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Words from Fellow Alumna – Purvi Patel '06
Megan Dung
 
Are you who you thought you would be when you were 18 years old? The tradition of writing “senior letters” to future selves started in the 1980s and continues to this day. The letters are intended to be distributed at each 10 year-reunion, but in these days of COVID-19 induced lockdowns and physical distancing, the Advancement Office decided to send out all senior letters found buried in the archives. Over 500 letters were mailed to Priory graduates around the world, and the response was incredible. The echo of joy and the resounding response of hope was inspiring to our St. Andrew’s community.
 
Priory graduate, Purvi Patel ’06, took the time to reflect on the words she wrote herself nearly 15 years ago and was kind enough to share with us. Thank you, Purvi, for sharing your heartfelt thoughts and reflections!
 
"I hope you're in New York City. I hope you're making it in the business world. Did you fall in love? I hope so." 
 

That’s how I started the letter I wrote to my future self 14 years ago at senior camp. I vividly remember sitting around with classmates as we scribbled dreams of who we would become. I truly believed I could do anything when I graduated from high school — the world was my oyster, the sky was the limit.

The road here was not easy, though.

After high school, I attended Bentley University, a business school in Boston, MA. Thanks to Bentley's location and broad network, and a lot of hard work, I was able to find internships at some pretty cool companies — one being a tech start-up where I worked on the product team. I definitely couldn’t predict that I would find myself in that type of role a decade later. At the time, the team was a group of male software engineers with MBAs. In fact, there were few people at that company who looked like me. I was fascinated by the work, but at the time, I didn’t think that was a space I would land in my career - especially with my degree. 

Despite my broad internship experience, I graduated with my degree in management with minors in marketing and finance, unsure of the work I wanted to pursue. This led me to spend most of my career figuring out what I really liked, leveraging my skills and experience to land new roles in a variety of industries that I felt passionate about along the way. 

Eventually, I hoped to make my younger self proud as a minority woman in business in New York City. In retrospect, it’s a good thing my younger self was vague about the job description.

I started my first job out of college as a Six Sigma analyst at a utility company in Boston. I worked in marketing at an e-commerce start-up in Cambridge, then as a revenue strategist at the same company. That e-commerce company promoted me to product manager, which brought me to New York City, where I paid a fortune to rent out a living room and call it my bedroom. 

I grew curious about the mobile development world — something I didn't have much experience in — so I left that gig to partner with a friend to run a web design agency. At this point, I finally upgraded my space and had a proper bedroom (with my own closet!). After a few years, I found my way back to a product position at TripAdvisor, where I was one of two women on a team of eight - but I still had the fascination with the role that I did when I was a 19-year-old intern. Currently, I'm working as the lead product manager at an NYC based start-up, AptDeco, where I make it a priority to empower females to speak up and let them know that they have a place in tech companies.

The above is how I might describe my work history to a hiring manager. But this version doesn't tell the whole story. 

I work in a white male-dominated industry where female leaders are uncommon. In almost every role, I found myself having to work ten times harder than my male counterparts to get to the same result. Additionally, my career isn’t sprinkled with errors. Rather, it’s covered in mistakes I’ve made over the years — but I’ve learned from those, and they have informed my behaviors as I moved forward. I’ve dealt with countless rejections from my “dream” companies, but I now see those as learning moments to prepare me for other “dream” roles.

Similar to my career, my high school years were covered in mistakes I was able to learn from and apply to my adult life. When I reflect on my time at the Priory, I feel lucky that I always felt empowered as a young woman. I’m glad I didn’t have too much exposure to a male-driven white classroom because I didn’t hesitate to speak up and ask questions. I learned that my voice and my classmates' voices were powerful. I knew that if I set my mind to something, I could do anything. The Priory (and RBG) taught me very early that “women belong in all places that decisions are being made.”

The last line of my letter read, "For everything that matters in life, you have to work for it. Grow up to be great."

To my younger self: 

We did.

P.S. It's important to note that I did fall in love with an incredible guy but more importantly, I fell in love with myself and this life.

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