WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mumbai-born Sonal Shah, 51, an erstwhile senior Obama administration official and co-founder of Indicorps, who was the 2003 India Abroad Person of the Year, has been hired by Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign as its national policy director.
Shah’s appointment, along with that of former Democratic National Committee CEO Jess O’Connell as senior adviser to the Buttigieg campaign, comes close on the heels of the hiring of another Indian-American Swati Mylavarapu, an investment director, as the campaign’s chief financial officer as the Fort Bend, Indiana mayor has raked in the highest fund-raising numbers among all of the Democratic presidential candidates and is now sitting on campaign coffers boasting of $24.9 million haul by end of the second fund-raising quarter of 2019.
As the founding executive director of Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation for the past five years, Shah, has taken a leave of absence from the Center to serve in Buttigieg’s campaign.
Immediately the news broke of her new gig, she tweeted, “Super excited to be joining @PeteButtigieg campaign with @JessOConnell who is awesome!”
Shah served as deputy assistant to the President for President Obama and founded the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.
Her extensive experience in the public sector also included a stint as an international economist at the Department of Treasury in the Clinton administration and she was credited with setting set up the central bank in Bosnia, working post conflict reconstruction in Kosovo, and implementing poverty reduction strategies in Africa and financial crises in Asia and Latin America.
Shah’s private sector experience, included positions at Google, where she led the technology initiative for civic voice and investing for impact as the head of Global Development Initiatives and at Goldman Sachs, where she developed the environmental strategy and ran the initiatives, including investing clean technologies.
But she has always said that one of her most proud accomplishments was in working with her siblings — Roopal and Anand — to create the non-profit, Indicorps — on the lines of the U.S. Peace Corps — to help young Indian-Americans reconnect with their heritage by providing them with an opportunity to spend time in India doing community work at grass roots level and to build a new generation of socially conscious global leaders, for which she was honored with the 2003 India Abroad Person of the Year (IAPOY) award, by then U.S.Senator Hillary Clinton, who was the chief guest at the gala New York event held at the Waldorf Astoria hotel
Indicorps created the service movement in India inspiring and incubating new social enterprises like Teach for India and Sarvajal.
In presenting Shah with the IAPOY, Clinton said, “Her energy is an example to all of us of how to give back and create experiences for Indian American youth. It helps to create common goals for the future and leaders for tomorrow.”
The former First Lady, said, “I think it is very important that more Indian Americans become involved in serving the government and doing so on behalf of the values of progress and prosperity.”
Shah's hiring by Buttigieg coincides with his release of policy proposals on National Service and Douglass Plan, aimed at African Americans and his announcement that he intends to roll out additional policy proposals in the coming weeks.
Politico reported that the hiringsof Shah and O’Connell, are the most high-profile additions the campaign has made since it announced raising $24.9 million in the second fundraising quarter of 2019, the highest total in the Democratic field.
Shah immigrated to the U.S. with her parents in 1972 at the age of 4, and grew up in Houston, Texas.
She is an alumna of the University of Chicago and Duke University, from where she received a B.A. in Economics (Class of 1990) and a master's degree also in Economics respectively.
After her stint in the Clinton administration from 1995 to 2001, Shah, from 2001-2003, served at the Center for Global Development as Director of Operations and Programs, helping set up all aspects of the strategy, infrastructure and operations.
From 2003-2004, she worked at the Center for American Progress — a Washington, D.C.-based progressive think tank —as an associate director, advising current and former Congressional and government executives on a wide variety of issues including trade, outsourcing and post-conflict reconstruction.
On April 2009, after working in the private sector from 2004 to 2009, first with Goldman Sachs and then Google, she returned to public service, first as a member of the Obama-Biden transition team and then as the director of the newly created White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, to coordinate governmental efforts to aid innovative nonprofit groups and social entrepreneurs to address pressing social problems.
At the same time, Shah also worked with the National Security Council to bring a global perspective to these efforts.