IT Expert Reflects on Importance of Education — and Getting a Little Help from Friends

Sashi Ghosal and his family posing for a photo

From left: Sashi Ghosal, his wife, Rupa, daughter-in-law, Allison, and son, Chandra.

Sashi Ghosal is grateful. He has always benefited from doting relatives, kind bosses, and caring colleagues who have offered him support, counsel, or career advice that has transformed his life — and led him, eventually, to Memorial Sloan Kettering, where he works as an IT Project Manager in DigITs. The universe has been generous with Mr. Ghosal and he appreciates it. “I know not everyone believes it, but someone is up there looking out for us,” he says.

Mr. Ghosal was born in India and lived with his parents and four younger sisters in a large, rambling house in the suburbs of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, until he was 9 years old. His parents then decided to move the family to a 750 square-foot apartment in the city so that young Sashi could attend the Hare School, the oldest Western-style school in Asia. It was Mr. Ghosal’s first lesson in the importance of education and his family’s willingness to sacrifice to ensure that he had one.

After graduating, he attended the University of Calcutta, where he majored in chemistry. His first job after college was working for the family business, distributing fertilizers and pesticides to tea gardens. Before long, he took over from his father, whose health was poor.

But he soon grew disenchanted, finding the changing business environment in India very challenging, and began to consider other options. Mr. Ghosal’s sister and her husband had moved to the United States ten years earlier, and his brother-in-law had been urging him to join them.

Seriously and Sincerely

In the end, his brother-in-law was persuasive. “He’d say, ‘If you do your job seriously and sincerely, you can accomplish anything here,’” Mr. Ghosal remembers. Mr. Ghosal closed the family business and moved to New York City in 1983, staying with his sister and brother-in-law at their home in Queens.

Within three weeks, he found a job as a billing clerk at the Thypin Steel Company in Long Island City. About a year later, he received a letter from his father with life-changing news.

“He wrote to tell me that my mother had found a wife for me,” says Mr. Ghosal. In keeping with Indian tradition at the time, his parents had interviewed various young women and their families and had settled on a bride-to-be for their only son. Plans were made for him to return to India for his wedding.

“I had grown up seeing that kind of relationship among my extended family, so I wasn’t surprised,” says Mr. Ghosal. “I trusted my parents and knew they wouldn’t choose someone who wasn’t a good match for me.”

Group photo of MSK IT employees

Sashi Ghosal with colleagues who worked on IT Expo in 2015.

Mr. Ghosal met Rupa for the first time on their wedding day. They’ve been married for 37 years.

Shortly after their wedding, the new couple settled on Long Island, and Mr. Ghosal continued at Thypin Steel. He was promoted to Assistant Supervisor of Billing, and Rupa, who had a PhD in English, became a teacher, and eventually earned her master’s degree in education.

Around this time, Mr. Ghosal began reading about the rise of personal computers. When his supervisor at Thypin Steel approached him about a new job, Mr. Ghosal was ready.

“He wanted to promote me to Billing Manager, but I asked him instead to move me to Information Systems,” says Mr. Ghosal. His boss agreed to the move and even arranged for Mr. Ghosal to attend classes at IBM and other institutions to learn about technology. “They spent nearly $50,000 on me,” he says. “Without that, I wouldn’t be in this field.”

He became Operations Manager in Information Systems and was put in charge of the company’s telephones and networking. He worked grueling hours, usually to most days, and traveled between Buffalo, New York, and Birmingham, Alabama, much of the time. Then one day, he got a call for an interview at MSK.

Quick Transition to MSK

A former colleague had passed Mr. Ghosal’s resume on to an acquaintance at MSK. When a human resources representative from MSK called Mr. Ghosal about a job interview, he replied, “What job?” and asked the rep to read the job description to him over the phone. “I listened and told him, ‘This is not the job for me — maybe one day, but not now.’ There was a pause, and then the person from MSK said, ‘The manager thinks you can do this job. Why don’t you come in and give it a shot?’”

The next day, Mr. Ghosal had several interviews and was hired on the spot as a Telecommunications Project Analyst.

You can achieve any goal you want to with the right attitude.
Sashi Ghosal IT Project Manager

Making an Impact

As a member of Telecommunications, Mr. Ghosal set up telephones in MSK’s city and regional sites. He also worked on several major projects through the Sloan Kettering Institute Research Computing group, including installing 98-inch monitors throughout the Zuckerman Research Center’s conference rooms. In 2009, he joined the SKI Research Computing group as a Project Manager.

During his first performance review, it was explained that his new role would require him to make presentations to various groups across MSK. To improve his communication skills, his boss suggested that he join Toastmasters International, an organization that operates clubs worldwide to help people improve as public speakers.

At his first Toastmasters meeting, the members prompted Mr. Ghosal to speak about a topic of his choosing at a podium for a little more than a minute. Nervous but undeterred, he did it. And then he was hooked.

He went on to found Toastmasters @ MSK in 2010 and won the 2020 Distinguished Toastmaster Award. Today at MSK, around 45 employees meet every other week (now on Zoom) to discuss and practice their public speaking.

The Meaning of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month

When Mr. Ghosal thinks of AAPI Heritage Month, he focuses on the significance that Indian culture places on education. He points to his wife’s success as a teacher and the flourishing careers enjoyed by his son and nephews as testament to the value of their degrees.

Echoing the words of his brother-in-law — the one who assured him that working “seriously and sincerely” would pay off in the US — Mr. Ghosal says, “You can achieve any goal you want to with the right attitude.”

Mr. Ghosal’s immediate goals involve travel, something he and his wife greatly enjoyed before the pandemic.

“I love to drive. On one trip, we drove through North Carolina and the Smoky Mountains on our way to Tennessee,” he says, adding that they visited Nashville and Memphis. He enjoyed seeing examples of Southern architecture but admits that wasn’t the only reason for their trip down south. “I listened to Elvis when I was a kid,” he says. “I made sure we went to Graceland.”