From The Diary Of

Darshana Nadkarni


About Darshana Nadkarni

About Darshana Nadkarni

I am among the most highly networked and highly connected recruiters in the life science industry. Always happy to connect with people working in Biotech/ Medic

Darshana, Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Some fun facts and anecdotes from your life.

I grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and spent my childhood vacations in Kenya where my mother's family is from. In Ethiopia, my parents were hosts to anybody and everybody who visited from India. One of my early memory is of a palmist who visited from India and saw my palm and alerted my mother that I was not going to study at all.  I was furious because I loved school. So in order to make my study line longer for days I held a butter knife over that line and folder my fingers over it and walked around. Another early memory was of another Godman who visited and had a small statue of God that he carried around with him. Everyday he would eat only after he offered food to his God. One day he left and then we got a telegram with the following message: "Forgot God, can't eat, please send fast". That was a popular joke among us kids. We laughed and recited the line over and over

Where are you from originally? What are some of your favorite memories as a child?

Originally my family is from India. My father told us a very interesting story. He was in India and decided to go to Aden (which is called Yemen now). He went to Aden and started trading business. At the time, there was a young man who had also gone for economic reasons. People gave him small errands. He was an astute observer and slowly learned about trading. Gradually he started his own business and then through virtual and horizontal integration he grew his business and became Bill Gates of India -- his name is Mr. Ambani. I learned from my father’s stories the value of hard work, commitment and entrepreneurship. But it was my mother who was the glue in our family. She devoted her entire life to enable her 4 children to achieve their dreams. 

How do you maintain the balance between your professional and personal life?

Several years ago, I started writing a blog. Now my blog has over 3500 followers. My blog and my writing is what helps me keep my sanity, maintain a healthy balance between my professional and my personal life.  My writing activity offer me an opportunity for both personal and professional learning, expression and relaxation. More about it below.

I have multiple businesses and various personal interests.  Professionally, my primary business is in Recruitment for medtech and biotech companies. For my clients in this space, I find candidates and fill their job vacancies in science, engineering, regulatory, clinical and other functionalities, as per their requirements. Most of my medtech and biotech clients are in the startup space. Some of my past and present clients include Incubelabs, Spinal Modulation, Robodoc, Intrapace, NfocusNeuro, Guidant, Victhom, G-tech, ULabs.

Secondly, I also offer Diversity and Inclusion trainings for companies worldwide.  I offer these trainings mostly for Fortune 500 type companies. Some of the companies where I have offered trainings include, USP, Medtronic, IBM, Michelin, United Illuminating, Xerox, Coca Cola, Rosche, Siemens, HP, SUN, NetApp, Inktomi, Verizon Wireless and among others. 

Third, I have dabbled a bit in real estate.

Additoinally, currently I serve on the board of a non profit premier medtech/ biotech mentoring and networking organization called bio2devicegroup at . previously I served on the board Executive Committee at EPPIC, a life science networking organization and on the board of SNBW, Support Network for Battered Women .

I also have various personal interests. I love live theater and movies. I also love books and literature and music in English as well as in my native language.

What do you do to relax? Any therapy you would like to share?

Considering that I have many interests, one way I relax is by participating in many events and writing about them on my blog.  I write live theater reviews and get complementary tickets for opening night performances at most bay area live theater company performances. 

I love to learn about technologies and I get complementary passes to attend many high tech and med tech conferences and events and I blog and/or tweet about them.

I also attend my native language events and often write in my native language #Gujarati on my blog and I have have a youtube channel where I share my thoughts.

And finally I enjoy writing movie reviews, book reviews, poems, musings and more. 

They say that first impressions last and are made in the first few seconds of meeting someone. What personal attributes convey a positive first impression to you?

It is always best to not form a strong judgment based on first impressions because as we often learn, first impressions could be completely wrong.  However, we are humans and tend to form some judgment based on first impressions. Being courteous and an attentive listener often conveys a positive first impression to me.  Since I am D&I trainer and as I often teach in my classes, I will again reiterate that we should try to always be open to more information, never get locked down on the first impression and never form a very strong positive or negative judgment from first impression.

Which people helped you to get where you are today and what did they do for you?

First and foremost, I will attribute my success to my mother. She was the rock for me and my siblings. Her deep love and caring was evident in small things like keeping our food warm, sitting with us while we studied late in the night (even when she would be falling asleep) to many big things like always believing in us, always supporting our dreams and doing everything she can to help us achieve them.

I also attribute my success to some incredible teachers. One primary one was a teacher in my childhood at a school in Addis Ababa. He was also the principal of the school. My respect for him is everlasting. He was a kind man, a good teacher and a caring mentor.  Another teacher that I fondly remember was a professor at my college. She taught us English and absolutely ignited my love for the language.

In my professional life, I attribute my success to two mentors. One was a woman who had worked at IBM for over 30 years and she was my mentor for my Diversity and Inclusion training. She gave me important feedback and helped me become an effective trainer and teacher (when I taught in the colleges). Another one is a mentor from medtech industry. I would not have ventured into this brand new field for me but for his encouragement and advice in how to start the business and how to learn what I needed to know and acquire the skills to succeed.

Who or what inspires you?

My family inspires me to be loving and kind. My friends inspire me to take things lightly, laugh a lot and sing and dance through ups and downs of life. My professional friends and colleagues inspire me to be fearless and passionate, have a problem solving mindset and create joy through my work. 

Often people find inspiration from great thinkers, writers and prolific people in history. What is your favorite quote and why is that quote noteworthy?

Here are some of my favorite quotes.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. - Maria Robinson

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. - Rumi

The best way to predict the future is to create it. - Peter Drucker

I live by two words tenacity and gratitude - Henry Winkler

My own 

Life is a canvass we fill with our own vibrant colors. I fill mine with love, family, expression, gratitude, work, movement, passion and joy.

Can you briefly share your professional journey?

Teaching: I earned doctorate in Psychology and anticipated that I would go into academics. In my early years of my professional life, I taught at various colleges including Santa Clara University, Cal State Hayward, City College of San Francisco, St. Mary’s College and so on. I was not seeking a change but an opportunity came to do Diversity and Inclusion training for a large high tech company. 

Diversity & Inclusion Training: On my very first project, during year and a half, training for a large high tech company, I did over a 100 trainings at various locations in the US. I loved offering the trainings and imagined that this is all I would ever do.  My intro, under my profile, includes various companies where I have offered these training.

Recruitment: However I got divorced and ended up with almost 100% custody of my young children. At the same time, I happened to send a friend who was looking for a job to a friend who was hiring in medtech.  My medtech friend hired the job seeker friend so I sent him another person who was also hired. My CEO friend told me that it was so hard to find people and I sent him the right people and I should do hiring. At first I refused saying that it was beyond my capability, then I got mildly interested, then I got fascinated and then I got completely hooked. I loved to learn about new technologies, meet capable, incredibly bright people and find right fit for right candidates. 

Blog: I needed a place to post my jobs. So I got a wordpress blog. That has been a phenomenal additional to help fulfill the goals of my professional journey, to keep me in a learning mode, to give me and my job postings the visibility needed, and to add thrill, excitement and joy to my personal life.

What is your current role in the industry, and what are you aiming for in the future?

Recruitment: A good hire must fit into the organization and the existing team, like a puzzle piece. Like attractive design on a tapestry of many colors, a right employee must be uniquely capable to make a strong contribution and yet gel together with the team. Human resources in a company are the lifeblood of an organization and in startups, they are the innovation souls behind the entrepreneurial heartbeat. As a recruiter, I understand the critical significance of a right hire.

D&I Training: Organizations are also realizing the significance of creating an environment that is welcoming and respectful, where employees can be fully productive, satisfied and happy. Diversity and Inclusion training is an integral part of building a diverse, inclusive and collaborative culture. I facilitate trainings in areas of Diversity and Inclusion.

Volunteer work on non-profit board and other events: I attend conferences and events and/ or help plan events, and help with marketing on social media. It helps me not only stay current on new discoveries in science and innovation, but also help professional organizations. Similary, at personal level, I write live theater reviews and I consider that my small contribution to spread the word about arts and humanities that form an integral part of life in the bay area.

Did your career turn out just the way you wanted it to?

At this point, my professional journey has taken me into uncharted and unplanned territories and it has been an incredibly thrilling and fun ride. It has not turned out like I had anticipated but through the twists and turns, my career ride has turned out much more satisfying and exhilerating. 

What impact has your educational background had on your professional activities?

My educational background is in psychology. I have a Ph.D. in Social Psychology, which is psychology of groups and organizations. Certainly, it has helped me get a better understanding of organizations and people I work with and has made me more effective in my work.  

Can you share some of the interesting projects you are working on these days?

Right now I am working with two clients in medtech with very exciting products. Both of them have products that may well change the quality of care for patients. Let me share one of them here. One of my clients has a technology to deliver biologics through oral medication. Biologics are drugs that can only be given in the blood strem and therefore have to be injected. But their fascinating technology makes it possible for patients to take them orally, via a pill. This company is looking at an IPO in the coming months and for me it is a matter of pride and joy, since I have worked with the CEO and have placed several people there.

Also exciting is that a company in India wants me to deliver D&I training in India and I am likely to make that trip soon. Last year, I did D&I training for over 500 employees at USP India in Hyderabad.

You have had a varied career to date. Explain some of your proudest achievements?

I have enjoyed all of my diverse activities in my professional journey. But here are some of my proudest achievements. 

In my recruitment, my client’s satisfaction is my primary objective. On my linkedin profile, not only my former clients but also the candidates I have placed have written excellent comments about me. It makes me extremely proud that I am leaving a trail of happy clients and happy candidates who together will conquer the world and I have made one small contribution in their effort.

Once I did D&I training where there had been some issues. A trainer sent before me, left after a day or two saying that they cannot work in a bitter environment like that. When I went it, I went it with a mindset to listen, before I tell anything. It was amazing that in that listening, a lot of bitterness was dissolved.  I stayed there and trained 600 people over 15 days and got top notch ratings.

When I was teaching a class in a college, a student once gave me a little note (that I have saved) and it read -- “you are better than Oprah, you not only provide the steak but also the sizzle”. Of course, in no way, I believe I am anywhere near Oprah but for someone to make that comparison made me feel very proud.

What advice would you give to anyone seeking a career in your industry?

Anyone seeking a career in medtech  or biotech must be a person deeply invested and interested in scientific thinking and must have a mindset that is capable of understanding issues from high level and also understand and follow details. No industry can work in the present day in silos, but it is particularly true of medtech/biotech where the end result can literally save lives or do the opposite. Also for that reason, this is a highly regulated industry and a person who works in this industry must follow all regulations in great detail and must be willing to keep detailed notes.

What advice would you give newbie entrepreneurs about being successful?

Give up whatever you are seeking, unless it is passion driving you. Be ruthlessly frugal and still anticipate financial challenges. Always place loved ones ahead of professional journey, be mindful of their sacrifices and investment. Remember, you can’t be a successful entrepreneur if you give up easily. And remember, you can’t be a successful entrepreneur if you refuse to give up. Make common sense common practice. Giving up for right reasons or at the right time is never a failure and opportunity does not knock only once in life; keep your dream alive and be brave to follow it when the time is right.

In your opinion, what is the essential personality trait to consider when hiring an executive-level employee?

It is hard to point to ONE personality trait for executive level people because something that differentiates them is that they must have several traits that are equally essential. Here are a few 

Communication & culturally-savvy: executives must be excellent communicators. Many people equate that to be good talkers. But good talkers can be good preachers, teachers or sales people, not executives. Good communicators are equally good at speaking clearly so others understand and listening what is said and what is implied.  They are also culturally savvy because communication is closely tied to cultures -- meaning not only Asians may communicate differently from Scandinavians but also women may communicate differently from men and marketing people may communicate differently from engineers. 

Realistic & optimistic: Winston Churchill once said - “I choose to be an optimist because it does not seem to be much use to be anything else. But executives have to balance optimistic mindset with realistic perspective. They must be willing to take risks but also be calculative. 

Competitive and yet Invested in others: Executives meet success when they enable their team to succeed and that means they must be able to guide and mentor others.

Thinking outside the box: An ability to think outside the box with a problem solving mindset is an essential trait in an entrepreneur but not all executive level candidates display this trait. I Keep looking for these people but they are rare.

We are at the door of the 4th industrial revolution(4IR). Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Block chain Technology are thought to be the foremost pillars. How you foresee the future of your industry?

I see the future of both Artificial Intelligence and Blockchanin technology to be very promising. Blockchanin technologies enable confident transactions that deliver value in payments, settlements and securities enabling easy and efficient person to person transactions. This is so exciting. But we are at very early stages of this revolution and fully reaping the rewards from this innovation

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are indeed extremely exciting and have implications in every industry. But working in the biotech/ medtech its implications in this industry is most exciting, for me. For instance, in bio/pharma, the challenges in drug discovery from concept to formulation, process development and approval are many and the costs are skyrocketing. But with the help of new technologies, this process can be streamlined, ensuring product quality and timely availability at vastly reduced cost. 

What is your favorite book and can you explain what you like about it?

Loved so many amazing books.  Here are a few with links to my reviews.

Poisonwood Bible - incredible, engaging and amazing

Cutting for Stone - 

Language of Flowers - 

Catfish and Mandala

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - 

The Glass Castle -  

What do you think about Executives Diary?

It is an interesting forum for learning and professional development. There is learning that occurs by reading books. Then there is learning that occurs by demos and in workshops. This is a forum where learning occurs not by theoretical definitions but from real life experiences of people. I wish Executive Diary the very best and wish them great success.