana incentive plan right?

Julie Gupta: And especially because a lot of non profit organizations if you think about it especially the ones where you make, I’d say it’s not always true, but sometimes the ones where you make more impact tend to be more community based versus national. So that it makes sense if you move from community to community and transfer the information. It becomes much more useful. That has been useful to do as well, to transfer that around.

Will Bachman: You mentioned Girl Scouts and the study on why cookie sales have gone down, which sounds like a classic case interview question. I can imagine Mackenzie or Bain you know, asking that of NBA students. To the extent that it’s nonconfidential, could you quickly sketch some of the other projects you’ve done for Guide Dogs for the Blind or for Boston Public Schools, and for some of the other institutions that you mentioned.

I think hearing those tactical case examples of what you’ve done is really helpful to show people what’s really possible.

Julie Gupta: Sure, absolutely. So the Girl Scouts one was why cookie sales went down. For New England Science and Sailing School, it was looking at branding and rebranding. They had a very certain type of brand, and they brought in certain types of students. But what could a branding strategy look like and what would their message be? For the board I sat on, which was earlier, it was a project. It was really figuring out how to start the organization. How to build up their board, which was quite interesting. 

For Guide Dogs for the Blind it was looking at why some dogs make it through training to become guide dogs, and why others don’t make it through and they get reclassified. They have new jobs, which is just being a dog. What happens is that nature or nurture, which is interesting.

For the Washington Opera, it was putting together a three to five year strategic plan. Those are just some examples. For the Circus Center, it was like a feeder to Cirque du Soleil and other organizations. For Circus Center in California, it was coming up with a curriculum for them that was more compelling than the one they had.

So it really varies. I would say the projects are all over the map.

Will Bachman: I gotta ask. What about NPR?

Julie Gupta: NPR, that was looking at a way to come up with a business plan for … business model for offering public and private distribution of nonprofit media throughout the United States. So what would a business plan look like? Who would need to make money? How would they make money? So if MIT had a bunch of content, rather than just have MIT put their stuff on the MIT website, we create a clearing house. How would different organizations have to extract rent to create some sort of compelling business case to deposit their content into a central resource.

Will Bachman: That’s fascinating. As you talk through these examples, they’re really quite diverse in terms of the functional activities and could you talk about how has that impacted you in terms of your professional development? You mention it’s given you some great introductions and built some fantastic relationships. On terms of the skills side, has it taught you new skills working on these projects then that maybe you’ve brought into your paid work?

Julie Gupta: Yeah. That’s a great point Will. It definitely has. I know people are also interested in how do they expand their skillset as we are busy most of the day and the world is migrating and shifting as we work. Our teeth were cut, often long ago. I think this is a great way to do that. 

These organizations are so grateful for help. And we bring so much to bear that if it takes us a little longer because we are learning a new skill, or we’re trying out some new paths that we’ve never tried out in the past. They are willing and grateful for that information. So it’s useful to be able to … whether it’s how to create a website on $300. Or whether it’s how to do an analysis of a day in the life of a dog, when you can’t really ask a dog any questions. How you go about doing that. And how you deal with something like getting radios into the hands of locals in Nepal from the United States. 

These are all kinda, I don’t know. You start off and you just start rolling in there and figuring it out. There are people that probably know how to do it, but they’re few. Another of the ones that are willing to figure out how to do it, which are people like us. And they’re very willing to let me try and let some consultants figure it out even though they may not have the skillset walking in.

Will Bachman: Any examples come to mind of something that you’ve done with your training wheels on, so to speak? Working with a non profit on a pro bono project where you’ve picked up a new skill and then you’ve gone off and applied that on a paid project and can you think of any examples?

Julie Gupta: I think, and you’ve given this example, at Umbrex, I had to use Tableau to help with figuring out usage and drop off points and things like that online. In a pitch, Tableau came up. And so it was pretty perfect to be able to say I had applied it in another situation, which was useful.

And I’m trying to think of other good examples for you. Oh, another one was early on coming up with a social media strategy for a non profit. A Washington based non profit was part of the strategic plan and the marketing plan. So thinking through all of that, in coming from a world where social media, at the time early on never existed, when I was an early consultant. So being able to put together what that looked like. And then later on a client asked for part of their marketing plan to include social media. So being able to transfer that, those learnings to a new organization was useful in the paid consulting project.

So there certainly are examples. And in fact, even as I’m having conversation with you, there’re other places that I’m sure I could reach out, and say this is a skill I want to learn. Let me try it out. I mentioned earlier that they’re pro bono consulting projects that I do for non profits and there’s ones I do for small businesses. I just don’t … that need help. 

And so there’s a friend who’s just starting a restaurant. So figuring out how to come up with a marketing strategy for … and I’m used to a more national organizations for a 12 table restaurant. And going down to the location, location, location kinda what’s happening just around your neighborhood. What trivia contest are they doing? What specials are they having? Just coming down to that level. Down to community based level, which is not necessarily something I tend to deal with. But being able to … you try it and see what works and doesn’t work is a great option and a great learning.

Will Bachman: What are some other examples of the word that you do on that second part on working with small businesses. Is it mainly friends of yours or how do you get involved in doing some pro bono work for a small business? If you could give some examples of that.

Julie Gupta: Yeah, it has been … it tends to be friends or friends of friends that have called me asking for help. But to be honest with you, I keep my eyes open and sometimes there’s a business that I care about that looks like it might be in trouble. So I’ll go in and say “I’ve noticed this issue that you have, and would love to be helpful.” For example, when I was living in DC there was a local coffee shop that needed some help. They just weren’t getting the level of foot traffic. So again, transferring and helping them with a social media strategy. 

There was my hair salon, of all random things, had no website, had no social media footprints. I wanted to see them successful. So I said, “Let me, let’s talk about how businesses are successful. What makes a business successful?” And talking to them about that and then them asking for some help.

And again, whether I get some of it and I use an organization like Upwork to help with some other areas, mailers or what have you. Being able to bring to bear our skills such that we can help our fellow man be successful. Whether it’s a large non profit, or whether it’s a business that may or may not be profitable, it’s still us making impact.

Will Bachman: I sometimes think when you’re at a big firm, it’s almost like you have this thick cell wall between you and a lot of the world. And your client base is sorta the Fortune 500 and maybe some large global government or non profits. But it’s a fairly limited world. As an independent professional it’s a much thinner cell membrane, or much more permeable. 

What you’re describing is you’re walking around just helping people. Non profit. Local business you want to see grow. It’s just really inspiring how you are looking for words to be a contribution. I’m really, really inspired by that. 

Julie Gupta: Oh thanks. And I know Will, you and I have both done projects most recently for Ashoka as well. It’s much more of a formal process, but that is a way also, and you can probably talk about that as well, which is a more formal way, a more structured way for consultants to get involved with global non profits.

Will Bachman: Yeah, Ashoka is an amazing organization. Ashoka fellows are incredibly inspiring social entrepreneurs and the whole kind of mindset of the whole organization is supporting not just social entrepreneurs who are gonna do something great, but social entrepreneurs who are making something they can scale. Very large scale.

So they run a globalizer program, where they pair together senior management consultants. Typically with one of the fellows to help them through that 12 week program in a structured way. And our conversation that you and I had last fall led to collaboration between Ashoka and Umbrex where a number of Umbrex members have volunteered to help with that program. And that came from your suggestions. So thank you for helping kick that off.

Julie Gupta: Absolutely. I’m really excited about that. I love working with them, and we’ll probably continue to do so. And I do think that there are so many more opportunities like that, that I think as Umbrex you can help with, and I’d love to be part of that.

Will Bachman: If for anybody who’s listening who’s interested in that, if you just google Ashoka Globalizer Fellows, you can find the program, and there’s a place on there to apply to be an advisor yourself. And I’m sure they’d be happy to have additional folks for their next round.

I wanted to spend some time Julie, you’ve mentioned several boards that you’ve been on, and I’d love to hear about what you’ve learned from that board membership that’s helped you learn about organizational governance. Potentially any lessons that then that has helped, even insights that that’s given you as you work with your for profit clients. 

Julie Gupta: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think there are multiple types of organizations. I mean I’ve worked with boards at non profits either presenting to boards and working with boards, or being on boards. So I can say there’s two ways I’ve interacted with non profit boards specifically. And as is typical with boards, they don’t have a lot of time, and so they come in without tons of context and are trying to make decisions. That’s always an interesting experience for me.

I would say that, in terms of boards in general, I think the power of a board is in who’s on it and their skillset. I don’t mean only having people with big names or anything like that. I mean the skillsets that people have and bring to bear. The time they bring. Their experiences that are relevant. I think there are some gotchas of board governance. Especially with small boards. 

The boards I’ve dealt with local community boards which are a little easier. I think when it’s local you can see the work very specifically. You can go touch and feel the work they do. Touch and feel the organization. One of the boards I sat on was a global boards. Some gotchas around that are one, make sure you always have directors and officers insurance. Because it’s a non profit board and typically you’re not getting paid, but nonetheless, if there’s any financial shenanigans that happen, you want to be covered.

Two, with international boards specifically, especially post 911, and with terrorism, you have to verify that all money are used for good not evil, so to speak. There’s a lot of rules and regulations around that. As a board member and in terms of board governance, really making sure those systems are in place for international efforts is super important. So locking that down. And there’s a lot more chance for money to be skimmed and things like that, when you’re dealing with international and for safety to be an issue. 

What’s been interesting, things that I never think about. I never think about safety and I never really think about money being skimmed off in Afghanistan to go fund a terrorist activity. It’s kinda stuff that doesn’t impact my day to day professional world, so it’s a totally different set of governance issues that pop up, which are interesting. And are probably more accurate about the world now than my usual day to day existence. I find all of that really fascinating.

Will Bachman: Wow. As a director, what did you do around that international piece to make sure money was not being diverted. Do you just rely on the accountant or is there tips and tricks around that, that you can share?

Julie Gupta: I think certainly dual signing systems, P.O.s, accounting, a good CFO, a good accountant. We actually flew people locally to work with staff to make sure they understand exactly the sources and uses of all funds. Even do their homework down to the level of understanding who’s doing the work.

U.S. in maybe a western culture you would do a LinkedIn search and you’d get a buncha background on the person. In other countries you have to do a bunch of homework, feet on the street kinda homework to make sure who you’re passing on work to is a reputable source. 

On the governance level it’s a little different in that you make an edict and say “You must make sure that a person has no links anywhere that are untoward any governments.” And then the execution with that is usually with staff. So I guess that’s the benefit of being on a board. You can make edicts and then other people have to execute them.

The role of the board in providing governance it to just make sure that they make logical sense and that the system is in place.

Will Bachman: Though the last thing you want to do is to be there volunteering your time and helping out an organization and then getting in trouble because of something that happened that you weren’t aware of.

Julie Gupta: Yeah, and you have to be so careful. As I said, community based, US based organizations probably not that much trouble. But a lot of us want to have international impact and if you look at places, not saying that in the US they’re not people that are desperate need, because there are. But some of the places on the earth where our help can be most useful are not here. And so, these [inaudible 00:38:55] really be thoughtful about and careful of. I mean again, it’s been 16 years since 911 when a lot of this stuff was brought to the limelight. So organizations are much more aware.

Will Bachman: I find this so inspiring the work that you’ve done. And you’ve talked about some of the practical factors about how to make it impactful and how to find the opportunities. Can you talk a little bit about what it’s meant for you personally and in your life in terms of your level of happiness and life satisfaction? How this all fits in.

Julie Gupta: Yeah, it’s a really good question Will. I regularly access my life and I almost look at it as a gap analysis. Isn’t that so funny? 

Will Bachman: Is there a two by two in there somewhere?

Julie Gupta: I know right. Exactly. Julie and a two by two. So it is a gap and it sometimes the gap analysis. And I’ve shown people this because I actually visualize it and at some point I can share it with you. Basically, I look at point in my life and I say “Where are the gaps?” And some of the gaps … It’s a where you’re at and where you want to be. 

Let’s say I’m … The areas I look at are spirituality, financial, my financial state. Relationships with my family, relationships with friends. Health. Lots of different areas. So if I’m … Maybe I’m not going to the gym as much as I want to. Which is pretty much a standard statement for me. But I’m okay with it, and so there’s not much of a gap. Other points in my life there may be. 

But one of those areas is volunteering. And I find that all of those areas that I just described are part of my happiness. And there are some times in my life where a gap in me volunteering or providing help to organizations and my fellow man is okay and it’s just my reality. And there are other times when I feel it. I feel that gap. I would say nine times out of ten, if there is a gap, I feel it. And it’s really because I think, for me to be a happy person, it’s a balance thing. And it’s not just work, it’s not just family, it’s not just my health. It’s also having a daily practice. It’s also doing things that again, not to put too fine of a point on it, but really look to my impact beyond some micro fraction of a cent per share on a company stock price.

It really is this level of impact. And if you look at the analysis done on happiness at Harvard and other places, they do say that part of it is impact. Part of happiness is … That happiness equation is impact. And I do see it in my own life. So it is part of what I expect for myself on a regular basis. 

So if I’m not doing something where I’m providing my skills to someone who couldn’t afford them, or can benefit from them in a kinda pro bono way, I feel like my day isn’t complete. I feel like I have to do something. So yeah, I feel like it really impacts my existence.

Will Bachman: That’s really cool. I think I’ve seen schematics that talk about happiness at three tiers. There sorta level one is pleasure. Level two flow, where you’re in a state of being immersed in the work. And level three is being … flow with a sense of meaning. Where you’re immersed in the work and you’re also deriving meaning, and that’s incredible. That sounds like you’re hitting that third horizon often.

I’m fascinating by what you do in terms of, well it’s almost … we make fun of ourselves for using consulting tools. But how you do that gap analysis. Could you talk just a little bit more about that process? Is that something you do on some periodicity and then once you have the gap analysis is there an action plan that you come up. Just love to hear a little more on how you do that self assessment.

Julie Gupta: I have a … Each person’s gonna be different. I have several different metrics that I use. It’s almost like a pie chart and yeah … it was funny. The other day I have my old notebooks and diaries, so to speak. And in there on random days you’ll see this little pie chart and it’s just … that day I just felt like doing it. I did know it without some periodicity, but it’s and to set periodicity. 

So typically, I’ll do it on my birthday. It’s interesting to look on a yearly basis where I’m at year over year. Sometimes at the holidays. Sometimes summer. I’ll just do it. Maybe I’m just feeling off. And I typically think I know why, but by formalizing that kind of a quick gap analysis> I’m talking about something that’s like a two minute exercise at most. It really makes me focus.

It could be where do I want to put my resources. Should I be spending it on … adding more health classes, gym classes in my schedule. Or do I need to go out and find some more volunteer work that I do. It helps me really hone in on what the areas are. Because when you put a pen to paper, I think a lot of times it just becomes more start. So it’s actually a visual. And I have lots of them, probably back to 1997. And twenty years of just saying where I’m at. 

Everyone’s going to be different. It’s health, it’s family, it’s friends, it’s romance, it’s work, it’s finances, spirituality, volunteer. Those are the kinds of areas I tend to look at. And just see where there’s opportunities to bring the reality into my … to meet my expectations.

Will Bachman: I love the deliberate approach that you take to that and how you periodically step back. I mean, that is really cool.

Julie, I see our time here is just about up. I wanted to thank you. This has been a great discussion. So inspiring for people with some practical tips about how to get involved in something that’s gonna be meaningful, as well as, teach you some useful skills and build some good relationships. You offer a very, very powerful example.

Julie Gupta: Thanks Will, and if anyone wants to chat more about it, I am absolutely available.

Will Bachman: How can people find you online? Do you want to give out a website or a twitter handle? What’s the best way for people to look you up?

Julie Gupta: Sure, I have a website. It’s consultgupta.com. So C-O-N-S-U-L-T-G-U-P-T-A dot com. And it has all my contact details on there. So people can reach me, and obviously through Umbrex as well. I’m easily accessible through your website.

Will Bachman: Fantastic. Julie, thank you so much for being on the show.

Julie Gupta: Thanks.

Will Bachman: Thanks for listening to this episode of Unleashed. The show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top tier independent management consultants. The mission of Umbrex is to create opportunities for independent management consultants to meet, share lessons learned and collaborate. 

I’d love to get your feedback and hear any questions that you’d like to see us answer on this show. You can email me at Unleashed@umbrex.com. That U-M-B-R-E-X dot com.

If you found anything on the show helpful, it would be a real gift if you would let a friend know about the show, and take a minute to leave a review on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher. And if you subscribe, our show will get delivered to your device every Monday.

Our audio engine is Dave Nelson. Our theme song was composed by Gary [Negbougher 00:47:23] and I’m your host Will Bachman. Thanks for listening.

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