How I Joined Harvard – A Trans-Atlantic Journey
19 Aug 2021
This is the first in our series introducing some of our newer teammates. Read how Associate Director Puneet Sandhu landed on our shores, literally and metaphorically.
Looking for a job during the Great Resignation was quite the experience – there was lots of opportunity, but I also felt a general sense of restrain. If 2020 taught us anything, it was to take better care of ourselves; cherish our families and communities more; and not settle for less than what makes us happy, especially when it comes to our jobs and careers. I wanted to be intentional and thoughtful about my next move. To top it all, looking for a job in a new country was even more challenging – and exciting!
Leaving the United States
I’d spent the last decade+ working in New York City and Boston, where I’d helped mission-driven tech companies of all sizes and stripes tell stories about their work, and their impact on the world. From helping enterprises future-proof themselves by reskilling entire workforces to providing entrepreneurs with the technologies they need to scale their businesses and transform their communities, my clients did it all. I’d also had a front seat as they, and many others in the American tech world, navigated issues that lived outside of any leader’s playbook: the impact of their operations on the environment; disparities and inequities within their workforces; and the misuse of their products and services by bad — and terrifyingly adept — societal actors. It was energising work that I wanted more of: who wouldn’t want to be in the same room as some of tech’s leading minds were making precedent-setting decisions? Additionally, I’d become deeply involved with diversity, inclusion and equity work: I was obsessed with helping my teams and clients be as inclusive as possible in their work and communications, and starting to hold myself to higher standards of leadership as I applied those same lessons to my day-to-day, while navigating corporate America as a woman of colour. It was hard, rewarding work.
As my husband and I planned a trans-Atlantic move to be closer to family, I hoped that I would find a new home where I could continue putting my skills to work for bright minds in tech 1) while learning new skills that I hadn’t had access to before, 2) alongside a kind, inclusive team. I had my heart set on going in-house — at a DEI tech startup, no less! – as I thought it would be a wonderful overlap of my two skillsets in PR and DEI, while giving me the chance to wear many more hats. And that’s what I was interviewing for until I got a LinkedIn message from Hidden! (Hidden is Harvard’s talent partner that helps companies find and hire candidates from under-represented communities.)
What Drew Me to Harvard
As a candidate from a marginalised background, it becomes painfully easy to differentiate between companies that are advertising DEI statements in their job descriptions because they feel they need to, and those that are looking within and actually changing the way they work, so they can become inclusive in meaningful ways. It was clear from the get-go that Harvard fell into the latter camp: apart from using Hidden as a partner, the company takes its Blueprint Ally status very seriously, and my interviewers were able to talk in amazing detail about the way a lens for inclusion was being applied to every facet of the work experience at Harvard: from learning and development, to the language we use in client documents. It was clear that Harvard’s leadership gets it and were willing to put in the work. This, on top of a wonderful team that approaches communications from a thoughtful, integrated mindset (spanning content, planning and marketing) for a great selection of clients — I was hooked.
Three rounds of interviews later – with very obviously kind, smart people – my dreams of going in-house were put on pause indefinitely, and I accepted an offer with the company as their newest Associate Director for the PR team. All the things that attracted me to the company in the first place have turned out to be a substantial part of my first few weeks here: I’ve learned how to design sophisticated surveys from our planning team; I’ve had conversations on how to best manage power-minority teammates; and I’ve gotten to meet great clients who are excited about what our teams do. But getting to see my teammates in real life, and put faces to names — as we all emerge from permanent WFH — has been the highlight of my time thus far. (The British vocabulary that I’m slowly but surely learning is a close second. Soz to everyone in advance for when I start using it.)
If the first few weeks have been any indication, there are going to be many great learnings, laughs, and interesting challenges in my time here. I’ve already been able to contribute in ways that matter to me, while also getting a good sense of what my path at the company might look like – a great report for this just being week 5! At a time of instability for the world – and for me, with such a big move — I’m glad that I was able to find a home at Harvard. And though I do miss a good Murray’s bagel and Brooklyn Roasters latte, I’m learning to indulge my love for scones and castles here in the UK.