Spotlight-Newsletter-2020-Ed1 - GiftAbled

An Insightful Conversation with Samyuktha Vijayan


Dear Readers. Welcome to Inclusion Times. Hope you are all safe and well. Practicing social distancing and digital closening is the key for a few weeks now :)

In this Spotlight section, we attempt to spot the light on the general focus of the sector. Celebrating the International Women’s Day (IWD), 8th March and the Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) 31, March, here is a conversation with a woman who chose to me a woman despite all odds and is seen as an inspiration by many. Please welcome the graceful Samyuktha Vijayan.

Samyuktha, Sam, is a principal technical program manager with Swiggy. She has previously worked with Amazon for almost 10 years in their Europe and US offices. She loves dancing and fashion design. She also works on the social inclusion and training of transgender persons.

Shashwati: Hi Sam. Welcome to Inclusion Times. It is nice to connect like this in these virtual times. Am sure our readers are excited to hear from you.

Sam: Thank You Shashwati. Glad to be here. I am excited too. Virtual is our new reality :)

Shashwati: I would like to begin by asking - what do you think about the celebrations such as the women's day and transgender day of visibility?

Sam: I think any such celebration serves as a reminder for everybody the historic violence and discrimination that has been meted out to the respective communities. It also reminds others of how a simple act of treating of others with respect can make countless lives better.

Shashwati: Now, given we are celebrating International Women’s Day, which woman inspires you and why?

Sam: I find every woman fighting for their place in this society is inspirational- Especially women coming from a disadvantaged background. The one thing common in these women is STRUGGLE. I understand struggle. So, to come out each day even to office, do your job and doing it well and attempting to reach your goal with the entire struggle – I find THAT inspiring. It reminds me that I am not alone.

Shashwati: Very well said Sam. Now, tell me what is your favorite thing about being a woman?

Sam: (Smiles) Well, I get to wear a wide array of colors than before ;) That’s huge. (Laughter). The most important thing is, as a transgender woman in a high tech job , I am seen as an inspiration by many. And I am blessed to be given that opportunity. This happened because I chose to be who I truly am.

Shashwati: Are there any existing assumptions about women that you would like to change? Why?

Sam: I always thought that after my transition, I would have a fulfilling life - settling down in the US with a husband and adopted kids etc. Like any other regular family. Maybe that was an assumption – even in my own head. That as I women, I need to have a family, I need to have children.
I don’t have a family if my own now, but I see my life is as fulfilling as it can get.

Shashwati: Right! Sam, what does feminism mean to you?

Sam: Equality and respect. I don’t expect acceptance for who I am but I do expect that people treat me with respect and dignity - independent of our differences.

Shashwati: Alright, now allow me to ask you some fun questions so that our readers can know you better :) If you could meet anyone, man or woman, living or dead, who would you want to meet?

Sam: Ah! Let me think. Yes, I would have love to meet DR. Muthulakshmi Reddy. She was one of the first woman doctors in India and the first legislative member of a state assembly in British India.

Shashwati:If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Sam: I was always afraid of driving. Most friends said I could do it in the US easily compared to in India. Now that I am back here that dream is gone again :)

Shashwati:What would be your message to young women?

Sam: Your choices are valid.
Your expressions are valid.
Don’t ever give in to the pressure of conformity. But, be humble.

Shashwati:What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the generation of transgender women behind you?

Sam:  The current generation has been isolated and not part of the mainstream population. I believe if we provide the right awareness a lot of parents will help their transgender children to get through their adulthood. We are going to see many transgender women take part in regular mainstream jobs in the next decade. The biggest challenge for them would be to navigate this space without losing their identity.

Shashwati: What would be the most important advice you would give to a transgender woman starting a career or looking to build a career?

Sam: While most companies take care of inclusion from a job stand point, social inclusion in a corporate setup might take some time. I have had some folks tell me it is sometimes difficult to mingle with co-workers. Be patient. It will happen. Just do your job really well and things will work out - soon.

Shashwati:  I have many questions but, in the interest of the E-format., I would say Thank You Sam here. Hope that our readers enjoyed the conversation and many found the courage and the needed inspiration. Thank you so much for taking out the time and speaking with us. Have a great day.