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Tirthak Saha Has Some Very Good Energy

Tirthak Saha is at the age where most young people are just starting to get things—a job, a mortgage, that next drink at happy hour. But instead of looking at what’s directly ahead of him, Saha, 27, has his eyes decades down the road. 

Born in India but living in Chicago, Saha is currently working to modernize the electric grid in the American Midwest, and, more broadly, create a fossil fuel independent future for America and beyond.

It’s just saving the planet, no big deal. (We saved the world from ill-fitting pants, so we’re practically the same.) So obviously Saha is hyper-aware that what he’s attempting is unique and full of undiscovered possibilities. He was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, after all.

“I know I’m working in a field where I’m lucky enough to be able to find solutions, not just for now and today, but for posterity,” he tells us. “So that’s what motivates me, you know, to go out there and give it the best I have, because I know the work I do is going to affect a lot of other people to follow.”

Growing up in India—a country known for rolling blackouts, including 2012’s massive outage that left half the country in the dark—Saha realized early that everyday necessities, like reliable power and clean air, shouldn’t be considered luxuries. This was to become his life’s work, dedicating all his power to making sure energy works for everyone.

That’s how he suddenly found himself thousands of miles away, going from Delhi to Philadelphia to all across America, as an immigrant trying to find out how he fit in this new land. With this new home came new uncertainties—would he make connections? Would people understand his goals? “For the longest time I struggled with that question of where I fit into society,”  Saha recalls. “I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere, and yet, I fit in anywhere I want. Fit is definitely about adaptability.”

This flexibility has allowed Saha to grow a support system as he travels for work. It turns out, spoiler alert, there are a lot of like-minded people out in the world. “Science doesn’t know geographical limits, and if you have a good idea, you can find many, many people who want to help,” he says. “I get to meet a lot of people who are definitely more competent than I am (Editor’s Note: this can’t be true), so it serves as a constant source of inspiration, and in the process, I get to discover who I am as well.”

Besides his passion for his work and the people he meets, there’s one other thing you immediately notice about Saha—he’s an impeccable dresser. He says it’s because of his need to feel completely comfortable in high-stakes situations. Why would the head of a large corporation take your request to lower their carbon emissions seriously if you don’t look confident, right? “That’s definitely a difficult conversation to have, and if I’m not feeling comfortable, then I know I won’t be able to concentrate,” he explains. “But if you find your fit and style, and you feel comfortable in it, then it definitely helps you work at your optimum level.”

But as important and stressful as his job is, Saha remains lighthearted. “Take your work seriously and not yourself,” he says. Focus on your friends, celebrate new traditions with new people, whatever it takes to keep you passionate and moving forward. And if he finds it difficult to feel hopeful, he remembers he’s not alone. But also, he thinks about what he would tell his younger self back in India:

“It gets better; you get to shoot an ad.”

Damn right, young Tirthak. You’re not only saving the world; you’re also a model.

Matthew Leathers lives and works in New York City, but his heart belongs to the sea.