INDRA SHUKLA, Private Equity Associate @ Orion Energy Partners

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INDRA SHUKLA

Hometown: The Woodlands, TX
Occupation: Private Equity Associate @ Orion Energy Partners

I came here in middle school for band. We spent one day practicing for our performance and the rest of the time we just toured New York City. I remember thinking during that trip, “I could totally see myself living here”, and that was the first time I’d ever felt the energy of New York City. Thinking back, that trip was sort of what spurred my decision to move here.
— Indy


Indra, or "Indy" as his friends call him, hails from The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, Texas. He started college wanting to be a doctor and pursued a Pre-Med track at first, but switched to Finance later down the road. I met him at Culture Espresso on 40th St where we sat at a coffee shop in the middle of the day discussing how he moved to New York and what struggles along the way helped him get to where he is today. Indy is super cheerful, always smiling, and was overall a great person to interview.


ON NEW YORK


STEPHANIE
What was your first memory of New York?
 

INDY
I came here during high school for band. I was in the Wind Ensemble and we were performing in Carnegie Hall. We spent one day practicing for our performance and the rest of the time touring New York City. I remember thinking during that trip, "I could see myself living here.” That was the first time I'd ever felt the energy of this city. Thinking back, that trip was sort of what spurred my decision to move here. I always wanted to live here, but that point in time is what really made me want to make the move.

I love living in New York. In Houston, I was doing the same thing every weekend. I appreciated my time there, but I was ready for something different.

Work, on the other hand, has been more intense than I could've imagined and I think it is a function of the work-life balance, comparing Houston versus New York. It's been a little more challenging than I would have expected. I find work is a priority in New York.
 

ON COLLEGE

INDY
In college, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I was dual-majoring in Pre-Med and Business. I had taken the MCAT, but I didn't do as well as I would have liked and I wasn't committed to going to medical school mentally. I remember seeing my peers recruit for investment banking around the same time.

I started getting into the recruitment process and studied a bunch for all those interviews, even taking whole days off school to read everything I could to prepare. I did research on all the deals that the company I’d be interviewing for had done and who had worked there before. I was also competing with a lot of other driven candidates. Now being on the other side of the process and seeing how my firm picks people, it really is just a matter of luck at some point.

 

ON FINANCE

STEPH
After working at RBC for two years, what do you do now at Orion Energy Partners?
 

INDY
We are a private equity fund and we invest in energy and infrastructure companies. The easiest way for me to describe it is as Shark Tank for energy companies. People come with great business ideas that they want t-o grow or take to the next level and we help them. There are many different types of private equity funds out there, and we're more focused on credit structures as opposed to pure equity.
 

STEPH
Looking over the course of your time in finance, what's one thing about the finance industry that you were pleasantly surprised with?
 

INDY
No one in my family has ever gone into finance. I grew up in a family of doctors, so I’m exploring new territory in a sense. I think the preconceived notion before I started working was that everyone I’d be interacting with would be like the people from Wolf of Wall Street or a Gordon Gekko-like person and it hasn't been. I'm not sure if it's a function of working in energy, which has very humble people or another reason, but that was a nice surprise. The intensity of the environment I always expected. 

STEPH
How would you compare your current role to your last one?
 

INDY
My hours are better, but now I’m dealing with real investments and I have to make money for my investors. That's a much more stressful environment than just being someone who makes a deal and leaves. For example, if I were to sell you a house as your realtor, I don't really care if the house is a bad investment for you, or if the area declines in a few years. That's not my problem. I got my commission from selling you the house. In PE, you have to think about the bigger picture because we're the ones who have to deal with it. I think that was tough for me as I also went from having people underneath me as a second year analyst to being back at the bottom of the totem pole, which is a humbling experience yet again.
 
 

ON LIFE
 

The thing for millennials and I definitely put myself as one of them, is that it’s not all about the money. It’s not all about prestige anymore. It’s about self-worth and development as well as overall happiness with what you’re doing and putting out into the world.
— Indy

STEPH
In your life, what was one supposed failure that actually paved the way for success later on?
 

INDY
When I was recruiting my junior year, I didn't get an investment banking internship and that freaked me out a lot. I know it sounds silly, but that junior year internship weighs a lot for this career path. That experience really opened my eyes to how competitive my college was. I came into college pretty confident because I was top 10% at a competitive high school, but I was so wrong and it took me until my junior year to really understand that life overall is competitive. I took that failure as motivation to do well in school, get internships during the school year rather than letting it get me down.  


STEPH
What is a trend or shift that you see in your industry?
 

INDY
The appeal of working in finance is declining overall and I find people are more interested going to work for tech companies like Microsoft or Facebook or going to the West Coast and doing a tech startup. I think that's a big trend. Maybe it's more that millennials are looking for a better work environment or better treatment. I think that it’s a long term trend that's going to continue to move from this fraternity-like work environment to a place where big companies want you to develop your personal goals and find yourself and where you’re a valuable resource to help the company grow.
 

STEPH
I think that too, especially with startups. You see people our age are so passionate about it because they believe in the mission of their company. I think Google has really shifted the industry with their benefits. The free perks make the company a lot more desirable.


INDY
Yeah, my sister works for Microsoft and she tells me all the great things she's doing and I’m just thinking about when I was in my first job out of college as a first-year analyst, I was stuck to my desk cranking numbers.
 

STEPH
What's the most worthwhile investment you’ve made that wasn’t monetary? 
 

INDY
Something that's stayed with me my whole life so far is that when I was younger I spent hours practicing and trying to make the basketball team in high school. Now one of the biggest things that I find important is physical fitness. It’s such an important part of my routine and I don't think I would have had that appreciation if I didn't try to make the basketball team. 
 

STEPH
I think sports or playing a musical instrument teaches you discipline and grit. 
 

INDY
It teaches you to mentally push yourself through barriers that your mind says you can't do. I also think it has put the competitive element into my life.
 

STEPH
Last but not least, who's the most inspiring person to you?
 

INDY
I have a couple that I look up to, but I would say number one is my family, especially my parents. I appreciate the sacrifices they made as first generation Indians moving from India to here. They left their families behind to start a better life, and that's something I really admire and is very impressive to me.


Then the next one is my sister. She has really put my life into perspective. She made me realize we have so much more to the world than work and really encouraged me develop my own interests outside of working and in life.