You can go to school to learn about school, or you can go to school to learn about life.
Those words from his father are what convinced the then 23-year-old Ravi Acharya to leave his home country of India to attend business school in the United States.
That decision changed Ravi's life forever, as he went on to raise his family in the US and build an outstanding career in the financial industry. Today, Ravi is Head of Consumer Distribution Program Delivery at TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank.
In May, TD Bank celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. During this month, TD Bank shares stories and experiences of colleagues to help increase understanding and acceptance of Pan-Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities.
Expanding his world
When Ravi first arrived in the tri-state area to go to graduate school in Delaware, he and his college roommates found a television on the street. They wanted to learn about American culture, so they started watching American football within a week, Ravi had become a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. One evening, when he was watching a game at a bar in Newark, Delaware, a classmate looked at Ravi confused because he was cheering for the Dallas Cowboys instead of the Philadelphia Eagles – the "local" team. Since then, he’s been a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan (Go Birds!), Ravi explained with a laugh.
Ravi enjoys fitting in with the local culture while he continues to carry over traditions he grew up with in India. He explained, "I focus on the 'AND,' not the 'OR.' For me, being a part of two cultures is a way to expand yourself." This balance has also benefited TD in multiple ways.
Finding the best in others
Ravi recognizes that sometimes people from Pan-Asian cultures may be perceived as shy or reserved in meetings. He's passionate about making sure people from these communities are seen and respected.
“Some people like to speak their opinions in meetings. Others do better one-on-one, and still others may want to have a quick Microsoft Teams chat or an email,” Ravi explained. He does his best to give everyone an opportunity to be heard, whether during a meeting, or after, when they feel more comfortable.
Ravi's parents worked their way out of poverty through education and hard work, especially his mom who grew up with six siblings in a one-room apartment. They fostered a sense of pride in Ravi to give his all, but also to value the contributions of every colleague.
"I remember going to my parents' workplaces over the years," Ravi explained. "Even though they got to very senior positions, they spent time with every single person irrespective of their level. I always want to live up to that, to be humble, to value teams and their contributions and always give back in every way I can."
Diversity creates a better environment
A firm believer that sharing his experience, and the experiences of Pan-Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander culture, is important, Ravi likes to drive change both inside and outside of the bank.
"I feel everyone would benefit from learning more about the various cultures and people in India, and other AAPI areas," he asserted. "It would help them develop deeper relationships with them. I truly believe that absorbing diversity will make us better citizens."
Ravi currently runs Project Odyssey – a cross-functional team is working on streamlining the platform used in stores for sales and service. "I'm a big fan of customer experience,” Ravi explained. “The old application Encore used to be more complicated, but now it's super slick. The best compliment I ever received was that the platform is so simple that a six-year-old could use it open a bank account for a customer."
The opportunity to be an individual
Ravi's family is dispersed all over the world. His parents, in-laws, and some siblings live in India. One brother lives in Australia, a brother-in-law is in South Africa, and his daughter lives in London. Ravi doesn't see this as a disadvantage, but rather as an opportunity. He's very close to his family, talking to them throughout the week and visiting India once a year or every 18 months. He loves to travel with his extended family, enjoying vacations together and learning about different cultures.
An appreciation for learning about different cultures is a value that Ravi has also experienced at TD Bank.
"At TD, everyone is able to be an individual, to be their own person," he said. "But I have also seen how much my colleagues want to learn about different cultures. It has made it a great experience, and I look forward to always learning more in the future."