Note: The I AM GPH podcast is produced by NYU GPH’s Office of Communications and Promotion. It is designed to be heard. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emphasis that may not be captured in text on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. Subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher Radio.
EP02 Networking Inside and Outside NYU with Dipali Unadkat
Deborah Onakomaiya: Hey guys, and welcome to another episode of I AM GPH. I am your host Deborah Onakomaiya. On the show today, we have Dipali Unadkat. She is a second year MPH student in the epidemiology concentration at NYU. She is a medical doctor by training from Kenya, and she has had experience working at PATH in Seattle as well as in healthcare consulting. Currently, she is working at the Office of Grants at GPH and with professor Weissman at NYU Langone. Her interests are in mental health in the pediatric population and the effects of health disparities on management of these disorders. In addition to her long list of achievements, Dipali is a certified Zumba instructor and a professional dancer. Welcome to our show, Dipali. It is so nice having you on the show today.
Dipali Unadkat: Of course. I'm happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
Deborah Onakomaiya: So over the summer you interned at PATH. It's a prestigious organization. Can you just tell me a little bit about PATH and like your experience interning there?
Dipali Unadkat: Yeah, of course. So PATH is a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Seattle, but they have various offices across the US. Their main focus of work is low and middle income countries. So they have offices all over the world in Africa, Asia. All over the world really. Their projects span across a variety of issues from innovative technology to diagnostics. They work on a lot of projects. They do qualitative and quantitative epidemiological research. So it spans through like in communicable, noncommunicable diseases. Anything that you can possibly think of. The project I was working on was a health technology project. I was working with the vaccines and development team where we were developing a drug to be put into a micro-array patch, which is essentially a patch that delivers drugs intravenously without the pain. So that's what I was working on. It treats malaria caused by the particular Plasmodium vivax species. So they put me on another project where they're creating an HIV PrEP implant like a contraceptive implant so they don't have to take it every day, improves adherence. A lot of critical research, a lot of background research and critical thinking, meetings with stakeholders, how to carry yourself in these high stake meetings. We had meetings with the Gates organization or RTI, USAID. That was basically our day to day basis thing. So that was a phenomenal experience.
Deborah Onakomaiya: I can only imagine. Wow, that sounds really exciting. And you mentioned the intravenous vaccines. Who exactly was their target population? Were they wanting to target people in South America or areas in Africa? Like had they passed like certain phases of RCTs?
Dipali Unadkat: So plasmodium vivax is primarily concentrated in South America and South Asia. So that is of course their primary target market and they want to roll it out everywhere, Vivax is prevalent because it's the rising threat, once plasmodium falciparum is eliminated. So the goal is wherever there is a need.
Deborah Onakomaiya: You kind of highlighted a couple of the things you were doing. Was it only the vaccine area that you were in or you, it was several different areas in PATH that you were working?
Dipali Unadkat: A lot of it was in the vaccine and development team, so they worked on a bunch of projects, different projects. As I mentioned, the HIV PrEP was part of the development team. There was an engineer on our team who wanted a provider perspective. Since I was a provider in a third world country, a healthcare provider, they poached me for that project to see how an applicator for the contraceptive implant would be engineered. It was all over the place. It also depends a lot on sort of the initiative that you take. I was interested in a variety of things. I made friends with the insurance and diagnostics. They were doing some pretty cool stuff in terms of coming up with new diagnostic assays for G6PD deficiency, which is an enzyme that prevents people from taking Primakuin, which is a drug that treats P. vivax malaria.
Deborah Onakomaiya: That is just amazing. How were you able to get to PATH? What was the process like?
Dipali Unadkat: Of course. So I use mainly three strategies to be able to get whatever. I got a bunch of offers and the first thing I would say the key is to start really, really early. People think January is too early for summer internships. That's when most of their deadlines are December and January. But other than that, the three strategies I used first of all was emailing professors of interest. So just talk to either your advisors or go online. Everything is, all information about faculty is online, whatever the topic of interest is, find out which professor is doing that sort of research, email them and they're pretty nice. There's very few I haven't heard back from. Have a meeting with them and see if you're a fit. The second thing I did was a lot of job sites, so Glassdoor, LinkedIn and they're set up such that you can set up alerts. So I put in several buzzwords like epidemiology and I put in public health. I put in health and then just put in entry level and then whatever state you're interested in, I put all over the US because it didn't matter to me where I did my internship. And then they will send you an email every morning with new open positions, which means you are one of the first people to apply if you make it a habit to apply within 24 hours of posting the job. That was probably the most important thing I did. As soon as the job position came out, I applied and then once you do apply you have to email a point person weekly, so that was also very important in that aspect. And the third thing was the career center fairs and events. There's a lot of them. It's overwhelming, but attending each and every one of them, you're building your network. People see you're interested. Go prepared with one topic of conversation. The recruiters, they remember you. This past career fair I went to, I didn't even have to follow up with them. They emailed me within 48 hours asking me to talk to me. So it's really dependent upon your preparation and showing them, Oh, I came prepared and they're like, oh, this is impressive.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Yeah. Wow, that's amazing. To follow up, you know, some people say your network determines your net worth. So how do you go about making that lasting connection? You touched on recruiters calling you back, so could you just expand on those strategies for people that you know want to make recruiters call them back? What exactly are you doing?
Dipali Unadkat: Of course, so preparation is key and showing them you're prepared. I'll just give you an example because this is what I use for every career fair. I know when the career fair is. Two or three days before the career fair, you make a list of the companies that you want to speak with and then just do a quick sort of research on each company and sort of their values. So are they a big company? Are they a small company? What position in the company are you qualified for? Have a list going, print out the list, take it with you. And then as soon as you go into the career, remember there is thousands of students that are going to these events. So you have to stand out. So have your elevator pitch ready. Wasserman is phenomenal about helping you build your elevator pitch, which is your 30 seconds of who you are as a person and what you want to do.
Deborah Onakomaiya: That is NYU Wasserman?
Dipali Unadkat: Yes. NYU Wasserman, that's our career center. So have that ready. You have your spreadsheet with all your companies, the positions and where they're located, and one value that you relate to with that company. And then as soon as you go in to talk to the recruiters, smile, that's really important. If you're grumpy, you're not going to be memorable. Smile, be organized in your thinking. Tell them why you're great. Have your elevator pitch. Kind of sneak in your spreadsheet and be like, so this is the position I was interested in and I feel like I'm great for this position because your company values integrity and I have integrity. And give them one example. So have these examples ready for each value and that was one of the most important reasons that I got called back because I sort of built a personal relationship with the recruiter there. Had a not normal conversation like, Oh, what positions are available? Do you sponsor H1B? Those are questions that can come later. Have a personal sort of conversation.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Wow, that's really important. I'm almost tempted to ask like, can you show us your elevator speech? Like is that some, that's like top secret. Can you share with us?
Dipali Unadkat: Its not top secret, I don't have it ready. But essentially I would say the content would be something like where have you come from? How does it make you different? What are some highlights, two or three qualifications that you have hard skills and then some soft skills. So hard skills would include like software analysis are hands-on, firsthand experience and soft skills would include things like organized thinking or being compassionate, in the healthcare field. That's of course very important. So those are some of the soft skills that you want to highlight and then highlight why you would be an integral part of their company and why they would be an integral part of your career. So including just a bunch of these things would make it perfect elevator pitch. I usually include my background growing up in Kenya, having grown up in a diverse sort of background and then my educational background, which is my undergrad was engineering. Then I'm a doctor now I'm doing my MPH. That sort of tells them that I'm curious. I've had hands on practical experience. I tell them about my experience working at a low income hospital in Kenya where one of my experiences was very harrowing in terms of watching so many people die. I had to make decisions on whether one person would live or not. Tell them that and then tell them that is what inspired me to pursue an MPH at NYU. I got in with a scholarship and I am extremely happy to be here. I have solid data analysis skills in STATA, or SAS and I am working in the future to be able to become an epidemiological researcher to contribute to this society and therefore make changes in policy. Kind of also gives him a little bit of peek into your future thinking and shows them that you are going to help their company reach that end goal.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Wow. You're hired.
Dipali Unadkat: That feels great. Next time we'll switch spots.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Definitely. Definitely. I mean that is just amazing. I mean you touched on being an engineer, a medical doctor, and now you're doing your MPH. Like I would just like to ask what you Dipali like what are your motivations? You know it's, I mean you sound so motivated, but what is motivating you?
Dipali Unadkat: First of all, don't calculate my age from all of these things. I will not be happy, but I'm a very curious person and to be quite honest, routine doesn't appeal to me. So having all of this knowledge makes me feel like a whole individual. I still feel there is a huge gap and sort of what I don't know. Of course, because no one individual will know everything, but I'm just a very curious person. I don't know what else to tell you. I love knowledge, I love knowing things. I hate being in a situation where I don't know what people are talking about and that's sort of really, really is a driving factor in getting to know as much as I want. And then of course there is a second factor where I want to make a change. Everything going on around us right now, the public health and human rights and it seems like the world is not a happy place and we need to take it back there and it's upon us and you know, prospective students, the younger generation to make that change. If we don't, really, who will?
Deborah Onakomaiya: That's inspiring. Ah, like this is an amazing interview. I just have to mention that to our listeners. We're going to start winding down a little bit, but I still have one or two questions left for you. I mean, you're a second year MPH. You know you're going to be graduating soon. Looking back on your experience at NYU, you know you've mentioned a couple too like NYU Wasserman. Then what resources and services have you found most useful? You know, helping you with your career, like where you're at? It can be both inside NYU and outside. What two specifically?
Dipali Unadkat: Honestly, the career center, as I mentioned multiple times was my number one in terms to fix my resume cover letter, how to interview. They also have a lot of career fairs, events. They teach you a lot of stuff on how to talk to people, dining etiquette. These are all very important life skills. Definitely my top most useful. The second most useful I would say is the College of Global Public Health itself. Most of the network that I have at the moment is from the events that I attended initially. So NYU has, of course you're aware, has a lot of talks from all over. Professors from Columbia. They have CGPH and other Steinhardt, Wagner people come in and talk to us about their various specializations and focus topics of research in their interests. I went to every single one of them in my first semester. That's when I joined the NGO International Institution for Rural Reconstruction, so I'm still a part of that NGO. I got to meet with a lot of professors and then the professors then become your network and help out and honestly, they are phenomenal. For example, by attending some of these events at CGPH, I met with Andrea and Julie who are advisors. They have a huge network. They know what... If you tell them you're interests, they’ll be able to tell you who to connect and when you're connecting with professors, it always drives them when you tell them, Oh, Julie suggested I speak with you. When you use a name, it always gets you to the top of the list of their emails. There's like professor Dickey, he is in the global health and I ran into him this one time and I told him, Oh, this is what I was doing over this summer. He's like, Oh, there's a makerthon, a hackathon for healthcare at NYU Langone, why don't you be a part of it? Because it's innovative tech and it seems that's what you did in Seattle, you'd be interested. So now I'm part of that. Professor Goldman, she's our epidemiology, one of our advisors. I was lost when I switched into epi and I went and spoke with her and I told her, these are my interests. What do I do? She gave me six names of professors who are all interested in my field of research. As soon as I emailed them all back, within 12 hours, I had responses from all of them. So the professors and your advisors and all these events at CGPH are really, really important and people feel like, Oh, I'm not interested in the topic. But you never know what comes out of a network is always great. So I worked as a teaching assistant with professor Christiana Coyle. She teaches the infectious disease classes. Once I finished TAing with her, you still keep that contact going every two or three months or so. Drop in an email, say hello, ask her, the professor how they're doing, meet with them for coffee. I'm meeting her with coffee on Monday and just personal sort of relationship, not business. Don't, I would say don't always have an underlying agenda for networking. Build these personal relationships because they will always be helpful in the future.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Wow. That's interesting. But one thing that I have to ask is that I think for students who might be very awkward, wanting to talk to a professor or faculty, so like one, how do you like get into that frame of mind? Because a lot of the time we want to ask for a job or we want to intern with them or do we want to work on a project? Like how does this conversation go? You know, cause it's so awkward. Like I’m meeting my professor, it has to be all business. Like how do you not make it about academics or not make it about an agenda. You know what I mean?
Dipali Unadkat: I think what's most important is building the sort of personal relationship. Know when to talk about the not so important things. And then the important things. Of course the first time you meet a professor, you don't have a personal relationship. It's scary for most of us because this is a person in a position of authority. They know so much information and you're just starting out. But remember they know this. You're a student, they know you're coming to them, for them to be able to help you build that wealth of knowledge. And the one thing I have to say is it's the education system in the US is amazing, especially at NYU. The professors are really friendly. You can have a conversation with them about not work and they won't judge you for not being professional. They're very friendly. They're very easy to build a relationship with on a personal level. So just go into the meeting knowing that and that takes half the tension off. It's not like in, I know in low and middle income countries from my personal experience and experiences of international friends is that there's that barrier of authority where you draw that line. That line doesn't, I mean, it exists of course you have to be respectful. But you can still be respectful and have a personal sort of relationship and it comes with time. Again, as I mentioned, keep in touch, read some of their papers, ask them about them. If you keep talking about yourself, even in any sort of relationship, not just a professional relationship, that's not going to go very well. You have to care about the other person, about their work and how you are going to contribute to their work. Once you sort of show them the interest that you're a curious person. You want to help them as well as help you with the same time, they will see you're motivated and they'll be more willing to talk to you, have those sorts of conversations. Just go in and knowing they're friendly and there's not that barrier. NYU is awesome with regard to that.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Thank you so much Dipali like I have learned so much. I mean just hearing about your story, networking, having confidence, being prepared. I think these are really strong themes that I myself are going to put into practice. Thank you so much for being on our show.
Dipali Unadkat: Of course, I'm happy to be here. Thank you for having me.