Amit Dhar juggles multiple identities, but cultivated a world where each is valued

By Poornima Apte

Amit Dhar clearly remembers the day he received his green card in the mail after 13 long years. “I tore the envelope and looked at the card with a mix of disbelief and just relief,” says Amit, senior product and campaign marketing strategist at Dell Technologies.

That green card, proof of US permanent residency, was one tangible moment of celebration in a life spent navigating various identities—as a South Asian immigrant, as a gay man, and as a legally blind individual.

Amit moved to the United States from India in 2005 to pursue graduate school in business administration. He has been with Dell Technologies for 15 years, with 11 roles in marketing. Amit started in digital marketing and e-commerce, which he describes as a “really fascinating world.”

“I have loved the mobility I have had,” Amit says of his years at Dell. He has moved from the digital ecommerce space and consumer product marketing for consumer to B2B roles with the customer relationship management team. Amit is now marketing lead for PC-as–a-Service at Dell.

Big city lights

Amit traces his roots to Jamshedpur, a small city in India, which should have felt safe for any child. But as a boy, Amit lacked the vocabulary to define his gay identity. He remained closed. Compounding the challenge was his slowly fading vision due to myopic degeneration: Amit went through the first of a series of retinal detachments in seventh grade.

“My identity as a person facing a future of blindness obliterated all my other identities,” says Amit, not without a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor. He remembers a childhood mostly consumed with trips to the city of Chennai, nearly a thousand miles away, home to the best medical eye care in the country.

My identity as a person facing a future of blindness obliterated all my other identities.

—Amit Dhar, senior product and campaign marketing strategist, Dell Technologies

By the time Amit graduated high school, he was convinced he needed to move to a big city, away from the stifling closeted life he had led. Cosmopolitan Mumbai, where his aunt lived, beckoned. Despite coming from a long line of technology professionals, Amit knew he was not cut out for science or engineering. A chemistry lab experiment gone awry in high school only confirmed his suspicions. Amit decided on the next “safe bet” to major in: economics and statistics. Familiar and comfortable with the Jesuit education environment as a child, Amit set his sights on Mumbai’s highly coveted undergraduate college: St. Xavier’s College.

But in the intensely competitive college admissions process, Amit did not score highly enough to qualify for St. Xavier’s. He decided to take the matter into his own hands and entered the principal’s office. Amit remembers requesting that the principal make room for him, a teenager with a vision disability who needed the institution’s environment to flourish.

“I still can’t believe I walked into his office as a 17-year-old from a small town and made my case,” Amit says. The appeal worked. And Amit did indeed flourish at St. Xavier’s. “It was a turning point for me,” Amit says. At college, Amit met young people who were driven and keenly interested in the arts and sciences. He tried on leadership roles as editor of the college magazine and never looked back.

A new identity

After graduation, Amit worked in human resources at a multinational in Mumbai but quickly realized the gendered corporate culture was not for him. “I felt that I was being mistreated for not being masculine in a way that society expected of me,” he wrote in an article on Medium.

Juggling his rapidly deteriorating vision—he could see only out of his left eye by then—with his identity as a gay man was getting challenging. While Amit’s parents know about his sexuality, he suspects they are uncomfortable with it and sometimes skirt the issue. In a way, they can wrap their minds around his blindness more easily, Amit says.

When he heard of friends applying to business schools in the US, Amit knew it was time to adopt an additional identity—immigrant—so he could be truly comfortable in his skin. He decided to study for his MBA at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Work at a technology company

Convinced that a technology company was not for someone with an education degree in tech, Amit was initially hesitant to apply for a position at Dell, but he is relieved he did. He was worried about moving to Texas with not much public transit to rely on. He had also heard of the state’s unsavory political reputation toward LGBTQIA+ people and was worried.

Despite the initial qualms about how his identities would play out in Round Rock, Amit chose an apartment within walking distance of work and the grocery store. Amit is responsible for the global marketing, market research, insights and thought leadership for PC-as-a-Service. “I grew to love technology; I love what it does,” Amit says.

Technology helps Amit do his work with tools like a screen reader that converts text or images into speech or Braille. Amit is part of TrueAbility and Pride, both employee resource groups at Dell. He is amazed by the strides toward inclusivity in the workplace, even in the past few years. Amit has come a long way for someone who did not bring up his vision disability during job interviews. These days, he brings his white cane to hands-on meetings and other company events and is delighted when leadership embraces all that he brings to the table.

I learned that we need to accept our physical frailties, not so much to be bound to them or feel constrained by them, but to understand them, how they can be accommodated, and what tools and processes we can use to remain productive.

—Amit Dhar, senior product and campaign marketing strategist, Dell Technologies

Embracing the cane though was a hard process for Amit, who worried that it would be a visible manifestation of his disability. There would be no sweeping it under the rug like he used to.

“Coming out as gay is one thing; coming out blind is another,” he says. He remembers a nerve-wracking session with a trainer, Lisa, learning how to use the cane after becoming legally blind in 2017. “Until that session with Lisa, I would often avoid the issue about turning blind. I’d dismiss it in my own head and ignore it when people casually brought it up.” But the cane taught him new lessons.

“I learned that we need to accept our physical frailties, not so much to be bound to them or feel constrained by them, but to understand them, how they can be accommodated, and what tools and processes we can use to remain productive.” The incident with the trainer launched Amit’s journey toward understanding how to adapt to a new life as a legally blind person.

Amit has not let his constrain identities who he is—he has traveled to 22 countries—and is now focusing on non-fiction writing after hours. His advice to others navigating similar battles: “Build a real community. Having an imagination is also important; you have to think of and build a world that is different from what you have been fed.”

And Amit has done exactly that.

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