Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2022
One component of this critical initiative is taking the time to pause, reflect, and learn about cultures, races, and orientations other than our own. In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, we’re continuing this journey on an exploration of Asia through the perspectives of our talented associates. Join us as we embrace the following associates who’ve humbly agreed to share aspects of their personal journeys with all of us:
Hien Nguyen, Inside Sales Manager, Americas
Ushati Das Chakravarty, Innovation Product Manager, NGS Marketing
Jordan Young, Strategic Marketing Manager, Regional Marketing
Q: To help us “Explore Asia,” what would you like to share about your hometown, geographic location, or important traditions or cultural celebrations?
Hien Nguyen: I was born in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
Ushati Das Chakravarty: As a first generation Asian American, I moved to the United States to pursue graduate school. Prior to that, I lived in three different cities in India that were culturally and geographically distinct from one another—Kolkata, Delhi, and Bengaluru. Each of these cities was a regional megalopolis and a melting pot of language, cuisine, and traditions crafted over millennia of human interactions.
Jordan Young: My family’s origin is located in an area of Southeast Asia, Myanmar/Burma. The primary religion within this region is Buddhism. Our culinary style is heavily influenced by neighboring countries like India, China, and Thailand (i.e., Mohinga, tea leaf salad, and curry are some of the most common dishes), and the festival of lights is a treasured celebration/holiday in Burma.
Q: Can you share any specific personal points of Asian pride?
Hien Nguyen: I remember growing up in a big household where multiple generations would live under one roof and take care of one another—starting with my grandparents, to my parents, our seven aunts and uncles, four cousins, and myself. It was very communal with a dedicated support system all around us. My best memories were from our New Year celebrations—lots of food, fireworks, and dancing. During this annual celebration, the children would trade expressions of love and respect to our elders in exchange for red envelopes containing money, a practice called “Lì xì.” Now that I’m older and further away from family, this tradition is something that I miss most.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Hien Nguyen: I immigrated to the US when I was only seven years old. I easily recall my first thoughts after departing our flight—I was amazed by the sheer the number of cars on the road (compared to Vietnam, which was mostly scooters and motorcycles!). I made up my mind at once that I would love to grow up and be a taxi driver because I loved driving in cars.
Ushati Das Chakravarty: From an early age, I have always wanted to explore our world and have a diverse set of experiences. As a child who grew up close to one of the major arterial highways in India that connected Kolkata to Delhi, I imagined the most facile route to do so would be as a long-haul truck driver! Only much later in grade school did I realize that there were other means to do so. The one that naturally suited my interests materialized through the pursuit of science.
Q: Do you feel you’ve had to overcome obstacles, personally or professionally, related to your heritage?
Hien Nguyen: When we immigrated, we arrived without any possessions. Even faced with these challenges, the only thing my parents expected from me was to go to school and get good grades. They taught me the value of hard work, education, and gratitude. I’m grateful for the support, kindness, and opportunities that this country has provided for my family and am happy to now be in a place where I’m able to pay it forward.
Ushati Das Chakravarty: As someone who was culturally moored to choose words wisely rather than profusely, it took me a while to get my voice heard in the American workplace. The culture at Danaher/IDT, which fosters an atmosphere where diverse opinions are not only heard but also celebrated, has enabled me in bringing my unique self to every discussion.
Jordan Young: I’ll answer this with a reference to some of those close to me and their life stories. In general, my answer would be "no" for the following reasons: My grandparents lived through an ethnic genocide while in Burma, where they were required to leave all of their belongings behind when trying to immigrate to the US in pursuit of the American dream. They also had an arranged marriage and still found a way to love each other for all these years. My grandfather was the only non-white graduate in his engineering program (both undergraduate and graduate). The obstacles and sacrifices they had to overcome has allowed me to live a life where I will never face the obstacles they had to endure.
Q: How did you initially become involved in the STEM/genomics field(s)?
Ushati Das Chakravarty: My parents encouraged me to be curious from an early age. At home experiments (which often resulted in me taking apart things that I couldn’t put back together!) and exploring various life forms in my father’s kitchen garden were an integral part of summer holidays. Thinking through the lens of genomics was a natural progression that was later honed during my graduate school experience at Sloan Kettering Institute, where NGS was deployed to help unravel the mechanisms of cancer and discover new treatment paradigms.
Jordan Young: I was a biology major in college with a focus in business administration. My first internship was for a boutique private equity firm that focused on developing emerging biotech companies. I later went on to attend to a hybrid MBA program that allowed me to develop my business acumen while building up my understanding of the life sciences industry. Since then, I have worked for some of the leading genomics companies in the world (i.e., Illumina, Thermo Fisher Scientific, IDT).
Q: Who would you say has had the most significance on your life?
Ushati Das Chakravarty: Looking back, my mother has continued to have a considerable influence on my life. She has always encouraged me to chase my dreams and pursue what I love doing, even if it meant taking calculated risks. Her support has been instrumental at all phases of my life—whether it meant traveling 20 miles each way every day to a school that had better infrastructure than the small town I grew up in or making the choice to come to a foreign land halfway across the globe to pursue graduate school.
Jordan Young: Without a doubt, my parents.
Q: Why do you feel the Danaher/IDT commitment to celebrating diverse cultures important to our collective understanding and success?
Hien Nguyen: I’m incredibly happy to work in a company that gives their associates the opportunity to celebrate and highlight our cultures and differences. Since day one, I’ve genuinely felt welcomed, accepted, and appreciated at IDT. I have the best colleagues!
Ushati Das Chakravarty: Problem solving is a key aspect of my day-to-day job as a product manager. Our customer base is global, and their pain points are often region/culture-specific with an utmost need for bespoke solutions. It takes a diverse, cross-functional team to appreciate these customer needs and produce a solution that’s unique. I’ve learned the most by encouraging others to speak up and being open about incorporating suggestions from across the team. Danaher/IDT celebrates the strength in our diversity, provides tools for equitable discussion, and enables inclusivity across the organization. I feel blessed and profoundly grateful for being part of this organization.
Jordan Young: As a company operating globally, I think it’s important to educate associates about the cultural differences and similarities we share with others around the world. Through developing a better understanding of the cultural perspectives internally, we are better positioned to understand the needs of our customers.
Q: As the field of genomics propels forward in the coming months and years, what are you most excited about being involved with?
Ushati Das Chakravarty: Gosh, there’s so many! I am excited for the telomere-to-telomere project coming to fruition since it’s the first time we have a “more complete” version of the human genome with very few gaps. On the genomic applications side, I am curious to see how omics technologies (specifically, transcriptomics and methylome sequencing) moves from the discovery phase into clinical research. It’ll be key to gather information from multiple analytes to truly achieve the holy grail of precision oncology.
Jordan Young: I look forward to seeing the impact that genomics will have in the field of personalized medicine. Technologies like CRISPR have the potential to make current medical treatments obsolete and alter the way we look at treating or preventing diseases in the future.
Q: How do you represent your Asian heritage in your daily life? Professional life?
Ushati Das Chakravarty: Taking a comprehensive approach to problem solving comes naturally to me. I believe in leveraging diversity of perspectives while maintaining the centrality of purpose as we work in global teams toward a common goal.
Q: What is the one most important takeaway about your heritage you’d like to leave with our audience?
Ushati Das Chakravarty: Working together to arrive at a consensus is a core value of my Asian heritage. The fundamental strength of a diverse team is the collective ability to diminish the impact of losses and amplify the joys of successful endeavors.
Jordan Young: It is important to remind ourselves that for as many unique qualities there may be in every culture, there are also just as many similarities. The life stories of many Asian-American families who immigrated from their home countries in pursuit of the American dream is not a story that is unique to us but is shared across all ethnic communities. To quote Anthony Bourdain, “you learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.” To me, this means that through food we can express one’s heritage. Similarly, by listening to one’s life story, we can find commonalities and respect for each other’s culture.