A Team Member’s Mother Urgently Needed Blood. His Co-Workers Acted Fast.
Brandon Kaplan, Senior Technical Communications Manager
Naveen Nagaraja had accomplished more in nine months with Mini-Circuits than most do in their first year at a new company. The senior programmer based at the Urjita facility in Chennai was working with team members from sales and supply chain to automate manual processes in the ERP system that were leading to errors and burning precious time. He was also integral in a recent migration to the latest version of Mini-Circuits’ application for interfacing with the AS/400 database.
Earlier in his career, Naveen had worked as a team lead for a managed IT services firm and then at a multinational manufacturing and consulting conglomerate as an expert in AS/400 systems and applications. He worked briefly with Mini-Circuits’ director of enterprise applications, Hrishikesh Kotwal in 2016 as a consultant, but it wasn’t until 2022 that a full-tine opportunity at Mini-Circuits caught his attention.
“I saw the ad for an AS/400 programmer role at Mini-Circuits in Chennai, and I was surprised when I saw it,” he says. “I sent my resume to Hrishikesh right away.” Naveen’s impressive background and prior relationship with the company made him a winning candidate, so he moved to Chennai to start work in April.
It was head-down for several months, working late nights to collaborate with his counterparts in the U.S. and around the world on critical projects to improve Mini-Circuits’ infrastructure. He was a rising star in a new city, but the initial high didn’t last long. Around November that same year, his mother started experiencing severe abdominal pain. After treatment for more routine maladies didn’t bring relief, a biopsy came back confirming a colorectal cancer diagnosis. Imaging revealed that the disease had spread to her uterus, and aggressive surgical intervention was required before chemotherapy could begin.
Naveen Nagaraja (second from right) with his family.
A cancer diagnosis for a loved one sits at the top of the list of worst nightmares for most, and the strength it takes families to keep working and moving forward through illness is both onerous and heroic. Naveen and his family’s experience was especially traumatic, but fortunately their strength was bolstered by the extraordinary kindness of virtual strangers from their new community.
At around 11:00 a.m. on the day of the operation, Naveen and his family got word from the operating room that his mother had lost more blood than expected. Naveen, his sister and his brother-in-law had all donated blood that day to sustain her through the procedure. Now, they were told, they needed three more blood donors urgently if she was going to survive. Naveen and his family had moved their entire life only nine months ago to support his new career opportunity. All the friends he might have called for help only months ago were too far away now to arrive in time. In the heat of crisis, he could think of only one number to call.
“I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just called HR,” says Naveen. “I’d only been here nine months. I didn’t know what kind of policies or programs the company had, but I just told them, ‘This is the scenario. I need blood for my mom. Can you help?’ And they said they could.”
Naveen held the line while the HR team scrambled to coordinate a timely and effective response. In short order, they explained to Naveen that they had found three donors among the staff who were already on their way to the hospital.
“They came just in time,” Naveen remembers. “They arrived in a private car. I didn’t know who they were because they worked in a different area of the company, but they went in and had blood drawn. I wasn’t able to talk at the time, so I just said thank you. I asked if I could pay them for the car to and from the office, but they said the company had already taken care of it.”
The three donors and others who helped organized the response helped save Naveen’s mother’s life that day. Thankfully, she’s recovering well and getting ready for the next stage of her treatment. Looking back on the ordeal, Naveen finds the quickness of his co-workers’ and the company’s rally to his aid remarkable. “I’d never seen anything like this at any other company,” he says.
After the situation stabilized, Naveen wrote a thank you note to Guna Mandalap, Urjita’s general manager who established the facility with Mini-Circuits’ late founder, Harvey Kaylie in 1999, expressing his gratitude for the company’s support. Guna’s response was characteristically demure. “He said, ‘You don’t have to thank anyone. It has been our culture to support our people in this kind of situation.’”
Mini-Circuits’ core values stress the importance of nurturing a family environment at work, and the Urjita team has been a model of what that means, especially through the historic crises over the last few years. During the peak of COVID-19, the company arranged private rooms and meal service for members forced to quarantine. In 2015, when severe floods devastated the city of Chennai, the Urjita team organized a relief operation, venturing into the surrounding community to deliver food and care packages to those displaced from their homes. As traumatic as these experiences have been for so many, they have reinforced a special sense of loyalty and commitment to each other’s welfare among the co-workers at Urjita who went through it together.
From left to right: Sukumar Gopisetty, Alex Zaw, Naveen Nagaraja, Nilesh Patel, and Hrishikesh Kotwal.
Naveen continues to thrive in his career at Mini-Circuits while balancing his responsibilities to his family as they navigate their fight to beat cancer. Meanwhile, he’s discovered a new sense of kinship with the Mini-Circuits family and takes comfort knowing he’s in the right place. “I feel like I want to stay with Mini-Circuits whatever happens,” he says.