Harpreet Sandhu or Happy as she preferred to be called is a COO of Standford Blood Bank, She is a woman, young and inspiring, not just that she is successful in her line of career, well respected by her peers, she has managed to achieve a life with a job she loves, a husband she adores, family and friends whom she can rely upon. She has her two feet solid on the ground, she is a great friend to have and so much fun to party with. How did she get to where she is? Read on.
Please share with us how did your journey begin to where you are today?
Well, my journey began in not so desirable ways. I was born in Vancouver, Canada. I was very sick when I was younger and essentially grew up in hospitals. Fortunately, I had excellent care, and it was free! I don't think I really stopped to realize that I was very comfortable in a healthcare setting. Life sort of organically evolved to keep me in a healthcare setting. Fortunately, no longer as a patient!! But a healthcare worker helping to take care of other patients.
How did you choose the career you are in today? Were you very clear in what you wanted to do soon after you were done with high school?
Oh hell no!!! In high school, I had another health crisis, I lost my eyesight! Very unexpected and happened very suddenly, I would say within a few months. This was a side effect of the health issues and medications I had earlier in life. I had a corneal transplant in each eye, which allowed me to regain my eyesight. So needless to say, I was focused on other things! After I graduated high school, my parents let me just "hang out" for a year because of everything I had been through. But after that, they were like "enough is enough; you need to go to school!". I always knew I wanted to go to university and be in healthcare, but I had no idea when/what/where. One day, my dad came back after getting his blood tested. He brought home a pamphlet that explained that there was a nation-wide shortage in Canada for clinical laboratory scientists. My dad said, "maybe you should do this". And that was it! I applied to the program and got in.
What was little Happy thinking as a child? Did you visualize yourself to be who you are today even back then?
Once again, oh hell no!! To be honest, I never thought that strategically. The one thing I did visualize, probably from the time I was about 12 or 13, was being independent and moving away at some point. Nothing to do with my family, I love them lots. But my culture, especially back then, doesn't always allow for finding your own way in life. And I always knew that I desperately needed to do this.
Where did you go to college?
A place called British Columbia Institute of Technology in Burnaby, Canada. Great experience; I met two of my best friends during this time. :)
How did you decide to live away from family and make San Francisco your home?
Well again, no real strategic planning! After I graduated University and got my clinical license, I started applying for jobs. I ended up getting a job in Scottsdale, AZ and lived there for almost 2 years. Luck and fate, and randomness!, brought me to SF, where I met my other two besties. :)
What are the challenges you find in your line of work especially being a woman? Or is there any difference at all if you were a man or woman?
Honestly, for the most part, being a woman and a minority has actually been helpful to me. I know this is a unique experience and not what others always experience. I work in a male dominant industry, and fortunately for me, my specific organization was happy to have some diversity. And when I do face challenges, I try very hard to stay objective, be assertive and not back down from the challenge.
I find office politics to be energy draining and can be soul crushing, how do you handle office politics?
What you have experienced is very normal. Sometimes I think that if had all robots in the laboratory field, all problems would be solved! Kidding. For me, I do several things to ensure that the politics do not get the best of me:
1) I compartmentalize and try to deal with what the actual issue is.
2) Don't get emotionally involved.
3) Don't take things personally; and
4) Most importantly, keep things in perspective. The office politics are a part of my work life only. they are not my life. I try to constantly focus on the people and relationships that truly matter to me at the core and this quickly puts things in perspective for me.
What’s your philosophy in life? Do you have rules or ideologies you live by?
I have Several:
1) Live and let live-don't waste your time judging others. Every minute you spend doing this you take away from enjoying your own life
2) Don't close a door before you open it-it never hurts to fully explore all opportunities before you say no!
3) Find the right balance with planning and being strategic with going with the flow. Too much of anything is not a good thing!
4) The only things that really matter at the end are relationships we've nurtured and the impression we leave on those we love.
Apart from work, what do you do to Zen out and for fun?
I love hiking, being outdoors, meditating, reading and spending time with loved ones.
Your job sound very serious. How about you? Are you a serious person or do you consider yourself life of a party?
I think I have a balance, although not always exactly the right balance! But I try to make sure that i take time to let loose and party hard, but then get back to the seriousness of my job as needed.
Who inspires you in life and what other life goals you’d like to achieve?
This may sounds cliche, but my mum and dad probably inspire me the most. And from that, honest, hard working people who give up a part of their lives to help others thrive. That's an amazing quality. I would love to be able to help disadvantaged kids more significantly, like maybe find time for free tutoring, be a mentor, etc. I also want to travel and see more of the world with my hubby!
You traveled quite a bit, which was your favorite place you’ve visited?
Very hard question! I don't think I can say; I take something with me from every place we've traveled to, perhaps an aspect of their culture that impressed me, incredible hospitality, genuine warmth of the people, etc. Basically, I love traveling!
You’ve also been married for a while, could you share with us how long have you been married and how do you keep it strong and exciting?
I feel like it's part luck (that we've grown together vs apart) and hard work. We've learned how to be brutally honest with each other and that has allowed us to talk about some very difficult things and find a path forward together. Without getting our issues out in the open, I don't think we would have the strength we have today. Of course, we absolutely do not have a perfect relationship. But we do have honesty, trust, respect and friendship. And that allows up to keep growing together!
What do you think is the world’s biggest problem or struggle? How could we solve it or heal our planet and people in your opinion?
Famine/hunger. It's just so horrible that in this day and age, with the wealth, technology and scientific advancements we have, that people are still dying of hunger and starvation all of the world. It doesn't have to be this way. Not to be a pessimist, sadly I'm not sure this problem can be solved. It's not because we don't have the resources to fix the problem, it's the human factor. Humans are flawed, and unfortunately those with the political savviness, ruthlessness and/or their own agendas rise to positions of power. Once they get there, their focus turns to keeping themselves there vs truly fixing the world's most significant problems.
What advice or words of wisdom could you share with anyone out there whom would love to do what you do and live the life that you do? Especially for the younger generation.
Balance your life with living in the moment and enjoying it with planning your life and setting goals. Don't take no for an answer; be resourceful! It's amazing what you can accomplish by not giving up. Most importantly, connect with your physical world: the environment, the people in your life and yourself. I continue to be inspired by the amount of inner peace and clarity I can find by being present in my physical world.
Thank you so much for sharing your life with us all.