#SWAAYthenarrative

She Arrived To The US With Only $20, Then She Built A Cookbook Empire

People

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
Business

Today, Companies Need to Retain Veteran Employees in Order to Survive and Thrive

In 2020, as the world turned on its axis, we all held on for dear life. Businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and entrepreneurs all braced for a new normal, not sure what it would mean, what would come next, or if we should be excited or terrified.

At the same time that everything is shifting, being put on hold, or expanding, companies have to evaluate current talent needs, empower their teams to work from home, discover new ways to care for clients from a distance, and navigate new levels of uncertainty in this unfamiliar environment. Through it all, civilians are being encouraged to lean into concepts like "resilience" and "courage" and "commitment," sometimes for the first time.

Let's contrast what the business community is going through this year with the common experience of the military. During basic training, officer candidate school, multiple deployments, combat, and reintegration, veterans become well-versed in resilience, courage, and commitment to survive and thrive in completing their mission. Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

More than ever before, today's employers who employ prior military should focus on why and how to retain them and leverage their talents, experience, and character traits to help lead the company — and the employees — to the other side of uncertainty.

What makes veterans valuable employees

Informed employers recognize that someone with a military background brings certain high-value assets into the civilian sector. Notably, veterans were taught, trained, and grounded in certain principles that make them uniquely valuable to their employers, particularly given the current business environment, including:

Leadership

It's been said that the United States Armed Forces is the greatest leadership institution in the world. The practices, beliefs, values, and dedication of those who serve make them tested leaders even outside of the military. Given the opportunity to lead, a veteran will step forward and assume the role. Asked to respect and support leadership, they comply with that position as well. Leadership is in the veteran's blood and for a company that seeks employees with the confidence and commitment to lead if called upon, a veteran is the ideal choice.

Commitment

The hope is that all employees are committed to their job and give 100% each day. For someone in the military, this is non-negotiable. The success of the mission, and the lives of everyone around them, depend on their commitment to stay the course and perform their job as trained. When the veteran employee takes on a project, it will be completed. When the veteran employee says there's an unsurmountable obstacle, it is so (not an excuse). When a veteran says they're "all in" on an initiative, they will see it through.

Strategy, planning, and improv

Every mission involves strategy, planning, and then improvisation from multiple individuals. On the battlefield, no plan works perfectly, and the service member's ability to flex, pivot, and adapt makes them valuable later, in the civilian sector. Imagine living in countries where you don't speak the language, working alongside troops who come from places you can't find on a map, and having to communicate what needs to get done to ensure everyone's safety. Veterans learned how to set goals, problem-solve challenges, and successfully get results.

Service

With an all-volunteer military for decades now, every man and woman who wore our nation's uniform raised their hand to do so. They chose to serve their country, their fellow Americans, and their leaders. These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

When companies seek out leaders who will commit to a bigger mission, can think strategically and creatively, and will serve others, they look to veterans.

Best practices in retention of veteran talent

Retention starts at hiring. The experience set out in the interview stage provides insight about how it will be to work and grow within the team at the company. For employers hiring veterans, this is a critical step.

Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent.

The veteran employee may have had a few — or several — jobs since leaving the military. Or this may be their first civilian work experience. In any case, setting expectations and being clear about goals is vital. Remember, veterans are trained to complete a mission and a goal. When an employer clarifies the mission and shows how the veteran employee's role supports and fulfills that mission, the employee can more confidently and successfully complete their work.

Additionally, regular check-ins are helpful with veteran employees. These employees may not be as comfortable asking for help or revealing their weaknesses. When the employer checks in regularly, and shows genuine interest in their happiness, sense of productivity, and overall job satisfaction, the veteran employee learns to be more comfortable asking for help when needed.

The military is a values-driven culture. Service members are instilled with values of loyalty, integrity, service, duty, and honor, to name a few. When they transition out of the military, veterans still seek a commitment to values in their employers. Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent. Make it clear what your values are, how you live and act on those values, and how the veteran's job will promote and support those values. Even work that is less glamorous can be attractive to a veteran if they understand the greater purpose and mission.

Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

Finally, leveraging the strengths and goals of any employee is critical, and particularly so with veterans. If you have an employee who is passionate about service, show them ways to give back — through mentoring, community engagement, volunteerism, etc. If your veteran continues to seek leadership roles, find opportunities for them to contribute at higher levels, even informally. When your veteran employee offers to reframe the team's mission to gain better alignment across the sector, give them some runway to experiment. You have a workforce that is trained and passionate about and skilled in adapting and overcoming. Let them do what they do best.