Open Letters – From the desk of Shaleen J Sukthankar

Senior Manager, Client Experience at Weber Shandwick, and NextGen Committee Member

23 August 2021

Dear 21-year-old Shaleen,

This is 29-year-old Shaleen, from 2021! As you embark on this new decade that will be defined by countless options, permutations and combinations, I wanted to give you a little bit of advice that might help you along the way. And don’t worry – I can guarantee you turned out just fine!

Your twenties are a crazy time – you’re going to be pulled into several directions all at once. You graduated with a degree in finance just now, but you also love film, and writing is your one true passion? Well, you know what, don’t worry, and embrace it all! This world is soon going to appreciate diversity more than ever and your numerous experiences dabbling in all sorts of fields will help you in your journey to becoming a storyteller.

So do that internship in TV, work in corporate finance, take up that filmmaking course, and continue to write your poems and short stories – all while encapsulating the cultures and experiences of everywhere you’ve stayed. Your journey has been beautiful so far and will continue to be so. And when that opportunity comes by where someone asks you ‘Hey why don’t you apply to work here in Public Relations’ – do it. I can tell you it’ll change your life.

And while options are great, we all need roots – those roots don’t belong in a particular place, but rather in particular people. Value those people who you can always count to give you trusted advice and I cannot stress this enough, learn how to communicate well with those closest to you – this is the best practice you will get when you have to communicate with all sorts of people in professional settings. While I do believe you’re honest and good-hearted right now, I don’t think you’ve yet learned to stand up for yourself. So focus on this – be empathetic, kind and honest but also be direct, clear and respectful. It’ll go a long way.

Finally, and I cannot stress this enough – PLAN. Your life until graduation was mostly easily organized by your teachers, parents and professors, but now is your time to shine. I know you don’t know this yet, but you’re a TERRIFIC planner, and project management will come naturally to you. So get all that stationary you love, make mood boards and lists, and set goals for yourself. You won’t believe how much you’re able to achieve!

As you can see – what I’ve been trying to say is life is all about balance. Balance your spontaneity with your organization, balance being assertive with being understanding. Balance the fun and crazy side of being young with the determination and ambition to make something of yourself.

And more than anything, have trust and faith in this journey. I know it may not seem like it to a 21-year-old with all sorts of questions and confusion about the future, but now as you’re about to turn 30, I assure you, it all has a way of working out.

Keep that fire in your heart and mind lit. You’re a bright, beautiful, passionate soul who’s going to achieve a lot of success – a word that the older you defines as the constant determination, opportunity and ability to do what you love, and do it well.

Lots of love from your biggest cheerleader,