Impact Connections: LIFTing Sustainable Leaders with LIFT Consultant Rumya Velu


By Madison Phelan; Edited by Sandi Ruddick

I recently spoke with Rumya Velu about her experience with the Longhorn Impact Fellowship at Texas, or LIFT. Rumya is in her second cohort with LIFT and serves as the Team Lead for the EnerSys team. She was also chosen as a recipient of the LIFT Scholarship, which will help her to continue to explore new opportunities. Rumya is a hard worker who recognizes the value of working with those from different backgrounds, and she aims to cultivate a team environment that is inviting, friendly, and accepting. As a third-year Management Information Systems major, she shared impactful insight for those who had a less traditional path to McCombs, and she highly recommends LIFT to her fellow students.

Madison: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to speak with us. I was wondering if you would like to start by telling us a little about yourself and your journey to this point at UT?

Rumya Velu: Of course! I haven’t had a very traditional experience in college. I actually started out in Moody as an Advertising major, and then I ended up going to the school of undergraduate studies, because I decided I wanted to transfer to McCombs my sophomore year. I knew that I really was interested in sustainability and business, and I think that LIFT really put those two together. Being a business major and also being an internal transfer, I was looking for a consulting experience to help me understand the field more. I’m also interested in sustainability because I think it’s important that we help maintain the world around us and be mindful not only of how it’s going to impact future generations of humans, but also future generations of animals. I’m very big on animal rights and welfare, so I’ve always been interested in seeing how we can make a big change in sustainability. I feel like so many people don’t think about how our actions impact not only other humans, but other living beings on the planet.

Madison Phelan: What inspired you to ultimately dive into this field, and what spurred this interest?

Rumya Velu: I guess I’ve always been hesitant about meat in general, especially after I got pet chickens when I was in elementary school. I had that close connection with animals also by having a lot of dogs. As I got older, I tried looking into what happens behind the scenes in terms of eating animal products.

Madison Phelan: So ultimately from that inspiration and those interests, how did you come across LIFT, and how did you realize that it was something you wanted to dive into?

Rumya Velu: I got an email last summer that was explaining the program, and I was interested because it incorporated both of the big things that I’ve been interested in for a while now: general business, as well as getting to work with actual companies and being able to make an impact. It is important to me to be able to make an impact through companies, because corporations are responsible for so much of the poor environmental impact that humans have on the world. With sustainability being an interest of mine, it’s what drew me into LIFT at first, but I was also interested in LIFT because I thought it was a really cool and unique experience. LIFT incorporates students who are juniors and above. With being an undergrad, I feel like there’s not too many opportunities to get to interact with graduate students; the fact that LIFT incorporates people of all different disciplines and allows students to work with others from different majors and backgrounds is really cool. I think that having a diverse team is definitely how you can come up with the most creative solutions, and it was great to have the experience of being able to work with people who are different from myself.

Madison Phelan: Since you’ve joined LIFT, how has the program helped you in terms of your career search or figuring out what you want to do?

Rumya Velu: I think that it helped me get general experience, but I think it’s also helped me realize how interested I am in consulting as a field. The thing with consulting and being in McCombs is that some people are very intense about it–like they’ve been practicing cases since they were in middle school. LIFT helped me become more confident in my consulting abilities, so I think that I would like to recruit with consulting companies after I graduate. I think LIFT has been great for helping me be a lot more confident not only in my consulting skills, but also with being able to work on a team. My first LIFT semester, which was last semester, I got to work on the MasterCard City Possible project, and I was the youngest person on the team. I was working with three graduate students and one senior. I felt like I was very naive and hesitant to participate, because I felt like these people already had experience working in industry before they came back to UT to get their graduate degree. I felt really hesitant to kind of give out my ideas or contribute to the conversation, because I figured that they’re so much older than me or they’re so much smarter than me, so they’ve probably already thought of all these things. But I was lucky to have a great team who encouraged me to speak my mind and discuss the ideas that I had regarding our project. It was a great experience, I learned a lot, and I think I’ll be a lot more prepared to work in industry in the future after I graduate. Through this experience, I realize that I have a different perspective on these topics that we’re working with, and so my opinions and my ideas are valid and they can help the team come to a better solution. It’s definitely been a great talking point for me in interviews, and I actually secured an internship with HEB for the summer. I’ll be doing a manufacturing operations internship with HEB, so I’m really glad that I had that experience that I could talk about during the interview.

Madison Phelan: Congrats on your internship! I think you’re going to have a wonderful experience. Also, congratulations on receiving the LIFT scholarship!

Rumya Velu: I’m really grateful for the scholarship, because I’ve incurred a lot of medical fees in the past few years from an accident I had my freshman year. For the past two years, I’ve had to go to physical therapy one-to-two times per week, which has been pretty expensive. I also had to get a lot of MRIs and CT scans to figure out what was wrong. It’s been a big hindrance on my wallet and my family, as well. Being able to pay for physical therapy and not have to worry about it as much has definitely been something I’m very grateful for.

Madison Phelan: I am so sorry that happened. I’m happy that the scholarship can provide some relief because I bet it’s been very difficult with everything that has happened. You’re doing LIFT, you’re making use of all these opportunities, so I’m so happy that the scholarship can help you in some way. And with your experience in LIFT, how do you plan to use your skills that you’ve learned for the future?

Rumya Velu: I think one of the things that I’ve been able to develop through LIFT has been my leadership skills. I’m actually the team leader of the EnerSys Team, which was scary at first because it seemed like a very daunting task. I think I’m the one of the youngest members of my team again, and also it is a more science-oriented project. My entire team is STEM people, and I’m a business major, so it was very intimidating because I didn’t know how I would go about dealing with the whole project. But I was lucky to have an amazing team of really hard workers. I think that I’ve been able to learn a lot about leadership. I was able to use my past experiences to cultivate the team environment that I thought would be very open, friendly, and inviting to everyone on our team. LIFT has taught me how to incorporate my past experiences into making an environment that’s good for everyone, which has been really cool. I think that I was able to make an impact and make a team environment where everyone felt comfortable sharing their opinion. One of the other things I implemented with our team was we have a shifting team lead, for instance. I’m the overall team lead, but for our weekly meetings as a team and also with our clients, we rotate every week throughout the members so that everyone gets their own opportunity to get leadership skills and learn how to lead a meeting. I think that I’ve become a lot more open to the idea of leadership after LIFT. Leadership almost seemed like it wasn’t something that I’d be able to accomplish well, so I think that this experience has taught me that I am capable of being a leader, and also that I can have an impact on other people’s professional development.

Madison Phelan: In your opinion, why should other students join LIFT?

Rumya Velu: I think that LIFT is a really great opportunity for anyone. In a work setting, you have to work with people from all different disciplines, whether it’s business people, engineers, communications people, or supply chain.There are a bunch of different backgrounds that come together to make a corporation work efficiently; one area in which it does a great part in preparing you is with being able to work with people from different backgrounds who think differently than you and who have different experiences than you. It’s what working in a professional job is going to entail. I think that LIFT is a really great opportunity to prep yourself for what that’s going to be like, because inevitably people are going to have different perspectives on situations because they all come from different sectors of the company. LIFT is a cool opportunity to be able to work with people of different backgrounds as a college student and understand what the future — if you choose to work for a company — is going to look like. I also think it’s cool that you get to work with people who are maybe older or younger than you, which helps build up your confidence. It’s great to be able to work up your confidence and see that, even though you may not have as much experience as someone else, you still can contribute a lot to a group setting.

Madison Phelan: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Rumya Velu: I would just like to say that I’ve been very thankful for the opportunities that I’ve been given in LIFT. I’ve gotten to meet so many different people who have been inspiring to work with. Just like my team we were talking about last semester, with members from China, Taiwan, and Georgia. It’s been great to experience all the different professional development skills that I’ve gained not only from working with our clients, but also that LIFT provided to us through workshops. I think that those are skills I wouldn’t have been able to develop otherwise, or at least they would take me a lot longer to develop. I’ve just been really thankful to LIFT in general, especially Madison, Meeta, and Sandi, for being able to provide me with such an amazing experience to learn more about what it’s like to be able to work with professional clients. I’m also very grateful for my teams from both this semester and last semester; I’ve been able to have so many fun experiences with them. It’s been rewarding not only with being able to complete a project, but also being able to meet so many different people I wouldn’t have met before.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.



Global Sustainability Leadership Institute

Welcome to Impact Connections, the GSLI’s blog space! We were formerly known as the Social Innovation Initiative.