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Finding your Passion with Shilpa Alva, Founder of Surge for Water

Interview | Shilpa Alva

Finding your Passion with Shilpa Alva, Founder of Surge for Water

Career, Entrepreneurship, Mindset, Relationships
Medha Pratap Medha Pratap
Career, Entrepreneurship, Mindset, Relationships
“My life was so full of meaningless minutia which is what I got tired of.”

Shilpa Alva is the Founder and Executive Director of Surge for Water, a Chicago based nonprofit organization that has provided safe water and sanitation solutions to 1 million people in 11 countries. 

After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Chemical Engineering, she joined the Corporate world. From here, she enjoyed rapid early career success, earned her MBA, and continued up the Corporate ladder.

Eventually, Shilpa came to the hard realization that she was not living in true alignment with her purpose and gradually became disillusioned by her lifestyle. This led to Surge For Water’s eventual founding and to her leaving a successful career and secure lifestyle. 

This leap of faith has lead to great things, both through the joy she experiences in her daily purpose-driven life and through the communities who benefit from Surge’s work every single day. 


Some questions we ask:

  1. What did you want to be when you grew up? (4:00)
  2. What sparked your desire to give back to the community at 7 years old? (9:00)
  3. What happened to that person who was connected to humanity? (15:00) 
  4. What was your first step to launch Surge For Water? (17:00)
  5. How did you know that water was your avenue? (19:00)
  6. How did you become so self-aware? (22:00)
  7. Were you scared to take the leap of faith and leave the corporate world? (27:00) 
  8. Do you take time to reflect and celebrate your accomplishments? (32:00)
  9. What personal sacrifices have you made for success? (36:00)
  10. Did you suffer from depression when you were juggling all aspects of your life? (38:00) 


In this episode, Shilpa shares her personal journey and milestones that led to the founding of Surge For Water, and the struggles and joys associated with running a global organization that brings safe water and sanitation solutions to people in need. We learn how she discovered her passion and what it takes to provide sanitation to poverty-stricken areas one drop at a time. 

Some nuggets of wisdom in Shilpa’s words:

  • The formula to discover your passion is to feed your creative soul, listen to your inner child, and give that voice space to be heard. 
  • You can turn fear into productivity and that when you give something your all, the universe will respond. 
  • The ultimate comfort comes from a strong tribe and a ‘this too shall pass’ mentality through tough times. 



Shilpa Alva is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Surge for Water. Prior to starting Surge for Water, Shilpa worked at Ernst & Young as a Consultant and Manager for over 3 years. Before Ernst & Young, Shilpa worked at Ecolab in the Supply Chain Team for over 7 years as a Manager and Planner. Shilpa completed her undergraduate degree at John Hopkins University in Chemical Engineering and Biochemical Engineering in 2002, and completed her Masters in Business Administration from the University of Minnesota in 2010. 


Shilpa is currently based in the Chicago area but travels often for Surge for Water. In addition to her passion for safe water and global development, Shilpa loves to travel to new countries, read, practice yoga, meditate, and dance offbeat.

Medha Pratap

Written By

Medha is the head content writer for Staying Uncomfortable. She has leveraged her creative energy to enhance organizational brand visibility through fresh marketing communications strategies at numerous software companies. Medha has pursued her Masters of Science in Marketing and Strategy at the University of Warwick and holds a Bachelor degree in Business Management with a major in Marketing and a minor in Communications from the Ohio State University. When she isn’t busy pursuing her marketing dreams, you can find her exploring new countries or enjoying a movie or two at the theater. Favorite Quote: "A setback is a setup for a comeback."

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