All summer, I’ve had a fairly stable routine. I wake up, take the Metro to Health & Human Services, work, head to a WLP event, inevitably grab dessert at Captain Cookie, and sleep. It’s been a blissful existence--albeit one that leaves us all completely exhausted--working with dedicated public servants by day and exploring potential futures in public service with fellow Scholars by night.
This week was no exception. Wednesday, we met with Sunil Mansukhani and Ram Uppuluri. Sunil, who currently works with The Raben Group, has worked in education policy through both the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the Educational Opportunities Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Ram, a Senior Associate with Dale Curtis Communications, was one of the first Indian-Americans to run for Congress, in his home state of Tennessee, and has had a long career in public service. We discussed charter schools and civil rights issues in education like affirmative action and discrimination. It was engaging to hear about contemporary issues in education through their perspective, as they have both been in the field for decades.
Thursday, we met with Sonal Shah, founding executive director of the Beeck Center. Sonal has had a long career in government, philanthropy, and academia. She described her career with such ease—how she started in consulting (which she quickly realized wasn’t for her), moved through government, Goldman Sachs, Google, the White House, to where she is today. Along the way, she founded IndiCorps, a year-long service fellowship for South Asians to experience India through their own lens.
Her takeaways from her seemingly itinerant and extremely successful career were both comforting and uplifting. After an entire of summer of events with accomplished people in and out of government who have all seemed to find their dream jobs, it was the perfect conclusion. Sonal helped us make sense of it all—it isn’t about finding a “dream job” or even a “dream company.” It’s about the people you work with and the impact you make, not what you think society wants you to do. Additionally, as one of the group's pre-meds, I am constantly driven to make five- and ten-year plans. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned all summer—and that Sonal drove home—is that life is too short to not take risks and that learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable is a worthy skill.
Reflecting on my time at HHS has rung true with much of Sonal’s advice. I worked in a windowless office that I had honestly never heard of. But it didn’t matter--I was surrounded by tremendously qualified and dedicated career civil servants who inspired me daily to explore new avenues to improve all facets of American healthcare.
With WLP, I’ve found so many paths back to DC, through both the public and private sector, working in both medicine and policy, so I think it’s safe to say I’ll be back soon. Finishing up this blog post at home in Georgia, with a few days to go till the start of my senior year, I am incredibly grateful to Harin, Nisha, all of the WLP speakers we’ve had, my fellow WLP Scholars, and my colleagues at HHS for this summer of prolific personal and professional growth. Life isn’t meant to be one linear path, and the more detours we take, the stronger and more well-rounded we are for it.
Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Business Management & Transformation
University of Georgia, ‘19