[Reprinted from Indian Express, West Coast edition, October 21, 2011]
In 2002, after much deliberation, I quit my job at Goldman Sachs in New York and moved to the Bay area when my husband Ramki’s job got transferred. From a wooded suburb close to Hudson river, we found ourselves an hour away from the Pacific Ocean now. Bay area seemed so spread out and we knew a few friends from our college days and a cousin or two. Initially, we missed our friends on the East coast, the small-town delis in Westchester county, Lincoln center’s jazz/symphonies/world music performances, Hudson Valley Shakespeare festival and riding Metro North to New York city on weekends.
After seven years of a hard-paced career in New York, I was seeking a greater balance in my life when my daughter Nini was born in 2000. I was spending only an hour a day with her. Our move was primarily driven by that desire and the need to raise our child in a region where outdoors were available all year round. We also wished to be closer to the Indian community and share our heritage with Nini easily. Besides basketball and piano, today Nini takes lessons in South Indian classical dance. Our biggest holiday is celebrated in over six towns of Bay area where she is not shy to wear her traditional outfit. Her friends at school are a great mix of Caucasians, Koreans, Chinese and Indians.
Over nine years in the Bay area, we have discovered a great network of friends and relatives. Ramki has connected with over six cousins and the list keeps growing. Nini has found herself part of a large extended family here. As immigrants who came to USA in late eighties, it is wonderful to be able to recreate that sense of immediate family for ourselves here.
Bay area’s vibrant, multicultural life keeps our social calendar busy all year round. The wide choice of national and state parks keeps our appetite for camping and hiking satisfied. The scores of restaurants of different ethnic cuisines keeps our palate satiated. The Pacific coast is simply divine and calming when life gets hectic. We love living in this diverse East Bay!
For my career, initially, we thought west coast would not provide opportunities like New York but it worked out fine. I continued working in the financial arena for few more years and then decided to take a sabbatical in 2007 after my brother suddenly passed away.
The sabbatical gave me the opportunity to travel to over 16 countries, and to work for causes dear to my heart - such as global warming and women’s empowerment. Most recently, as president of the board of directors, I volunteered primarily full-time for a local, nonprofit Narika. Narika helps South Asian women in a culturally sensitive model who face domestic violence. Next, I hope to test waters in being an entrepreneur and Bay area is an amazing place for that. We are also working on adopting a baby girl from India.
All in all, the move has been a great journey for our family from the east to west coast of America. Nine years have flown by and we are still discovering the Bay!
Manju Seal is American Marshall Fellow since 2008 that annually selects roughly 50 emerging leaders from across United States (www.gmfus.org). Of her sixteen years of professional career, she has twelve years of investment experience with an emphasis in structured finance, risk management and quantitative methods. She is a VP alumna from Goldman Sachs, New York. From 1997-2002, she worked for the structured products desk in the Fixed Income Division and later managed the fixed income team in GSAM for Risk and Performance Group for institutional accounts worth $71 Billion.
She moved to San Francisco and worked in leadership positions in the structured products arena from 2003-2007. At McMorgan Co. (a subsidiary of New York Life), as a VP and portfolio manager, she implemented securitized strategy worth $4 billion across all of their institutional accounts. Her finance career started out as a structured finance analyst Arthur Andersen. From 1992-95, she was a systems analyst for the U.S. Cooperative Extension System for the National Center for Diversity at Kentucky State University-Frankfort.
In late 2007, she took a sabbatical from the corporate world but remained strongly engaged in the non-profit sector as a volunteer. In 2008, she spearheaded the Friends of Live Earth (FOLE) Program in India for Live Earth/Ixoraa Media. The program raised awareness in 3 Indian cities about global warming via school activities, screening of eco-friendly movies, conferences, eco-fair, and eco-quiz. As the on-ground-project leader for FOLE India, she brought together over 1.1 million kids in 5,000 schools across India who participated in these activities. More details at http://liveearth.org/en/liveearthblog/friends-of-live-earth-india-events
Manju is President Emerita of the Board of Directors of Narika (www.narika.org). She joined the local nonprofit in 2003 as a volunteer. Last eighteen months, she volunteered primarily full-time, and contributed in innumerable ways towards laying a foundation for Narika’s continued growth and development. She helped strengthen board membership, initiated upgrading Narika’s infrastructure, conducted many meaningful organizational changes in key processes while ensuring Narika’s fiscal stability and board governance duties are fulfilled.
She is founder of Isospinn Inc., advisor to Onegiving.com, and a chapter leader for 85 Broads (www.85broads.com, 25,000+ global network for women in 82 countries). She has graduate degrees in mathematics and ethnomusicology. A published essayist (Penguin, 2008) and an avid traveler, she has visited 17 countries during her sabbatical.