Giving back: Aakash Kambuj shares what it means to remember where you come from

Aakash Kambuj

For Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month (APIHM), we celebrate all of the rich culture, traditions, and history of Asians and Pacific Islanders. This year, our employee resource group Asians@ chose the theme Roots: Growing Your Story. This month’s theme is about “origins” — the idea that where we came from is part of what makes us who we are now. We spoke with Dropboxers about what this theme means to them.

Q: What is your name, what office do you work out of, and how long have you been at Dropbox?

A: My name is Aakash Kambuj. I work out of the Seattle office, and I’ve been at Dropbox since October 2013.

Q: What’s your current role in helping make the world work better?

A:I lead engineering for the teams building features that enable users to access their data in Dropbox easily. That includes the ability to upload files, browse folders, and search for files on Dropbox.com and in the mobile/desktop apps. At a high level, our goal is to get you to the right content as fast as possible, and then get out of the way so you can get your work done.

At the 2018 summer picnic

Q: In your time at Dropbox, what’s something you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of?

A: In 2017, I led an effort to make files and folders available on the Dropbox mobile apps even when the phone was offline and not connected to the internet. It solved a real problem for users who had a bad experience due to spotty network connectivity. It also helped drive revenue for Dropbox as it’s a feature only available on paid plans.

Q: What does this year’s theme, Roots: Growing Your Story, mean to you?

A: It means remembering where I came from — India, specifically Pune. It means keeping in touch with family who lives there and getting face time with them as much as I can. It means trying to keep up with traditions and culture from my formative years that are meaningful to me, despite it being harder to do so living here. It means combining the best of America and the best of India to achieve my full potential.

Left: Aakash with his dad Deepak; Right: Aakash’s parents Rajul and Deepak in Simla, India, in the 70s (his mom had fractured her leg, and it’s in a cast)

Q: Roots need nurture to grow; resources like water, soil, air, and sunlight are all necessary to stay healthy. What helps grow your roots?

A: Spending time with family — I am fortunate that my sister lives in Seattle as well. Also, good food and cultural traditions and understanding the “why” behind them. Trying to stay involved and support the local South Asian community, and giving back.

Growing up in Pune, India, Aakash with his sister Aditi

Q: Are there any Asian or Pacific Islander leaders or role models that you look up to? How have they shaped who you are today?

A: Growing up in India, I didn’t become interested in computers until about the 10th grade or so, partly because there was little to no exposure to home computing for the middle class in India back then. Before that, I always thought I would become a scientist of astrophysics and aerospace — reaching for the stars. I am fascinated by these fields. APJ Abdul Kalam (who was a prominent Indian scientist and went on to become president of India) was a role model for me.

Q: What topic do you feel is top of mind for you and the Asian community that you belong to and why?

A: I can’t speak for the Indian diaspora as a whole, because Indians in the tech industry are in a position of privilege. The topic that is top of mind for me with respect to my roots is: “How do I give back to the country of my birth?” And often, the answer that bubbles to the top for me is via education. Education unlocks opportunity, which leads to a better life for that person and their future generations. So what I’m trying to do is to sponsor the education of a few children in India every year, with the goal of setting them up for a brighter future.

Aakash with his wife and best friend Purva at the Capitol Hill street food festival

Q: And lastly, what are you most excited for with this year’s APIHM at Dropbox?

A: I’m excited to hear everyone’s backstories and, through that, celebrate the diversity of the API community at Dropbox. Many of us have settled in the United States, far away from the countries of our birth and our families. And even though we’re all different, this is something we have in common!

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