By Rahul Sundararaman, Phone2Action Fellow — Summer 2016
Rahul (in pink) and other Phone2Action fellows
Immigrating to America in the third grade was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my short 17 years in this world. I was constantly harassed and bullied for the way I acted, the clothes I wore, and of course, my thick Indian accent. After the first week of school, I decided enough was enough. I had to change.
Within six months, I became a completely new person. My accent was better and all my clothes were either Hollister or Abercrombie. I also started playing my first sport, basketball, which let me fit in with the athletes during recess. Of course, I wasn’t very good, but no one was back then. Before my first Biology class I learned about survival of the fittest. If I didn’t adapt to my surroundings I would be isolated.
Looking back on it, I am truly grateful I was given the opportunity to come to this wonderful country in the first place. This really is the land of opportunity — where anyone with the drive to succeed can do so. My father is a prime example of this: he grew up in a small village in India as the son of a farmer. He worked two jobs while in college, and landed a job at an IT company in India shortly after graduating. After two years, he was promoted to a managerial position in New Jersey. He is now the Vice President of Delivery at the same company, and making more in a year than his father ever did as a farmer.
But, many people today don’t get the opportunity to come to America or if they come here for school, they are not allowed to stay and live this dream. They are impeded by immigration laws that are intended to “save American jobs” but they do quite the opposite, they jeopardize the creation of jobs. Legislators who support this kind of thinking need to realize that there are no such things as “Americans” or “Immigrants”. We are all members of the human race, and it is our responsibility, no matter the country we’re from, to try to help each other and build a better world together.
Immigration reform is an issue that I personally care about. Throughout my years in high school I have kept myself updated on the latest changes in immigration policy, and I have always hoped to make an impact with my self-taught skills in computer science.
I learned about Phone2Action from one of my friends who was planning to intern there in the summer. That’s when I knew exactly how I wanted to spend my summer. There was finally a platform that would allow for massive movements (like immigration reform) to happen quickly and efficiently through powerful tools such as social media and email. So, I begged my friend to talk to Ximena (the CEO, who is also an immigrant) to try to get me a job for the summer. After doing a great interview with her I was on the team.
As I write this post I am nearing the end of my internship, and I’m about to go off to college for the first time. I can honestly say that there has been no other experience I have had like this one. At Phone2Action I was able to work on something that actually matters to me, which is more than I can say for the previous companies I have interned at. There is always a certain energy present in the office, a sense of urgency. We want to get things done because we know what we are doing will have a profound effect on people’s lives by directly impacting laws that govern them.
I have been on the mobile engineering team during my time at Phone2Action, and it has been a great learning experience. My knowledge on Git, Objective-C, and just generally working as a team has skyrocketed. I am now coming away with the experience of a programmer in a fast-paced work environment and a product that will be live in a few months.
But, more than anything, my experience at Phone2Action has been about coming full circle. I went from a small boy who was lucky enough to study and grow up in the United States, to working on a product that helps people. I am living and breathing the American Dream, and I will try my hardest to make sure others can do the same. I encourage others to explore technology beyond entertainment and discover its power for social change.