Sheetal Acharya’s Survival Guide: Beat Cancer, Transform Business and Nurture Family, Friends and Community

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Sheetal Acharya

WALTHAM, MA–Sheetal Acharya is an expert in developing successful, comprehensive, and integrated business transformation strategies. Reporting to National Grid’s Chief Transformation Officer, she currently leads the organizational enablement team for the $3.8 billion divestiture of the Rhode Island Business.

She partners with senior executives to bring their strategic vision to life and develops strategies to empower and build confidence in employees to adopt new ways of working. Ms. Acharya coaches leaders at all levels on how to articulate the changes with empathy. Prior to National Grid, Ms. Acharya worked in management consulting for 15 years and led the organizational enablement practice at Publicis Sapient.

Ms. Acharya has always been an active community leader and supports many causes focused on women and children. She served as the first National President of The Network of Indian Professionals of North America. She was on the leadership committee for the Boston Women’s March for America. She completed a three-year term as President of her children’s elementary school Parent Teacher Organization and continues to serve in an advisory capacity.

Ms. Acharya recently led a team in organizing a trip to Washington, DC, during Spring Break for her son’s 8th grade class when the school canceled the trip. She also volunteered as a parent chaperone during the Indian Family Network (IFNET) Summer Camp last summer.

Ms. Acharya received her MBA from Babson College and her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She and her husband, Nish, have 2 sons, Ved, 14, and Kaayan, 10.

Here is a Q/A with Ms. Acharya:

INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?

Sheetal Acharya: I am a Director of Operations and a change leader at National Grid. I report to the Chief Transformation Officer and currently lead the organizational enablement team for the $3.8B divestiture of the Rhode Island Business. There are many aspects of my work that I love. I enjoy coaching colleagues on leading with empathy and helping employees manage change in their work environment. It is a uniquely challenging role that allows me to wear many hats. I love the smart, creative people with whom I work, and we are committed to our company’s vision of being at “the heart of a clean, fair, and affordable energy future.”

INE: To which charitable, community and professional group do you belong and why?

SA: Outside of my professional endeavors, I stay active in areas of interest of my children. I recently led a team in organizing a trip to Washington, DC, during Spring Break for my son’s 8th grade class when the school canceled the trip. I also volunteered as a parent chaperone during the Indian Family Network (IFNET) Summer Camp last summer. I completed a three-year term as President of my children’s elementary school Parent Teacher Organization and continue to serve in an advisory capacity.

For me, being involved with the Indian-American community is a lifelong activity. When I was younger, I focused on helping young Indian-Americans find a voice. Now, my efforts have shifted towards leveraging our growing voice to impact change, and to help my children create a voice for a whole new generation of Indian-Americans. Along the way, I hope that I have shown that there are many ways to take leadership in the community. Personally, I’ve done everything from leading large-scale events and mobilizing the community to playing smaller roles supporting other organizations. I am working to make sure that my children – the fourth generation of American citizens of Indian origin in our family – maintain important connections to their Indian heritage and understand how easy it is to be appreciative of both Indian and American cultures.

INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field.

SA: In January 2020 I went in for a routine mammogram that took me on a two-year plus cancer journey. After multiple tests, I had Stage 1 breast cancer even though I had no history of it in my family. My first procedure was the day that Boston shut down for the pandemic, and, eight surgeries later, I’m relieved to say, “I’m cancer free.”

I learned two things about myself in the past couple years. First, I can overcome any challenge life may throw at me. Family and friends rallied around me with meals, walks, phone calls, etc. Many shared their own breast cancer experiences with me. My husband, Nish, who is a saint, dropped everything to focus on me, and my sons were by my side every day. Everyone fueled my positivity and kept me smiling. They helped me manage the most difficult phase of my life.

Second, I was not going to let cancer prevent me from living my life or achieving my goals. Work was a welcomed distraction, and I remained hyper-focused on it. I took breaks for surgery recovery and then went back to work. I was promoted while I was recovering for surgery. I continued to be involved in the community and stayed active with friends. And, last fall, I climbed a wind turbine just to prove it to myself.

Since being diagnosed, I’ve used my platform to bring awareness about the importance of mammograms and normalize conversations around breast cancer. I’ve helped other women who started their breast cancer journeys after me. It’s not lost on me how fortunate I am to be alive, but I know it wasn’t luck. I took the time to care for myself and go for my annual mammogram like clockwork. It saved my life.

INE: What are your hobbies and interest?

SA: As a working mom, I consider most of my free time as family and friends time. My husband, Nish, and I are always taking our two, high-energy boys (14 and 10) to one activity or another. We also have an active social circle. Outside of that, I enjoy travel, and my top 3 places are Hawaii, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Paris. I still find time to binge watch shows like This is Us, Ted Lasso, and my all-time fav Law & Order when I just want to “veg out.”

INE: Your favorite books?

SA: I am a fan of American classics by authors such as Steinbeck, Lee, and Faulkner. In terms of recent books, I’ve been reading Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown.

INE: Your favorite quotes?

SA: “One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through, and it will be someone else’s survival guide.” – Brene Brown

INE: The one you would like to meet and why?

SA: I would be most interested in meeting and learning from female trailblazers throughout history who have inspired me – Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Lucille Ball, Brene Brown, Indra Nooyi, and Coco Chanel.

INE: Your core value you try to live by?

SA: My core values are simple and have been the same my entire life – loyalty to family and friends, be honest and authentic, exhibit empathy, remember your roots, and always lend a helping hand.

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