“TSA encourages you to go beyond your comfort zone and the traditional four corners of school.”
Stepping outside her comfort zone has been no problem for Pratyusha Gupta, a former national TSA officer who is now an analyst at an investment firm just outside New York City.
Pratyusha was born in India and moved to the United States at the age of four with her parents, Madhu and OP Gupta. “From the moment I started school, my parents tirelessly encouraged me to push boundaries and aim higher. In pursuit of these greater goals, I joined TSA at my new middle school, Postlethwait. At the time, I had no idea what TSA was; I had never been a part of a real extracurricular activity. But I embraced the challenge.”
Pratyusha says her first few years in TSA found her enrolling in as many competitions as allowed, so she could discover her strengths. She took on Webmaster, Future Technology Teacher, and any research-based competitive events. “In the beginning, TSA taught me about myself: what I was good at, what kind of work I liked,” she recalls. “In fact, it was TSA that introduced me to web development.”
“I found that my success in TSA competitive events was almost entirely correlated to the effort I put into them. Since I have always been a relatively competitive person, the reward of winning fueled the initial development of my work ethic,” explains Pratyusha. “But as my activities changed over time to have less tangible rewards, I learned to enjoy the process of work itself. I no longer worked for just the reward; rather, for the process.”
She adds, “TSA makes you think in a way that’s very different from the way school does. It makes you be more inventive in how you research and apply knowledge, and it helped me realize that what I do today, fits into the bigger picture tomorrow.”
Then with the support of her parents, Pratyusha embarked on the leadership track. In 7th grade, she was elected secretary of her middle school chapter; in 8th grade, president. At Caesar Rodney High School, she was elected Delaware TSA state secretary and president, then national TSA secretary and president. “That’s when TSA granted me the greatest gift,” declares Pratyusha. “I had the honor and privilege of serving at many levels throughout this organization—of learning from chapter advisors, state advisors, and national advisors who were intimately familiar with the rewards and challenges of student leadership.”
Key takeaways also came from the organization itself. “One of the best parts about being an officer is the conversations that you can have across state and chapter lines. Only then do you develop a true picture of what TSA has done for student members across the world. Until this day—serving as the national TSA president, addressing the membership of an organization that taught me most of what I know professionally, and having my parents-turned-cheerleaders in the crowd—is one of my proudest moments. I can only hope that I served the organization well.”
She credits her participation in TSA as a major selling point when it came time to apply to colleges—making her a more dynamic candidate as she shared the importance of the organization in her life in college application essays.
Pratyusha went on to earn not only one, but two, undergraduate degrees from the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania: a bachelor’s in finance from The Wharton School and a bachelor’s in computer science from the School of Engineering. “Penn was the most challenging experience of my life, but I believe the wide range of soft and hard skills I developed in TSA—such as written and verbal presentation, leadership, and creativity—helped me to succeed there,” she says.
Now, Pratyusha works just outside of New York City as an analyst for an investment firm focused on credit and special situations. She finds that the strong aptitude for problem solving she developed in TSA, has allowed her to be flexible in her work. “I dedicate my time to problems that I find interesting and try to work on in an intelligent manner. I’ve been fortunate that over time, I’ve spent my time on interesting problems, strengthening my work ethic.”
Mike Fitzgerald, Delaware TSA state advisor, credits the Gupta family with “cultivating leadership.” Pratyusha’s sister, Priya, was elected as Postlethwait Middle School chapter’s fill-in reporter and president, and at Caesar Rodney High School, as Delaware TSA reporter and secretary.
Pratyusha attributes her strong work ethic to two primary factors. “I've been lucky enough to mainly be involved in activities and pursue classes that I authentically enjoy and I’m a goal-oriented person whose desire to achieve goals inspires me to work harder. I also have a strong community of family and friends that supports me in difficult times, making it easier to remain focused and motivated.”
“Overall, TSA has been the single, most impactful organization to my life and I hope to give back as long as I can as an alumna,” says Pratyusha, who volunteers annually as a judge at the Delaware TSA State Conference, most recently for the Chapter Team competition.
And just as she has done, Pratyusha hopes TSA student members will reach beyond their comfort zones. “Most students have one to two favorite competitive events, but every year, you should try something new to expand your horizons,” she suggests.” Also, meet as many people as you can at conferences and other events. TSA introduced me to friends and mentors I remain in touch with to this day—and hope to keep for life!”