Leadership, Done Differently — Congrats to Bijal Shah, DBJ 40 Under 40

By CEO & Co-Founder, Rachel Carlson

At Guild, we’ve aimed to ignore conventional wisdom in pursuit of tackling great challenges. That was table stakes as we set out to change the longstanding, outdated relationship between education and employment for America’s workforce, and address head-on systemic failures like low graduation rates and the student debt crisis.

We’ve also aimed to lead differently within Guild, bringing our humanity and core values into our everyday work to rethink “how it’s always been done”. That’s part of why we’re proud to be a certified B Corporation, with a business model that fully aligns our incentives to do well, by doing good. It’s also why we moved the company to Denver so that all of our team — engineering, coaching, client services — could work together in a place where we could afford to live and build families.

As I think about the virtues of leading differently, no one embodies that pursuit better than Bijal Shah, our Chief Technology and Payments Officer (CTPO). Bijal was recently named to Denver Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 List. In and of itself, this award is exciting and recognizes the incredible work Bijal has done in her career. But there’s more to her story.

Bijal is a trailblazer, in seen and unseen ways. She approaches technology in new and unorthodox ways, bringing together disciplines like engineering, product, payments and analytics to solve unique challenges. She’s also a woman of color in a technology leadership role that is almost always led by white men. That matters for so many reasons, among them — Guild’s average student is also a woman of color. Serving those students differently is meaningfully enhanced by a new type of leadership.

Like most CTOs, Bijal is focused on building technology solutions that deliver on our company’s mission, which at Guild means deepening the integrations between employers and universities, supporting our coaches and their work through advanced data science concepts, and breaking higher education’s gridlock on tuition payments, timing and eligibility. Bijal sets herself apart with her focus on increasing Guild’s contributions by serving as many students as possible. She’s grounded in practicality — she’s not interested in using technology that is cool or trendy just for the sake of it. If it doesn’t ultimately serve students or drive value for our partners, she isn’t advocating for it. That’s part of why Bijal isn’t just our CTO, she’s our CTPO overseeing payments as well. (We tried for C-3P0, but, it turns out, that name was taken).

As an alum of leading payments and marketplace companies like Visa, Bijal’s understanding of marketplace businesses and the underlying infrastructure investments needed to help marketplaces scale is unmatched. What she does is vital to the value we bring to our employer partners, which comes in large part from our ability to navigate the payments industry.

Moreover, driving alignment between our technology and payments teams under Bijal has allowed us to move fast and continue to stay ahead of the market. From there, we can scale teams rapidly with intention and serve more students across more employee partners. The work she oversees elevates our technology mission in creative and innovative ways. Our teams are ensuring we have a clear “what” and “how” to make higher education affordable and accessible to millions of Americans.

Lastly, Bijal’s an incredible role model to our team, and that leadership manifests in seen and unseen diversity across Guild as well. In her spare time, she’s overseen Guild’s office expansion to accommodate 500+ Guilders in our new home. Moreover, she’s been a pillar in the Denver community, leading on boards like the Downtown Denver Partnership and Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, helping Guild open Denver’s first employer-based daycare, and driving dialogue and awareness on women’s fertility issues.

At Guild, we like to say “we’re just getting started” but I can tell you the engine is humming with Bijal at the helm. Congrats to all of the 40 under 40 recipients from all of us at Guild!

Guild partners with leading employers to offer Education as a Benefit. We transform tuition assistance from a cost center into a strategic investment.