Neil Pradhan: ‘There is less of a hierarchy in American workplaces’


Neil Pradhan, working in the U.S. on an H-1B guest worker visa, is a user experience contractor currently working with the D.C. government to design a webpage for Affordable Care Act insurance. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)
September 1, 2013

Neil Pradhan, 28, user experience consultant, Infomatics.

I grew up in Mumbai. I was always interested in computers, so I did my bachelor’s in information technology. Then I came across the field of user experience for Web and mobile applications. It’s obviously technical. But it also involves aesthetics and psychology. I talk with the users and I try to understand their mental model so we have a Web site designed in a way that makes the content easy to find.

In India, the field of human-computer interaction is still very new. There isn’t much research going on. I found a lot of different programs for it at American universities. I went to Georgia Tech and I graduated with a master’s in 2009.

It was kind of difficult to get a job. I was on a student visa. To work in the United States, I need a work permit, an H-1B work visa. If a company doesn’t find a U.S. citizen for that particular job, then a company will sponsor the work visa. I got a lot of calls from different recruiters. But they didn’t want to go through the hassle of the paperwork. It took me about three months to find [my first] job.

About six months ago, I joined Infomatics Corp. Right now I’m working on a project at D.C. government. Under the Affordable Care Act, D.C. is coming up with its own health insurance exchange. I’m trying to make a good design so when people go online to register for health insurance, the screens will be easy to use.

I did find one thing different from India, that’s really nice. There is less of a hierarchy in American workplaces. In India, most of the time, people will just follow whatever the manager is saying. In the U.S., obviously you will take directions from the manager. But you can still have a debate in terms of having a rational approach to thinking.

In my previous job, we had a team of 12 to 15 people, many different nationalities. They were from Russia; someone was from the United Kingdom. I read in papers the things people say about immigration reform. Fortunately, I haven’t faced anything like that. Everyone has been really nice.

Carol Morello

Carol Morello is the diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the State Department.
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