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Having only graduated with her master’s degree from the School of Sustainability in 2012, Lucky Sharma has already had the opportunity to work with Fortune 500 companies like Apple and US Airways.
And though her name may suggest otherwise, luck had nothing to do with her success.
Sharma, pictured above, participated in interdisciplinary research and also worked as a teaching assistant to help offset the cost of her education — something she says would have been “almost impossible” to obtain without the financial support it provided her.
Sharma has since moved on from Apple to launch a stealth start-up, currently code-named “Project C,” which she co-founded.
Though the San Franciso resident — who recently took a job with Tesla Motors as a commodity manager — couldn’t share any details about Project C, the committed sustainability scientist opened up to ASU Now about her passion for a greener future and how ASU’s emphasis on interdisciplinary study helped her get where she is today.
Question: Why did you choose to pursue a career in sustainability?
Answer: While working as a product manager for a company measuring real-time automobile emissions, I realized my calling to make this world greener. My research to convert the change in driving habits through a dashboard feedback to corresponding carbon-footprint reduction played a key role in uncovering my passion for sustainability. It was the first time I had used math and data-interpretation skills to quantify a miniscule, yet sure step toward a greener future. This realization was incredibly empowering. I was motivated more than ever to learn more about sustainability concepts and how to affect positive change for our generation and the ones to come after us.
Q: How did ASU help get you there?
A: The flexibility in structuring my courses allowed me to choose topics of interest that were aligned with my professional experience and future aspirations. My experience as a teaching assistant was a great lesson in delivering sustainability pedagogy, both from a researcher's perspective and an industry professional's point of view. It helped me in effective articulation of the sustainability practices during my work after graduation. ASU also provides a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary research and collaboration. This allowed me to tap into the powerhouse of supply-chain expertise at the business school and marry it with cutting-edge sustainability research at the School of Sustainability. This rare combination helped me land jobs at Fortune 500 companies like Apple and US Airways.
Q: What was it like to work for such high-profile companies?
A: Working for Apple had its perks, especially as a sustainability scientist. I worked in the direct procurement group, which was responsible for the products that are mostly sold to the consumer. This position provided me with the opportunity to influence sourcing decisions and vendor selection. I was thus able to directly and/or indirectly affect the product/vendor selection with sustainability as one of the key metrics to rate one product/vendor over the other. This apart from many other reasons kept my job interesting.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in sustainability?
A: Know your key strengths, develop a core skill set and keep yourself abreast of all the best sustainability practices in your industry. Then you can align your professional expectations with your core skill set and incorporate sustainability practices into the job you seek. And get relevant experience under your belt.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: ASU is a great place to jump-start a sustainability career. I am deeply thankful to my School of Sustainability alumni and professors who believed in me. Without the financial support which was given as part of being a teaching assistant, it would have been almost impossible for an international student like me to graduate as a Sun Devil, which I am super proud to be.