As an energy engineer, and Bhakti yoga teacher, Priya Dey-Sarkar’s life may at first glance seem at odds with itself. But she only sees how connected it all is. “No matter what I do, I work with energy — helping it flow from point A to point B,” Dey-Sarkar explains.
Most recently, Dey-Sarkar works as a senior pipeline engineer for NV Energy. She is also a board advisor and former fellow for FUSE Corps. FUSE is a nationwide civic reform group that embeds their hand-chosen fellows in individual cities to tackle profound challenges — think homelessness, addiction and climate change. Dey-Sarkar was sent to New Orleans to work on flooding. The qualities that attracted FUSE to Dey-Sarkar are the same that have made her successful working at huge corporations that include ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Xelio and now NV Energy – conscious, empathetic leadership.
Leading from the Heart
Whether working with servicemen at NV Energy, collaborating with the New Orleans City Manager to improve flood safety controls, or leading students in Kirtan (devotional chanting), Dey-Sarkar leads from the heart
“No matter what you do, it’s your authenticity that matters,” says Dey-Sarkar.
This talented engineer has faced plenty of bewilderment over her identity her entire life. She is a female in a male-dominated technical field. She is an Indian woman who grew up in Texas. And she’s driven to serve others while working in corporate cultures most associated with profit and shareholders.
“Growing up in the ’80s in Texas, it’s a bit dicey being Indian in a conservative culture,” she says. “While my parents were very open-minded, it wasn’t always the case in reverse. I had to learn about different cultures, religions and personalities – I was taught never to judge. There is no fear of ‘the other.’ People are inherently good, they mean well – that is our assumption.”
Her approach has been a challenge to her career at times, but she has learned that when she is secure with herself, those issues are minimized. “Joy in working doesn’t have to do with the particular corporation or organization, but with your own foundation, the alignment of your mind/body/spirit,” she explains. “Good leadership comes from getting into your own spiritual practice.”
As Dey-Sarkar has come to better understand herself and what she calls her ‘happiness points,’ she has moved in her career. She believes that whether a corporation or agency is profit- or service-driven is actually immaterial in terms of core happiness. She says that the public, private, and non-profit sectors of business have leadership and business practice models that are easily interchangeable. While technical content is part of every job, the people we affect and share time with each day are the most important. “You can make service part of your job no matter what it is,” she explains. “Whether it’s customer service, fixing drainage pumps for a large neighborhood, or preparing a climate resilience plan, there is always an opportunity to serve another human being.”
Now at NV Energy, she finds the renewable energy mandates “very exciting” as she sees the economics of alternative energy driving progress as much as the drive to do what’s best for the planet. She hopes to continue her work supporting climate resilience and addressing energy access.
In Service to Others
A unifying aspect of Dey-Sarkar’s various roles – from NV Energy customers dealing with service disruption to yoga students working through childhood trauma – is helping others problem solve. And most problems, she believes, can be resolved by first understanding who we are.
Dey-Sarkar teaches Bhakti yoga, loosely translated as a journey of the heart. This spiritual practice within Sanatana Dharma is focused on loving devotion towards a personal god. “When people are able to connect – with themselves, their spirituality and each other – it’s transformative.”
And she believes she is uniquely equipped to provide this support. “I was so loved and challenged in the right way as a child, I am able to make space for others. I provide the space for others to be their own guide or teacher or guru,” she says. “I do my best to give away knowledge and positivity.”
The particular form of yoga that Dey-Sarkar teaches is intended to effect profound change. Her students – one of whom nominated her for this story – regularly report having breakthroughs that include feeling more at peace, letting go of anger and resentment and making peace with family members.
“It’s a cycle of support and blessings,” she says. “The act of doing something together is key, you’re not alone. I’m here to hold space for you, for your transformation from a neutral space. To build a community where you are loved for no reason.”