How my job makes me more humane? – “Empathy Persona of an Innovator”

This was originally written during 2014 Thanksgiving – sharing it here now! 

I have been thinking about writing on this for quite some time. I find this occasion of Thanksgiving to be very appropriate and show appreciation to everything that our job lets us accomplish not only at work but also for our families, loved ones, and giving back to the communities we are part of.

Growing up, I learned one thing from my father that always resonated with me that somehow there is a tailored path laid out for each one of us with a single purpose to make us a better person. The journey may not always feel like what we expected, but where we are in our journey on this path, we learn, adjust, and become a better person.

Growing up in India, I vaguely remember the start of my journey, sitting in a child carrier attached to the front of my father’s bicycle. He used to take me sometimes to the university where he used to teach. I used to observe things on the road with eyes wide open, but with a different perspective and no correlation with anything except that I had my father with me. I used to be more intrigued by the traffic, street dogs, cows, people on the road, and by a few individuals that my father always used to stop by to greet and give them something. Later I learned that those were the homeless people, and my father used to stop to hand them either money or food. My father wasn’t rich. He grew up without a father and self-taught to become a professor, then chairman of Hindi Literature and Linguistic Department at his university. I grew up with many of his students who couldn’t afford to pay for their education. He made it a point to support them with whatever he could. That experience taught me that anyone could give back to the community, irrespective of their capacity and status.

Like many other employees, Genzyme and now Sanofi is part of my journey. Since joining Genzyme and now being a part of Sanofi, I have consistently admired the encouragement that we all receive in giving back to the community that we are a part of. In supporting our customers’ needs, we all are gaining skills, knowledge, and experience that we can use to make Sanofi succeed and make communities that we are a part of succeeding as well.

In 2014 within five months span, I lost my elder brother and father. Both of them were strong pillars of our family and my mentors. Being the youngest in the family, I always looked up to them. With my 45 years old brother, it was an unexpected cardiac arrest while my father succumbed to advanced stage gallbladder cancer. Unlike my brother, I was fortunate to spend a few weeks by my father’s bedside. I probably learned more about gallbladder cancer in two weeks than I did in my entire life. During this time, I also learned how helpless we all felt, knowing that there weren’t many options left. What helped my mother, me, and my two brothers get through was constant guidance and support from a few Boston-based friends who are physicians and registered nurses. Throughout the process, they guided us in what to expect next. Besides that, I must have spoken with almost all well-known oncologists in India. I must have also utilized all of my technological, functional, organizational, and information processing skills, all within the context of medical need, that I gained during my career at Genzyme and Sanofi. What also helped in the process is unconscious awareness of the healthcare environment that we work in.

This journey made me experience the suffering that the patient and his/her family go through while dealing with an illness like cancer. It made me appreciate the work that we all do at Sanofi for our patients while also supporting each other as one Sanofi family. We may all agree to disagree on many things we do together, but our different paths ultimately leading us to something common and much bigger. There is a reason why we are all a part of this journey together at Sanofi. I also feel that no other industry provides a better opportunity to help others than ours.

On Thanksgiving, I want to thank all of you for the support and for making me a better person. Today, I also learned that a research center constructed in memory of my father at the University, where he used to teach, is almost complete. My father lived for the betterment of every student he ever met. His work also provided him a platform to make it possible. A few of his students, who are now also professors, were responsible for getting approval for building a research center in his memory at one of the largest central government-funded universities in India.

It summed up the journey that started for me while sitting in a child carrier attached to my father’s bicycle when I heard this on NPR yesterday – “by helping people in need, you become a doctor to your soul.”

While driving my son to school today, I had a déjà vu. The only difference was that I am a father now, and my son has just stepped onto his journey.

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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