HealthProfessional SpotlightSpotlight

After experiencing the magic of rehabilitation in high school, Vikash Sharma decided to pursue a major in Exercise Sports Science. Vikash went through many years of schooling and a residence experience that ultimately led him to open up his own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride. As a runner, Vikash has first-hand experience with what his patients are going through, and he and his team work hard to help their patients fully recover.

Vikash gave Carpe Juvenis an exclusive look into his business, his top running tips for preventing injury, and why meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining his happiness.

Name: Vikash Sharma
Education: Major in Exercise Sports Therapy and Minor in Philosophy from Elon University; Doctor of Physical Therapy from The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences; Orthopaedic Residency at Temple University
Follow: Perfect Stride Physical Therapy / @PerfectStridePT

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Vikash Sharma: Seizing your youth is about taking risks and understanding that there is plenty of time to learn, grow, and recover. As you begin to move further into your life, these opportunities to take risks diminish as responsibilities and commitments take priority.

CJ: You majored in Exercise Sports Science and minored in Philosophy from Elon University. How did you decide what to major and minor in? 

VS: My decision to major in Exercise Sports Science came due to the fact that it was the degree that would allow me to fulfill the most pre-requisites for Physical Therapy School. It was a decision that I had made fairly early in my undergraduate career due to the numerous hours that I had spent rehabilitating various injuries in high school. I just loved the casual atmosphere and positive interactions that I had with my Physical Therapist (PT). It always remained in my mind as a career option.

My minor came as a result of wanting to delve into something that I didn’t have much prior experience with. After I took a few classes, I couldn’t stop. It made me think differently and opened up my mind to looking at the world in a new light.

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CJ: You also received your Doctor of Physical Therapy from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

VS: It was something I had known that I wanted to do since selecting my major in undergraduate. Working with my PT in high school and seeing how they were able to spend quality time with each of their patients and really unravel the mystery that is each and every person’s body sparked an early interest in me.

CJ: You were an Orthopaedic Resident at Temple University. What were your experiences as a Resident like?

VS: They were amazing; coming out of my doctoral program I had a great scientific and theoretical understanding of what should happen. However, as we all know, that’s not how things always happen. This is where the residency experience was extremely helpful. It bridged the gap between being a novice clinician without any direction and guidance and being a skilled practitioner who is able to recognize various patterns and draw upon clinical experience.

CJ: You co-founded your own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride Physical Therapy. What does your role as physical therapist entail, and how do you balance those duties with your role as co-owner?

VS: My role as physical therapist entails working with my patients to help them return to their optimal level of function; essentially get them moving as well as they possibly can. I do this through careful assessment of each individual’s unique body structure and ability to move. Based on these findings a plan of care specific to that individual’s need is developed.

These duties as a physical therapist are balanced with my duties as a co-owner through very careful planning and execution with my team at Perfect Stride. We all work very well together towards ensuring that our clinic remains at the forefront of physical therapy practice and is running efficiently. My business partner Daniel Park, our office manager Austin Shurina, and our Director of Operations and physical therapist Joseph Lavacca are all to thank for the success of Perfect Stride.

Perfect Stride -1

CJ: You specialize in sports rehabilitation. Why is this topic of interest to you?

VS: As a youth I spent a great deal of time participating in a number of sports and with this love for sport came injury upon injury. Spending time in physical therapy for sports rehabilitation piqued my interest in this specialty early. I was always fascinated with the human body and how it is able to heal from injury and bio-mechanics.

CJ: What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned in opening your own physical therapy practice?

VS: As cliché as it sounds, you have to be willing to take the risk to make your dreams come true. I have always known that I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and open my own business. However, moving outside of your comfort zone and taking a risk on something that isn’t guaranteed takes a lot of passion and dedication. Looking back, I can say that it has been one of the best risks that I have taken in my life thus far. It has opened countless doors for me and also changed my personality for the positive as I am much more confident stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I have also learned that you have to be a salesman, you have to always be looking for opportunities to further yourself and your business because they arise with each and every interaction that you have.

CJ: You have been an avid runner for most of your life. For those who are interested in running and preventing injury, what tips do you have?

VS: Most of the running injuries that I see walk through my door are a result of not allowing the body to adapt to the loads that are put on it (doing too much too quickly). The body has an amazing capacity to heal stronger than before. However, many people are too eager to get running and don’t acclimate their body to the loads and stresses appropriately.

Cross training also comes along with this adaptation process. By properly training your tissues under loads similar to or greater than what running demands on the body (forces up to 2.5 times that of ones own body weight), you are conditioning your tissues for success. Coupled with a proper nutrition plan, training schedule, recovery plan (the most underrated aspect of training in my opinion), and equipment, you are laying all of the groundwork to ensure that you are setting yourself up for success and avoiding a trip to see me for a running related injury!

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CJ: What is your favorite running shoe?

VS: Saucony Kinvara – I love the heel to toe drop and feel of these shoes.

CJ: What is your favorite running warm-up?

VS: I have a few depending on the situation but I like this one presented by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

VS: Before I even get the chance to step out of bed I am usually responding to emails and planning the day. My mornings are usually a mix of breakfast, making phone calls, working out, running errands, answering more emails, and getting into work.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a physical therapist do now to set him or herself up for success?

VS: I would highly suggest gaining some experience as a PT aide or getting some observation hours under your belt at an early age. I would also recommend looking at particular schools’ pre-requisites for admission as they can vary from school to school. Make sure that you are covering all the necessary courses during your undergraduate studies.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

VS: In terms of professional resources, there definitely isn’t just one. I can’t stress the importance of communication and consultation with my peers. Getting a better idea of how others think and gaining perspective on the bigger picture has allowed for me to grow infinitely as a practitioner. This, along with getting my hands on any text or web-based resources that are evidence-based, have gone a long way in my growth as a practitioner.

CJ: When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to reset?

VS: Meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining my happiness. My meditation practice is mainly based around focusing on and controlling my breathing. I have had some formal training in Buddhist meditation; however, my practice comes largely from what I have found to personally work best for me over the years. I have always found that getting in a strenuous bout of exercise is a great physical and mental reset; it makes me feel more alert, increases my energy levels, and most importantly gets my body moving!

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CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

VS: Personally – I am always looking to be decrease stress in my life and this is something that I heavily rely on my meditation practice to help me with, in addition to remaining physically active.

Professionally – Currently my focus is on learning more about what I can do to get all of my patients moving and feeling better than they ever have. This is done through taking continuing education courses (that we also host at Perfect Stride) and reading as much as I can possibly get my hands on.

Another big goal professionally is growing Perfect Stride Physical Therapy to better service the needs of our patients. This is accomplished through patient feedback and careful planning and trouble shooting with the rest of the team.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

VS: I would tell my 20-year-old self that failure is an option, failure is acceptable, and that failure is welcomed with open arms just as long as it is learned from. There have been countless instances where my fear of failure has stopped me from doing what I wanted in my youth and now looking back on those instances I can say if I had taken the risk I would have either succeeded and/or learned a great deal from whatever endeavor I pursued.

Vikash Sharma Qs

Health

You think you’re healthy, but have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a stress-free morning? Many times, we don’t realize that being healthy goes further than being physically healthy; it has to do with being mentally healthy, as well. There are many do’s and don’ts: do exercise, do eat plenty of fresh greens, don’t go near processed foods, don’t munch on late those night snacks, and do check out that yoga center that’s just around the corner! Although these are all great things, we must not neglect to underscore the importance of maintaining a stress-free morning routine.  Consider these few tips to help keep your morning game on!

Avoid Technology First Thing

How to not check those morning streams of Instagram posts, flips of late night Snapchats, or the urge to text X friend about X morning thought?  However, resisting technology and avoiding grabbing your phone or touching that computer for the first hour of waking up will allow you to hold the peace of mind to focus on just yourself. It also decreases your reliance on technology and you will be able to concentrate on other important things. Morning texts, e-mails, appointment alerts, and social media feeds spark the first dose of mental stress. It’s best to simply stay away from white noise, artificial bright lights, and overall technology in order to focus on yourself for that first hour.

Drink Water

There is nothing more revitalizing that chugging a glass of water at the break of dawn. Studies have shown that water cleanses your blood from toxins, which in turn, makes your skin glow and renews your cells by increasing the rate at which new muscle and blood cells are produced. Also, nutrient absorption is boosted by purifying your colon. It also helps balance the lymph system and fluids in your body. But the best part? It spikes your metabolism by 24% which means that this is great for weight loss! Who knew that simply gulping down water could do such wonders to your body? Try a cold glass of water, or warm water with lemon.

Meditate and/or Exercise

Every person is different, and there are different ways for each person to meditate. Meditation can consist of doing yoga, sitting in silence, showering with essential oils, or even take a quick trip outside to be with nature. Walking outside, watching the sunrise, and even going for a run on the dawning beach is a great way to clear your mind. Also, meditation is for a great way to begin the day in a peaceful surrounding and to encase your mind with positive thoughts.

Exercising first thing in the morning is also a great way to start your day. Whether you exercise inside or outside, increasing your heart rate does wonders for your body. Working out first thing in the morning is a smart way to get your daily sweat out of the way. If the weather is good, get your fitness on outside. Studies show that you will be a happier person if you are outside. In the University of Essex, they have studies that have shown that “green exercise” or exercising outdoors can improve your self-esteem and mood. I would say this is an excellent way to start your day!

Avoid Rushing

Rushing is an integral part of American culture. America is constantly running to get to work, school attendance, an appointment, an event, a meeting, a flight etc. The point is, we never want to be late, yet we are always on the verge of it. This is perhaps one of the most stress-inflicting things that the body can go through. You can avoid this by picking out your next-day’s clothes the night before, making a to-do list in the evening so you won’t forget anything in the morning, and the most effective one, I think: wake up extra early. This will give you the peace of mind that there is no way you can be late since you’ll be able to avoid rush hour or any other incidents that may impede on timeliness.

Shower with Cold Water

Turns out, there are more health benefits to cold water than just drinking it! Showering with ice cold water is incredibly beneficial for your body, as painful as that may sound. It increases your metabolism fifteen fold! After exercise, cold showers also help your body recover by reducing soreness. Heart rate increases when exposed to a surge of chilled water which in turn, causes faster blood flow which will up your energy big time and help you avoid hypertension and the hardening of arteries. There was a study at Virginia Commonwealth University showing how cold water stimulates the main source of noradrenaline, or a chemical that may be used to decrease depression. All in all, starting off your day with a cold shower is a stress reducer and yes, I will repeat, very healthy.

Any of these tips will be great to implement into your current routine. It feels great to start your day off on the right food! How do you maintain a healthy morning routine?

Image: Unsplash

CultureEducationInspiration

If you follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you may have seen our live updates from the Wisdom 2.0 Next Generation conference in New York City. It was a great day filled with invaluable life lessons from awesome people such as Kleaver Cruz, Jessica Kane, Elle Luna, Miki Agrawal, and Matthew Brimer. We are excited to share some of the important lessons that we took away from the conference, complete with photos to document our conference journey in the Big Apple.

Washington Square

When in New York City, walk. We strolled through Washington Square Park before the conference started at 10AM. Even though we were running on 3 hours of sleep, we were so excited for the day to begin.

Conference

Moments before the conference started! The conference focused on millennials living with greater purpose and meaning in life and business. All good things, right?

Jessica Kane

Jessica Kane, The Huffington Post Director of Millennial Outreach spoke to us about what it means to be a millennial. We are the most stressed, but optimistic, generation. Also, according to data, millennials would rather be broke than bored, meaning that we want to find passion and purpose in our work, even if that means receiving a lower paycheck. Because we’re so busy and always consumed with technology, it’s important to incorporate well-being into our lives.

Ella Luna

We were excited to hear Elle Luna speak. She’s an artist and the author of the super popular article, The Crossroads of Should and Must. Something eye-opening she said was that if we want to be free, we need to reflect and understand why we are not currently free. Instead of thinking about what you would rather be doing or where you want to go, first understand why you are feeling a certain way and what exactly you can change to make a difference.

Also, make a “What are you so afraid of?” list – write down 10 things you are afraid of, and once they are down on paper, you’ll see that they might not be so scary after all. This list is a great first step for overcoming your fears and to start doing. Elle had such an amazing energy and optimism; we were so inspired!

 FIre escapes

Lunch break! We roamed the streets and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Don’t forget to look up! There’s beauty around every corner in this city.

Miki

Miki Agrawal, co-founder of Thinx and Wild, was hilarious and so, so smart. We have been long-time fans of hers as a leader and businesswoman, so we were excited to hear her speak. She started her presentation by saying that there are no guarantees in life. A simple, yet important, reminder that we should remember every single day. Some important points she made during her talk: master a skill, purpose is your best motivation, face people and you will face your own fears, and leaders don’t talk badly about other people.

Great people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.

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Matthew Brimer is the co-founder of General Assembly, and he is seriously smart and driven. We loved his point about how your education should always be in beta; never stop learning. He also spoke extensively about the importance of failure, and that failure is necessary. Through failure we can learn and improve.

 These were just a few of the amazing speakers that shared their insight from the experiences they have had. It was an overwhelming day in the best kind of way, and we left feeling motivated and determined to include wellness into our lives. There was a speaker who led everyone through a guided meditation, which is seriously good for your brain and health. Meditation = paying attention to being alive. When you take a couple of minutes out of your day to just be, you significantly reduce stress and help calm your mind and body down.

Not only was it great to hear about including well-being into our everyday lives, but it was awesome learning more about millennials. Every now and then it’s great to learn more about our generation and better understand our place in the world. Did any of these lessons resonate with you?

Health

Last week I talked about the benefits of meditation and the roadblocks that keep many people from getting started. In a nutshell, it’s a wonderful way to find freedom from anxieties, negativity and certain ailments. So you might be motivated to get it going. But how?

I’ll walk you step-by step through a first-time meditation sequence. The type of meditation I’m going to outline is called mindfulness meditation; it’s a simple technique and a great place to start. It will help you be more mindful (duh) of your feelings and desires, and allow you to cultivate or work through them more easily than you would if you were not practicing mindfulness.

Your first time meditating should be short and sweet – enough to at least immerse yourself a little, but not so long that you get bored and discouraged. I recommend allotting about ten minutes to begin, but even this can be intimidating if you have no idea what you’re doing or a short attention span, so five minutes is ok, too. And just follow along!

1. Find somewhere comfortable and where you won’t be interrupted.

I like to sit on the edge of my bed with my feet on the floor and hands in my lap. Find somewhere you can sit this way, where people aren’t likely to bother you. Background noise, even if it’s loud, is ok; being jarred out of your thoughts by sudden disruptions is not!

2. Sit with feet on the floor and hands in your lap or on your thighs.

Find a happy medium between rigid and lounging; keep your back straight and shoulders back, but don’t freak out about having perfect posture. To keep you straight and still you can try imagining your head aligning with a point in the sky.

3. Breathe, imagine a sense of calm.

Before closing your eyes, think about yourself in a peaceful place and state of mind. Take a few deep breaths.

4. Close your eyes when you’re ready, and take a few more deep breaths.

Focus on the up and down of your breathing, wherever that is in your body. Imagine inhaling calm and exhaling stress or negativity. Once you’ve taken several deep breaths, return to your normal breathing pattern, in your nose and out your mouth.

5. Body scan.

Do a mental scan of your body; I like to start at my head and move downward, but feel free to start at your feet, stomach, wherever. As you move down, up or out, focus on the way each body part feels. Are some areas tense? Are some relaxed? Just notice, don’t try to fix it. Take as long as you need for this; it may take several minutes.

6. Emotional scan.

As you do the body scan, you will begin to notice the underlying emotions you’re feeling. It may be obvious or you may have to look for it. Are you anxious? Sad? Happy, free, peaceful? Again, just notice. Don’t judge or try to change it.

7. Return focus to breath.

Sit for several minutes (I’d say up three to five) with yourself. Don’t force your mind to be blank. Instead, if you realize your mind has wandered off, gently label it as ‘thinking’ and bring the focus back to your breathing. You can count your breaths if it helps.

8. Let your mind go.

For about 15-30 seconds (but don’t strictly time this, just approximate) let your mind wander free. This feels longer than it sounds. Let your mind think or sing or be blank, whatever it wants. No effort. You may get frustrated by this at first; don’t worry. It’ll get easier and easier to let go the more you practice.

9. Bring it back to breathing.

Bring it back again to your breath and physical body. Just allow yourself to re-acclimate to your physical surroundings. How do you feel?

10. Open eyes when ready.

Take your time breathing before doing this if you need. There have been times I’ve needed to keep my eyes closed and remain focused on my breathing for another 15 minutes, and times I’ve been immediately ready to return to my physical environment.

Congrats!

That’s it. Nothing super difficult, nothing ridiculous. Just sitting with yourself.

You may be confused at first or unsure whether you even feel any different. You may be sure you don’t feel different. Just keep at it. As you continue meditating, you’ll begin to understand your feelings, become able to sense them more effortlessly and manage them with ease.

I hope mindfulness meditation helps you in your journey, whatever it may be, and that you are able to more fully live and discover yourself through it! Most of all, I hope it helps you find freedom from anxieties and health issues.

Any meditators out there have other advice or suggestions for getting the most out of meditation?

Image: Jesus Solana, Flickr

CultureHealthSkills

If you’re looking for ways to improve your physical or emotional health, productivity, memory, focus and energy, meditation can truly help you do that. Even better, it’s free.

There are many ways to meditate, and while I’ve just scratched the surface with my practice, I’ve already seen some of its positive effects working in my life.

The thing is, a lot of people just don’t know how to get started, think it’s strange, or have tried it but were discouraged. After all, meditation sometimes gets a bad rap; people think they have to sit cross-legged, chant Om, be spiritual or religious and completely empty their minds. Those feats range from awkward to intimidating.

But getting started really isn’t so bad. I’ll break down some of the common roadblocks that keep people from meditating. In part two, I’ll actually walk you through a meditation sequence so you can try it yourself.

Roadblock 1: “I’m not calm or patient; I can barely sit still.”

Being calm and patient is not a requirement for meditating. In fact, one of the main reasons people do meditate is to increase their calmness, patience and inability to sit with themselves and their emotions. The practice will help you find those qualities in yourself and shed your impatience or angst.

Roadblock 2: “Meditation is too time consuming. I’m busy.”

Start with five minutes a day and slowly increase it as you begin to see its benefits. It is said, though, that if you think you’re too busy to meditate for five minutes, you should meditate for 15. It basically means that meditation will help you put your schedule and stress levels into perspective.

Roadblock 3: “I’ve tried emptying my mind, but I can’t.”

Meditation isn’t about creating a blank mind; that’s not normal. If you’ve been trying to force your mind to stop all activity, it’s no surprise you’ve had trouble with it. Meditation is actually just a way to view your thoughts without trying to change them or force them to do anything.

Roadblock 4: “I don’t see how meditation can help me.”

Over time, meditation has tremendous health benefits, including reduced stress levels, improved sleep, greater emotional balance, increased immunity, reduced blood pressure, relief from conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, and reduced depression, anxiety and anger issues. Overall, it can relieve all kinds of emotional and physical ailments while giving you more clarity on what’s really in your heart and mind.

Roadblock 5: “I don’t have anywhere to go that’s silent or isolated.”

The great thing is that you can meditate anywhere. Being aware of the sounds around you without letting them distract you is part of it. Of course, being interrupted by coworkers or roommates can be tricky, but don’t worry about finding total silence and isolation. You can sit on a park bench, in an airplane, at your desk, anywhere. As you continue meditating, you will start to learn how to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings anywhere, without even closing your eyes.

Stay tuned for a walk-through of a beginner’s meditation sequence!

Image: Caleb Roenigk, Flickr

CultureSkills

My 22nd birthday was a straight up rollercoaster.

Halfway into the morning, my dream company cancelled the interview they’d scheduled with me. No more trip to NYC.

The same day, the person I’d been most recently involved with texted me the news that he’s seeing someone new. Kind of an ego bruiser.

This all came in the midst of a post-grad journey that has been anything but smooth and peaceful, about a week after the death of a wonderful high school friend.

In times of grief and confusion, minor letdowns can seem major. The camel’s back had officially broken, and I realized that I needed to make time to resolve these conflicts on top of a schedule packed with class, writing deadlines and a full-time job search.

Despite what you’ve heard, it isn’t “strong” to ignore your problems. Over time, failure to acknowledge and resolve internal conflicts can manifest in depression, anxiety, confusion, and an inability to emotionally connect with people. Practicing internal conflict resolution while you’re young and resilient will seriously pay off.

Resolving your conflicts also doesn’t have to get in the way of a busy life. Here are the steps that have helped me uphold my commitments and personal relationships as I overcome my challenges:

Internal Healing

  1. Be honest with yourself.

You don’t have to tell the world you’re hurting, but tell it to yourself straight. You can’t overcome any type of feeling if you don’t admit it’s there. By facing the nitty gritty details, you’re giving yourself permission to unearth and work through them.

  1. Be kind to yourself.

As you’re honest with yourself, be sure you’re doing it without judgment. Some of your truths may not be pretty or easy to accept; take your time with them. Don’t resent yourself for being sad, angry or confused.

Transform any self-deprecating thoughts to positives. For example, turn “I’m such an idiot for starting that fight,” to, “I engaged in that fight because I was frustrated. How can I better express those feelings next time?”

  1. Be conscious of unhealthy thoughts.

Resisting the changes your conflict has created, or obsessing over regrets and what-ifs, creates backward progress. Re-direct your thoughts when you sense they’re heading down what-if road.

I redirect mine by focusing on my five senses; what colors I see, how my breathing sounds and my skin feels, etc. It brings me back to reality and lets me change my train of thought.

External Adjustments

  1. De-clutter.

De-cluttering your physical environment helps a surprising amount in releasing emotional baggage. Put all your dust-collecting items and unworn clothes in a giant trash bag and donate them.

Having trouble blindly parting with your more sentimental dust collectors? Give them to a special person in your life.

  1. Physical health = sanity.

Carve out time to exercise, but be gentle with yourself. It’s ok if you’re too depleted or stressed for anything more than a five minute walk in the morning.

Remember, too, that over-indulgence is not self-care. A bottle of wine and a pint of ice cream will make you feel sluggish and skip the walk tomorrow. Moderation is your friend.

  1. Meditate, meditate, meditate.

I am not kidding. You don’t have to be the Buddha to do this. Sit and focus on your breathing and body for five to ten minutes. Continued meditation will give you calmness and clarity.

  1. Set a daily allowance.

Avoid spending precious time and energy in sad or angry lala land by allotting five to 10 minutes a day to journal, cry, scream into your pillow, whatever works for you. Once the timer is up, it’s time to get back to reality. Lessen the time by a minute each day. You’ll find you become more in control of your feelings while still acknowledging them.

  1. Don’t grieve alone.

As my best friend says, the phone can weigh 500 pounds. But even just telling a loved one you’re sad and need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on will bring you comfort and release.

Teen and young adult years are already pretty confusing as is; life’s big and small obstacles during these times can throw us for some serious loops. The great thing is that conflicts can aid tremendously in self-discovery and personal growth if you address them in healthy ways.

What are your tips for overcoming personal conflict while staying focused and present?

Image: Picjumbo

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Deepa Subramaniam, the Director of Product at charity:water, is always looking for ways to push herself both personally and professionally. When Deepa is not building awesome products with impact at charity:water, she makes time to meditate, do yoga, attend tech meetups, and set daily goals for herself. After taking a computer science class at U.C. Berkeley, Deepa discovered her natural passion and made a career out of it by working at Adobe and moving up the ranks. However, despite growing up, going to school, and working in California, Deepa recognized that it was time for a change and moved to New York City for an entirely new adventure in the non-profit world. Determined to continually challenge herself and live a full life, Deepa is incredibly inspiring and is living proof that you can wear many hats, be hardworking, stay involved in the community, remain curious, and in an effort to grow as a person, leave your comfort zone and embrace the unexpected.

Name: Deepa Subramaniam
Age: 31
Education: Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Science from U.C. Berkeley
Follow: Twitter / charity:water

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Deepa Subramaniam: I think youth is subjective. I have met people who are the most youthful, joyous 60-year-olds and I have met 18-year-olds who feel as hardened and put upon by life as older people. Youth is what is in your heart, not your age – it’s how you feel.

I think it’s so weird when people are embarrassed about their age, it’s just a number. There are people who look 20 and are actually 40. I think age-based shame is a bad thing in our culture, and something we all should help nix. I remember being super excited about turning 30. I was really proud of what I had accomplished by 30 and I am excited about the next 30 years.

Seizing your youth is taking advantage of every single day that you have available to you. Make the most out of the time that you have. Just do and create and put things out in the world. Don’t worry about whether it is finished or polished and what other people are going to think. Live a fulfilling life and take advantage of your youth. I look back on times when I wasn’t learning or doing or creating, and that is a real bummer.

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CJ: You majored in Computer Science at U.C. Berkeley. How did you determine what to study?

DS: I started school undeclared though a lot of people thought I would be a lawyer. I was good at science and math, but I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do with my entire life. When I went to school, I realized that science was where my natural skill and interests lay. I had no idea about computer science at all. My sister studied computer science and she kept telling me to take a CS class. I shunned that for whatever reason – sometimes being told what to do by a family member is the best way to not do something.

So I started off studying physics. And I found astronomy really interesting. I finally gave in to my sister’s advice and took an introductory computer science class. It was so fun that it didn’t even feel like school! There was a lot of problem-solving and my brain was able to solve these programming puzzles without it feeling like a lot of effort. I guess that’s natural passion, and it was the first time I ever experienced that. This was late in my second year, but I decided to switch majors because I felt like that was the right thing to do. It took me four and a half years to graduate.

CJ: What made you interested in studying engineering?

DS: I like the problem-solving aspect of it. I was interested in how to make things better, how things work, and analyzing the natural friction point in systems. Computer programming was really fun and it didn’t seem like hard work so that was the best engineering pursuit for me. I thought that it would be amazing if I could make a life out of it. I read something recently about Jerry Seinfeld where he said he chose comedy because it seemed like the farthest thing from work for him. Problem solving through programming or technology is like that for me.

CJ: What does it mean to be an engineer?

DS: Engineering is so broad, there are so many different applications of it. I think engineering and being an engineer is about making systems better, whether the system is an airplane, a building, or a software program. Taking the time to understand and propose the right changes to make to a system – that’s engineering.

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CJ: You recently moved to New York City from San Francisco to be the Director of Product at charity:water. What has your experiencing moving to the East Coast been like?

DS: I was born and raised in California, went to school there and I worked there for a very long time. I’ve basically always been at minimum, an hour away from family, friends, and parents. Moving to the East Coast was an intentional decision in order to challenge myself to see if I could thrive away from them. It’s a weird thing to admit in your thirties, but that’s just the case. I wanted a personal challenge and I wanted to try being in a new city with a new job in a new domain. I thought I was getting too soft and too comfortable in San Francisco so I wanted to change it up and rely on my inner hustle.

Also, New York is so inspiring right now for anyone interested in design, technology, or creativity. I think what’s happening in New York at this time is what the people a generation before me experienced in Silicon Valley. The energy around New York’s tech & creative communities is addictive and truly energizing.

CJ: What does your job as Director of Product at charity:water entail?

DS: Product is such a broad term. I work closely with our amazing creative and engineering teams to build out products so that it is the best experience for our supporters. As Director of Product, I help road map and improve products in our portfolio so we can raise more money and help provide more people with clean and safe drinking water. With the right products, we can connect money easier to the field so that we are building and sustaining more water projects for longer and ultimately giving more clean water to more people.

Right now I focus on what we can do online, such as our donation flow, our fundraising platform, and the educational components of our website. By having people learn and understand the water crisis, we want to inspire them to act, whether that’s through giving money, fundraising, or just spreading the word about the water crisis.

As a product manager, I analyze data to figure out where our customers are successful and where they are not and how our products should grow. My job synthesizes different aspects of the business from engineering to creative to data analysis.

CJ: You used to work at Adobe. What skills did you bring from Adobe to charity:water?

DS: I was at Adobe for a long time. I was a lead engineer and then switched over to technical product management. I definitely think people should work multiple jobs and work a variety of jobs in their lifetime. Going from a large, corporate company to a small, non-profit has been really interesting. At Adobe, I learned about working in large teams, how to clearly define what the goals and key initiatives are, how to report back to people, and how to ask for what you need to be successful in ways that are going to be met with action.

The people I worked with at Adobe are a very mature group, so I grew up in a business environment but also had a lot of fun. I learned about quality software development, mixing quantitative and qualitative skills, and how to use data to improve products. Because of my time at Adobe, I came to charity:water with a solid foundation and confidence  so that was definitely a good transition.

CJ: What do you love most about working at charity:water?

DS: It’s so meaningful day in and day out. The people I work with and the work that we’re doing is incredibly inspiring. There are so many creative, smart young people who could be working elsewhere but chose every day to work at charity: water. We are all here working on something that will hopefully outlast all of us. That passion and commitment is rare, and to see that among a group of 50 people is fascinating.

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CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

DS: I’m up pretty early. I like to stretch and try to do a little meditation, 8-10 minutes per day. It helps me find balance and composure in a busy day. I come into work and then the busy day begins. I meet with my team, discuss on-going projects and get a sense of what is most important to accomplish that day. This is a habit I have formed, where I jot down 5 things I want to accomplish that day – both personally and professionally – and anything beyond that is cake. I power through things based on that list and work tends to fly by.

I tend to do many more things with my day in New York than in San Francisco. I’ll go to a design or tech talk, meet friends for dinner, or go to yoga, and then try to get home at a decent time so I can get more sleep. As I’ve gotten older, I have become more dogmatic about self-care. When I was younger, exercise, eating well, and quality alone time was not as high on my list.

To achieve long-term goals, you need the discipline of being able to achieve wins in much smaller increments. So I rely on daily rituals and weekly rituals to keep me focused. If you’re consistent about accomplishing those rituals and are defending them from change or competing priorities, that cadence and discipline will translate to hitting year-long goals. Be critical about what goes on your daily list of things to accomplish. If something isn’t a “hell yeah” I want to do this, then it doesn’t go on the list. I am more careful about the time and energy that I put into something and that means I am ultimately happier with the outcome of my days.

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

DS: So many, I feel blessed. I have just worked with so many great people. One of the things I am most proud of is when my co-workers and I had an idea about a new tool and we pitched the idea to Adobe executives. I convinced them that there was a real need and opportunity and that I was the right person to run it from an engineering and technical perspective. I built a team of engineers and then most of our managers forgot about us till we debuted the tool at our annual user conference. We sneaked the tool and it was met with such excitement and ended up having a great release. That is where I learned that with a little space, a team, and a high dose of passion, we could take something from idea to execution quickly.

That tool, by the way, is called Adobe Scout.

CJ: What advice would you give teenagers or young adults who are interested in being engineers?

DS: There are so many ways to learn about design and technology. You can buy a book, take a class, or just jump in and start playing. The barrier to entry is a lot lower.

Even if you have a tiny bit of interest in programming or design – just try and learn it. A quick Google search will help you find those resources or a local meet up to learn with other people in a social environment. If that hunger comes from within instead of having to create it, then you’re on the path to working on something with passion.

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CJ: Did you face any adversities in the workplace or school for being a woman in a predominantly male profession?

DS: There have been situations where something has happened which made me feel weird. Things that I shrugged off in my twenties are things that I would challenge now. For the most part, though, I have been surrounded by amazing people, both male and female. I always intentionally sought out great people to be around, both in school and work. Here’s one bit of advice: don’t wait for someone to ask you if you need a mentor. Go up to people you admire and ask to them to mentor you – you’ll be surprised how often people say yes.

CJ: You are a South Indian Classical dancer. How long have you been involved with dancing and how has it impacted your life?

DS: I still dance and have started choreographing a bit more. I have been dancing since I was six-years-old. Having a creative and artistic outlet has been incredibly important for me. Dance is so great, it teaches you composure, it’s physically great exercise, and it is a great mixture of expression and movement. There are so many amazing dance communities in New York – I love it. I would not be the person I am today without having a creative outlet that I love, which for me was dance. It is a great way to play when you’re not working on your other passions.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

DS: I don’t like to do the same thing, I like to do a bunch of different things, such as write a book, do a dance show, ship a great product, etc. Learning new things is how I define growing, and growing is what motivates me. I want to squeeze as much as I can out of every day!

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

DS: I would tell myself that it’s okay to break some rules and not do the things that you think you are expected to do. Do things that you think are expected of you only if they are in alignment with who you are and what your core values are. So I guess I would tell myself to rock the boat a bit more.

Another bit of advice is that you don’t learn nor do you get better without making mistakes. I still make mistakes every day, and that’s a good sign. In the moment it might feel uncomfortable, but I look back on it and realize that those moments translated to real growth. Force yourself to make mistakes when you’re younger because the bandwidth to recover is so much higher.

Deepa Subramaniam Qs