Building a Better World

With a career trajectory spanning three continents, Akshaya Shivkumar highlights her role in the UN and serving humanity


Akshaya Shivkumar has a profession that one would be proud to speak about. She is an International Diplomat at the United Nations (UN), currently leading the strategy team at the Universal Postal Union, a UN specialised agency in Switzerland.
Previously, she served at the World Bank in Washington DC. As a Board Operations Officer, she worked with the Global Partnership for Education, the largest global fund solely dedicated to transforming education for children in lower-income countries.
She has worked in the UN system, strategy consulting, technology, and public policy; the government in India, France, Switzerland and the United States.
Akshaya was born in Pondicherry and moved to Goa when she was a year and a half old.
She did her primary schooling in Ezekiel Methodist School in Bambolim and completed her high school and
higher secondary schooling from the Our Lady of Rosary High School, Dona Paula.
Akshaya’s father worked with Goa University and has been associated with the Universtity for the last 25 years. He is the Founder Director of the UGC Centre for Latin American and International Studies and has also served as Acting Vice-Chancellor and Dean. Her mother holds a PhD in Indian philosophy and used to do research on the Indian diaspora as well. Growing up in an academic household meant a lot of discussions were centered on world affairs and politics.
As a kid, Akshaya loved the idea of being a leader and was always active in various school activities. She liked to read and write and has penned down various poems along with fictional stories. She was deeply involved in the student
activities in school and loved theater, directing and acting in plays. She started two clubs in high school called the Young Authors Book Club and the Talent Club. “My parents and teachers, throughout school, encouraged me to follow my passion which made my environment very conducive to growth. As a child, a lot of things interested me but the UN and the international aspect always excited me. I believe I was always passionate and driven about what I wanted to do, and blessed to have the opportunities to do so. I went on to complete my Bachelors in Business Administration at Saraswat Vidyalaya’s Sridora Caculo College of Commerce and Management, Mapusa, with immense support and encouragement from my teachers.”


Akshaya went abroad for her Masters’ program at , which is one of the top business schools in Europe. “HEC Paris really showed me what was possible in the world of business. I had the opportunity to work with large companies, and even as students, we were empowered to work on advanced projects with real-world impact.” After HEC, Akshaya was selected to lead the partnerships and marketing team at a startup linked to Facebook in San Francisco. “The dynamics there were so different thanks to the tech startup culture in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It was amazing to be a part of that ecosystem. My favourite part was going to networking events, where it was equally possible to run into top venture capitalists as it was to meet founders of very innovative startups. The ‘anything is possible’ spirit of the startup world has truly become part of my DNA.”
Akshaya later took up strategy consulting in India, where she advised different founders and CEOs of startups and companies about their varied strategies. It was an interesting job as she had to interact with people from different industries which helped her learn as well as implement her learning.
Subsequently, she moved to Switzerland where she began working for the United Nations. “The United Nations is an ocean. The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is a specialised agency which deals with the postal and logistics sector. I am in my eighth year here, and I truly believe in the great role that this institution plays in touching the lives of countries and citizens worldwide.” Akshaya further cites working with people from all over the world as one of the best parts of her role. “My most favourite part, of course, is the fundamental purpose of working for the greater good”, she adds.
After her first UPU tenure, Akshaya played a pivotal role at the World Bank as the Board Operations Officer for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Guiding governance under the leadership of prominent figures like Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, and Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania, she led the project cycle for organising meetings, advised committee chairs, and managed external relations with key stakeholders. Akshaya’s impact is notable in her role as the focal point for developing country partners, donors, and stakeholders for governance policy advice and clarifications, particularly related to the committees and supporting the board overall. Working closely with the Deputy CEO and Head of Governance, she played a key role in the successful implementation of governance reform via a revamped board and newly structured committees, showcasing her proficiency in change management and project leadership.

Celebrating a successful Extraordinary Congress in Riyadh with senior UPU leaders and colleagues of the UPU strategy team

Akshaya currently leads the corporate strategy program at the UPU. In this role, she brings hands-on abilities in strategic planning and innovation developed by leading the full process of UPU strategy design, formulation, and development for three 4-year strategic cycles and currently leading the fourth.
Her leadership extends to inter-agency collaboration, where she solely represented the UPU at the 78th UN General Assembly in New York and spearheaded a project team to analyse and showcase UPU contributions towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Notable achievements include orchestrating the UPU Strategy Summit 2023, a high-level global event with 2000+ attendees at Ministerial and CEO levels and leading the formulation of the UPU Strategy and Business Plan document. Her leadership style is evident in managing the strategy team, navigating tight deadlines, high pressure, and diverse stakeholders, and fostering a positive environment.
The most exciting part about her job, Akshaya says, is the international aspect. “It is amazing to work with people from all over the world. You start to approach life in a very collaborative manner, while constantly putting the interests of the world center stage. I do enjoy the travel, and have visited 35 countries, so far. Finally, when we work with high-level people, we get fully attuned to being results-oriented and solutions-focused. I feel fortunate to be in a field that is diverse and every day is different.”
When she is not working, Akshaya loves travelling, learning new languages, cultures, meeting new people, trying out new cuisines, music, art, reading, and writing. “I love being with nature and watching the mountains, as the Alps is right in my backyard. However, nothing compares to the beach!”. When it comes to difficulties and roadblocks, Akshaya says leaving home and Goa is always difficult. “Much as I come home regularly, it is not the same. Moving to different places is not easy − it enriches you but also leaves a void.” As a young woman from a developing country, she believes it is important to speak your mind. “It is important to be sincere to yourself, be fully knowledgeable about the job at hand, and state your opinions in a diplomatic manner.”
Her job involves hard work, late hours and sacrifices which is true of most successful careers. “But at the end of the day, I like to bring a business mindset and solutions-oriented approach to social problems. That curiosity and passion keeps me going.”

UPU_Organizing the World CEO Forum 2017 in Moscow.

Regarding her future plans, she says that her overall goal is to do something that impacts our world in a positive way. “Someday, I would love to come back to India and serve my country, especially Goa, since it’s my home and motherland. I would like to keep making a positive impact on people and continue to serve humanity with practical and sustainable solutions.” Akshaya concludes with advice to young professionals seeking an international career. “I would firstly say, keep an open mind and explore as much as possible. Listen to all points of view even if they oppose yours. Next, a thirst for knowledge and learning is important. Also, passion and drive will propel you forwards.
Find your tribe and mentors, and network as much as you can. Next, remember to give back to this network and stay humble as you soar. You will benefit immensely from having good people in your life. I am very fortunate in that aspect. You must cultivate and build that aspect over the years − and it is never too late to start!”

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