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  • 17 Oct 2020 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    An interview with Ramya Subramanian 
    By Ragoo Raghunathan

    In our Professional Self corner today, we are featuring an interview with Dr. Ramya Subramanian, a Shrewsbury resident and member of ISW who recently transitioned into a job after a long hiatus. Taking a break in your career path has become quite common nowadays due to various reasons. There is nothing wrong about it. The reasons could be anything from just wanting to take a break, general or mental fatigue, situations in the family, medical reasons or even a paradigm shift in the career track itself.

    I talked to Ramya to get her perspective, more so to highlight what one might expect if they were in this situation. If you know Ramya, she is an introvert, and it is not easy to network or socialize if you call yourself one.

    Congratulations on your recent transition into your new job after a relatively long break, tell us a little about your background.

    Thank you! I am a life science researcher by training. I completed a Ph.D in Zoology from the University of Calicut and moved to the Boston after my marriage. I worked as a Postdoc at the Pulmonary Center, Boston University School of Medicine and published a few papers working there. After working for 7 years, I decided to take a break when I had my first child in 2010. It has been 10 years since, and I start as a Data Scientist at Rancho Biosciences next week!

    How/when did you decide you wanted to get back into work and how did you prepare for it?

    My intention was only to take a break for a year or two, but it extended to include the birth of my second child and her entry to pre-K! At this time (2017), I was mentally ready to start but my priorities had changed. I wanted to have the flexibility of working from home, working in the Life science field that I love but definitely not deal with animal models or tissue culture!

    More specifically, my appetite for lab work had diminished. I explored a few areas like regulatory affairs, but nothing motivated me. Around this time, I came across a paper studying the prediction of Retinoblastoma using machine learning methods. This paper opened my eyes to the world of Data Science/Computational Biology. I had studied programming in India from NIIT. I remembered enjoying it, but not really understanding then as to how it would ever help me as a life science student.

    Thanks to my husband, I realized that I had to start off with a strong foundation in mathematics, statistics, along with programming to succeed in this field. All my studies were done completely online. I enrolled in courses from Khan Academy for math and statistics. I also enrolled in many Coursera, EdX, DataCamp, DataQuest courses for R programming, Python, SQL, Statistics, Machine Learning, Exploratory Data Analysis, and Genomic Data Science.

    After completing many of these courses, I approached a professor at WPI to work on a project on a voluntary basis with his help as a mentor. He was kind enough to let me participate in lab meetings, and meet other students of data science. To further hone my skills and help me with essential networking, I completed the Data Science Career Track with Springboard. I was constantly working on independent projects and adding it to my Github portfolio.

    How did you start preparing for your job search?

    The initial step was to start talking to people in the field and attending meet ups of related events. I made a list of companies and the kind of positions that interested me. I used LinkedIn to find people who I would like to talk to. I prepared my resume and obtained feedback on the resume from folks working in the industry. I would apply for at least 7-10 jobs in a week as well as reaching out to 10 people in a week. Starting after a 10 year break, I did not have any connections relevant to the line of work I was seeking and for the most part, at least initially. It was cold emailing through LinkedIn. I subscribed to LinkedIn premium early on. Slowly, as I connected with people from the field, I also noticed that mutual connections would lead to more people who are more willing to connect, instead of cold emailing. I would ask for informational interviews and kept a spreadsheet of all the people I connected with and key things that I learn from the conversations. I followed up on those pointers/conversations. This always led to more ideas to explore – skill wise and job wise. I also kept track of key skills listed for each job I liked and ensured that I obtained those skills.

    What are some of the things you learned along the way that you might think would be useful for someone in your shoes?

    Things that helped me: Find the motivation that keep you going even when you hear a ‘No’ or any kind of rejection - never take it personally. Always have your eyes on the end goal. Mentally, have that ‘go to’ place that gives you the strength to take the next step and keep moving forward. A clear daily, weekly, monthly plan helped me progress towards my goal. It is especially important to have such a plan when working entirely online or starting as a stay-at-home mom to have this plan and stick to it. Lastly, I never compromised on things that were particularly important to me.

    What is your impression of networking and how did you go about networking?

    The idea of networking was not very appealing. What I understood about networking when I started was – meet people in your field (absolute strangers) who could later potentially help you get a job/referral. There was nothing genuine about the process (in my mind). It was extremely hard to overcome my inhibitions on networking. It was a big challenge that I decided to overcome in my own way. I read a lot and listened to a lot of people speak about it. I realized that I was looking at it all wrong! Networking is different for different people. I imagined what I would do if someone in my boat wanted any kind of help. I would help! The conversations were amazingly easy and natural when framed this way. The idea that I was “networking” disappeared. I did not ask for a job or a referral from anyone I spoke to. The more I spoke to different kinds of people, it started taking on a new meaning.

    What are some common misconceptions of the thought that introverts can’t network effectively?

    I do not agree that introverts cannot network effectively. They may take more time than others. They need to plan it, choose their style and time but quality trumps quantity too. If you look at it as relationship building, it is a lot easier.

    Lastly what are some tips, suggestions and words of advice you would like to share with candidates looking for jobs now?

    There is always something to learn from every scenario. Do not be disheartened by failures. Whether a given scenario works for you or not, there is something to learn from it. During the job search process let it not be just about a job all the time, keep yourself engaged in learning relative to the job (or possibly even something entirely different).

    I did not get this job through a referral or through any one directly in my network. But for every interview that I cleared, I felt thankful for the conversations that I had with people in the industry. They built my confidence in my work, my capabilities and they helped me handle technical questions.

    Finally, remember - the world’s a pretty big place, you only need one person to say Yes.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience with the community. I hope to help others especially anyone who wants to restart their career after a long break or transition to a different field. They can reach out to me through this newsletter.

  • 17 Oct 2020 12:50 PM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    The number of decent people who live here hasn’t ceased to amaze me. There are loonies too, but I have never felt that I was discriminated due to my color, religion, or accent. This incident happened in the tenth year of our stay in the United States, when we had two children, a son named Ramesh and a daughter, Ramila.

    Our family used to like going out to dinner occasionally. By now our children were old enough so it was fun except for one thing. Our son was very active and invariably spilt something. Over time, we got used to this. In fact, we expected it at some point during the meal. Once it was done, we could relax and know that the rest of the meal would be fun.

    The children’s most favorite restaurant was Abdow’s Big Boy, with the huge statue of the Boy carrying an oversized hamburger plate. Friday or Saturday night was the best day for us.

    This time we were having a nice dinner when our son spilt his glass of milk. He rushed to contain the spillage, using lots of napkins. The waitress ran over and mopped it up.

    “I sorry,” said Ramesh.

    “Don’t worry hon,” said the waitress, feeling sorry for him since she expected him to be punished.

    “He does it once when we go out,” his little sister quipped.

    “So, this is it for now, then?” said the waitress.

    “Yes, promise,” said Ramesh.

    Neither mom nor dad got upset but we made sure everything was cleaned up. And with a non-repeat assured, we had a nice meal.

    I asked for the bill, and that is when we were surprised. The bill was all paid for.

    We asked, “By who?”

    But she would not tell. She had been told not to by the donor.

    We insisted that she thank the donor for their kindness, but we found it difficult to accept their generosity without knowing who, what and why.

    A little while later a priest got up to leave and went past our table. He said Hi to the kids and asked if he could join them. The kids looked at us and we nodded, so they asked him to “please sit down.”

    He did and explained that he had had a very tiring day and thought he could have a quiet meal. Seeing a family with kids made him want to leave, but we were fascinated by the milk glass incident, and all that followed. He thought we were a great family and would have sat longer if he had the time.

    We thanked him for his generosity and thanked god for making us a good family and meeting people like him.

    Summary: Going out to dinner with the family is great, until the kids spill their drinks and make a mess. Today was no different, except when it came to pay the bill!

  • 17 Oct 2020 12:45 PM | Anonymous

    SAYAA (South Asian Youth Activists and Allies) had our inaugural general body meeting on October 7th. Members introduced themselves before our executive committee outlined the group’s intentions, format, and hopes for the future. We ended the meeting by asking members to share their reasons for seeking out and joining SAYAA.

    We will hold our next meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, November 4th at 8:30pm. We aim to have a dual discussion on the 2020 presidential election results and the Black Lives Matter movement in the South Asian community. If you (or anyone you know) are in the 14-35 age range, and are interested in joining our group, please email for more information!

  • 4 Oct 2020 3:30 PM | Anonymous

    by Aditya Khanna

    Asian-Americans are currently the fastest growing eligible voting ethnic group in the United States. Nearly 6 in 10 South Asians are eligible to vote and Massachusetts holds a large portion of them. Whether it’s a local, state, or national election, voter turnout is extremely important; turnout is essentially how many eligible voters actually cast their ballot and often times, elections are decided by this factor. In Massachusetts 51% of South Asians are eligible to vote, but only around half of them actually cast their ballot.

    If you are unsure if you’re registered, eligible, or need to update any information in order to vote, you can visit this website: For the upcoming elections, Massachusetts is offering a Mail in Vote option where you’ll receive a pre-stamped ballot at your home address, fill out your vote, and send it back. In order to request this ballot, you can visit this website: 

    Voter turnout is going to be a deciding factor in the upcoming November 3 election. Local precincts are still open and you can find yours at Before casting your vote, you should research the candidates and understand the platform they are running on. Our South Asian population can make a real difference in this and every future election. Always remember the 3 R’s: Register to vote, Read up on the candidates, and Receive your ballot.

  • 4 Oct 2020 3:24 PM | Anonymous

    By Priya Vaidya

    "Do what you love and love what you do!" -- The best quote, yet so fleeting and it cannot be a reality for all. Many of us are not lucky to have the kind of career that encapsulates our passions, life purpose, personal essence, and technical skill all in one sweet package—allowing us to exercise them simultaneously in one forty hour work week while making a living and quenching passion’s thirst. 

    I happen to be an engineer by profession, which is very enriching and satisfying, yet, when I’m doing my office work, my body still aches for creativity. The itch to create something fascinating "for myself" does not go away. The artist in me never sleeps and is waking me up at odd hours to create something wonderful. Together with the aspiration to make a difference in the world, these are both fundamental desires within me that are critical for making me feel complete and whole.

    It took years of introspection and self-discovery before I realized what I needed to do to provide the "oxygen" for my personal satisfaction and happiness. It was only then that I realized I had to dedicate time outside my day job to channel these desires in a way that I had not done before. My creativity was my need. Eventually, I was able to find that balance. It not only fueled my creative thirst but also ended up helping the community and non-profits through my creative outputs, which was the most desirable outcome.

    I thought I would share some of my tips with you to help you find your own passion, to ignite it and keep it burning. You will find the warmth to be satisfying to you and it will spread to your family, friends and community. Keeping yourself positive, engaged and happy is of utmost importance especially during the current unprecedented COVID19 times.

    1. Think and Act

    Reflect on the things that have been part of your essence, your being, your truth since you were a kid. Is it playing an instrument? Travelling? Hiking? Dancing? Playing soccer? Yoga? Creative writing? Find groups, guilds, reach out to like-minded people. Take a short evening class. Check out library offerings, online groups, and social media forums. Perhaps there are variations of these activities or hobbies that may better apply to you now that you are a working adult. Give yourself the time, reflect and then act on it.

    2. Be True to Yourself

    Sometimes we do certain things because we think we should do them. Maybe someone told us to do them, our parents forced us or just because they are trendy as our friends are doing them. Ignore all that noise. Listen for the inner voice nudging you in a certain direction instead of focusing on what you think you should be doing. It is okay to do things that are outside your box or other peoples’ boxes. It is okay to try something wacky or weird or offbeat because it piques your interest. Remember: Self-actualization doesn’t come from people-pleasing; it comes from being you, which sometimes requires finding you first. Another aspect is not to stop if others don't appreciate it. Remember you are doing this for yourself not for others. Become your own judge and keep pushing yourself.

    3. Time-management

    This is by far the most essential skill to have. Once you start with the creative process, time will seem to fly. Always keep your priorities in balance. In your mind jot down a list of your priorities in whatever order works for you. For example, your kids, your husband, parents, job, friends, passion, social events and so on. Never mess up on your priorities while pursuing your passion. Remember you want to stay happy! 

    4. Allow Passion to work for you

    You may have a dormant desire of publishing a book, acting in a stage show, being part of the singing crew, or sculpting a mural for a museum. Whatever the end goal, keep an eye out for opportunity. Take some calculated risks. Believe me, it is possible, and a sustained effort will get you there. Your passion will carve out a way. Share ideas within your social circle. Eventually something somewhere will click.

    5. Give it time to grow

    Don't beat yourself up. If you nurture passion, it will grow; if you wait for it, it will eventually speak up. Keep a few things on the back burner for a few days, and they may call you back on their own. Patience is key, and creative spurts come and go, wait for the right one.

    In closing, for many of us—especially those with a lot of creative drive—balancing our career and pursuing our dreams are critical to leading a full, enriched life. Good luck and hope all of you have an enriching experience with your passion, like I have!

    About the Author:

    Priya Vaidya is an accomplished engineer who has pursued her passion of writing, with three published books as well as painting, baking and many other pursuits.

  • 4 Oct 2020 3:20 PM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    She loved to be told stories, especially at bedtime. Her favorites stories were the ones in which she was the star. The story did not have to be anything special except that she had to be in it.

    “Once a time,” he started to make up a story for her one day.

    “NO, no, no,” she said, “you have to start the story the right way.”

    “And so how should it start?” Dad acted as if he had forgotten.

    “’Once UPON a time’, that is how you begin a story,” she reminded him.

    “Oh, I  see. Well here goes. Once upon a time,” he tried to restart.

    DING DONG was the noise outside.

    “The ice cream van is here”, she said and was out of the room in a jiffy.  

    The ice cream guy knew where the kids lived as he slowly made his way down the street.

    “Mom can I have a quarter please?” the little girl asked her mother.

    “No, I don’t have one,” said her mother.

    “I have one,” said Dada, her grandfather, who was standing by. She ran to him and he held a quarter in his hand. She jumped, grabbed the quarter, and ran to the cart still four houses away.

    “You spoil them. Ice cream is not good for them,” she said.

    “It is only once in a while,” said the grandfather, “besides there is nothing else I give them.”

    ‘Why is your mom so worried. It is only a quarter and it is so hot today,” the other children muttered.

    The ding dong cart came around the corner and down the street, making a beeline to the siblings who had run out on the hot street without their shoes.

    “Would you like sprinkles with that?” he said.

    “Sure,” she said without thinking.

    “That will be an extra nickel,” said the ice cream man holding on to her ice cream cone. She had forgotten about that extra bit and she did not want to ask mom. However, as she turned around dejected, she saw grandpa behind her.

    He had his hands in his pocket and pulled out a bunch of change.  She took a nickel and ran to get her ice cream.

    What would little girls do without grandpas?

    And that is how the summer went.
  • 4 Oct 2020 3:02 PM | Anonymous

    Partner Profile

    With this issue we introduce a new section profiling partner organizations that have worked closely with ISW. Contact to add your organization's profile.

    A conversation with Indian Circle of Caring Director and former ISW Board of Trustees Chair, Hemant Shah

    ISW and the Indian Circle for Caring (ICC) have had a long relationship together. Many of ISW members have turned to ICC during times of crisis or bereavement for support and services. Founded by Girish Mehta in 2007, ICC is a volunteer non-profit organization focused on providing urgent or emergency guidance and support for our fellow community members and their families as they may encounter unplanned and unexpected events such as serious sickness, hospitalization, accidents, family crisis, and death / bereavement of a loved one.

    ISW and ICC have had a long mutually beneficial relationship. Its strong collaboration with ISW and its Crisis Committee has made a huge difference to our community members where both organizations have stepped up to selflessly serve our community. Recently ISW lost one of its stalwart volunteers, Dr. Mandalaywala (known to ISW friends and colleagues as Dr. Lal).  His son Amol shared his thoughts about ICC’s support during this time.

    “Earlier this year, I received a recommendation to contact Mr. Girish Mehta when my beloved father, Dr. Mandalaywala, passed away. Mr. Mehta was compassionate and helped in making arrangements from the funeral to the requisite rituals in the challenging times of the pandemic. Our family is extremely appreciative for his help.”

    We spoke with Hemant Shah, former Chairman of the ISW Board of Trustees and Director at ICC about their work.

    While many ISW members might have heard of ICC at a time of extreme stress, what are some of the other services that ICC provides?

    Today ICC offers several services in 14 states that can briefly be described in three areas:

    • Emergency Support Services to individuals and families
    • Educate and empower individuals and families to be prepared for eventualities
    • Lifestyle Management – a Transformative new initiative to mitigate high risk of heart disease and diabetes for South Asians from Indian subcontinent. We have two free webinars about this specific area coming up in October.
    To clarify to our members, is there a fee for these services and how can one request help?

    ICC services are free for all community members. You can request help on the ICC home page via an online form, or you can call the ICC voice mail: 641-715-3900, ext. 87891. The voicemail is immediately channeled to appropriate members of the ICC team to address the issue.  Communications are monitored during “waking hours” and our aim is to respond as soon as practical.

    What are some of the programs under these umbrellas?

    In addition to helping families during their time of need during an unexpected crisis or situation, ICC embarked on programs that educate and empower community members. One of those programs is preparation of “Health Care Proxy and Living Will” through the FIVE WISHES® document. You can download a read only version of the document from our website at It is available in English, Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali and Urdu.

    Other educational programs include:

    • Retirement Planning: A new initiative to broaden the awareness and provide meaningful resources for preparation before and while retired.
    • Planning and preparing children or adults with special needs in the family:  We offer workshops to help families plan for how to manage the special needs of their child
    • Arthritis Exercise Program and Arthritis Educational Seminar:  A twelve-week, 24 session Arthritis Exercise program for improving quality of life despite this chronic illness.
    • Community Initiative for TB Education (CITE):  To increase awareness and educate our community about risks of TB while we live in the United States.

    Tell us about the latest initiative that you have launched?

    ICC has embarked on a transformative new initiative to mitigate high risk of heart disease and diabetes for South Asians from Indian subcontinent. Did you know? Indians make up less than 20% of the world population but make up 60% of the people suffering from heart disease worldwide. This is independent of where they live in the world. Similarly, Indians make up a far larger share (over 25%) of the people in the world that are afflicted with diabetes. What’s worse is South Asians have heart attacks at much younger ages, despite being mostly vegetarian, nonsmoking and non-obese.

    As part of the Lifestyle program, you can register for two FREE webinars in October on the ICC website.

    • Introduction to Meditation, Sunday, on October 11, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT. Dr. Bindu Vyas, Director Indian Circle for Caring USA Inc. (ICC) will discuss the science of meditation and how you can use your mind and body as a healing mechanism together with some basic meditation techniques.
    • Heart Disease in South Asians: A cause for alarm and call to action on Saturday, October 17, 2020, 10:00 to 11:30 AM EDT. Dr. Harshad Sanghvi, MD. FACC and Medical Director, Lifestyle Program, ICC will discuss the scope and impact of heart disease; review the traditional and emerging risk factors in South Asians leading to the emerging epidemic of heart disease in South Asians and show how to crack the Indian Paradox and plan an effective preventive strategy

    That’s a wide range of programs and offerings. How does ICC manage these efforts?

    ICC offers these services through a network of over 200 volunteers who serve clients directly, with a few that help run the organization administratively. It has over 8000 members supporting all the ICC activities and programs as well as helping to spread the word about ICC to friends, family, and others who may need assistance. ICC also partners with organizations like ISW focused on social, religious/spiritual, professional, services and media/entertainment) as well as other state, local, and private support organizations. While ICC covers most of New England, Sewa International has replicated the ICC model with our support to 12 additional cities across the US.

    ICC has been recognized for its work by the India New England Choice Award for Best Non-Profit Organization in 2019. It also was one of 130 local nonprofits chosen from among 738 applicants to receive $100K over 4 years through Cummings Foundation’s Grant Program in May 2020.

    ISW and ICC have had a long mutually beneficial relationship. Our strong collaboration with ISW and its Crisis Committee has made a huge difference to our community members where both organizations have stepped up to selflessly serve our community. ICC is also grateful to have Mr. Yogesh Parikh, ex-ISW President and Hemant Shah, ex-Chairman of the BOT, as Directors of ICC bringing the ISW connection, experience and community needs to ICC’s planning and execution processes. We look forward to providing our services to the ISW community in the future. For more information, to request help or to join as a member of volunteer, check our website at

  • 19 Sep 2020 3:10 PM | Anonymous

    Regardless of which candidate or party you support, voting is a civic responsibility that was hard fought over the years. Today, as US citizens, all eligible voters have the right to vote regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. That wasn’t always the case. Keep these important dates in mind.

    Register to vote by October 24th, if you haven’t already done so. You can do it online, in person or by mail, if postmarked by Oct 24th.
    Election Day is Tuesday, Nov 3rd!
    In addition to in person voting on Election Day, This year you have two additional options

    • You can request a ballot by mail by Oct 28th and mail your vote no later than Nov 3rd.
    • You can avoid the rush and Vote Early in person from Oct 17th to Oct 30th.

    More info at:

  • 19 Sep 2020 3:05 PM | Anonymous

    By Venkat Kolluri

    A lot of us have resorted to working from home and taking calls from home. How do you prepare yourself and not make it a disaster? Here are some tips via an infographic.

  • 19 Sep 2020 2:42 PM | Anonymous

    By Ria Seth, Grade 4

    Covid-19 is a scary time. Schools and stores are shutting down. This is bad for everyone. Almost 200,000 people died in America because of this virus. People say it was China's fault, but it isn't; it's our fault, we made it happen. We always eat meat and there are viruses in it. It started with pigs, then cows and every other meat until a bat from china. The first death happened in Massachusetts by an 87-year-old man. This virus is hard to beat but some people are taking it seriously while other people are going to parties and bars. This is why Covid is still here. Covid is going out for kids and elderly.

    Schools are online or they’re going face to face. (Mostly private schools are going face to face or shutting down). My school is giving me an option for nine weeks. The options were face to face or online. Some people picked face to face or some people picked online. This pandemic is hard for parents, kids and grandparents.

    My personal story about this pandemic is that since I moved to Houston from Massachusetts, my friend and I talk and play Minecraft. We played in Massachusetts, and we still facetime and play. I'm lucky to have some assistance with girl talk. A lot of people are bored in this pandemic so you got to stay healthy and entertained. I hope everyone in the world is being safe and being healthy.

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