By Trish Fontanilla
I’m super excited to introduce you to, Sunanda Nair! Sunanda and I were trying to remember how we first met, but settled on some networking event many moons ago. The funny part is I’ve known her wife Melissa way longer since we were both among the early users of Yelp when it first launched in Boston almost 15 years ago! Sunanda and I recently reconnected on LinkedIn when I gave our previous Filipinos in Boston women a shout out on International Women’s Day because I wasn’t seeing many Asian / Filipino women being highlighted on speaker’s lists in Boston and beyond.
Thanks again to Sunanda for being a part of Filipinos in Boston, and I hope you all enjoy reading her interview!
Where are you and your family from?
Sunanda: My mother is from the island of Bohol in the Philippines, and immigrated to the US after nursing school. My father is from Kerala, a state in Southern India. The majority of my mom’s family is still in Bohol and Cebu. When we go back, we always stay in Bohol but we stop in Cebu to see extended family on the way.
Both my mother and father are close with their families, so as a child I visited their homelands every other year on a rotation. I was born in India but truly feel close to both my Filipino and Indian sides. I grew up around a lot of Filipinos and Indians in the Detroit area, and most of our meals were either South Indian or Filipino cuisine. It was a treat when we got “American” foods in the house for dinner. Although I still prefer the food I grew up with. I could eat rice with literally every meal.
Where do you work and what do you do?
Sunanda: Currently I work at Privy, a tech company in downtown Boston. I am a Senior Account Executive on the team.
You’ve got an interesting resume that’s taken you from non-profits to for-profits, startups and public companies. Can you tell us more about your career journey and what led you to Privy?
Sunanda: So my career trajectory is a winding one. I went to school for cognitive science and landed my first job abroad in India doing HIV / AIDS research at the largest government hospital in the country. After that I came back to the US and split my time between playing poker online and working for non-profits and NGOs. I landed in Boston accidentally because my close friend was moving here, and I came along for the ride on the moving truck. I hung out here for awhile before deciding to take a summer certificate program at Boston University in public health. After finishing the program, I found myself working for an organization called Massachusetts & Asian Pacific Islands for Health (MAP for Health) doing program management, and research with the Massachusetts Department of Health and the CDC. The focus was on HIV / AIDS awareness and prevention in the Asian community. After MAP I worked for MataHari, a local Boston organization that works with diverse communities with a mission to end gender based violence and exploitation. While I was there I started to really enjoy marketing and took on a part-time internship as a social media marketer, which then turned into a part-time job. Because of that I started taking on consulting projects doing marketing and lead generation for various small businesses. While that was great, I realized I wanted some benefits like healthcare so I decided to apply for full-time marketing roles. I was able to secure an interview at a small startup that had no VP of Marketing, so the VP of Sales interviewed me. Two days after my interview he offered me a sales job and I thought he was legitimately crazy. However, he challenged me to take a risk and I took it. I’m lucky that he was a great coach and mentor. I quickly learned I loved sales, even though it was really hard. That first sales job was all cold calling and even door-to-door sales. From there I went to a few more startups, and landed at one that was acquired by IBM. I spent 2 years at IBM and then wanted to go back to small company life and back to sales. I worked with Wistia for 2 years, which was amazing, but an opportunity to join Privy presented itself and it felt like a challenge so I took it. I love where I am right now, but can’t wait to see what the next 5 years have in store for me!
How long have you been in Boston?
Sunanda: I moved to Boston in 2009, spent half a year in NYC and then ended back up in Boston. So almost 10 years! Wow, that’s crazy for me to type out.
What are your favorite Boston spots (food, parks, spaces, etc!)
Sunanda: I love the Boston Common and Public Garden in the summer. It seems a little cliche but it’s a great place to have a picnic, walk around when the weather is nice, and just enjoy the urban park. Now that I have a son the Frog Pond is the best thing to go to on hot days.
Also, I love love Winsor Dim Sum Cafe in Chinatown. It’s been one of my favorites for years.
I hesitate to share this secret but in my opinion Charlestown is one of Boston’s best kept secrets. I lived there for almost 3 years, and it’s like a mini town right next to the city. It feels like a community. I knew my neighbors, some who have lived there for 50+ years. There are tons of parks, a brewery, a growing restaurant selection, and you can walk to the North End in about 15-30 minutes depending on where you are in the neighborhood.
On Filipino Food...
What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Sunanda: Oh, man. It’s hard to pick. I will say my mom’s pancit recipe (noodle dish I would have to write it out), and kare kare (coconut milk or peanut sauce version). I couldn’t pick between the two. I feel like lechon is a given. Does it even need to be said?
What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Sunanda: Ok, so full confession I am not really the cook in my house but my goal is to perfect my mom’s version of pancit.
On staying in touch…
Do you have any upcoming events / programs / even work things that you’d like to mention?
Sunanda: I love a good side hustle and started investing in real estate in 2016. I am always down to talk to people who are interested in it, currently doing it, or both. I consider myself a novice still so the more I talk to people about it the more I learn.
Also, I am working on a product with my first sales boss which you can view at suvliner.com. Yes, we definitely know the website needs work. I would love to connect with people who have a background in consumer goods since we both are learning as we go. The website just got launched, but we aren’t in full selling mode yet, but we do have inventory. Right now we are testing a new prototype for a smaller version of the product so we can offer 2 sizes. We are still very early in our journey and we aren’t looking to be millionaires just trying to have fun and keep learning new things. Although, if we hit it big neither of us will complain. :)
How can people stay in touch?
Sunanda: email@example.com / https://www.linkedin.com/in/sunandanair/ (if we haven’t met just leave a note introducing yourself and I am happy to connect) / and Twitter: @snaps4life
I am open to grabbing coffee with people all the time so don’t hesitate to reach out!
We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.