Dear Reader,

Have you ever been asked the oft-dreaded question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Some know the answer instinctively. Others search for a lifetime. 

Growing up in an immigrant family, I didn’t have to look too far. I was encouraged to follow a “safe” career path, aka engineering… 

Gayathri Engineering (004)
Engineer in training at Fort McMurray, 2005. As you can imagine, being an engineer in northern Alberta, what I do now at Campfire Kinship wasn't exactly my first calling.

…until I stumbled upon storytelling, rather unexpectedly.

Because I looked so different from the typical engineer, I misguidedly felt the need to “fit-in”. This of course led me down a path of struggle…until I discovered the power of empathy, and the perfect medium to harness empathy: storytelling.

Initially, my storytelling looked a lot like journaling. It was my way of practicing self-empathy to clarify my strengths, and figure out strategies to overcome bias. 

Over time, I learned that sharing stories can build empathy in diverse teams. It helps us come together on our shared values and human experiences. 

This led me to an aha moment: Diversity is a competitive advantage…if we know how to leverage it. If we don’t, it can easily lead to mistrust, conflict, and low morale. 

By owning and living into my strengths, I could attain what I previously didn’t think possible, such as:

– Building my credibility in a male-dominated field

– Leading teams with a culture of trust and belonging at its core

– Completing my MBA focused on leadership and transformation 

– Reinventing myself as an entrepreneur after a 17-year corporate career

– And what I love doing now….impacting 1000s of leaders to date in the use of storytelling to build empathy skills

I believe that each of us has unique gifts. And when we share those gifts authentically, we allow for others to do the same. So I first started Campfire Kinship as a passion project at the outset of pandemic in March 2020. I certified in an evidence-based method of storytelling called guided autobiography and began hosting workshops in my spare time. One thing led to another…soon I was able to quit my day job and incorporate Campfire Kinship in September 2021. (I share a bit about this journey in my podcast, Hearth 2 Heart, here.)

You might be wondering, why the name Campfire Kinship? I see it as a symbolic hearth where the act of sharing stories creates ripples. Ripples that bridge divides and catalyze a sense of purpose and belonging. Because we need ALL of us and our collective gifts to solve the pressing problems of today. 

I invite you to take a look around our site. Immerse yourself in the stories. And if you feel called to bring storytelling to wherever you live, work, or study, send me a note. I would love to explore it with you. 

Together, let’s unlock the power of stories to shape a more inclusive world. 

Gayathri

Gayathri MBA Graduation
MBA graduation at Queen's University, 2019. (while simultaneously juggling a full-time job and parenting two young kids...you can read about those learnings by clicking the picture.

Gayathri’s professional background includes:

  • Professional Engineer with an Executive MBA
  • 17 years of technical and management experience in the energy industry, most recently leading digital strategy and innovation programs in energy and mining
  • Author and Project Lead – Landed: Transformative Stories of Canadian Immigrant Women
  • TD Fellow for Financial and Economic Inclusion, Public Policy Forum, 2022-2023
  • Board Director and Committee Volunteer, Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, 2019-2022
  • Guided Autobiography Instructor Certification, Birren Center of Autobiographical Studies
  • Human Centered Design Certificate, Overlap Associates
  • Exponential Coaching Certificate, Nine Lions
  • Advanced Communicator Bronze, Toastmasters
  • Social Impact Certification, Queen’s University
  • Top 75 Immigrants of Canada, 2022
  • Nominee for City of Calgary Community Advocate – Individual Award (2022) 
  • Nominee for City of Calgary Arts Award (2023)
  • Recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal 
  • For further details, find Gayathri on LinkedIn.
Sheri Kohlman
Sheri Kohlman
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"Gayathri, you are intelligent, capable, successful, disciplined, collaborative, and resourceful. You are one impressive human being. I was intrigued by your worldwide experiences and multi-cultural exposures. These things make you so dang interesting! Your intelligence and determination are easily detected, yet you have such a sensitive and kind heart. The love for children and family was front and center in your stories. As someone else stated, “For an engineer, you are one heck of a writer!” I do know that you will find your own way to utilize GAB for your peers and that your leadership will make a big difference in their lives."
Louise Barker
Louise Barker
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"Gayathri, you are a visionary, compassionate, deep thinker, emotionally and intellectually sharp, and ethical. I am in awe of you. You are a beautiful soul and I have loved knowing a bit of you through your stories which are so rich in detail and yet always encompass the universe. I hope I get to hear about your next adventures and see the wonderful things you do."
Heidi Thorsen
Heidi Thorsen
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"Your story was so rich in cultural and historic detail, it helped me as the reader to understand more fully the impact of the events you described. I was struck by your strong and consistent theme throughout your story of recognizing disparities or differences in every place you lived. This ultimately led you to where you are today. Through your sharing of your story I can see where your inspiration and drive come from. You will make a tremendous impact on the students you will reach, and I have no doubt your passion will enrich the lives of many."​
Harry Whiting
Harry Whiting
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"Gayathri, you have a very strong and bold story showing your desire to be independent and lead with diligence and determination, following through on living the life that is best for you and you family. You chose a field of study for the purpose of training others to be more independent and integrative within any community. You will be a strong leader for the communities you will serve in the years to come."
Bill Marsela
Bill Marsela
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"When I see your stories Gayathri, I know I am in front of a sumptuous meal and that I want to savor every morsel, every delicious metaphor and anecdote and emotion from the heart you share on the page. My blessing for you is that you always remain an Engineer with the heart and soul of a poet. Your stories are like great tapestries of art and come alive with a wonder and imagination illustrative of the adventurous life you’ve lived. The stories you shared of 'notable women' who have inspired you in your lifetime left me with the thought that one day a young woman will be writing a similar story about her own views on life and include a paragraph on one of her role models....Gayathri Shukla🙂 "
Simone Favelle
Simone Favelle
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"Gayathri, what an amazing story! You definitely coped with a lot of change, and had some incredible experiences of living in different countries, but what amazed me most of all was your courage! How amazing to return to India. You took on a whole new set of challenges by the time you were 15, but really embraced them. Fort McMurray was another incredibly bold step! I so admire your courage and determination to learn in everything you do. It makes perfect sense that you would study social impact, it sounds like you were taking this approach to understanding community in every place you lived! You have much to be proud of Gayathri! I have also appreciated the way you give feedback; you always seem to know just what to say. "
Phillip Holden
Phillip Holden
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"What touched me about your story was the complexity of what it means to be part of a community and to belong, and charting your path in a determined manner. Now you are committed to using the power of storytelling to enable social inclusion. You chose engineering and your story shows an important truth—often we can come to love something through experience, and free choice may not be as important as we think. I also really appreciated the struggles that you went through to do your MBA, and the idea of your North Star. You shared your hopes of using Guided Autobiography to encourage women into STEM professions such as engineering, and your own story will be an inspiring example to others."
Cheryl Svensson
Cheryl Svensson
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"Your stories have transported us into distant and unfamiliar cultures with such keen acumen that I could taste the delicacies and smell the aromas arising from your grandmother’s kitchen. What an amazing life journey and so much more than a 'career' story but really, more like Joseph Campbell's 'Hero's Journey'. You have found your passion and your own unique way to express it. What a gift that is. You are the exemplar of hard work and courage laced with love and compassion. Thank you for being you and bringing light into an often dark and depressing world!"
Iowana Whitman-Tims
Iowana Whitman-Tims
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"Oh my gosh! You are a poetically gifted, creative writer, who happens to be an amazing engineer! That’s who you revealed yourself to be during this class. When you shared about the challenges you faced in the workplace as a gifted, female engineer, my heart went out to you. It was quite evident that you shattered a few glass ceilings. I wanted to paint the spirit of your grandmother with XOXO’s when you shared your story of her influence in your life. Your writing shows your love for family – family means everything to you. You’re a visionary with a caring heart and I know the professional women whose lives you will impact as a GAB instructor are in for wonderful treats."
Deb Winters
Deb Winters
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"Gayathri, II’m inspired when I listen to your stories. Your thoughts on the different themes and the way you write are truly first-rate. The bonds you have are strong and thoughtful, your descriptions are fantastic! You are a great role model for others."
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