Ranjana Chandramouli was quite surprised to be a finalist for United Way of Central Indiana’s ELEVATE Volunteer of the Year award. In fact, she didn’t initially plan to be in the Hoosier state at all. Originally from Colorado, she came to Indiana for the engineering program at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. “I remember thinking, I am definitely leaving after school. But then I found Eli Lilly and fell in love with the company and its purpose. And now, I love the city more and more. People are so welcoming and willing to help one another, even if they don’t know you well. That has made it easy to stay here and get involved in the community.”
Her first volunteer experience? Tagging along with her Mom on all of her community service projects. This instilled an early love for lending a helping hand. “My mother gave me a lot of strength. Not only was she supportive of a STEM career, she also told me that what matters most is what I do for others.”
In her role at Eli Lilly, Chandramouli works as a process control engineer in a biosynthetic insulin purification plant. When she’s not working on life saving medicine, those early charitable lessons at home motivate her to invest in others whenever she can. Often times, this means connecting with young people to help them understand the possibilities in STEM careers – including judging at the local science fair, helping Girl Scouts design a Rube Goldberg machine to earn their engineering badge, and facilitating a day-long event for Indianapolis female students (8-13 years old) called ‘Wow! That’s Engineering.’
In her experience, many of the kids show up only because their parents force it. Chandramouli loves that moment when she can open minds and show how fun and engaging engineering can be. While she has worked on engineering programs with both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, she particularly relishes the time with girls. “While there are more women in the field now than ever before, there is still an imbalance. It’s so good for young girls to see women in these roles. This work continues with supporting women entering the field through The Women’s Engineering Network, a group Ranjana formerly chaired. The group helps acclimate women to their new roles and connects them to more seasoned female engineers.
Outside of the office Chandramouli volunteers preparing food with other young professionals in the evenings and Saturday mornings with Second Helpings. Of this work, Chandramouli said: “It’s a small thing I can do, and I get to see the direct impact. Through my young professional group at work, I also volunteer at the community centers where they send the food that I helped prep. It’s cool to see the full circle. And it has helped with my skills in the kitchen at home!”
One of her biggest pieces of advice for others? “Take risks, put in the effort, and don’t underestimate the impact you can have on the people around you.” We’re glad you’re out there doing just that, Ranjana. Congratulations on being named a finalist as Volunteer of the Year!