Deepti Gudipati - Indian-American. Washington, DC
"I am my own boss, for better or worse” says Washington D.C resident, Deepti Gudipati.
Starting off her journey with uncertainty, hopping from job to job and city and city, she used the power of self-awareness to dig deep, ground herself and create a business that she loves, as a leadership coach and consultant for clients seeking to grow their leadership, empowerment and management expertise.
Her Beginnings: Test Tubes, Traveling and Trials
I was a science nerd in high school and I went into college thinking I would get my PhD in Biology and do research. Very quickly I realized that I didn't like it enough to actually do all the education required and I wasn't actually good enough at it to justify even getting an undergrad degree in science. So I transferred to business my sophomore year and then spent the next eight years having an identity crisis. I was really lost – until I was 20 years old, I thought I would be this one thing. Moving away from the sciences was the right thing for me, but I didn't know what to replace it with.
I wandered for a long time - most of my twenties. I moved to a different city every year. I took on a different job every year. I did a lot of exploring. Some of that was intentional. Some of it was circumstantial, where I would start a project or job and get bored and go find a new thing.
In the early days of my career I mostly felt lost and untethered. I got really good at knowing what I didn't want to do. It took me a long time to find my power, confidence and strength.
Her Cultural Conflict
Being a third culture kid is a huge part of my identity and I have spent my whole life trying to find the balance between two very different cultures. There is an American side of me - I grew up here and I was raised in the educational system here. That’s the side of me that has been taught to ask questions. To be willing to push back and not be afraid to question the status quo. To commit to my individualism and pursue my dreams and passions. Then there's the Indian side of me that's been taught to respect elders, to feel a responsibility to a collective community beyond myself. Like everything else in my life, my career has been an effort to try and navigate those two value systems. To find a way to be my best self AND satisfy conventional definitions of success around financial and job security.
Her Calling – Literally
I was 24 when I first experienced the power of coaching and personal development. I was living in DC at the time and had applied for different public policy fellowships. I’d been waitlisted in a couple of them and was living my life when I got a call that I’d been accepted into the CORO Fellowship for Public Affairs.
I had something like 4-6 hours to decide whether to uproot my life and move to St. Louis, Missouri for a program that was starting just 3 weeks later.
At the time, I had two part time jobs in D.C. and it was in the middle of the work day. I can remember the sheer panic of like, oh shit, I have to decide this right away! I don't even remember what finally made me decide to do it, but I said yes and a week and a half later I packed up my car and was driving to St. Louis.
Coro gave me my first taste of leadership development and coaching but it took more than 5 years for me to navigate my own career in that direction.
My second master's degree was in organizational development. That's where I finally had the qualifications to apply for the kind of jobs that I wanted to apply for. So, in my early thirties, I transitioned more into doing leadership programming and leadership development.
I spent five years running member leadership programs at the American Association of University Women. I had a really unique opportunity there - I was hired to create my department and got to build something from the ground up.
The Birth of Her Business
I started my own consulting practice in 2017 (www.dgleader.com). I've been doing that ever since. My work today is a mix of one-on-one leadership coaching, meeting facilitation (think training, team building and strategic decision making), and organizational consulting (think strategic planning, diversity & inclusion, and program design).
Building my business has made me a lot more confident because I've built up my own expertise around every aspect of this business and I have to sell it on a regular basis. I’m super clear on what my values are and I’m deeply obsessed with self-awareness.
Most importantly, I’ve got a lot of clarity on the type of work I want to be doing. The work I seek out now, it really falls into four buckets - It's coaching, consulting, facilitating, and teaching around topics related to leadership, personal development and building effective teams and workplaces .
A lot of the work that I do is about empowering an individual or a team. I wouldn’t be able to do that effectively if I hadn’t spent so many years expanding my self-awareness and working on my personal development.
Her Words of Wisdom
You know, we all sort of exist in a fishbowl and we can never fully see what’s at the edges of our bowls. But expanding our self-awareness helps us grow the size of our fishbowls. The larger our fishbowl, the more aware and intentional we can be about the choices we make in life and leadership.
I'm a big believer in setting bold, audacious goals and dreaming about what your version of a perfect life looks like. Be real with yourself about what that means - in terms of what you are willing to sacrifice to get what's really important to you.
One last thing – It’s important to acknowledge that focusing on self-awareness and personal development is a privilege that not everyone has time or access to.
I try to break some of those barriers in my work by making coaching more accessible to emerging leaders and smaller organizations. Imagine a world where we each had time, tools and support in our quest to be the best versions of ourselves.
Enjoyed Deepti's journey? Then let us know! Here are other inspiring moments.
Read: "Mindfully Step Out of Your Comfort Zone" - When you have some kind of challenge, crisis or negative situation, then you mindfully choose how to think about the situation. I would like to teach people to try to change the lens by which they see the world.