Speaking up…leaning in and speaking in….to bring a different perspective….

I identify myself to be an Indian, Kiwi as well as an Australian. My life story predisposed me to be one who would speak up from a young age. I was born and raised in New Delhi, India in a multicultural milieu. Hailing originally from the South but living in the North, growing up we learned to celebrate diversity in the cultural traditions, language and cuisine of our friends and neighbors. I spoke Tamil, Hindi and English. In addition, I learned French at school and visited France on cultural exchange as a teenager. Leaving home at seventeen, I travelled to New Zealand for my tertiary education. I have lived in several parts of the world since, garnering study and work experience across Australia, India, New Zealand, and the United States.

My interest in studying law was rekindled after facing discrimination at the workplace when I had to advocate for myself to receive a redundancy package. On the personal front, I was disfavored by my husband’s family for being an independent woman and being someone from another religion that finally led to a divorce. While I reaped the benefits of speaking up in the work situation, I lost in a large part due to my tendency to speak up in the situation on the personal front. As I reflected on my life, I was spurred to study law so I could learn to speak up in an effective way, with temperance and skill. I was also following the growing trend in the need for lawyers with technical backgrounds to enable innovation and growth of modern economies. I had enjoyed my work in licensing at an Australian university and considered obtaining a legal education to enhance my skill set.  

As a young professional trained in a STEM discipline with a varied exposure across different economies, I have seen the way cultural and regional ideas affect negotiations, innovation policy and problem-solving. Being an immigrant, an outsider to the community, combined with having a technical background has allowed me to bring a fresh perspective. I have navigated through male-dominated domains and negotiated transactions that required cross-cultural communication. Thus, I have often found myself in situations where I had to speak up. Yet it is through these experiences that I have realized that I enjoy navigating the nuances of cultural context for business engagement. I find that my strength lies in my ability to connect with people, building rapport and trust while traversing the differences of cultural backgrounds.

Alongside my professional pursuits, volunteering and participating in the community has been an integral part of my life. I founded and led a social enterprise called Pragyan, where we worked with artisans and artists and curated workshops for children using art as a tool for holistic learning. Now in law school, I endeavor to continue with this commitment to the community through my involvement in pro bono initiatives. I really enjoyed working as a Legal Services Coordinator with the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts last fall. I found it an immensely gratifying way to immerse myself in the community and give back; an opportunity to advocate for creatives and inventors in the community. I worked with an often marginalized section of the society that can make a significant contribution to our economy if their ideas are harnessed through appropriate legal representation. 

It is this immersion in the community that has helped me make friends from all walks of life and ages. Over the years, I have also found myself naturally gravitating towards taking care of the elderly in the community, and have lived most of my adult life in living arrangements with senior citizens. I would take on responsibility for companionship and care for my elderly friends and it is through sharing in their experiences that I have grown as a person.

I wish to combine the learnings from my diverse exposure to develop myself as an empathetic advocate for my clients. As a fresh immigrant to the United States, I am beginning to find my voice as I assimilate into this new culture. I expect that I will have to continue speaking up for myself through my career and hope to lend a different perspective through my work. I hope to work in technology policy and innovation and bring in the perspective of countries like India and China as we consider transnational trade agreements, hence speaking up in the macro context. In the micro context, I hope to speak up through my pro bono work, in representing the needs of the elderly, artists and inventors in the community.

I will be working this summer at a public interest internship with the Department of Labor’s Solicitors office in Philadelphia. I am excited as this would be the first of many baby steps towards my goals.

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