We are Symphony: A conversation with Shilpa Agrawal

Suddhaloke Choudhury
Global Content and Social Media Manager
Rakuten Symphony
December 22, 2023
minute read

A serial traveler and an experienced IT industry veteran, Program Manager Shilpa Agrawal sat down with us to relive her latest achievement – climbing the tallest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Tell us a bit about your role at Rakuten Symphony?

I consider myself an IT veteran, having spent more than 10 years in the industry. As a Program Manager at Rakuten Symphony India, I put my skill and experience toward ensuring that key projects and initiatives run smoothly and efficiently. To help with my professional career, I try to keep up to date on the latest trends – it makes navigating the telecom landscape a lot of fun.

Word around the office is that you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. What inspired you to tackle such an imposing challenge? How was the experience?

The entire trip was a rollercoaster of emotions and a real test of physical endurance.

One aspect that has long defined me, both professionally and personally, is my love for traveling and taking on new challenges. It’s not just about the adventure; it also helps me in my work life to adapt to different environments and collaborate with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. So, with this background, I was excited to take on my biggest challenge ever in Mount Kilimanjaro.

Shilpa's achievement certificate for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro
Shilpa's achievement certificate for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The journey began with careful preparation, including getting in good shape through physical training. As we made our way up Kilimanjaro, the landscapes were unbelievable, changing from lush rainforests to alpine deserts.

The camaraderie with fellow climbers and our guides was key to tackling the challenges. Each day brought new obstacles, both mentally and physically. Altitude sickness? Yeah, that was on the list, so we had to take it easy and acclimatize properly.

The last push to the summit was the toughest part. Battling exhaustion and the thinning air, every step felt like a monumental effort. There was a moment where I thought, “This might be it, I can’t go further.” The powerful winds didn’t help – each step in the dark, under limited moonlight, was a struggle.

But looking back at the pictures of Uhuru Peak and Stella Point, I realized all the effort and pain were totally worth it.

The descent was a mix of relief and reflection. This trip not only tested my physical limits but also taught me some valuable lessons about resilience, teamwork and the beauty of pushing past your comfort zone. It’s one of those experiences that’ll stick with me forever, a reminder that with determination and support, we can conquer life’s toughest challenges.

Shilpa at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro
Shilpa at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

How did you prepare mentally and physically for the challenges of climbing such a formidable mountain?

Getting ready for the journey was a game-changer, no doubt. My partner and I were each other’s cheerleaders, determined to be in the best possible shape for our mission to conquer the summit.

Physically, we started our preparation over a year ago, focusing on boosting endurance, increasing our stamina through running, and mastering breathing exercises. Our go-to routine included:

  • 10,000 steps daily
  • 500-calorie burning workout
  • 90-minute daily workout routine

My trusty Samsung watch and Google Health app kept me on track, pushing me to hit my goals every single day. I’d like to give a big shoutout to my husband and the Rakuten Symphony team for having my back throughout.

For that extra cardio kick, I squeezed in some Zumba at the Rakuten Symphony Bengaluru office, mixed with some running and cycling. Weekends were all about small treks and altitude climbing to slowly get my body used to the challenges ahead.

Knowing climbing comes with its risks, safety should always be a top priority. I sought advice from seasoned climbers, joined a climbers group with my spouse, and basically binge-watched mountain-climbing journeys on YouTube. Looking back, I still think my prep could’ve been a bit better.

What strategies or mindsets helped you manage both your professional responsibilities at Rakuten Symphony and the immense personal aspiration of summiting Kilimanjaro?

Juggling the role of Program manager at Rakuten Symphony India with the personal aspiration of summiting Kilimanjaro required serious strategy and discipline. Here are some game plans and mindsets that kept things on track for me:

  • Prioritization: First things first, I made sure to identify key tasks, set priorities and map out a detailed plan. That way, I could execute and deliver without missing a beat.
  • Time Management: I allocated dedicated time for both product releases and Kilimanjaro training. It was all about fulfilling both commitments with a clear mindset.
  • Communication and Collaboration: I learned this gem from my manager Amit Bhatia. Open communication at work about personal goals is a game-changer. Transparency set expectations and gained me support from colleagues and higher-ups. At home, with my husband sharing the same goal, we teamed up to get all the necessary gear for the trek.
  • Adaptability: Life throws curveballs, whether it’s work demands or personal challenges. Flexibility is the secret to managing both fronts successfully. It also came in handy when dealing with crazy weather changes and fatigue during the climb.
  • Self-Care: This is an absolute must. Maintaining physical and mental wellbeing is crucial. We all need our fair share of rest, nutrition and relaxation to handle the demands of both professional and personal pursuits.
  • Celebrating Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate milestones, both in your professional and personal life. Recognizing achievements boosts motivation and keeps that positive mindset rolling. By combining and applying these strategies with a balanced mindset, you’ll be prepared to tackle any challenges.

Lastly, having achieved this incredible feat, what's the next "mountain" you plan to climb, both professionally and personally?

Professionally, I aim to take on more leadership responsibilities, contributing to the success of my team and the organization as a whole. I aspire to spearhead initiatives that not only meet but exceed expectations, pushing the boundaries of what's possible. I recently completed my Google PMP certification and will soon get certified from PMI as well.

On a personal level, my next challenge involves continuous learning and self-improvement. Whether it's acquiring new skills, exploring different fields, or cultivating a healthier work-life balance, I believe in the importance of holistic development. By setting ambitious yet achievable goals, I plan to create a roadmap for my personal and professional evolution, ensuring that I keep climbing towards new summits of success and fulfilment.

For more inspiring photos and videos of Shilpa on her amazing adventures, follow her on Instagram and YouTube.

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