Shraddha Punjabi: Living the techie dream in California

Written by: Minal Nirmala Khona

Name: Shraddha Punjabi | Designation: Senior Software Engineer, Wells Fargo Bank | Place: California

Shraddha Punjabi, who grew up in Mumbai, and studied in the US has been working there as a techie in California since. She tells Global Indian why it is important to lead a balanced life when living overseas.

Shraddha Punjabi wanted to be in the field of electronics and robotics even as a teenager. She completed her graduation in instrumentation engineering at the Watumull Institute of Electronic Engineering in Worli, Mumbai. Then, after clearing the GRE and TOEFL exams, she applied to several universities in the US. “I got admission at the San Jose State University in August 2012 where I did my MS in Electrical Engineering and I specialised in semiconductors.”

Making it work

Still, it was not a cakewalk for Shraddha. She candidly says, “I wanted to be independent from the start so I looked for work; that way I would only take money from my parents for college fees. I would save all the extra funds my father would send. I worked two jobs while studying. During the week I had a data entry job and, on the weekends, when we didn’t have classes, I would work at a restaurant to earn an income that would pay for my expenses and the rent.”

Shraddha would study on the bus commuting to college and back and any spare time she had in between doing chores at the apartment she shared with friends. She graduated in 2015, but there was the question of getting a job in 90 days or having to come back to India as per the visa rules of the US. She says, “I had applied but had not got a job and I knew time was running out. To give myself a buffer, I did not complete the last project which would have meant I have completed my studies. The university gives you a two semester extension to complete the project. I was confident I would get a job in that time. In 2016, I got a job at Comcast as a front-end developer. After three years, I moved to Intertrust and was there for one year. In May 2020, I joined Wells Fargo Bank where I am currently a senior software engineer. I lead or manage 18 different teams where my role is to influence and coach senior engineers; create high-quality, user-focussed software applications, and provide technical leadership on high-impact projects.

Striking a healthy balance

In November 2021, Shraddha married Ashwin Nath at a court wedding here in California, after their plans were pushed back by the pandemic, and travel restrictions were put in place. Ashwin is a Senior Manager with Amazon (AWS) and he has been in the US since he came to study for his MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. The couple live with their dog, Bruno, whom Shraddha adopted back in 2019.

Shraddha, like other Indian techies in the US, has a work-life schedule that runs like clockwork. During Covid, she worked from home and currently, she has to go to her office in San Leandro once a week. It is a 35-minute commute each way. She says, “I strongly believe in having a healthy lifestyle. Weekends are busy with household chores like deep cleaning the house which also helps me unwind. To stay fit physically and mentally, I swim, study related to my work, take personal coaching lessons at the gym and we walk every day with Bruno. To relax, we go for a drive, hang out with friends, go bowling and play top golf. I am learning Bharatnatyam too.”

Shraddha has also obtained permanent residency in Canada. One would think, waiting for that much-coveted US Green Card would be a better option, but she disagrees. She says, “My grandmother was very sick in 2016 and at that time my H1B (work visa) was being processed, so it was risky to travel. She passed away and I couldn’t go to India because of that. I was so traumatised by that incident and the fact that I couldn’t meet her, that I decided to be there for my parents when they get old. The only way that’s possible is if I have a Green Card so that I can leave the country for a longer time frame too and when I return, I don’t have to start from scratch. But US Green Cards take forever for Indians to get because the queue for it is very long. In 2018, I got to know about the Express Entry system for Canadian PR. I found out that I’m eligible. I prepared for IELTS as it was a requirement and submitted all my paperwork, and finally in August 2020 I got my PR. I consider it my greatest achievement. I can even have my parents come and live with us.”

Shraddha with her husband, Ashwin Nath

Shraddha’s takeaways for aspiring Global Indians: 

  • There are many pros and cons, have a clear path as to why you want to live and work abroad. You get one chance, and can’t afford to mess it up.
  • Learn to be independent at home before going abroad. Cooking is a life skill that will save you a lot of money.
  • Don’t take life too seriously and be sure to take regular breaks once you start working. Make sure you have me-time to do the things you love.



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