Shilpa Arora is an avid advocate for diversity and inclusion and intersectional representation in the workplace. As a professional mentor and mother of two young girls, Shilpa strongly believes early access to community and resources is foundational to building the next generation of leaders.

As a trained architect turned strategist, Shilpa brings innovative and creative solutions to complex problems, both for business and coaching. Shilpa is currently the Strategy and Operations Director and Head of Market Management at DoorDash with experience across industries and geographies. She has led several talent development and inclusion initiatives at work and externally.

As an immigrant to Canada, her journey with self-doubt, fear and other challenges have led her to offer experiences and learnings to those on that journey now. Shilpa mentors newcomers and early-career women and is committed to the mission of creating safe spaces and community through reciprocal mentorship. As a member of the Accelerate Her Future community, she believes that creating the conditions where driven Black, Indigenous and women of colour can think freely, absorb meaningfully and incubate purposefully, is where self-empowerment and acceleration can truly happen. 

Your Lived Experiences can be your Greatest Asset as a Leader 

Shilpa stresses that “As BIWOC, it is important that we own and leverage our lived experiences to build an inclusive, open and authentic team environment”. 

Recognizing that as BIWOC our paths are unique and different, Shilpa believes that it is important to not be afraid to be yourself and to hold space for others to be themselves too. This perspective carries through in her leadership style where she cultivates a reciprocity with her teams and collaborative relationships which she believes lead to more authentic and effective work environments. She adds that courage and honesty are very important and describes herself as a people leader that is constantly growing and inspiring the WHY among her team. 

“While you need the courage to be bold, take a stand and to be accountable, you also need to be honest and trusted to support and be supported, to listen and to question, and ultimately develop together,” reflects Shilpa. 

Embrace Your Strengths, Reframe Your Mindset and Reward Your Efforts

Shilpa believes that in order for leaders and mentors to best create the conditions for BIWOC to thrive in the workplace, they must prioritize reframing inhibitions towards a growth mindset. Many BIWOC are dealing with familial/second generation pressures, imposter thoughts, othering and gender/racial biases. Shilpa encourages mentees to embrace their gifts and talents while owning their actions toward their desired outcomes. Shilpa believes in maintaining a list of affirmations, strengths and accomplishments especially to review and refer to when challenges present themselves.

“Mindset is everything. Feeling the fear but stepping out of our comfort zone anyway. Reframing thoughts that don’t serve us from “am I good enough?” or “I should be happy to at least have a seat at the table” to “I am more than good enough” and “This is my table,” believes Shilpa.  

Shilpa thinks that it is important for mentors and leaders to amplify BIWOC voices in their networks and share tangible ways in which early-career BIWOC can take up space. 

“Leaders can help through recognition, visibility and bringing along mentees in key conversations,” explains Shilpa. “Mentors can apply a strength-based lens to recognize and play up mentee’s strengths and move their mentorship from passive and private to active, helping make connections to people and opportunities.” 

Shilpa deeply believes in the power of community. “It is said BIWOC need to work twice as hard to get half as far. So for those of us who can, let’s try to help early-career BIWOC work smarter and take them with us so they get farther, faster.”

“It is said BIWOC need to work twice as hard to get half as far. So for those of us who can, let’s try to help young BIWOC work smarter and take them with us so they get farther, faster.” 

Surround Yourself with Those Who Want to See you Thrive 

When Shilpa first started mentoring BIWOC especially through AHF’s Fellowship Circle, she realized the systemic barriers she had faced in her own experiences. She gives examples of how when she first moved to Canada, she struggled to voice her thoughts and didn’t feel like she belonged in her largely white male work environment. She also felt that she settled when passed for promotions, and subjected to certain household roles and stereotypes existing in South Asian homes. She realized that she wasn’t flexing her whole self, and wasn’t getting the progression and creating the impact she wanted. 

Shilpa stresses the importance of creating a web of support with people devoted to helping you succeed. “Sometimes barriers expand because we unknowingly feed them the loneliness and isolation of the journey,” explains Shilpa. At AHF’s Fellowship Circle, she found a safe place to voice her own challenges and felt she also had the opportunity to explore tangible tools and learnings. The program was as valuable to mentors as it was to early-career BIWOC.

“Surround yourself with mentors and peers who want to see you thrive. Create your personal board of directors with those who see your potential, who are willing to listen, who ask questions, who don’t hesitate to push you out of your comfort zone, who advocate for you and celebrate and amplify you, as needed. This does not need to be a lonesome journey,” reflects Shilpa. 

 “Surround yourself with mentors and peers who want to see you thrive. Create your personal board of directors with those who see your potential, who are willing to listen, who ask questions, who don’t hesitate to push you out of your comfort zone, who advocate for you and celebrate and amplify you, as needed. This does not need to be a lonesome journey.”

Lifelong Learning and the Positive Impact of Reciprocal Mentorship 

There were several moments throughout the Fellowship Circle that offered meaningful learning for Shilpa. As a lifelong learner, she also had many ‘aha’ moments herself as a mentor.

One that particularly stood out for her was at the session by Karlyn Percil-Mercieca on Taming and Reframing Impost Syndrome Moments. “All those times I had doubted my thoughts, actions and achievements, were not on me. Since this realization, I have intentionally recognized my accomplishments, rewarded myself for my efforts, and pushed my own boundaries to be more effective.”

Shilpa added that the session about negotiation led by Fotini Iconomopoulos, titled Say Less, Get More (the same title as Fotini’s recently published book) was an eye-opener! “I realized how I had gotten in my own way and missed out based on my traditional understanding of the negotiation process.” Shilpa applied the tools, tips and strategies from the lab which helped her in various scenarios including her professional and personal transactions and even managing her two children. 

Shilpa adds that she felt that AHF’s Fellowship Circle was “chrysalis-like” for fellows and mentors alike! The experiences have helped her feel more grounded and open in strategic conversations and why she is wholeheartedly back to mentor in the Summer program.