3 years ago

From Drop-Out to Board Rooms: Sanjay Singh’s Journey of Diligence and Excellence

Dr. Sanjay Singh arrived in the United States in 1985 as a college drop-out from India—a country that doesn’t give many second chances.

After some effort, Sanjay was admitted to the University of Texas at Austin, which at the time had the cheapest tuition of any major U.S. university, and his hope of success was revived. That cheap tuition soon disappeared, however, and Singh found himself out of school again, running low on hope and terribly homesick.

Thankfully, he didn’t give up. In 1986, Sanjay made his way Milledgeville, GA to reunite with his childhood friends, and in hopes of attending Georgia College. In the meantime, he was working at McDonald’s to keep himself afloat, but as he scraped pennies together, he was thrust into a robust community of international students that kept the flame of hope alive—and set him on a course he could’ve never imagined.

At a social gathering in Milledgeville, he met a professor named Tom Pritchett who kept asking Sanjay questions about his background, interests, and aptitudes. “One day, after two hours of conversation, he asked me if I could stop by his office the following day,” Singh said. “Needless to say, I showed up at his office at the appointed time, and he uttered something I never could’ve imagined.  ‘Sanjay,’ he said, ‘I want you to join our MBA program.’

“I said, ‘Professor, thank you for your offer, but I don’t think you understand; I’m a college drop out.’”

Completely undeterred, Pritchett said, “Sanjay, I only ask two things of you: that you never make a B in our program and that you take the GMATs before graduation so that you can apply for your Ph.D. program.”

“I was speechless,” Sanjay recalls. “But that conversation changed my life.”

“As grateful as I was, I was immediately struck by how different this was from anything I would’ve ever experienced in India, and it taught me an unforgettable lesson. Everything I’d heard about America was true,” Singh says. “Here, most everybody is willing to give you a chance, regardless of your religion, the color of your skin, or your socioeconomic success. Remember, I was a college dropout working at McDonald’s, from a foreign country and barely a penny to my name. But Professor Pritchett saw something in me, and he gave me a second chance—and that changed the course of my life. At a foundational level, that’s what makes America different—the gracious willingness of so many people to help others, expecting nothing in return.”

At Georgia College, President Dr. Speir had started an International Relations program. “He understood the power of bringing people from different ethnic backgrounds to exchange ideas. He saw how meaningful this could be so he went to the Board of Regents and asked for 20 partial scholarships to pay for out of state tuitions fees for International Student,” Singh explained.

“I became a candidate for this program and was interviewed extensively by local civic leaders. In another incredible turn of kindness and good fortune, they paid all of my out of state tuition, and on-campus part-time work allowed me to purchase books and pay my food and rent.”

Sanjay explained that he worked several jobs at the time, but kept his word to Dr. Pritchett to never make a B.

“In those days—from 1986 until 1990, I worked 40-60 hours a week, was a fulltime student, and never slept more than a few hours a night, but somehow, I made it through, all because of my second chance and a promise to a man who believed in me,” Singh said.

As he was pursuing his masters, Singh worked in the Georgia College computer lab in the mornings and taught himself a great deal about programming and information systems.

“As I thought back about that program almost 30 years ago, we are all international students who got a second chance in America. Every single one of us got good jobs because we were so deeply grateful for our scholarships. That created a work ethic in us that that is second to none. None of us wanted to short change the learning process, and that hard work paid off,” Singh told Yellowhammer.

“So that was my second big lesson, in addition to America is a place of second chances it taught me the value of developing a work ethic where I was never willing to quit until I’d done what I had to on a given day to pursue excellence.I soaked everything in, and that yearning to learn has never left. I’m forever a student, reading, writing, thinking, mastering my skill,” Singh added.

Sanjay also met his wife during those fortuitous days in Milledgeville, so a down-on-his-luck kid from India who’d arrived in small-town Georgia with no money and little hope, left with an MBA, a beautiful wife, and a bright future. And his story was only beginning.

­­­At age of 25, Sanjay decided it was time to get his Ph.D. “I’d really come to love information systems, so that’s what I studied in my doctorate program. The funny thing is, because I went into the MBA program without completing my undergrad, I had to double back and take a good many math and computer classes, which I did at the Georgia College,” he explained.

In the course of earning his MBA and doctorate, Singh made up his mind that if he were ever in a room, sitting across from anyone, he would be an expert in information systems. “I wanted to be a consummate professional in the business of technology and the technology of business,” Singh says, and that’s exactly what he did.

But the road wasn’t always easy.  “At UGA I was fish out of water,” Singh recalled, but the forever student said he learned two big things there from his professors.

“First, they spent time on the application of research, so they taught me that if I didn’t learn how to apply what I was learning, all of that research was just a waste. Second, they were both world class researchers, so they would use me to assist them with these research projects, and that paid my way through school. At Georgia, I learned the inextricable connection between business and research, and I also learned that if you’re creating value, people will come to you.”

When the Singh’s decided to move to Birmingham, people in Athens thought he’d lost his mind, but he came here because the MBA program at UAB’s Collat School of Business was an evening program that would allow him to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities by the day and teach by evening, and that’s what he wanted to do.

“I was a professor, teaching classes to business professionals twice my age and that opened up so many doors for me. It was the best decision of my life. People in the deep south have a reverent respect for knowledge and learning.”

This led Singh to consulting engagements with local companies, and his trajectory of success continued from there.

The co-founders of CTS Inc.— a Birmingham-based software engineering firm—asked if he’d like to become a partner. During Singh’s tenure, the employee-focused company grew to 350+ employees, and its impressive list of clients included Many Fortune 500 companies, including local firms like Regions Financial, Alabama Power, BlueCross and BlueShield, Protective, BBVA Compass, and UAB.

By 2018, CTS (short for Computer Technology Services), had become Alabama’s largest privately-held commercial software engineering services company.

Sanjay credits its success to a combination of hard work by his business partners, colleagues, and relationships that they built through involvement in organizations such as the Rotary Club of Birmingham, Birmingham Business Alliance, Society of Information Managers and the UAB Business School.

Reflecting on his success, Singh says, “Talk is cheap. We had to create a culture that was family-first and that directly contributed to our success. That meant we put the families of our employees first by showing them that we truly cared, and that separated us in the market. Our employees were highly motivated, striving for excellence because they knew we really cared about them beyond the workplace,” he said.

This year, CTS merged with CGI (NYSE: GIB), the 5th largest IT services company in the world with 75,000+ employees and $10-billion+ in revenues.

And Birmingham, Alabama is thankful this penniless kid from India came a bit further south. He’s created hundreds of jobs, enriched hundreds of lives, and it’s quite certain his next endeavor will be just as meaningful as the last.

 

 

 

15 hours ago

VIDEO: Alabama coronavirus numbers drop, 200,000 students will be tested before class starts, Tuberville and Trump have huge leads and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Are the masks working?

— How will the state react to the numbers after 200,000 college students are tested before school starts back?

— Are President Donald Trump and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville sitting on insurmountable leads in Alabama?

Jackson and Handback are joined by Alabama Arise’s Jane Adams to discuss Medicaid expansion and progressive politics in Alabama.

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Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” directed at all the education officials who want to cancel classes without thinking about the long-term ramifications of that decision and how people will respond politically to this in the future.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

15 hours ago

UAB employee Tara Bowman: Empowered by loss, committed to cancer education

Tara Bowman knows the statistics by heart. She can also recite health manuals nearly from memory when it comes to cancer awareness, health disparities and the need for early screening and treatment.

Bowman’s own family history is a painful lesson in the urgency of cancer screenings and health awareness, which she generously shares.

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“I do it both from the book and, personally, from the heart,” said Bowman, program manager in the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. “When you are real with people, they listen to you better.”

Bowman knows the devastating effects of cancer at its deepest levels after the deaths of her own father, stepfather, stepmother, aunt and uncle, all from 2015 through 2017. Bowman recalls that she later flipped through her calendar and was shaken by all the notations made for funerals within such a short time.

Bowman is not defined by her loss. Instead, she has become empowered by it in her daily mission to provide essential information about cancer to help save lives.

“At first, it made me numb,” Bowman said. “At the same time, it gave me an internal drive for the job that I was doing. When I started telling people about my stories, they wanted to know, in detail, what happened. They wanted to know more about it, and that has led to them wanting to get screened.”

Bowman’s official job title understates her multiple roles in the office where she works with individuals in the community to remove barriers related to cancer screenings. She is responsible for developing and implementing several cancer outreach and research programs that focus on increasing cancer screening rates and healthy lifestyle efforts.

Bowman is especially passionate about creating awareness for lung cancer, the illness that claimed the life of her father, Joseph Henry Bowman III, who died in 2016.

Her father’s death came just six weeks after her stepfather died from bone cancer following previous bouts with prostate cancer and throat cancer.

On June 16, Bowman took part in the 2020 Virtual Lung Cancer Voices Advocacy Summit, where she helped deliver messages to members of Congress about the importance of federal funding for lung cancer research.

“Our voices were powerful, and without a doubt, our personal stories helped their offices understand what it’s like to live with or care for someone with lung cancer,” Bowman said. “My drive now is to get as many people screened for all of these cancers because early detection saves lives.”

At the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, Bowman manages six coordinators who oversee more than 178 Community Health Advisors. She also coordinates 44 CHAs on her own in Jefferson County.

Claudia Hardy, program director of the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement, called it remarkable that Bowman could channel her own loss into an even greater determination to promote cancer awareness.

“Tara is a good health educator because she knows the information and how to deliver it to audiences of all sizes and varieties,” Hardy said. “What makes her an exceptional educator is her ability to connect one-on-one with individuals and explain on a deeply personal level why cancer awareness and cancer screenings are so essential.”

Bowman doesn’t mind sharing her stories of family loss and said she hopes that they motivate others to take action for themselves and their own families.

“When we had a breast and cervical project, I did pretty well to share the message and say, ‘Hey, my stepmom ignored the signs. Take advantage of the opportunity,’” Bowman said. “I think I got a lot of people to sign up for testing because I shared my story. It was my calling to come to the O’Neal Cancer Center.”

While Bowman is known to dispense her own style of awareness and education, she said her energy comes from everyone around her and their shared vision of reducing cancer deaths and cancer disparities.

“They trickle down energy, and I feed off positive energy,” she said. “Any time they ask me to do something, I know it’s a good project. I don’t realize how much work I’m doing because there’s so much energy surrounding it.”

Bowman said she never anticipated changing her path to focus on cancer awareness and community outreach. She was originally trained as a social worker and spent years working with children and families, but she said she’s found her niche at the O’Neal Cancer Center, where her skills are being used and expanded to include health advocacy.

“In this field, it’s like you are doing some social work because you refer them to resources, and it’s a personal conversation. It’s about relationships,” Bowman explained. “It’s something that has to come from the heart. If you don’t have a natural heart for this, you can’t teach it.”

Bowman remains excited about her work to spread the message of healthier living, whether she’s doing so in person or virtually, and to ensure that the people of Alabama have access to life-saving health care and educational information.

“There’s so much to be done. I don’t have time to get tired now,” Bowman said. “My dad always said that he would rest when he dies, and that’s literally what he did. He would be proud of me.”

To learn more about services offered by the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach & Engagement, contact Claudia Hardy, director of Community Outreach, at chardy@uab.edu or 205-975-0003.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Power Foundation 2018 annual report wins Silver ADDY award

The Alabama Power Foundation’s 2018 annual report was recently honored with a Silver ADDY for print at the American Advertising Awards, one of the world’s largest creative competitions. Titled “Stories from the Field,” the report features the work of nonprofit agencies throughout Alabama and the stories behind them.

“It is an honor to have our annual report recognized with one of the creative industry’s most prestigious awards,” said Myla Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “This award represents the important work of our nonprofit partners and their unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life for all Alabamians. It is a privilege to tell their stories and illustrate them through stunning photography and design.”

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As the second installment of the “Stories from the Field” series, the 2018 report includes eight booklets – seven stories about nonprofits and one summarizing the work of the Alabama Power Foundation. Featured in the report are The Literacy Council of Central AlabamaThe Nature Conservancy, the city of OzarkStorybook FarmTuscaloosa’s Police Athletic League and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Also highlighted in the report are the volunteers of the Alabama Power Service Organization and Alabama Power Energizers, two organizations of current and retired Alabama Power employees dedicated to serving communities through volunteerism.

Cayenne Creative managed the design and production of the report and, in addition to the Silver ADDY at the national level, received five ADDYs at the local and district levels for its work on the report. At the local level, the report won a Silver ADDY in the Printed Annual Report category, a Gold in the Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Report category and a Gold for Best in Show. The report received two Gold ADDYs in the printed annual report category for District 7, allowing it to advance to the national level.

Another Birmingham-based agency also received honors at the national awards ceremony. Big Communications earned a Silver ADDY for Illustration for its work on the 2019 Sidewalk Film Festival’s sponsor trailer. The trailer was the opening credits before the films to highlight the festival’s sponsors.

Drawing nearly 40,000 entries each year from 200 markets, the American Advertising Awards is hosted by the American Advertising Federation and consists of a three-tier competition comprising local, district and national levels. Winning at the national level is achieved by winning at the local and district levels.

For more information about the Alabama Power Foundation and to view the 2018 annual report and others, visit https://powerofgood.com/about/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

19 hours ago

Obex Health creates tailor-made face masks to keep people safe from COVID-19

Wearing a face mask to protect your health – and others – is the new normal. The problem is finding a mask that fits to a “T.”

Obex Health CEO Forrest Satterfield and Dr. Kanti Sunkavalli may have solved that problem. Obex creates custom-made, digitally fitted masks that meld to every “nook and cranny” of one’s face. The secret is a unique crafting process that conforms to facial contours.

Since May, Obex has sold hundreds of masks, with most going to health care providers nationwide. The company has given several medical providers and nonprofits a discount, with a recent shipment going to a California nonprofit.

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“Once a year, medical providers must be checked to make sure they’re wearing the correct mask for their face,” said Sunkavalli, a physician turned entrepreneur.

With the pandemic spreading in March, an ill-fitting face mask was one more thing for Dr. Jennifer Hess to worry about. The ER physician quickly added the Obex mask to her personal arsenal for protecting herself and preventing transmission of the novel coronavirus.

“The struggle is when PPE supplies aren’t always available,” said Hess, who graduated from UAB Medical School in 2001 and was an ER physician at UAB Hospital from 2018 to June 2020. “COVID-19 is one of those viruses that is hard to contain unless you wear a mask. We know that consistently wearing masks keeps emergency providers from getting infected. With my Obex mask, I can be confident I’ve got my own PPE. This will help keep me safe and not spread the virus.

“When I’m using it, I can throw it in my bag, and it doesn’t get squished,” said Hess, who will soon begin working in the Emergency Department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. “I put the mask in a Ziploc® bag and it holds its shape. Vanderbilt currently has adequate PPE but is flexible in allowing providers to secure personalized PPE as well.”

The Obex mask is highly protective, the CEO said.

“The big difference in our mask and others is that a cloth or fabric mask prevents only other people from being infected,” Satterfield said. “Ours prevents you from being infected and you from infecting others.”

Using innovation, high tech to fight coronavirus

Obex combines custom-molded silicone with high-tech 3D printing to make a “100% impermeable” mask.

The inventive design is the brainchild of Satterfield, who, at 25, is a rising star at the Birmingham “think tank” Innovation Depot. A biomedical engineer who makes custom 3D-printed knee and wrist braces, Satterfield went through dozens of material suppliers, custom processes and mask designs to reach the final product decisions with Sunkavalli. The comfortable, medical-grade protection is customizable for every business or customer preference, they said.

In March, Satterfield and Sunkavalli saw the need for PPE looming on the horizon. Sunkavalli recognized mask safety as an emergent need for the medical community and public. He and Satterfield talked with many doctors and nurses about the national shortage of face masks and the problems faced by those wearing them 8 to 12 hours a day.

Sunkavalli’s wife, Pallavi, is an ER physician and site medical director at Coosa Valley Medical Center in Sylacauga. “As a physician, it’s close to my heart to help out as much as possible, to keep everyone safe,” he said.

From a medical view, Satterfield saw that it made sense to stop transmission through face masks.

“The safety of ventilators was a big question mark in my mind,” said Satterfield, a University Innovation Fellow who earned a B.S. in biomedical engineering at UAB in 2018. “I’m a big believer in design thinking.

“Design thinking requires you to exist in an ambiguous state,” said Satterfield, who formed Satterfield Technologies in 2014. “I made no assumptions about what the solution should be or that I fully understood the problem we were solving. By interviewing people from different points of view – doctors, nurses, front-line workers – I created a solid definition for what problem we were solving and how our users needed us to solve it.”

Satterfield rapidly built prototypes of masks and got them into user’s hands, recorded feedback and made new masks based on comments. He repeated this until reaching a point where initial users were satisfied.

“What we immediately assume about health care is that the best, universal way to do something is already being used,” he said. “But there are lots of design problems in health care. A lot of times, people are focused on the solution rather than the problem.”

Birthing the Obex mask

Satterfield’s office at Innovation Depot already had 3D scanners and printers for making state-of-the-art braces. Those were used to help produce face masks with the tailor-made fit. Customers with an iPhone X or newer model can download the Bellus3D Face App from the App Store. They can select the “Face+Neck” option, then take a scan and unlock it for .99 cents. They can then export an HD version of the picture to Obex. Customers can schedule a 3D scan at the Obex Health Office at Innovation Depot, or an Obex employee can perform 3D scans for several people at a home or business for a small fee.

Obex makes masks in many colors and can add a corporate logo to the front cover. Each N95 filter lasts one week, which saves money. For those with a high-exposure risk needing more frequent filter replacements – health providers, teachers and customer-facing employees – Obex Health has a discounted subscription plan that automatically ships filters.

The high-grade silicone rim makes the mask easy to wear, Sunkavalli said. The mask clings to the face because it’s made for that person. There’s no bunching or gaps around the sides to allow entry of COVID-19, he said.

“The silicone we use is designed to be worn a very long time,” Sunkavalli said. “They’re also practical. You can disinfect them with soap and water every day. The filter only has to be replaced weekly.”

Finding a protective mask for children is a challenge, said Sunkavalli, whose kids are 7 and 9.

“With a custom mask, no matter how small or large the face – you always have a perfect fit,” Sunkavalli said.

The Obex mask is receiving positive feedback as demand grows for the product made with materials from America.

Creations whose time has come

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the need to protect one’s family – and self – is ever-present.

Hess said her Obex mask – in Vanderbilt University colors – provides a “unique opportunity to be prepared.”

“I don’t think that COVID-19 is going to go away anytime soon,” said Hess, who with her husband, Dr. Erik Hess, trained at and then practiced on faculty at the Mayo Clinic for 15 years. “Wearing a mask can go a long way toward keeping the people of Alabama from contracting this disease.”

For Satterfield, the desire to keep his community safe is personal. His parents – deemed high-risk for their ages and because his father has Parkinson’s disease – wear Obex masks.

His parents live in Huntsville, but, even though he wants to see them, he won’t go home, he said. “The risks are too high. It’s really difficult.”

In the meantime, Satterfield gives back by devoting his life to the mission of Obex, often working 14 hours or more each day.

This young entrepreneur is dreaming of more ways to protect the public by providing state-of-the-art face masks and braces.

“I’ve always had it in mind to be an entrepreneur,” Satterfield said. “In biomedical engineering, none of my ideas had been done yet. I see Obex as being a Johnson & Johnson health care-style company with many product lines.”

For details about how to order an Obex mask, email Satterfield.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

21 hours ago

Doug Jones: ‘Tommy Tuberville hasn’t been tested yet — Jeff Sessions didn’t hardly touch him on issues that I think are very important’

On Friday’s episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) dismissed polling that showed him down 17 points to his GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville in November’s U.S. Senate election.

Jones questioned the poll’s methodology during an interview with APTV’s Don Dailey, saying they were not a “good barometer.”

He also argued former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, his Republic opponent, had not been tested. He mentioned that Jeff Sessions, Tuberville’s Republican opponent in the GOP primary runoff, did not “hardly touch” him on particular issues.

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“I don’t put any stock in those polls,” he said.” We’ve been following things for a really long time. Polls are really crazy. They were wrong in my race in 2017. They were wrong in the presidential race. That one in particular — that 17-point poll — is almost laughable because they started weighing past presidential votes, which is not a really good barometer at all of what’s going on on the ground today.”

“The fact is that Tommy Tuberville hasn’t been tested yet,” Jones continued. “Jeff Sessions didn’t hardly touch him on issues that I think are very important. We’re talking about leadership. We’re talking about the issues of the day — how you would deal with this pandemic. I’ll put my votes, my experience in the United States Senate up against his votes, his unemployment compensation of $5 million. I’ll put my record up against his any day of the week.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.