Gayathri Shukla

Leadership, Diversity and Human Centred Design Expert

Gayathri Shukla is a dynamic, thought-provoking speaker who inspires individuals to rise to their personal and collective potential. She is the Founder of a social enterprise, where she masterfully harnesses the power of storytelling to help diverse teams discover their unique strengths, while building skills in empathy. She is known for her keen ability to see issues from different perspectives, and unearth creative solutions for business leaders and professionals.

A Professional Engineer with over 17 years experience in the energy sector, Gayathri Shulka started her career in Fort McMurray, Alberta. As one of the few Indo-Canadian women working in an industrial environment, she honed the practice of navigating diversity early-on. She stood-out not only for her exceptional technical contributions, but also for re-inventing her skills multiple times throughout her career. After building hands-on experience in her technology discipline, she pivoted into project management and led the schedule integration efforts for Fort Hills, a $17B greenfield oil sands facility. The safe and timely start-up of this facility was seen as an industry first.

Gayathri Shulka also obtained an Executive MBA program at Queen’s University, while simultaneously balancing her duties as a full-time employee and a parent of young kids. In her MBA project, she focused on how to unleash innovation by tapping into the wisdom of stakeholders’ lived experiences and stories. This work was recognized at Suncor’s executive levels and informed the creation of a new transformation department. Gayathri most recently spearheaded digital strategy and innovation programs within this department, which has resulted in game-changing operational improvements for the Mining workforce.

In her personal life, Gayathri is a proud mom to two school-aged kids and an active volunteer in the community. She serves on the Board of Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association. An accomplished Toastmaster, she presents regularly at community and campus events. She has also led Suncor’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative as Co-Chair, curating networking and educational opportunities for over 150 members. Gayathri is passionate about championing women in STEAM professions and building cross-cultural connections. Having lived in 3 countries by the age of 15, and traveling extensively to many others, she has developed a deeply personal sense of global citizenship and interconnectedness.

In essence, Gayathri Shulka doesn’t just speak about resilience – she is its genuine embodiment. Her unique blend of skills and story is sure to delight anyone seeking to make bold, positive change.

Topic Presentations

This presentation supports an organization’s EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) goals, by leveraging the power of stories to build a culture of belonging in diverse workplaces. This can be followed up by an optional workshop where participants practice storytelling skills hands-on to reflect on lived experiences and appreciate their diversity.

Research has shown that companies with diverse workforces are more likely to financially outperform their peers. A study by McKinsey quantified this impact to the effect of 15% and 35% for gender and racially diverse companies, respectively. While diversity is a competitive advantage, it can also bring about challenges in the absence of inclusive leadership. Successful leaders understand that in today’s increasingly diverse workplaces, a culture of trust is necessary for companies to thrive. The need to be seen, heard and valued is universal. Learning how to communicate authentically, understand, and listen to employees is thus a critical leadership capability. Ultimately, it shapes a sense of belonging in which all levels of the org chart are empowered to make meaningful contributions.

Key Takeaways


  • Build awareness on the role of empathy in creating trust and belonging.

  • Learn how to authentically engage with people of different backgrounds, through the medium of stories.

  • Gain tangible tips for self-reflection to strengthen personal leadership styles.

This presentation supports an organization’s business transformation goals by inspiring teams to build the resilience required to innovate and sustain change. This can be combined with an optional, hands-on workshop where employees practice an ‘inside-out’ approach to build a learning mindset and empathy.

Today’s business environment is mired with the perils of uncertainty and complexity. Every business is faced with the need to innovate in order to remain relevant to its customers. It is no secret that change is difficult, yet employees at every level are having to build up their capacity for change. In this presentation, Gayathri shares examples of common pitfalls that impede the adoption of change for employees. She will share two tangible methods employees can implement immediately from the “inside-out” - a learning mindset, and practice for empathy to help build their resilience. Both these methods are based in human-centered design concepts, and enables employees to connect the dots between their core values and that of the organization.

Key Takeaways


  • Build awareness on the role of learning mindset to build capacity for transformation.

  • Share examples of the ways in which empathy unlocks innovation and inclusion.

  • Learn tangible ways to build the skills necessary to create meaningful and lasting change.

This presentation inspires audiences to embrace storytelling as a powerful way to communicate with authenticity and impact. By thinking of communication differently, the audience is educated on how storytelling can lead to improved self-confidence, and trust. In addition, this keynote can be combined with an optional workshop where participants can to practice storytelling techniques to exchange meaningful life stories as well as feedback in small groups.

Whether you are a professional, business owner, or student, effective communication is central to building trust and credibility. Communication styles today are shifting away from the stoic and hierarchical, to authentic and egalitarian. Given the backdrop of diverse view points, it is essential to communicate in a way that bring people together. Individuals can often get stuck in doubt of “I don’t have anything worthy to say,” to “I must appear perfect,” or “I don’t want to rock the boat.” However, a time-tested way to cut across these barriers, and connect hearts and minds, is storytelling. Stories bridge us to our shared human qualities, such as courage and compassion, gleaned through universal experiences of joy and sorrow. Leveraging stories as a part of communication infuses your message with creativity, meaning, and trust.

Key Takeaways


  • Learn how to leverage storytelling to deliver memorable messages that balance logic and emotion.

  • Discuss the role authenticity plays in increasing trust.

  • Gain practical takeaways, rooted in guided autobiography, to help you distill and share the wisdom you’ve gained from life experiences, while remaining humble to learn from others.

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