From: New Delhi, India 🇮🇳
Who: business consultant @ Deloitte
Quote of the interview: I think I will be lost the day I stop having realizations how good are the things around me. Despite all the challenges, there is always something good.
I am a thinker working as a business and technology consultant for Deloitte. I am from India, I was born in a regular mid-class family and have 2 elder sisters. My mom is a housewife, my dad is now retired, but previously worked in public sector. After school I did bachelors in technology and started working. Then I decided to do Masters abroad which I did in the US at Hult International Business School. Now I live in Austin, Texas.
I love to read a lot of different books, reading really helps keep my life on track, keep my balance. I also enjoy traveling, it’s all about experiences in life for me and traveling is the best way to get more of those. I am a super social person, I like hanging out with people and having great conversations. Sometimes I organize different meetups – for example, I recently opened a new Austin Alumni Chapter for my business school. I love trying new things, especially adventure sports – I have done cliff jumping and skydiving is my #1 experience on my bucket list.
Have you found your way in life?
I think so, in a way I did, I discovered things that matter to me – honesty, integrity, and self-consciousness. I don’t know what I am going to do in the next 1 or 10 years, but I know where the whole thing is headed.
What’s your story?
I am from India, I was born in a regular middle-class family. My dad worked for a public sector bank, so he moved places every 3-4 years and so did we. On the one hand, this didn’t let me make really good friends in primary school times, but at the same time this made me experience very different cultures – culture in different Indian cities is very different.
I was super lucky to experience a lot of different things in my teenage years. I went to a privatized public school, I had good education. I experienced lots of things naturally – changing the environments – schools & cities, meeting many different people… Those things really shaped me back in those early years, I realized what kind of a person I want to be and which things are totally not cool for me.
As we moved a lot, I changed schools multiple times. In every new school I wanted to be known not as a new guy, but to be known for my skills and knowledge. By the way, most people in India don’t really change schools ever – so I was kind of a special case. I studied well and always thought about what were the best things I could leverage, what were my key strength – I looked for the ways to stand out, I mean in a healthy and natural way. We had 40 people in class on average, so you can guess I needed to do something special in order to stand out of the crowd.
I was never really depressed because of the moves, maybe only once or so. I was always excited about the new opportunity, about what’s coming next. As this happened many times, I learnt to be a person who is excited about the new opportunities, new people – this was the only way to not be upset about saying bye to my old friends.
Physical separation from the old places also helped me to let go of things that were dragging me down. While growing up I was more of an emotional person, but as I approached the university time I became more practical and risk-friendly.
When it came time to choose the college for my bachelors, I took the standard national exam and got the list of colleges that would accept me. I chose one of the options that were available without putting too much thought into it. I didn’t know much about which colleges are good or not, I didn’t have too much insight on how to make a choice. The university I chose was paid, but as I didn’t want to overstress my dad who was paying for my sister and other family members, I decided to take a loan to pay for my studies. My dad had means to support me, but I didn’t want to ever have him feel under pressure – it was a significant amount of money per year. At first, he didn’t accept this, but then we made a deal that I do 1 year all by myself and in the next years he’d give me some pocket money.
Because I took the loan, I felt sometimes like I had less freedom at college. College is always considered ‘freedom’, party time. I didn’t have that financial liberty, so I learned to be very self-responsible for my finances. It taught me the value of money. I saw a lot of people spending 5x my monthly budget. At times I felt weak and super bad, but that really shaped me. The thing that gave me hope was the feeling that I didn’t have another choice.
Later on it became a part of me – I stopped seeing extra work as a struggle, I started seeing it as a solution. This taught me to approach any problems differently – just focus on solutions instead of complaining about the existence of a problem. That’s how I started tutoring people – the times got tough, so I had to earn some extra money. I did tutoring together with 8-9 hours of studying per day – my mates were having an afternoon nap while I was teaching students. Despite all of that I was happy about that solution – simply because I was doing something I am good at, I enjoyed it.
At the end of school we had an opportunity to get into a company through our university. I remember I applied for a popular company and they had they needed to cut out 30 people from the list…They did it randomly and I was one of the unlucky 30 people that got cut. It was my first job interview and when I heard the horrible news I was so stressed that I literally got crying in the park. I then got a couple of job offers and started my career in India before traveling to the US for my Masters in 2014.
One of the reasons why I felt a bit out of place in India was that I am gay. October 12, 2015, was the turning point for me. It was the national ‘coming out’ day in the US. I started reading stories on social and getting really inspired by all that stuff – people were sharing their experiences and their families were very supportive. My family didn’t even know… I couldn’t hold it anymore, I wanted to tell my family right away. I couldn’t reach them over the phone, so I ended up sending them an email. I felt so overwhelmed that I just couldn’t hold it and had to do it in such a way. They called me 3am that same night. It was super tough, but I am very thankful for the fact that my family didn’t abandon me.
Now, 2 years after this happened my family is still in denial. We don’t talk about the feelings, we just don’t discuss relationships. We are close, but we are not too open to each other emotionally. In India homosexuality is not known to the majority of the people and so they don’t understand it. So I accept my family’s reaction of being in denial – they are not in favor or against it, or don’t love me less. They just don’t know anything about it. They were primarily concerned how the society would accept me. That’s one of the reasons I will probably never come back to India – I just wouldn’t be able to live an open and honest life there.
After this conversation I felt so much lighter, it was very liberating. I was happy that now being open with them I could start a relationship with someone. I felt like I am being more honest with myself. Since I accepted this fact myself and talked with my parents about it, this completely changed the way I feel about my life. I became more respectful, understanding, and accepting towards other people, but I also learned to hold my ground and feel more self-assured. Now I expect less and accept more.
One more thing that happened in a recent time – I finally realized that the job I am doing makes a difference in the world. I was a part of Deloitte’s project on digitalizing one of the women health benefits programs in the US. As I was responsible for quality assurance, this got me thinking a lot about the end consumer – people who are receiving these benefits.
Digging deeper into how those people live and why the program is in place I realized that this project, one of many, was really helping a lot of people out there.
Since then whenever I start working on something new, I start with the “Why” – I ask myself “Why are we doing it” and not “What do we need to do?” I now do this in both my professional and personal life. I learned that this kind of attitude lets you make a difference with whatever you do.
3 key realizations
Don’t be afraid to be who you are – that’s the only way to truly start living your life. Being honest with yourself is key to actually live.
A problem you see is just one side of the coin. You can’t get through it unless you face it and focus on the solution.
Realizing how lucky I am. I came across a lot of people who were from privileged and unprivileged parts of the society. Do you see yourself struggling with something? Think about this – there are so many people who are not even making it to this struggle, they might never make it. I was struggling with US emigration, but I am in the US and many other people who dream of it are not even here. I am in hard situation, but I got here because I had the privilege to take that risk.
Who helped you most along the way?
My family, they are the people I always look up to. My friends with whom I could be honest with the whole time, who I could talk to when I was feeling down. My teachers from college.
What are the top books/videos/movies that inspired you?
- “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson
- “A World of Three Zeros” by Muhammad Yunus
- “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg
- “Hidden Figures” – movie
What does it mean to be lost and found to you?
I think I will be lost the day I stop having realizations how good are the things around me. Despite all the challenges, there is always something good. If I lose the sense of how great things are or how lucky I am, then I am lost.
To be found means I am truly focused on the positive things – that means that first of all I discover the brightest and the happiest aspect of each situation.
Do you think you’ll be doing what you do now for the whole life?
There can always be something that will interest me more, that will excite me in the new ways. I want to keep my passion alive – the thought that I still have a lot to explore. I have the same attitude to my career as well – this kind of mindset helps me be flexible.
You have to fight for what you believe in. Things are not gonna go your way all the time, so you need a flexible mindset to keep achieving what matters. Honestly, changing directions is necessary, it’s just the way it is.
What’s your purpose?
If I have to put it in words, my purpose is to be myself, do what makes me happy and share this happiness with the world around me. For me the purpose is not about being rich or living a luxurious life. My purpose is to be someone who is satisfied with what they have. To be someone who’s always looking out for the next opportunity to make a difference in others’ lives, for an opportunity to grow and help others to do that.
Get it touch
Feel free to reach out to Sameer on Facebook.