People 01 April 2018
Leaving everything behind in India and landing in the United States with only two suitcases and $20 to your name, isn't a story that many people are able to tell. After speaking with Urvashi Pitre who lived that experience and has risen to create so many positive things in her life and a thriving cookbook empire, I can honestly say that it's a story filled with compassion, bravery and fueled by the want to help others.
At 20-year-old, Pitre arrived in the United States to fulfill a scholarship and even became CMIO of the largest ad agency in the country, but that is only where her story begins. To me, this remarkable feat sounds overwhelming, but she assured me that it wasn't. “You would think it would have been—but at 20 years old, you think you're invincible, “ she said. "I did have the promise of a scholarship, but I really had no idea if it would be enough to live on, when it would kick in, and more importantly—what I would do until it came through!"
Instead, she focused on the positive. “But I will say, then and now, I focused on what I did have," she remarks. "I had a great new opportunity ahead of me. I had the chance to start from scratch, to do what I wanted to do, to live on my own terms."
To know I could make it on my own, with no help from my family. Looking back, I seem to remember moments of great excitement and a sense of adventure—sparkled with occasional moments of sheer terror—but isn't that the hallmark of every great adventure?
"Influenced by spices from her world travels, she created extremely unique keto recipes that helped her lose 80 pounds." Photo Courtesy of Norwalk Reflector
Her biggest struggle? Navigating the everyday things that she wasn't accustomed to where she grew up. “It was less about steps toward a better life at first as it was just being able to negotiate simple things. I had never seen a can of Coke®. When I was handed one on a hot day, I had no idea how to open it! I hadn't seen a seatbelt in a car. I had no idea what a garbage disposal was or how to work a dishwasher, a washing machine, or a vacuum cleaner. All of this was 30 years ago when not only were these things not common in India, but we also didn't have the easy access information about life in the US that we do today."
“People think that most of us come here for a better life—and we do, or at least for a different life. But we also must learn to do things for ourselves we've never done before, things that were done for us in countries where labor is a lot cheaper than it is here. I had not washed dishes, done the laundry, cleaned the house or even picked up after myself until I came to live here. I was in for quite a rude awakening in that regard!"
Struggling for years with her weight, she eventually started the ketogenic diet (a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate lifestyle) and started documenting her journey through her blog, Two Sleevers. Like any smart woman, she took the skills that she learned from her advertising agency experience an applied them to her business. “I learned a lot about how to deal with the C-suite, how to present your company well, how to go out and find new business, how to partner with different agencies, each with their own specialties. But it's sort of like watching your parents—you also learn what you don't want to do when you're all grown up. I used that experience to help me decide what I would and would not do in my own company. For example, I decided I would not work with clients who were disrespectful, or who treated my staff badly. I would be selective about who I chose to partner with. I would stay involved in the day to day of the client work in a way that I could not be, as part of a larger company. Tasseologic has allowed me to create the type of company that I would have wanted to work at—and I'm so grateful to have had that opportunity."
Influenced by spices from her world travels, she created extremely unique keto recipes that helped her lose 80 pounds. Gaining the nickname, “The Butter Chicken Lady," she has created an online voice that has appealed to many (including her 25,000 Facebook group members) and is on her way to publish her second cookbook called The Keto Instant Pot Cookbook. Following a ketogenic diet myself, I'm in awe of the community she's built and love how her and her family has made her journey a group effort. The keto diet and instant pot have become two major things her life, which she was first introduced to after her husband had gastric sleeve surgery, as a way to change both of their lives and the way they were eating, forever.
"At 20-year-old, Pitre arrived in the United States to fulfill a scholarship and even became CMIO of the largest ad agency in the country, but that is only where her story begins." Photo Courtesy of Urvashi Pitre
“You can cut out most of your stomach and reboot your body chemistry—but if you're carb-sensitive like we were, and you don't cut out the carbs? Well, you'll gain all the weight back over time. So keto/low carb is not optional for me. It's what I have to do to keep off the weight I worked so hard to lose."
And the ease of the instant post made things so much better, too. “I bought an Instant Pot over 4 years ago, and the ease of electric pressure cookers over stovetop ones just appeal to someone like me, who loves hands off, stupid simple cooking that still manages to taste great," she shared.
Pitre has two crucial pieces of advice for anyone trying to lose weight, and keep it off, “first, with weight loss as with other things in life, you control your actions, not the outcome. Accept that you do not control what the scale tells you from day to day. You can only control what you put into your mouth. You can't control the rate of weight loss. Secondly, you will be “stalled" more days than you will show weight loss. In other words, you will lose weight here and here—but for most days, your scale will not budge. You cannot expect to see daily change. Focus on the trend and the trajectory—not on any given day or week or even two weeks. If you see an overall loss, you're doing fine." And my personal favorite bit of wisdom is that she always says to, “focus on what you can have. Don't fixate on the things you're giving up or can't eat. There's no can't, it's a choice you're making. You choose not to have things that will make you fat and uncomfortable. Speaking of choice, rejoice in the fact that you choose to eat so many delicious things, and yet lose weight. Focus on what you can have. It's a lot more fun."
4 Min Read
During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.