After earning a degree in veterinary science, southern India native Sindura Ganapathi began a veterinary career serving the rural areas of India. Due to his interest in research, he pursued a master’s degree in veterinary pharmacology. In 2005, he left India for the US, earned a PhD at Penn State, and broadened his focus from animal to human health. After completing work at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Sindura arrived at the Gates Foundation, where he works to improve maternal and neonatal health through early-stage discovery projects and through projects that explore synergy between human and veterinary disciplines. Sindura talks about the connection between his background and his work, the caliber of his colleagues, and why motivational speakers are not necessary at the foundation.
My motivation goes back to my background. In my village in India, it is typical to have ten houses and one cow on a quarter-acre of land per household. Less than one dollar a day is the typical income. I’ve seen a lot of the hardships and difficulties in these resource-poor settings. You have to be creative and resourceful when you’re there. This has shaped my worldview more than anything else.
While the NIH was intellectually satisfying, it’s hard to see impact of my work in less than ten years. The Gates Foundation is faster than anywhere. Here, you can influence an idea and see its end result much more quickly. I can’t think of another place that lets you do that.
If you find a great tool to fix a house but it doesn’t fit through the door, that’s not a solution. We therefore take great care to make sure the solutions we fund are acceptable and appropriate for the developing world.
What surprised me is the talent and accomplishments of the people. They bring with them so much that sometimes I just think “Wow, I’m working with these people?” You get to grow in your personal capacity, more than what experienced before. It’s very exciting. I can’t turn it off even during my leisure time because it’s what I want to do.
The motivation here is extremely unique. Effort isn’t spent on having to motivate people to do things. We don’t have to bring in those popular inspirational speakers that you hear of.
A job at the Gates Foundation is extremely cherished. To me, this is more than a job, which is a cliché. But it is very true.
Intellectual satisfaction is a byproduct of working here. We can start or influence an idea from the research bench, to development with pharmaceutical companies large or small, or take it to people working on policy in governments. You can make change at the grassroots level by working simultaneously with partners across the table. I don’t know that you can do that anywhere else.
Bottom line about working at the foundation is that you have to be motivated by the values that the foundation tries to achieve.