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Techie combats hate in a world of racism
By Suneetha

Techies often migrate over seas and merge with the crowd in an effort to be a part of their adopted world. In the process, many forget their roots, and are hesitant to extent a helping hand to those who are in the same boat as they had been several years ago. But some go on to keep the flame of culture alive and care about the brethren that follow their foot steps.

Manjit Singh, is one such guy who has stood by the promise he made to himself to help others. His work in the US in defending the civil rights of Sikh Americans has been commendable. He runs an organization called the SALDEF and has spear-headed several initiatives to make the US administration and people in general more tolerant of and understand the Sikh religion more.

In 2007, SALDEF produced a law enforcement training video for the U.S. Department of Justice entitled On Common Ground.  This short training film has been screened to over 130,000 state and federal law enforcement officials and has been viewed by approximately 43,000 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners throughout the United States in connection with SALDEF's Law Enforcement Partnership Program.
 
Manjit is a computer engineer by training and profession and was with the IBM for a while where he designed a software program called Key Ring Organizer (KRO)--a client software application for digital certificate management. Multiple private keys and digital certificates are securely stored and managed in disk files, Smart Cards and PC Cards. The KRO can generate, store and select keys for use in signing of digital information or authenticating the end-user to a host of secure client/server applications.

Techgoss spoke to Manjit Singh and here is the conversation.


Techgoss (TG): Please tell us about your background as a techie and what you do at present
Manjit Singh (MS): I completed my Bachelor of Engineering, Computer from the University of Bombay in 1989. After completing my Bachelor’s, I worked as a Systems Engineer for sometime with International Data Machines (IDM) in Bombay. Then in late 1990, I came to the United States for further education. I received my Master’s Degree in Computer Science in 1992 from the State University of New York (SUNY) in Albany, New York. I started as a Systems Engineer for a telecom and have moved up through the various techie positions - Sr. Software Engineer, Team Lead, Project Lead, and Project Manager.

I currently work as a Program Manager for a consulting company based in the Washington DC suburb of Reston, Virginia.


TG: What is your background in social work?
MS: In 1996, me and a friend, Jaideep Singh jointly founded an organization called Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (SMART). SMART started no more than an idea which came out of several brainstorming sessions between me and Jaideep while we were members of “Khalsa Net”, the only Sikh e-mailing list network available in the early 90’s.  SMART has grown from being the first-ever organization that has constantly watched the media and played a key role in correcting any negative and wrong publications on Sikhism, to the largest national Sikh American civil rights organization. In Nov. 2004, the organization changed its name from SMART to Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) (www.saldef.org).


TG: Please tell us about SALDEF and what it has done for Sikhs abroad. What made you take this up? What difference has it made to your life as well as the lives of fellow Indians?
MS: SALDEF's mission is to defend the civil rights of Sikh Americans. SALDEF provides free legal aid to Sikh Americans whose civil rights have been denied or violated. For more info about SALDEF, I refer you to the following link

I started SMART due to my sense of giving back. I wanted to make a difference in people's lives, correct the injustices that people faced and serve in some capacity. I personally feel a sense of fulfillment through my work with SALDEF. I feel a sense of contentment and accomplishment.

SALDEF has had an immeasurable impact on the lives and socio economic fabric of Sikhs in the American Diaspora. It has also left an indelible mark on the American politic and society by increasing awareness about Sikh Americans, their proud history in the United States, their accomplishments and the challenges they face.


TG: What is your take on the racism issue that seems to hog the limelight in the press these days?
MS: Racism is a disease in American and all societies that manifests itself and emerges in society in some form or the other. And as humans, I feel it is the personal responsibility of each of us to fight against and be committed to eradicate racism in all forms from our society.


TG: What is the extent of racism in the tech world?
MS: There is less racism in the tech world, compared to in other industries. This is primarily due to the fact that there are large number of Indians, Chinese, and other nationalities form all parts of the world in the US tech/IT industry and more importantly they are significant contributors in the industry, both in terms of workers and entrepreneurs.

However, this does not mean that there is no racism in the tech world too, though it is mostly implicit. When a qualified and deserving non-white American in the US is denied a job or a promotion at work, it is very hard to know if it is racism or indeed they were not up to mark for the position. 


(6/26/2009)
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