Venture For America Fellow Experience

Straddling Between Two Worlds: My Ever-Evolving Quest to Find My True Purpose

If you told me a year ago that I would be working at an IoT tech startup as a technical project manager, I would have been shocked because, for starters, I didn't even know what IoT stood for and project management is poles apart from my biomedical engineering background.

Grace Varughese

If you told me a year ago that I would be working at an IoT tech startup as a technical project manager, I would have been shocked because, for starters, I didn't even know what IoT stood for and project management is poles apart from my biomedical engineering background.  

So, how did I end up here at Leverege?

Short answer:

A little luck, willingness to walk away from things that do not make me happy, openness to learn, and my constant ever-evolving quest to find my real purpose.

Long answer:

Here we go.

Straddling the worlds of art and science

Growing up, I wanted to be many things: a fashion designer, a scientist, an actress, a choreographer, a math teacher, a chemical engineer, etc. By high-school, I shuffled through so many scenarios of what my future would look like that by the time I was supposed to decide, it all seemed hazy.

Internally, I've always struggled to choose between my technical and creative passions. I had a strong inclination for all things performance: dancing, singing, acting, and really loved the satisfaction of solving complex math problems and creating my own science experiments (The burn marks in my parent's garage are living proof of my various concoctions). However, growing up in an immigrant family with two highly educated electrical engineers, it was the "financially stable" and "practical" choice to solely focus on a technical career path.

After a rewarding experience working at a neural engineering lab in high school, I decided to pursue biomedical engineering in college. I thought it was a suitable career path because I would solve complex problems to improve peoples’ lives. What could be more purposeful and fulfilling than that?

But, after holding research positions and working for a year at a large medical device company, I knew a traditional corporate job would not be a good fit for me. I loved the challenges of working in a technical role, but I also craved more personal interactions, investment as a human being and professional, and insight into how what I did every day made a tangible difference to help people.

I felt like an extra in a big motion-picture film, who didn't matter to the entire production and could easily be replaced by someone else.

Intro to Entrepreneurship

This existential crisis happened at the end of my junior year, and I had absolutely no idea what I would do after my three semesters left of school. Luckily, in the fall semester of senior year, I had room for some electives, so I decided to take up a couple of entrepreneurship classes offered through the engineering school. A class called "Engineering for Humanity" opened my eyes to solving multi-faceted social problems and developing a business plan for an innovative product or service. Another course I took called "Medical Product Ideation" took me inside an actual operating room to understand surgeons' pain points while suturing wounds. The funny part of that experience was that we went into the OR intending to create a suturing device but tangentially noticed that surgeons constantly wrestled with the OR lights while suturing. Thus, we pivoted to prototyping and developing a low-cost bedside surgical lighting device!

The adrenaline rush that came with ideating new product ideas and building a sustainable business made me realize that I wanted to be an entrepreneur one day. Entrepreneurship was the perfect intersection of creativity and strategy, which stimulated the two sides of my brain simultaneously. At this point, I knew I wanted to enter the world of entrepreneurship but didn't know where or how to start.

Meeting the right person at the right time.

Do you ever feel like you cross paths with someone in your life for a specific reason?  

That's what I felt when an old friend of mine who graduated a few years before me called randomly one day and told me about Venture for America (VFA). After that conversation, I knew precisely three things about VFA: it provided the opportunity for fellows to work in start-ups around the country, the adaptability to wear multiple hats on the job, and the network connections and financial support to start your own business. After this call, I was intrigued but still not entirely sold on the idea. More so, I knew my parents would not be on board with me taking such a risk with my career.

Regardless, I applied, and after making it past several rounds of interviews, I reached the last interview round, Selection Day. That day was honestly the best day of my senior year. It was so refreshing to meet fellow applicants who were all brilliant polymaths, but more importantly, genuine people who cared about making an impact in their communities and society. It sounds cliché, but I finally felt like I was in an environment where I belonged.

Life at Leverege

This exact same feeling of belonging is what attracted me to Leverege. From a former rockstar CEO who produces his own albums to developers who create their own fashion line, it's motivating to be surrounded by such kind, multi-talented, hardworking individuals working together to build the future.  

To be honest, I still don't fully know my true purpose and I'm content with not knowing the answer yet. The only thing I am sure of now is that I enjoy what I do with the people I'm doing it with, so I'm going in the right direction on my quest.

Oh, and I finally know what IoT stands for. Maybe a little more than that now.

Grace Varughese

Technical Project Manager

Grace is a technical project manager at Leverege who is passionate about developing transformative technology that improves the human condition. She studied biomedical engineering with a minor in industrial engineering and a certificate in product development and entrepreneurship. She has previously worked for a year as an R&D engineering co-op at Becton Dickinson and Company (BD) and has collaborated on multiple design projects with physicians and researchers. In her free time, she can be found creating her own dance videos, exploring the best food places in the city, and cuddling her adorable pets!

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