The inaugural 40 Under 40 Public Health Catalyst Awards aim to highlight the rising leaders and innovators of the public health field. The Boston Congress of Public Health (BCPH) and the HPHR Journal selected a group of “leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, activists”, and doctors that will inspire the next generations of public health workers to change the world. The individuals featured for this award have not only shown excellent work performance and an extensive academic history but have also brought innovative solutions to public health issues around the world.
The NYC Daily Post interviewed 40 under 40 award winners to learn about their career journeys leading up to their nominations.
Q1. What’s a piece of advice you’ve received that has impacted your career journey?
Be ambitious but have empathy.
I feel it is essential to be ambitious if you are running a startup because you would want the best resources to build a great product. You would also like to make people feel appreciated and appropriately compensated. So, as a founder, you would want to define the targets for yourself that are borderline crazy. What I have been surprised by, of late, is that sometimes we severely underestimate what we can do, especially when we are working together in a cohesive team toward a collective cause that we all care about.
While ambition will help you move fast and scale, having empathy will help you sustain the changes. You would be able to retain people not just as your employees, but as friends and family. After all, these are the people you would be spending a significant part of your life with. For me, working with smart and empathetic people is a vibe. I want to be surrounded by such people, and who wouldn’t? As they say, you’re the average of the five (or four or six) people you spend the most time with.
Q2. Do you have a mentor you’d like to recognize? If so, what would you like to say to them?
My mom and dad are my mentors. Both of them have had different but complementary skill sets that I have had the luxury of learning from. While one (mom) is more academic, the other is more experiential in their approach to life.
My mom is a retired teacher. When my brother and I were young, she used to set high standards for education as most Asian parents would. But, she would also sit down with us whenever we had any difficulty learning and explain things in easy-to-understand ways. Whenever I feel anxious, I talk to her, and calls with her are an instant anxiety reliever.
My dad passed away almost two years ago. I am inspired by him and want to make him proud. After working for several years in the industry, he started his pharmaceutical company. I derive my entrepreneurial ambition from him. He was ever so encouraging.
Q3. What advice would you give a young professional beginning their career in your field?
I would say, to have a strong moral compass, aim high, and figure out the right people to work with. I feel having a strong moral compass is essential. It not only attracts talented people to work with you, but also opens many other doors as people do see it in the long run when you are ethical and genuine. Aiming high is so important that I can’t stress enough. I have met so many talented people at Harvard and other places who have imposter syndrome and often sell themselves short. I feel we have just one life to live and we should make it worthwhile. Know your fallacies and work on them, but know your strength too. Remember, “Rome was not built in a day”. You are a work in progress and so is everyone. But it should not stop you from projecting confidence in your abilities. Last, having the right people around you could actually be a deal-breaker when you are working on time/mission-critical. But otherwise too, it can’t hurt to have good people around you. They will push you in meaningful ways to excel.
Q4. If you could do one thing, leave one mark, on your profession, what would it be?
I would like to enable my team members to be their own entrepreneurs to the best of my abilities. I have a habit of asking people I work with what it is that motivates them. The reason for asking them this is that I want to then create an enabling environment for them to excel. In this process, some team members end up leaving you and starting something of their own (I know my hiring managers would hate me for it, haha). But honestly, it is not a zero-sum game. Everyone gains when we become more autonomous. Sometimes, you end up collaborating with your former team members and pursuing something larger together.
Q5. Name a challenge you’ve faced and how it turned out.
Bootstrapping, while we were working for our startup! Jie (my co-founder) and I initially bootstrapped our startup even though we could have raised early money. Although the money would have come at significant equity dilution. I am glad we did not do it and sustained the period. But it did come with its headaches. We were the only developers, salespeople, and administrators. It meant we had to juggle many tasks simultaneously. It helped me grow a lot as an individual and as a team player. We have a much stronger bond now because of it. We were also able to define our team culture that we are very proud of. Since then, we have been fortunate to have had the privilege of working with many talented team members who are equally passionate about the work we are doing and the culture we have.
Q6. What is your ultimate career goal as you see it today?
My ultimate career goal is to turn my startup into an organization that is known for its values and scale. We can never compromise on the values we have. It is what defines us. We are very passionate about it. The scale is very important for us as well as we want to hire smart people (that requires a vision and resources). We also want to have a great ROI (return on investment) for our stakeholders.
Q7. What alternate role(s) would you be interested in pursuing?
This is an interesting question. I would be happy to pursue any role in my organization as long as I am meaningfully executing the role.
Q8. What core values are important to succeeding in your professional field?
Transparency and ethics. I feel when you are working in a small team, transparency is not an option but a requirement. But even for bigger teams, you have to define a way of working that works for your context. Ethics is very important for us. At basys.ai, we live by our ethics and values each day.
Q9. Ten years ago, I thought I would be…
Ten years ago, I wanted to be where I am, surprisingly. For a long time now, I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Q10. Ten years from now, I want to be …
Ten years from now, I want to have scaled my company beyond me. I have other passions too like gender equity that I would follow sometime later though. For now, basys.ai has my undivided attention.
Q11. Would you want to acknowledge any family/friends/partners (beyond mentors)? If so, who?
I would like to acknowledge Jie Sun, my co-founder and PIC at basys.ai. Jie has been such a dedicated person, a true friend, and someone who has been putting up with my antics and quirks in our startup journey.
Q12. Please indicate your hometown, place of study, degree field(s), and an interesting fact about yourself.
I come from Bareilly, India. I have 10 ten years of experience with a successful startup exit. I am graduating from Health Data Science (MS) at Harvard soon.