October 25, 2019
As the saying from famous American engineer and statistician W. Edwards Deming goes, “In God we trust, all others bring data.”
When neighbors, cities, and even nations come together, the outcomes can show us possibilities we never knew existed that can turn moments in time into lifelong stories. That idea has founded movements, and even organizations, like United Way.
After nearly three years of working for United Way of Central Indiana’s Strategic Information team, first as a research associate and then as manager of research and evaluation, Purbasha Dasgupta resonates with that saying quite literally. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Dasgupta multiplied her education at both the bachelor and master’s degree levels, earning two graduate degrees in organic chemistry and public health.
“I’m a data nerd,” she humbly admitted.
Dasgupta found herself attracted to the research associate position she took back in 2016 with United Way when she realized the duties aligned with her background. Statistical analysis, creating reports, and pulling data from various sources for stakeholders were the core functions of the role, something she was familiar with during her time as a clinical researcher. But Dasgupta saw an even bigger opportunity with the network when she signed on.
“A big part of the job was being involved in the community,” she shared. “As a citizen of India and a current resident of Hamilton County, I didn’t know a lot about Indy until I started working at United Way – and this was a way for me to plug in.”
Her team and the organization would soon find out that Dasgupta didn’t just plug in – she quickly became one of the Strategic Information team’s most critical researchers, leading ongoing projects like mapping, organizational surveys, and most notably, United Way’s Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report. Dasgupta also serves as a liaison between Strategic Information and other teams to help them better understand how the data she collects can better tell United Way’s stories of impact.
“In Marion County, almost fifty percent of households with children fall below the ALICE income threshold, and most of these households are headed by people of color,” Dasgupta reports. “Data can be powerful, and my hope is to make people aware of the importance of statistics like these to show how it supports most of the work we do.”
When asked about what drives her to come into work every day, her answer, to no surprise, lies in the numbers and her fellow teammates.
“If I don’t get to work with data, I’ll go crazy,” she revealed to us in between laughter. “All the years of training I had leading up to this role is just one more way I get to help people. Even showing people what one dollar can do, statistically speaking, is impactful.”
Perhaps the most interesting facts about Dasgupta, however, are the furthest thing from quantitative. The Mumbai, India native looks for any opportunity to celebrate her heritage both at work and at home.
“One thing I do is celebrate each Indian festival that we have, just as I would in India,” she shared. “I am a Hindu by religion, and we visit the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana often. During Diwali, I bring in sweets for my team and on other days I bring them spices!”
In fact, when she isn’t immersed in arrays of spreadsheets, facts, and figures, Dasgupta is watching shows like The Office, going on walks, gardening, and cooking her favorite Indian dishes. “It’s important for me to disconnect after work,” she said. “When I go home, I get to stay in touch with my culture and language. I’m an entirely different person there.”
Numbers don’t lie. That’s why we thought Dasgupta’s story would be better summarized as an equation that all of us can learn from: stay true to your roots, follow your passion, and let good karma be your compass.
“At the end, what you do isn’t between you and anyone else,” she concluded. “It’s between you and your creator. When you do good, it comes back to you.”