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“What does it mean to be you with us?” - Radhika’s story

Senior Engineering Analyst, Enterprise Technology

Seeking and achieving the American Dream

Radhika Tandon, business casual portrait

I am a first-generation Indian American. My parents immigrated here in the early 1990s to prepare for a family and take advantage of opportunities in the U.S. —the chance to better provide for their future children including access to an excellent education system and a better lifestyle than found in India. And they accomplished that.

My parents first came to Wisconsin where they lived for a few years, and soon after moved to Minnesota and opened a convenience store, which they have run for more than 25 years. Instead of day care, my brother and I, who is three years older than I am, were daily fixtures at the store. It was fun. It was nice to be with them throughout the day; their hard work ethic was a good influence on us. I remember as a kid I would greet the customers, help stock the products and even play in the large freezer in the back. Although our beginnings were very humble, it was truly a family business in every sense of the word.

Our family speaks Hindi at home. My parents didn’t speak good English at first, and I didn’t have a formal education in English until kindergarten. Learning a new language and trying to be part of a community with such different cultural influences was challenging. I didn't always understand things at school because of the language barrier. I remember being a very quiet and shy kid. I think there might have been the perception that I would fall behind in school because of this, but I caught up eventually.

By middle school, I was much more comfortable in my environment and my English was much better. As often happens in immigrant families, thanks to our English language instruction from school, soon my brother and I became translators for my parents with official documents and things like that. As young as we were, we felt we had a very important role in the family.

My parents were very proud of us and encouraged us in everything we did. Despite challenges early on such as finances, language issues and culture, we were a very happy, stable family.

Hard work during high school and college pays off

In high school, I learned that the legal working age in Minnesota is 14, so I started working at my local grocery store to earn money for college so as not to burden my parents. I didn’t know much about the college process here but did know that I wanted to get a degree and that it was going to be very expensive.

My job at the grocery store was hard work. I was up at 6 a.m. on the weekends bagging groceries and then had to study after my shift. I also helped at my parent’s convenience store whenever possible. Being a young teen and doing all of this was tiring, but it taught me how to juggle multiple things at once. These lessons help me out even today.

I went to Augsburg University here in Minnesota for my undergraduate degree. I don’t think I got the typical “fun” college experience as I took the opportunity to go to college very seriously, too seriously now that I look back. I felt the pressure of being the first generation in my family to get a formal education. My parents don’t have degrees, and I was not going to let them down.

I spent most of my college days studying in the library. I spent my free time working as a mentor for underclassmen or doing my internships year-round in an effort to help my family financially. I graduated with a computer science degree and made my family and extended community very proud. Currently, I am pursuing my MBA to learn more about the business world.

Radhika Tandon, traditional Hindu dress

Celebrating her heritage and unique self

When I was younger, I remember trying to be a little more “American” to fit in with the other kids in school. I even went as far as dying my naturally black hair blonde to look more like my peers. During college, I learned how to balance my cultures, finally embrace them both and see my cultural differences as a good thing. You meet so many people from different places, and it broadens your perspective on things about yourself. Talking with people from different walks of life allows you to be more comfortable sharing your own culture and learning to be more comfortable in it.

I’ve always seen a future for myself as an engineer in some capacity; however, it wasn’t until my internship at NASA as a Graphical User Interface Developer (GUI) that I was certain I wanted to stay in this field.

I joined Securian Financial in late 2022. In my role as an engineering analyst, I write code to help the company control where our data files are sent. We get information from different sources, and we take those files and securely process them.

There are many pros to being in the engineering field. It is a secure job that lets me use my brain to problem-solve, and it also requires a lot of creativity. You must be creative when problem-solving and even artistic when designing websites or applications, which I really enjoy.

As an Indian American working here, I have found great acceptance for my cultural richness, and I find it increasingly comfortable to talk about special features of my heritage. For example, I got married recently and one cultural tradition is for the bride to wear a red dress, not the traditional white that most American women wear. I thought I would get some raised eyebrows about this. However, when I talk about these differences, it has always been received with positivity, which is really nice to see. Here I feel I can express this other part of me.

My husband’s parents are also from India. He was born here as I was and so we just connected really well. It’s special that we can both navigate our Indian identities and life together.

“Diversity at work means learning from people from all walks of life and backgrounds and everyone having an equal place at the table.”

Radhika Tandon

Radhika tandon, bio photo 0368

Securian Financial supports and celebrates diversity

Securian allows me to take time off to observe Indian holidays with my family. This has been a benefit I appreciate greatly! This flexibility extends to a hybrid schedule, with time to work comfortably from home three days a week.

I have never felt limited or isolated as a female engineer or employee at Securian. In my experience, the company looks for ways to provide exposure to different interests or continuing education for your position. It seems that everyone is on the same footing regarding opportunities for women or culturally diverse people to grow within the company. If you voice an interest in something, the prospect is always on the table for discussion and action where possible.

I am on the leadership team of the Securian Young Professionals Network (SYPN) Associate Resource Group (ARG). This group focuses on career advice, networking, and adjusting to the corporate culture. SYPN often partners with other ARGs on events and programming, such as the Securian Women and Allies Network (SWAN) and the Securian Multicultural Network (SMN). I joined SYPN’s leadership team in the hope of making an impact and broadening consideration for issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI.)

My team is also comprised of young professionals, which makes my relationships with them very easy to navigate. It’s good to have a manager and team that has been in your position and understands what your work life is like.

I think diversity in the workplace is important because the world is diverse. If we are serving diverse customers, it only makes sense that the solutions should be from a diverse workplace too. Diversity at work means learning from people from all walks of life and backgrounds and everyone having an equal place at the table.

I wanted to share my story so that others who have had experiences like mine—being of a different culture in addition to being American and not being completely comfortable with that—could realize that things work out and coming from a different culture is actually a good thing and should be celebrated. 

Since I’ve been here, in my current position and considering what the future might hold, I would have to say, ‘So far, so good!’ Securian is everything I could want in a company right now.

Be you. With us.

At Securian Financial, we want all our associates – current and future – to bring us their ideas, their passion and their most authentic selves.

Build your career here!

Radhika Tandon is a Securian Financial employee and therefore has a financial connection to Securian Financial. Her statement was given freely.

DOFU 12-2023