With the mantras 'Explore, Dream, Discover,' the 17th edition of the three-day Network of Indian Professionals in North America (NetIP) conference to be held in Boston offers to the 800 participants opportunities to hear industry leaders and stalwart professors, including Gururaj 'Desh' Deshpande of Sycamore Networks; Tarun Khanna, professor at Harvard University Business School; and Vikram Akula of SKS Microfinance.
The August 29-31 event also has a strong dose of cultural activities featuring stand-up comics, the screening of socially conscious films such as Vanaja (whose producer and director Rajneesh Domalpalli is attending the event) and Anita Jain, the author of the comical and life-affirming memoir, Marrying Anita.
The event is organized by The Network of South Asian Professionals of Boston (NetSAP) and the national body NetIP.
"One of the things the speakers and discussions will emphasize on this year is how one can be cross-functional," said Tushneem Dharmagadda, the president of NetSAP and the co-chairman of the convention. "We have seen in recent years people like Sanjay Gupta doing such things. He is a protecting physician and he is also a CNN journalist. Many of our speakers are multiple achievers."
"Mixed careers could be the next big thing," he added.
The speakers at the NetIP come from diverse backgrounds such as technology, law, politics, academics, media, healthcare, finance, performing arts, and the movies.
"The conference showcases the potential in each field and the power of collaboration across sectors," Dharmagadda said. "This is something that is unrivaled for any South Asian organisation."
Of the more than 40 speakers and panelists are Sabita Singh, a District Circuit Court judge in Massachusetts; Sharad Devarajan, a film producer and chief executive of Virgin Comics, and singer Supala. And then there are a few well-known physicians such as Vijay Mehta, the former chief of general vascular thoracic section, Central Texas Veterans Health Care Systems.
Dharmagadda is credited by his colleagues and NetIP leaders for helping NetSAP Boston win the organisation's 'Best Large Chapter Award,' two years in a row, in recognition of its outstanding initiatives.
Dharmagadda, who serves on the executive committees of many non-profits in the New England region, also said he expected Deshpande to share his philanthropic vision and commitment to numerous foundations and educational endeavors.
"One of the components of the conference is social entrepreneurship," Dharmagadda said. "You will meet people who studied at MIT and some of the top universities here and who are involved in making changes in India and other South Asian countries, working with some of the most disadvantaged people."
In recent years, NetIP has been making significant changes, says Sundip Arora, vice president, Events, NetIP, and co-chair of the Boston event. "The conference aims to have each participant leave with a sense of empowerment that they can move beyond their perceived boundaries," he adds.
NetIP has chapters in 23 American and Canadian cities with over 5,000 dues-paying members. One of its strengths is that it is not limited to one profession. As Yash Chitre, a former president of the Boston unit, said a few years ago: "There are many South Asian organisations that specialize in different vertical segments such as medicine, legal, engineering and entrepreneurship, but only one organisation, the NetIP, acts as a feeder to all these partner organisations. Many of these prestigious partner organisations often find their future leadership within NetIP."
NetIP leaders believe that never before has there been a greater prospect for South Asians to take on new risks in their careers and their personal lives. 'Strategizing in one's career and striving for activities outside regular career are key themes of this conference,' the conference leaders have said in their mission statement
'We encourage South Asians to believe in what they thought was unattainable,' the statement adds. 'The chances to expand beyond one's network are constantly increasing. As we have established ourselves as a known entity, we now have the chance to take our vision one step further. For a South Asian (Bobby Jindal) to become Governor of Louisiana and possibly a presidential candidate is a dream our community might find impossible even today but one that may potentially be embraced by this rising star.'