Story by Blake Lubinski, Department of Communications and Community Outreach. Photos from Umakanth Raghupathy, business system software engineer, Office of Business Management Information Systems. Story idea by Barbara Burnopp, executive director, Office of Business Management Planning.
Umakanth “Uma” Raghupathy never thought he’d become a U.S. citizen – that is, not until he finally did a few short months ago.
Born in Tamil Nadu, a southern state in India, Raghupathy says he grew up during a time of great change for the country. In fact, as agriculture and a centralized economy gave way to industry and a free market, a flood of new technologies poured into India, leading Raghupathy to discover his passion: software engineering. For some time, Raghupathy pursued his new-found interest at home in Tamil Nadu; however, he ultimately decided to relocate to South Africa, where he served as an information technology (IT) team leader for the fire arms division of the nation’s police services.
“I specialized in a unique software that’s used in large and critical projects,” he says about his work in South Africa.
Raghupathy’s expertise not only earned him the position with South Africa’s police services but also opened the door to an opportunity for him to realize his long-held dream of moving to the United States. For his work with the fire arms division, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) offered him a stint with the International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation, and in March 2001, with his bags packed and passport stamped, Raghupathy landed in Atlanta, Georgia, ready to begin his new job – and his new life.
“Since the GCPS job offer and my dream to come to the United States aligned and fell in line, I immediately grabbed the opportunity,” he says.
When his stint with GCPS and IBM ended, Raghupathy came to Baltimore County Public Schools as a contractual software engineer for the Office of Student Data. From there, he moved to the Office of Third Party Billing as a system administrator and then to the Office of Human Resources as a business system software engineer, signing on with the latter as a full-time employee. Most recently, Raghupathy accepted a position as a business system software engineer for the Office of Business Management Information Systems.
But, while his jobs have changed frequently during the last 14 years, Raghupathy insists that one thing has remained constant: the support of BCPS.
“It isn’t me alone,” he says about his path to his current position. “It’s my entire BCPS family – 14 years of friendship with many employees across various departments at both the Timonium and Greenwood offices – that helped me by standing by me and guiding me in this endeavor.”
When it comes to his application for U.S. citizenship – a process including “hundreds of forms to fill,” for which “a single mistake could prove costly both in terms of time and money” – Raghupathy mentions that his BCPS family continued to play an integral part in his 15-year journey.
“I came here alone but, today, I have an entire BCPS family that supports me,” he says. “I am really blessed and honored to be a part of them. I am not sure how I am going to replay them.”
In the months since receiving his U.S. citizenship, Raghupathy explains that, for the first time, his life “has been the same,” as others “have continued to treat and respect me as one amongst them.” However, as he looks ahead, Raghupathy and his wife, Ranjani Thunga, a clerk in the BCPS Office of Digital Learning who also recently received her U.S. citizenship, foresee more change – at least as far as “giving back” goes.
“Over the next few years, my number one goal is to share what I have learned,” says Raghupathy. “I want to help so that others can trudge an easier path and have an even better life than I do.”
With any hope, he’ll do just that. From all of BCPS, congratulations, Raghupathy and Thunga!