Please tell us how did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?

When Divya Gathe left India for America in the summer of 2007, she had a plan: She’d get a master’s degree from NJIT, find a job in her field — telecommunications and networking — and spend 29 months working in America. If she were especially lucky, an American firm might also sponsor her to work beyond the 29-month period granted to international students for practical training.

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Now, three years after arriving in America, Divya’s plan has become a reality.  The company she works for — Fiducial, a financial and tax consultant — is sponsoring her for H1-B status.

If Fiducial is successful in sponsoring her, Divya can work in America for another three years. Then, when she returns to India, she’ll have American work experience on her resume. Indian companies value employees with American experience, so once back home she’ll be eminently more marketable.

In this interview, Divya, who did her Bachelors in Electronics & Communication Engineering (Nagpur University) and graduated in December of 2008 with a master’s in Telecommunications, discusses how she was able to turn her plan into an actuality.

When you were in India, why did you pick NJIT? 

NJIT is among one of the well-known universities among Indians. It has a strong reputation and it has a high international student acceptance rate. Older Indian students who have studied at NJIT also recommend it to younger students. Personally I chose NJIT for its reputation for research and it expertise in telecommunications, which is my interest.

Why do so many Indian students come to study in America? 

Higher education in India is tough. There are only a few universities and there is a lack of education funding. Very little research is done at the universities and they also have a low acceptance rate (only excellent students make it into the top Indian universities). So an abundance of Indian students go abroad to study, usually in America, the UK or Australia. Also, American universities are strong and have heavily-funded research projects, which students can work on. It is nearly impossible for university students in India to work on research.

Why did you want to study and work in America?

The Indian currency is 1/45th of the U.S. dollar, so workers in India make much less than their American counterparts.  Indian companies value people with American degrees and international experience.  Most companies have global clients, so they want worldly employees, and since America is the leading economy, it’s a big plus to have worked here.

Talk about your job and what you do? 

I work as a Network Administrator for Fiducial- a company that specializes in financial and tax consultancy. I work at the company’s branch office in Columbia, Maryland.  Its headquarters is in France.  I am responsible for handling pretty much everything technical in the company like firewalls, routers, switches, email systems, IT monitoring systems and workstations. I make sure all the systems in the company are functioning well, up-to-date and protected from network threats.

Is it a good job: do you like it? 

I love my job and it’s become the only priority right now for me. I love the company for its diversity and its employee culture and all the benefits it provides to its employees, irrespective of your immigration status. The company has bestowed so much trust on me and given me so much responsibility; that makes me work harder and motivates me. My current job is exactly the job I hoped to get after I got my master’s. So I am very happy.

How long can you work before you must return to India? 

International students who find jobs can work in America for about two and half years for what’s called optional practical training.  I have 8 months left on my training time, but my company has offered to sponsor me for a longer work status, which I’m thrilled about.

How did that happen — the company sponsoring you? 

Interestingly, I never asked the company for a work sponsorship. But after I realized I had less than a year left to work in America, I decided to ask   about a sponsorship. But they beat me to it. Our human resource manager works in our New York City office, and when I went to that office for a work assignment,, the moment she saw me she told me the company planned to sponsor me and that I should give her all my documents.

How did that make you feel?

Elated. I was thrilled to know that my company cares enough about my status and wants me to stay and continue my work. It makes me feel motivated to work harder. My life seems complete but it doesn’t make me complacent. I study as much as I can to gain more knowledge in my field. There are so many new technologies coming up and you have to be really up to date.

How long is the sponsorship for and how long will you stay in America?

If the company gets me H-1B status, I can work here initially for three years. Then, after that, I could apply for an extension or a green card. I have tentative plans to return back to India in the long term, but I could also end up staying in America. It all depends on how my personal and professional circumstances develop over the next three years.
You graduated in the midst of a dire recession.  What effect did that have on your job search?    

The international students were the most affected by the recession. Every job I applied for, the employer preferred a U.S. citizen or a green-card holder. It took almost five months before I got any calls from recruiters or companies. It was a struggle for me, yes. I spent months studying for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam, a basic certification for Computer Networking Cisco technologies. Once I earned that certification, my resume was stronger.

What was your first job? 

My first job was in New Hampshire working as an intern for a month. After the internship, I stayed on fulltime but the company was hit by the recession and my pay was poor. The company was teetering on bankruptcy, so I started looking for new opportunities.  I was lucky to find my current job, which is great.

What advice do you have for international students who want to get a master’s degree at NJIT and work in America? 

My advice is this: They should be very specific and focused.  Before they come to university here, they should know their field and the courses they’ll take. They need to have a vision of what they want to do after they have that master’s degree in their hands. If you know, for instance, that you are going to be a network administrator, then choose major and take all the courses. Then try to some hands experience, doing research in your field or an internship.  If you know your subject and you have substance, you will have zillions of opportunities in U.S. Yes, I was an average student all the while and I made it – I got my master’s and am working happily in American. So I think everyone can do it if they keep the dedication and hope.