In the latest episode of our ASAP Mentorship Program, we learn that a common theme that has come out of this mentorship pair’s discussions is the need for creative, out of the box thinking for solving complex problems. Vidya Balasubramanyam (Mentee) is a NOAA Coastal Management Fellow working in New Hampshire’s coastal communities. She leads the Smart Shorelines project to inform the siting and socialization of living shorelines in New Hampshire. Josh Foster (Mentor) is an adaptation consultant and active ASAP Board Member who has over 25 years of experience working on climate change science, policy, and adaptation in the federal and non-profit sectors.

A topic they explored was a complex negotiation issue Vidya was facing, which led to deeper discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion. They reflected on the fact that having a diverse workforce often means having difficult conversations and coming up with action items that are not always easy for both sides.

As a mentor, Josh drew on a range of his experiences — from living overseas in India, managing employees of Native American heritage and employees with disabilities, as well as receiving diversity and equity training. He said this really helped to talk through various solution scenarios with Vidya.

Vidya shared that “As a mentee, I learned how to be confident and that it is okay to ask for help when needed. The most important thing that I learned as a mentee is to be clear about what my ‘ask’ is. I was able to elicit a lot of valuable insights from Josh’s experiences by framing my question clearly after stating my problem. In this case, my question was:

“How can I overcome my imposter syndrome and look at this situation in a more positive way?

Josh emphasized to Vidya that her “blend of identities would present a valuable learning opportunity for her employers in creating and managing diversity in the workplace — comparable to other kinds of equity issues — a challenge she could frame as an opportunity.”

We’re so glad this mentorship pair was able find creative solutions by sharing their experiences and finding common ground!

An interesting fact they discovered about each other in this program is that they seem to share similar stories about animal companionship in dire situations! Vidya learned that Josh recently moved across the country from Oregon with his dog, and they fortunately survived a truck collision in Fort Collins, Colorado while traveling to DC. Josh learned that Vidya likes spending time with animals and made a new cat friend this past week. Unfortunately, the cat became ill and had to go the vet. It seems sudden decision-making in hard times is a hallmark of the adaptation professional, whether in personal or professional life!

Josh and his dog.

While Josh currently works as an adaptation consultant in the DC area, he was most recently the university program manager for the USGS Northwest Climate Science Center, and NOAA Climate Impacts Research Consortium, both at Oregon State University.  Previously, he managed the Urban Leaders Adaptation Initiative at the Center for Clean Air Policy in DC and was long time program manager for the Climate Change and Societal Interactions Team at the NOAA Climate Program Office in Maryland.

Vidya on a coastal excursion.

Vidya grew up in Bangalore, India where she earned her BSc in Environmental Science, Chemistry and Botany. She then moved to the United States, where she received her MS in Natural Resources and GIS from the University of Missouri. Vidya is driven by the need to develop and deploy the continuously evolving science of natural and nature-based features for the benefit of coastlines and people. Vidya is excited to announce that she will receive a scholarship to attend the Yale Sustainability Leadership Forum — an opportunity that Josh was able to share with her, and her experience in the ASAP Mentorship Program emboldened her to apply. Congratulations, Vidya!