By Gayatri Suri – LGT Impact Fellow 2018

“Follow your passion” – a phrase that is more elusive than it sounds.

This phrase has challenged me time and again in my five-year career, a large part of which was in Investment Banking. I have been chasing it impartially, be it through one of my lowest or highest phases.

Early in my professional career, I realized that I enjoyed the nature of work in Investment Banking but lacked a certain sense of purpose. Even though the work kept me engaged, it was difficult to find meaning in what I was doing. As the years passed, this realization helped strengthen my belief that Investment Banking was not the “end all” destination for me. I couldn’t see myself continuing in the same banking culture and making it a lifelong career. In moments of self-reflection (which were many), I often asked myself the same questions over and over again – “Why am I doing the work if I have no interest?” “Why am I not happy even though I am getting a really good compensation?” “Will I ever be able to find work that I will be interested in or is it just a fad?” “Is it just a case of the grass is greener on the other side?”. Collective “wisdom” from concerned co-workers, friends and relatives did not help either. “Working in investment banking for a top tier MNC firm, what better could I ask for?” Often, they concluded that I was simply overthinking. Unnecessarily being restless and trying to search for something that may never be found – an apparent problem of my generation. “Things like passion and interest are not necessary to earn a living, there were generations before you that have sustained and continue to sustain a career that is not necessarily their area of interest” – I was told.

Perhaps, that is why it took me a good year and a half to push myself out of my comfort zone and take the plunge. After a point of time, I no longer wanted to remain a silent spectator in my own life story. I realized the need to take this step NOW or it would never be possible. I didn’t want to have any regrets in life of not being courageous enough to take a risk (albeit, a calculated one) when time is still on my side.

Looking back and introspecting, I guess what I lacked in my previous jobs was being internally motivated towards the end goal. This means that even though I enjoyed the fast paced, quantitative nature of the work, I did not truly believe in the work being undertaken by my clients. I may have been good at my work, not because I was interested in it but rather due to my dedication to performing the task at hand to the best of my abilities.

It is in search of this “intangible” sense of purpose that I took a leap of faith and applied for the LGT Impact Fellowship. Fortunately, there has been no looking back.

Even though I’m only a couple of months into this journey, I could not be happier. I could not have asked for a better platform than the LGT Impact Fellowship to transition into the social impact sector. As aptly summarized by one of my colleagues at LGT, the phrase “When opportunity meets preparedness” could not be truer for me. I feel quite lucky to be a part of this amazing learning experience with a diverse & motivated set of peers and an inspiring leadership.

As an Investment Associate Fellow in the Venture Philanthropy team, my role involves refining the investment thesis for India; working with portfolio companies on select capacity building activities; and working on building a strong pipeline (by identifying suitable investment opportunities) in line with the investment principles. I am inspired by LGT VP’s dual approach of deploying patient capital while also engaging in continuous capacity building. This approach not only empowers organizations, involved in creating an inclusive and self-sustaining ecosystem, at the root level but also sets them up for future success.

Through this Fellowship, I aim to learn about how social impact business models work, how one assesses organizations in this sector as well as the various metrics that go into making better investment decisions. The Fellowship has played a catalytic role by enabling me to apply my skills to and learn more about investing in social enterprises, thereby, helping bridge the gap between my intent and my actions.

I do not know what the future holds for me. Whether this will translate into a social impact career for the next 5 years or 10 years or more. What I know for now is that I am intrinsically motivated and excited to learn as much as I can from this experience, while also growing professionally and personally. And yes, I’m excited to explore if I have finally found what I was searching for.

As famously quoted by Steve Jobs, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”