Fifth in a series of spotlights of past SABA GB Presidents
Rashima Shukla was born in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. She graduated from Brandeis University and Northeastern University School of Law.
Rashima recently joined the legal team of PTC, a publicly traded technology leader headquartered in Boston, as their Senior Staff Counsel. Prior to her current role, she was Associate Counsel and Contracts Manager at Mayflower Communications, a privately held technology company mainly serving the defense sector. At Mayflower, Rashima led the negotiation and drafting of complex technology deals with the federal Government and multinational corporations, including production contracts, software licenses, and technology transfer agreements. She was also instrumental in managing the company’s bid and proposal team through the federal Government procurement life cycle, which resulted in award of Mayflower’s largest production contract to date. Mayflower recognized Rashima as ‘Employee of the Year’ for her exceptional performance.
Rashia’s accomplishments were also celebrated by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, which designated her an “In-House Leader in the Law” in 2019.
- You are a Massachusetts native and grew up here. But you moved to India for a while as a child. I remember the first time I visited India as a kid, it was a bit of a culture shock. What was your experience like?
I was born in North Attleboro, a small town south of Boston. It was a wonderful place to grow up, but it was not very diverse, so moving to India definitely resulted in some culture shock! In fact, that culture shock can be blamed for me being a kindergarten drop-out. Here’s the backstory:
My parents immigrated to the United States from Kanpur, India, and my father started his career as an engineer at Texas Instruments in MA. When I was about six, our family moved to India after my father accepted a year-long sabbatical to serve as a professor at his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur. It was quite an undertaking to move the whole family, including three kids, to India for a year. While there, I was enrolled in a school on the university campus, but had trouble adjusting to language barriers, teaching methods (a ruler to the knuckles!), and an advanced curriculum (I had hoped for basic addition, subtraction, and coloring). I rebelled and refused to attend, much to the dismay of my parents…which is the backstory of how I became a kindergarten drop-out! With nothing else to occupy my time for the year, my parents replaced school lessons with tennis lessons, and I learned to play on the clay courts of India – a hobby that I continued to pursue competitively through high school and college.
Despite my initial culture shock, I remember the time fondly – upgrading from mac and cheese to fresh rotis, candy to fresh sugar cane, and a small nuclear family to thirty cousins and my doting grandparents. Eventually, my family returned to MA after about a year, but we continued to travel to India every summer for 2 to 3 months at a time throughout my childhood. Looking back on the experience, I realize just how valuable that time in India was - providing valuable perspective and life lessons (even outside of the kindergarten classroom!).
- Tell me about any early experiences and schooling that may have fertilized the seed that grew into a future lawyer.
As many children can relate to, my parents would often turn to me when they were confronted with consumer protection issues, and it became second nature for me to help them navigate their legal rights. But as many children of immigrants can also relate to, I unfortunately found that resolving a dispute was sometimes far easier to accomplish with my Boston accent than their Indian accents. Thus, I realized early on the importance of advocacy to help others combat discrimination and understand their rights. In fact, this is what makes SABA GB’s ‘Know Your Rights’ (KYR) program (led by Advisory Board member Manisha Bhatt) one of neatest programs offered by the organization – it’s instrumental to ensuring that South Asian community members understand their rights.
And regarding schooling, I was very much a science geek, competing in science fairs throughout junior high and high school. Little known fun fact (debatable if it’s fun!) – in high school, I published and presented a paper at an engineering conference in San Diego about metal migration of dendrites on circuit boards. I was fascinated at that age by science and technology – which seems particularly apt, given that for virtually my entire legal career, I have worked for technology companies.
- How did college and law school lead you down your career path?
I went to college at Brandeis University, which I loved due to the incredible professors and lifelong friendships that I forged there. When I got to college, I gravitated towards history, philosophy, law, and politics. I majored in political science and graduated in three years, rushing to take the next step.
I went to law school at Northeastern University – the co-op experience was extremely attractive to me because I could get meaningful work experience while in law school. The three-months you spend in the co-op rotations allow law students to get a real feel for a particular area of the law or practice setting to figure out what you want – or do not want – to do. Co-ops offered a unique opportunity to fully immerse and gain exposure to all sort of matters. For example, interns at the federal courthouse were permitted to observe ongoing trials in their downtime, and I remember listening wide-eyed to a trial where a prominent mobster was on the witness stand. It made class that much more interesting by taking it from the textbook to reality.
- Your first job out of law school was working in the in-house law department of Mayflower Communications. Not only is it very rare for people straight out of law school to go to work in-house, but you stayed with Mayflower more than 10 years. What was that experience like?
From the start, it was very hands-on. I was thrown into the thick of things right away, and it gave me the chance to participate in matters that young lawyers may not be exposed to until later in their careers. Early on, I would redline documents in isolation. But under the guidance of a talented General Counsel, I quickly learned to avoid such tunnel vision and instead understand not only the legal issues, but the broader context and business implications of the technology deals that I was working on. And having a lengthy tenure there allowed me to provide comprehensive counsel based on institutional knowledge of past deals and program.
It’s this same enthusiasm for being a part of a company doing innovative work in the technology space that led me to my new role on the legal team of PTC, which provides software and services solutions to help companies drive digital transformation. I find it gratifying to join organizations that are advancing technology, because you truly get to see the real-world impact of the legal documents and deals that you’re working on.
- You joined SABA GB’s Board of Directors in 2016. You were president in 2018. How has SABA GB been important to you?
When I was in law school, Northeastern didn’t have a South Asian Law Student Association (SALSA). There were too few South Asian law students at the time, so the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) very kindly took us under their wing. Thus, joining SABA GB offered access to a broader network of South Asian colleagues in the Greater Boston area.
For years, I attended SABA GB events on the periphery, but was not directly involved. However, with the encouragement of Lalitha Gunturi, a former SABA GB VP, I took the opportunity to run for a position on the Board of Directors. My involvement with SABA GB has proven to be one of the most personally and professionally rewarding experiences of my life.
I co-chaired the Mentorship Committee during my first year on the Board with Manmeet Desai, and together, we helped pair a record number of SABA GB law students and attorneys for a year-long mentorship experience. Thereafter, I served on the SABA GB Executive Committee as the Secretary in 2017, and finally, as President in 2018, when the Board organized a sold-out annual Gala, an immigration and naturalization drive, and helped win a bid to bring the SABA North America national conference back to Boston.
The personal friendships and professional growth opportunities I’ve gained through SABA GB are nothing short of incredible. On a personal level, some of my closest friendships were formed via SABA. And on a professional level, the organization offers an incredible support network of accomplished attorneys who are champions and mentors committed to lifting their fellow colleagues as they climb.