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Nikita Gupta: Changing the Workforce

Nikita Gupta: Changing the Workforce


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Nikita Gupta, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Symba. Let’s learn what’s happening at Symba and how Nikita is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Nikita, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge is Symba addressing?

Nikita: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Symba is on a mission to open up the workforce. Over twelve million students do not have access to participate in an internship program, even though they seek the opportunity. We interviewed 250+ talent leaders and discovered that employers lack the necessary tools and resources to scale accessible internships and needed a solution. Symba’s technology and resources help talent leaders take their programs hybrid or remote, opening their internships to candidates based anywhere with internet access.

Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?

Nikita: As a female software engineer, I rarely saw leaders at large corporations who looked like me. The lack of diverse mentors at the start of my career made me want to be one for future generations. Seeing our customers scale their internship programs after integrating our product, some by up to 600x, inspires me to keep building out product features that unite a diverse workforce. When our contract sizes grow, I get excited knowing more paid and accessible intern roles are opening as a result.


Spiffy: Amazing, how would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?

Nikita: Symba’s internship management platform facilitates equitable access to jobs and wealth creation by enabling employers to streamline inefficiencies and scale critical early-in-career job opportunities to more diverse job seekers globally. In the name of symbiosis, Symba only powers programs that pay their interns. We also partner with nonprofits like YUPRO and INROADS to power their programs supporting Opportunity Talent and underserved communities.


Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make?

Nikita: This National Intern Day, we partnered with Pay Our Interns to launch the Paid Internships Pledge, urging employers to publicly commit to paying their interns fair wages. Currently over 40% of US internships are unpaid, disproportionately affecting women, Black, Hispanic, and multiracial Americans. Given that paid internships are more likely to lead to full-time job offers and higher starting salaries, Symba is advocating for all internships to be paid and educating employers on funding resources.


Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?

My co-founder and I started Symba in 2017, at a time when people felt internships had to be in-person. For 5 months we pivoted to support gig economy workers instead of internships but that didn’t sell. We switched back to the market we believed in and now we’re signing multi-year contracts. I learned that you don’t have to absorb all the advice that is given to you. Respectfully listen to your mentors and investors. In the end, choose what you think is right for you and your business.


Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Nikita: My mantra is “Follow your gut, not the recipe.” It’s guided me and my co-founder when navigating the challenges of fundraising as women of color. I hope it can be a reminder for other entrepreneurs to trust their intuition, knowledge, and experience.


Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Nikita—it’s been an honor!

Nikita Gupta graduated from Cornell in Computer Science Engineering. Nikita is currently the co-founder and CTO of Symba, a platform to help companies manage and design remote internships. She was recently awarded Forbes 30 Under 30 in Enterprise Technology, a Halcyon Fellow, and 40 Under 40 by SF Business Times. Originally from NJ and India, Nikita is currently residing in NY/NJ. In her spare time, she can be found cooking (nikitaskitchen.com), dancing, or scuba diving. (Nominated by Kelly King. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 27, 2022.)


© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jason Block. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.