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  • 30 Nov 2020 8:35 PM | Anonymous

    by Arathi Cowlagi

    The beautiful Renaissance Courtyard at the Worcester Art Museum is usually bustling and filled with spectators of all ages enjoying the melodious music and the colorful dances. Every year in partnership with the Worcester Art Museum, ISW presents the Community Day program. This was the fifth year of this wonderful partnership and the theme was ‘Travel the Silk Road’. The event was held on Sunday, Nov 8th and looked a little different this year due to Covid.

    Despite it being a virtual event ISW members, choreographers and participants put on a great show! The show began like every year with lighting of the lamp by ISW President, Ashish Cowlagi. Some of the highlights were, a classical dance item presented by the students of the Natyamani School of Dance, Power of Om and Ladies Sangeet by Ekta Dance Academy students, Ganesh Vandana by New England School of Dance.

    We also had Mansi’s Hindustani bhajan in praise of Goddess Durga that evoked some emotional responses from our viewers online! Pooja Srivastava, who is involved with the ISW Cultural school, read the story of Diwali and talented artist Rashmi Pitre showed how to make your own Rangoli. In past years, her Rangolis have welcomed visitors as they came to the museum for this event.

    Rachel Parikh, the new assistant curator of Asian and Middle Eastern Art at the Museum gave a virtual tour that highlighted the Asian and Middle Eastern Art collection at the Museum. She also explained the significance of lighting the lamp during Diwali.

    There were some great items like puppet making, creating your own story through art, the Chinese lion dance, story time and ‘Meet a Samurai’ that allowed online viewers to participate and enjoy! ISW looks forward to another great event in partnership with the Worcester Art Museum next year, hopefully in person!

  • 17 Nov 2020 10:54 AM | Anonymous

    An interview with Rajesh Murali (Emory University) by Ragoo Raghunathan.

    A large portion of student immigrants in the US are in academics, usually on a J1 or H1 visa. If you are on a J1 visa you are required to return to the home country for a minimum of 2 years after the visa expires. A waiver can be requested to avoid going back and to continue your stay in the US. Although this seems to be a straightforward process, it can get tricky sometimes.

    Rajesh Murali, a friend of mine who is a postdoctoral researcher at Emory University recently went through the entire process and has offered to answer some questions that you may find helpful if you are in such a situation. I interviewed Rajesh and here are some of his responses, tips and suggestions.

    What is a J1 Visa? J1 waiver? Who needs to get one and what are the stages one must go thru to get a J1 waiver?

    J1 visa is a non-immigrant exchange visitor visa given to individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. This is a specialized visa provided by the Department of State (DOS) to the exchange of ideas, research, and mutual enrichment. The focus is also to create associations between research and academic institutions in the United States and foreign countries. As a J1 Visa is to promote mutual enrichment, individuals under this visa category are expected to go back to their home country and remain there for at least a period of two years. This time is meant for transferring the expertise that the individual gained in the US to his/her country. The maximum period an individual is allowed to be on a J visa in India is 5 years. If the individual decides against going back to the home country, he/she must get a J1 waiver. This essentially waives the 2-year home country rule and allows the individual to remain in the US and continue his/her research. To get a J1 waiver, an individual must get a No Objection Statement (NOS) from his/her home country and apply for the waiver from the Department of State (DOS). The procedure can be long and it involves 3 stages.

    The stages are well explained in this link https://sciwri.club/archives/1188.

    How long does it normally take to get a J1 waiver? Is there even something that is considered normal?

    The timeline to get the waiver is anywhere between approximately 7 to 9 months. This is if everything goes fine without any delay. But it is very common to run into glitches and its important to start the process ahead of time

    What’s a good time to start the process?

    A J1 visa can be extended for a period of 5 years. A good time to start the process is after 30 months. I’d get the Stage 1 and 2 done first. Once you get the NORI (No Obligation to Return to India/any other home country) from all 3 offices in India you can take your time to apply for Stage 3. Most of the time, the delays happen in getting the documents from India. There are instances where people had to wait for 18 months to get a document. So, to be on a safer side it’s a good idea to get all 3 NORIs from India. And start the stage 3 when your J1 visa is valid for another 12 months. Or after being on a J1 visa for 3 ½ to 4 years. The stage 3 happens in the US and you have some kind of control on it and you can also track the waiver process. It takes about 3 to 5 months to complete the stage 3. At the end of stage 3 USCIS will send you the final J1 waiver. After this, you and your university will be left with approximately 9 months to apply for Labor Condition Application (LCA) and H1B visa. A premium processing is also available for H1B visa and in that case, getting the waiver before 2 months of the last date will be sufficient.

    Is the process required and/or the same if I immigrated from India or a different country?

    The process is the same for every individual on J1 visa.

    If you are in a time crunch, are there any tips as to how one could fast track the process?

    Yes. 1. Be on top of your applications. Contact the concerned Govt. departments in India and insist that they send the documents to you. Having someone going to these offices in person also helps. One of the documents from the (Ministry of Human Resources Department) MHRD is very straightforward. You may run into issues at the passport office and more importantly at the state department. Having some contacts in these offices help!!

    2. Make sure all required documents are submitted and pay attention to the application procedures.

    3. If you feel there is a delay in getting the NORI, start the stage 3-waiver application for the DOS and keep it ready. You can also contact the Indian Embassy in DC and request them to send the NOS to DOS as soon as they get your application (This happens only if you get all 3 NORIs and your consulate forwards the decision letter to the Embassy). You can also send out the application package (again pay attention to the application process and required documents) to DOS, St. Louis. It takes about 6 weeks for the application to reach from St. Louis to DC. It is possible to get the NORIs in this 6-week period and the Embassy can send the NOS to DOS within this time, you will be saving 6 weeks. However, even if the DOS in DC receives your application package, they will not process your application until they receive the NOS from the Indian Embassy. In some cases the DOS receives the NOS after 2-3 months of receiving the application and this is totally acceptable.

    4. You can also expedite the process once the DOS receives all the documents. Please take help from an attorney or a senator or congressman to expedite your application. Pay attention in doing this as once the request to expedite is rejected they will never consider another request to expedite. Get expert advice for this process.

    5. In unusual and critical circumstances the DOS will extend J1 visa beyond the 5-year period. During COVID-19 the DOS is offering a 60-day extension and this request should go from the university and should accompany a letter stating that your waiver process and travel has been affected by COVID-19.

    6. Request your university to have all the documents ready from H1B application. Tell them to get your Labor Condition Application (LCA). The only document outstanding to submit a H1B petition should be your J1 waiver. Once you get the approval you can immediately file the petition.

    Can this be done by ourselves, or do we need to take professional help? What’s a good place to start?

    You can do this. You will need professional help only if run into trouble. Refer to point 4 above.

    What are some suggestions about setting our expectations while we are in the process?

    Expect delays! Especially, in the Indian offices. Be on top of it. Contact them and request them to process your application. Anticipate delays and start the steps mentioned above depending on the delays.

    Typically, how much would this process cost, and do you know if employers cover these expenses?

    Employer will not cover this cost. It will cost you about $200-$250. This is including the postal charges.

    Do you get an acceptable level of communications from USCIS or does one have to keep nudging them? How do you get to talk to a customer support agent?

    The USCIS has no control over your application till they receive a favorable recommendation from the DOS. You can email the DOS at 212ewaiver@state.gov. They are slow in responding but they will get back to you. Contacting USCIS on the other hand is very easy. They have a customer care number (1 (800) 375-5283). But, this is generally not required.

    Once you get the J1 waiver, are there any restrictions one needs to keep in mind?

    You cannot avail any J associated privileges after getting the waiver. And that is the reason I have mentioned above to hold on to the NORIs and apply for the final waiver when you have only 12 to 15 months left. And there are also travel restrictions after H1B petition is filed.

    I found this site to be helpful, but it is from 2018. Do you think this is still relevant?

    https://medium.com/@krishnakumar.tce/my-j-1-waiver-story-d8f03452182

    Very much relevant. However, if you are stuck in any of these steps, feel free to reach out to us via our email link and we will be happy to put you in touch with Rajesh to help out.

  • 16 Nov 2020 11:49 AM | Anonymous

    by Pravin Trivedi

    Happy Diwali

    It was Nov 13th evening in Shrewsbury, the time was about 7 p.m. My wife was flipping thru the channels on our TIVO, Roku, and several other devices that we used to view Indian Diwali programs as well as the much-used Zoom for connecting to family and friends. She was finally ready to give up. She pressed the button hard since the screen was dark and it was difficult to make out what was going on. There was very soft music in the background; a voice, a little flute music and a very vilambit time stamping on the tabla. She stopped and the scene became clear, a picture of a huge stone gate in nightly darkness.

    I looked at my watch and figured out that it was daybreak, around 6 am in India. The scene got brighter and then it all made sense. Concerts were not being held because of Covid and the camera never panned to any audience. The early morning raga’s alap was well supported by the hypnotic flutist jugalbandi. The tabla beat a subtle reminder of the cyclic nature of our lives,

    The sun came up, it got brighter, and the music and the gateway were a solid reminder of the time and place. It was the most memorable Diwali I had woken up to.



    The First Thanksgiving

    “And what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” she said.

    I was seated next to her on my right.  I think she was talking to me, since her head was inclined in my direction.

    I had come alone to the dinner at the Holiday Inn with the revolving restaurant in Springfield Massachusetts.  My wife waited back in our apartment in Queens, New York, with our 5-month-old child, and my retired father. She had decided not to move until I was safely at work for a month and had a couple of paychecks.

    We were at a company dinner, which had all the promise of being as boring as can be. There were six of us, newly hired engineers in this 100-year-old family run company that appeared to have been bought out by a much lager behemoth out of the mid-west. This was my first real job as an engineer in this new country for us, the USA. I was so new to the country that I had to pause for a minute to think about when and what was Thanksgiving.  We didn’t have one in jolly old U.K. where I had lived for over 13 years before immigrating to the land of plenty.

    To my left was another large single man, slow in talking and too precise and boring an engineer to be of further conversational value. I was hoping the formal welcoming dinner would be over soon. We were at the tail end of an elaborate meal, awaiting dessert, coffee  and what I hoped for after… freedom.

    §

    We had arrived at JFK from London one icy rainy evening in January. The 747 taxied to a stop after a very bumpy ride and a shaky touchdown. It came to a stop on the tarmac as no open gate was available for a while. The doors opened, the hostesses were saying “take care, welcome to New York”. And we faced a walk down the long 50 step staircase with a little baby in his mother’s tight bosom, holding hands and wondering what the future held for us.  The ice made it treacherous down the steps, and somehow, the last one was missing or smaller, causing my wife to stumble. I went to grab her and all three of us were a lot closer to the icy terra firma than we wanted, so soon after arrival.

    We were surrounded by the attentive staff and helped onto a screeching and jolting bus ride to the international terminal. Finally, we were in the immigration hall. That’s when the baby decided to wake up, cry for food, and a change of a nappy… all at once.

    "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

    The lonely green lady stared at the edge of the sea. The sea where we flew in from. We were just like millions of others to her. I wondered if she would ever get tired… lower her torch and sigh.

    §

    “Why is this envelope open? It is supposed to be kept closed and only opened by an immigration officer” were the first words, in a New York accent, that welcomed us when we got to the window of Foreign Nationals, Customs and Immigration. I had not noticed that the child had started chewing on the brown envelope corner as his mother was too shy to feed him in the cavernous billowing hangar that was serving as a temporary immigration clearing center.

    “I beg your pardon…” I started explaining.

    “I cannot accept this; you will have to wait here,” he said and disappeared.

    I sighed and decided to get out of the line, took our seven suitcases and piled them in a corner to create a barricade so my wife had some privacy to feed the child covered up in the airline blanket that I had inadvertently taken with us.

    And that is how, on January 31st, 1971, we set our feet on the land where an Italian, years ago, believed India to be.

    §

    “I am sorry I did not hear your question,” I replied.

    “Oh, don’t mind me, you have probably a million things lined up,” she said.

    “Actually, we do not,” I said. “My wife. baby son and my father will arrive in Springfield in two weeks after I can find an apartment. And I am not sure about Thanksgiving, when it is, or what one does.”

    She looked at me, now a little suspiciously, and tried to see if I might be joking. Who hadn’t heard of Thanksgiving!

    The man seated next to her said, “He probably does not know about it. He lived in England all these years.”

    “I am afraid I am not familiar with Thanksgiving,” I said.

    “That is fine. We want you to come over for dinner and stay with us for the holiday. And Frank,” she said turning and making him the target. “Why don’t you help him this weekend with looking for an apartment?”


    ” Yes dear,” mumbled Frank.

    “Thank you, but I am afraid we, er.. my father is living with us.”

    “Well, bring him with you,” she said, unfazed.

    “But I am afraid he is a vegetarian!”

    “Well we’ll also cook vegetarian if you tell me what it is. But it is settled. You are new, and you are all invited to our place”

    Her air of authority and finality was absolute, and it was enough for me to mumble my thanks.

    Dinner over, I went to my room in the hotel. Some of the others had plans to go to a place called the “Mardi Gras”, which I was not certain about. I met my favorite couple again in the hotel lobby.

    “So, you did not join them?” Frank said.

    “No, I am not sure where they were going, but it sounded rowdy and drinking away the latter part of the evening. I am not sure if that would be appropriate at this time,” I said.

    “Me neither. We will turn on the TV and fall asleep. See you for breakfast.”

    Strange, a white family, and an Indian family getting together at Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, a few hundred years after Miles Standish and the Massasoit. 

    Thank you, Columbus.

    Thank you, Margot.

    §

  • 1 Nov 2020 12:47 PM | Anonymous

    Vinay Vyas interviewed By Ragoo Raghunathan

    When it comes to “CAREERS” there are several components that play a role.  Once a career is selected, the next question is “How do I go about getting hired?”  While there is no single correct answer, it is safe to say that some careers/domains/industries have certain well-defined methods while others are a complex myriad of options.  Today we are going to speak about one such industry – the Information Technology (IT) industry.  Since I am not in IT, I reached out to a good friend Vinay Vyas and had several interesting conversations about IT staffing. We feel that it will be very helpful to our audience as there are several IT professionals who could benefit from this.

    Vinay has been involved with the IT staffing industry in every conceivable role over his 30 years of professional experience. While it is impossible to cover all topics in depth, we decided to provide some starter material in a 30-minute rapid-fire conversation. Our intention was to create an FAQ type of article that we hope will answer many such questions that you might have as you navigate through your job search in the IT industry.  We would be happy to answer additional questions that you might have via our newsletter email ID newsletter@iswonline.org

    What is a Staffing Company/Agency?

    The old concept of “Who do you know?” is still applicable when you are looking for a new job.  However, the Staffing Company has become a powerful tool as most organizations have formalized their hiring process and deal with Staffing Agencies to handle several of the hiring processes starting with the most important step of finding the right candidate.

    I am confused with the terms fulltime, permanent, contract, contract-to-perm and corp-to-corp(C2C)?

    These terms indicate the “type” of employment.  Simply put, one is either an employee or contractor.  Organizations will provide benefits such as insurance and vacation time to “employees” who work on a fulltime basis (typically 35-40 hours per week). While no one ever has a truly “permanent” job it is a term still used to describe a fulltime employee receiving benefits. A contractor is hired for a set duration ranging from few hours to months or even years. Contractors are not offered any benefits.  A corp-to-corp arrangement is when 2 organizations agree to work together and an employee (or contractor) of one of those organizations provides the actual service but the payment is handled between both the companies.

    Why would I choose a particular type of employment described above?

    Depending on your skillset and life situation each type has their advantages and disadvantages.  Over a period of time most IT professionals prefer one or the other type and almost always have experienced both types either directly or indirectly.  IT work is typically run as projects and by definition a project has a defined start and end date so in essence it is a “contract”. In IT there are many professionals who prefer contracts since that is an excellent way of learning new technologies as well as gaining experience with how different organizations utilize various technologies to solve diverse problems.

    How is IT contracting different from a full-time IT job?

    The fundamental difference is fulltime employees get all the benefits, while contractors generally get no benefits. In addition, there are a few more important differences related to the actual work experience.  A contractor is almost always considered a Subject Matter Expert who is supposed to come in and hit the ground running.  There is no real “employee orientation program” or a “honeymoon period”.  Most contract assignments do not provide “Employee Title” but are focused on Role and Responsibility. Contractors get paid for every working hour as per predetermined timesheet rules in the contract.  Meticulous time-reporting and invoicing might be required in certain situations. Contractors would perform their assignment in mostly well-defined Statements of Work.  Contractors do not receive any severance pay and almost always have difficulty in getting unemployment approved (an accountant can guide you further).

    What are the types of work/payment arrangements and associated terminologies I should be aware of?

    Essentially there are 3 main terms/arrangements that are associated with Contract assignments.  These are indicative of the way the payment and associated taxes are handled:

    W2 hourly contractor: In this arrangement the contractor is paid an hourly wage and the Employer (or Consulting Company who is the employer) would deduct your taxes just as you would if you were a full-time employee.  At the end of the year you would receive form W2 showing the wages paid and taxes withheld.

    1099 contractor: Many organizations prefer to avoid 1099 contractors as the tax code and definition of a 1099 Contractor (Independent Consultant) is very complex and often misused by Organizations.  In this arrangement the Organization/Employer does not withhold any taxes.  If the rate is $100/hr., then the payment will be $100/hr. As an Independent Consultant, you are responsible to file estimated taxes on a quarterly basis and to file your annual tax returns.  You should use an accountant to ensure you are deducting the appropriate and allowable expenses.

    Corp-to-Corp (C2C):  This is like the 1099 contractor except that if you use this approach, you need to incorporate a Company and use its Federal ID (similar to a Social Security number).  The payment is done in the name of your company. You manage the income and expenses for that company and file corporate tax returns.  An accountant can help you with this.

    What are the different negotiable items, especially if you have never been a contactor before?

    Everything!! It is based on “demand and supply”.  Sometimes the negotiation would require a form of barter exchange – it does not have to be related to actual pay. Some items that can be negotiated other than pay include time-off, vacation days, flex time, tuition, remote work, relocation package, signing bonus, etc.

    Why do recruiters insist on a more detailed resume nowadays?

    IT recruiters have broken away from traditional norms of utilizing a 1-2-page resume.  As the technology utilized in projects keeps increasing it becomes easy if a candidate has described what they did with a particular technology.  IT experience is always described in project form in couple lines as Project Description, bullet points for Role and Responsibilities and finally a list of Technologies used.  Some projects could utilize say 10 technologies.  Recruiters prefer that candidates mention what the candidate did with each technology under the Role and Responsibilities section.  Once you start adding all these details the resume will grow beyond 2 pages that is conventionally used in other domains. The details also allow recruiters to better match candidates with actual client needs. Interview processes recently have become elaborate and time consuming. Hiring managers prefer more information upfront so that they can select candidates who have actually done what is needed.   In short, do not ignore a request for a detailed resume – you might actually learn more about your own experience and appear as a more suitable candidate to hiring managers.

    Are using job boards efficient (CareerBuilder, Dice and Monster), what are some best practices in using a job board?

    ABSOLUTELY. Job search is like fishing. If you want to take care of a meal you throw a line and hopefully catch a fish for dinner.  To do commercial fishing you throw a net. If you just want to check the job market the strategy could be more subtle and probably will involve “throwing a line”.  When you definitely need a job then you throw a net.  Job boards are part of the net category.  Employers use different methods to generate job leads and it is in your best interest to apply for as many opportunities as you can based on your circumstances.  Job boards are like browsers – you have to use them to achieve your goals.  Job boards require you to create your profile and upload your resume.  You can then search for jobs and apply using your profile. You can search jobs manually or create search agents that will send you a daily list based on your saved parameters.  Employers can also find your resume when they conduct a search.  Remember this – the Internet is at work even when you are not.  Job boards keep your search active even when you are not logged in.  Remember job boards will show the most recent resume first –if 5 candidates match an employer’s criteria then the resume that was submitted most recently will show up higher on the results page.  To ensure that your resume appears at the top of searches,  make frequent updates and edits to your profile.

    How do you define a 'resume'? What should it include and what is an optimal length?

    Resume writing is an ongoing process, even when you are not looking for a job.  Every recruiter will have their own idea on the “perfect resume”.  My experience has taught me that hiring as well as job search are far from “perfect”.  My personal guiding philosophy is “There is never a perfect job; there is never a perfect candidate; there is never a perfect job description; there is never a perfect resume”.  I approach every resume as a STORY.  It is a story of “Who you are? What do you know? What have you done? What do you want to do?”.  Make sure that your resume has your contact information – sounds basic but this is often overlooked.  Avoid using fancy borders and colors and icons, unless you are applying for roles requiring such skills.  Most applicant tracking systems and job boards might end up making a mess of your beautiful document. Make sure you have the same version across all job boards and sites.  You can submit cover notes in addition to your resume but make sure that you do not attach an incorrect cover note. Cover notes should be tailored for each role and highlight why you are a good candidate for that role.

    Is IT still a viable job market during COVID times?

    Oh yes! IT is the best suited for “work from home” and has always utilized various levels of “remote” work options.  As a matter of fact, today you can be anywhere in the US and apply for jobs where you would not have applied due to say cost of living or relocation constraints.  Go for IT!

  • 1 Nov 2020 11:13 AM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    The first time I came to know snow was when I was five and my father bought a snow cone made by a seller from a cart in India. (Why you may ask, because that is where I was born) He was holding a chunk of ice with a piece of jute cloth and shaving it on a large blade. It looked dangerous and I kept thinking he might get his hand caught in the blade. He shaped the ice into a sphere and squirted three colors from syrup bottles on it and handed it to me, He told me to eat it quickly before it melted in the 100 degree heat of Indian summer. It was delicious! In India we called it gola. Here in the US, we call it Italian Ice

    After that, I did not think of snow until I was 9 and was attending a Catholic nun's girl school in the Sudan. (Why a girl’s school, nuns and Sudan you may well ask; but that is another story). It was approaching Christmas and the nuns were busy trying to get us all excited about the celebrations. We all joined in; never mind being Hindus in a Moslem country with Italian Catholic nuns for teachers. We were given little cards with pictures of pine trees (that we had never seen in the tropical desert) and had inserted pictures of baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary.  Much as the nuns were trying to convince us about Christianity, we joined the fun. We glued pieces of cotton on the trees representing snow. 

    But it wasn’t till I was fifteen and moved to London that snow began to mean anything. One winter morning, we woke up to see an inch of white stuff everywhere. London shut down. It only snowed once every three or four years and no one there was prepared to deal with it. We also saw the movie “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Slowly we were getting familiar with snow as we had been with the desert sand storms earlier.

    When we emigrated to the US, we got another taste of it in New York  as we came down a long stairway in the open with a baby in our hands descending from the PAN AM 747. It was an icy rain, and it took us a long time to get to the terminal by bus (but that is yet another story). 

    The first real test was next Thanksgiving. It snowed. We were living in an apartment building in Agawam. Eight inches! We decided to take our old Plymouth Valiant car for a drive in the winter wonderland. As we turned into the street, I saw another car coming down the road. I had never driven in snow before and I had received my driving license just four months earlier. Wanting to make sure I do not hit the other car, I turned, perhaps a little too much. The front left fender found a tree and that was the end of that adventure. We had a lot to learn. 

    The Blizzard of 78 caught us unprepared. My boss and I were to fly to Milwaukee for a meeting at the company headquarters. Since he lived fifty miles away in Connecticut, we thought he could stay over at our house and we would drive out together in the morning to Bradley airport in Hartford. There was no way we were going to do that in the morning! Connecticut declared a State of Emergency and he was stuck with us for two days.

    That is New England for you.

  • 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 sayaa@iswonline.org 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: www.sec.state.ma.us/ovr. 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: www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleev/early-voting-by-mail.htm 

    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 www.ma.gov. 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.

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