Shreya EvaniProject Director
This is the story of how I left my path of Civil Engineering, giving up building buildings and taking on building people. It all started when I was in my final year of college, and UC Berkeley came up with the Smart Cities competition in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. That’s when I first met Professor Darwin and took some lectures on Business Model Innovations and sessions on Pitching Ideas. My team won that competition and that in turn inspired me to follow Professor Darwin on LinkedIn.
Exactly a year later, Professor Darwin portrayed the vision of Smart Villages and offered for me to work on his research project in Mori. I couldn’t have gotten a better opportunity. I immediately postponed my job offer and moved to the village with no clue of what was ahead except for the strong vision I shared with Professor Darwin. I wholeheartedly believed in his vision from the beginning. Living in Mori was very different from how I grew up; it was exploring and building networks every day. Professor Darwin coached our team to the extent that he even taught us how to relate on personal levels with the villagers and grasp the true reality of life in Mori. The six months of the UC Berkeley Smart Village Fellowship was a great learning curve in my career.
Working at grass-root levels, helping villagers understand the importance of technology, working with corporates and giving them a complete sense of what is required to be done was my overall job as a fellow. My parents supported me fully, never did they object to me being the only girl or for living in the village for two years now. They have supported my passion as much as possible. When Phase 2 stared, I left my job because I knew we signed up for something big. Attempting Phase 2 itself was a lot of hustle with enthusiasm. Professor Darwin is a constant source of inspiration to keep going with all kinds of challenges and hurdles.
Working with the government so closely made me realize that there is so much to be done for people and our planet and that only technological solutions can fill in the gap of resources, both physical and human. This Phase brought interesting insights and experience that none of the MBA colleges could have given. I have learned to work with Corporations, Government and most importantly leading team. I thank Professor Darwin for believing in me, and for giving me these huge responsibilities with direction to make it happen. I look forward to work in this sector and pour in my efforts to build many more smart villages –a great movement Professor Darwin had started.