Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta 4th Woman of Inspiration 2014-2015 Presented by Syncrude Announced

(Fort McMurray) Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude are proud to announce the 4th nominee for the Women of Inspiration series 2014-2015:

Neerja Gupta

Neerja Gupta was born in India, and had been teaching for 10 years in India and Kuwait with her Ph.D. in the language of ‘Hindi’ before moving to Canada in 2008. Since then, she has adapted and evolved while maintaining her own identity and character. She had to work on her accent, learn how to speak fluent English, figure out how to drive and go places on her own, and to be independent in her new country, all the while supporting a family adjusting to Canada.

She spent the first 5 months in Calgary but due to job cuts during the recession, she and her husband decided to move to Fort McMurray. After her struggles to find a suitable teaching job, she decided to take another path. While she strove to find employment, she did not want to be a burden on society so she decided to be a helping hand, as she believes in helping others and spreading positivity and hope amongst people. She did so by doing volunteer work at places such as the ‘Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) in Calgary and the YMCA in Fort McMurray.

She started as a cashier at Superstore and with her hard-work and help from CIWA (who help women by teaching them how to be more marketable) she landed herself a ‘Customer Service Representative (CSR)’ position with ATB Financial. After gaining 3 years of invaluable experience, she rose to senior CSR position. From not being able to understand English to making multi-cultural friends of different origins, and from being shy to being a confident woman – she toiled to transform herself.

But Neerja knew she had a lot more potential to tap into and had the desire to grow. In 2011, she took a big risk. She quit her bank job and started a construction company; in a male-dominated field in Fort McMurray. Today, she has successfully grown it to approximately $4 million dollar revenue, and has become a role model not only for her children and husband, but also for women of South-Asian origin. Neerja’s company, ATG Homes, is a one woman army. She leads the activities from the concept to commissioning; the planning, execution, research, buying supplies, follow-ups with customers. She works with sub-contractors and guides them at various stages by addressing inter-phase issues amongst various tradesmen to ensure desired results without any compromise on quality. Not only does Neerja run a one person company, she is also self-taught. The best part is that she makes it look so easy and is always smiling; she is an effortless leader. Women and girls look up to her as a successful, multi-skilled business woman and she is an inspiration to anyone who gets to know her story.

Neerja gives back to the community too. Along with her husband, she has donated over $25,000 to a local charity towards the construction of a cultural center in the Indian community in Fort McMurray. She is also looking forward to investing in India to help girls get educated by setting up a small school in a village. She is a live example to families from the same background and by teaching the value of self-esteem, the importance of being yourself, having a ‘can do’ attitude, and most importantly, never limit your dreams because the only thing that is stopping you is your imagination.

Even though she is from a minority, is a woman, and an immigrant who had to move between cities in search of work, Neerja dreamt big and started her company on her own. She has not only adapted to various roles to suit the situation/opportunity; such as teacher, banker, builder, philanthropist, and home maker, but also excelled in each of these roles. A little girl once came up to her at a cultural event where Neerja was volunteering and said, “Could I please have your autograph?” This shows the impact and respect she has earned. South-Asian women do not usually come from a background where they are taught to be independent. Flexibility and adaptability is the key. She developed a mindset that never considers anything as an obstacle; rather she treats it as an opportunity.

Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude will honour Neerja and 11 other nominees, at the Women of Inspiration Celebration which will take place on June 13th, 2015 at the Sawridge Hotel.

The Women of Inspiration is a partnership between Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude, with a goal to recognize women throughout the Wood Buffalo region who inspire others, break new ground or old barriers and help create change. The series also aims to show local girls positive role models who live right here.

To nominate a woman of inspiration, please visit our website at www.girlsincofnorthernalberta.org or contact the Girls Inc. office at 780-790-9236.

For more information, please contact:

Ann Dort-MacLean
Executive Director
Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta
Phone: 780-790-9236
Email: girlsinc@telus.net