In honor of Asian Heritage Month, we’re featuring nonprofit leaders of Asian heritage and talking to them about their work and the importance of having representation in leadership positions. Today we speak to Jignesh Dalal, CEO of Vesta, Inc.
About Vesta, Inc
In 1981, Ashutosh (Aash) Vyas and Francis Frishberg founded Vesta to provide psychosocial services for the mentally ill. In the 1980s, a large number of people with mental illness were living in state institutions. Aash, an immigrant from India, wanted to give people a chance to be more independent.
Today, Vesta works to empower people to achieve self-determination and to enhance and enrich their lives in the community. Over the past 40 years, Vesta has grown to including housing and other services and serves over 2,000 people in Maryland.
Jignesh has been with Vesta almost since the beginning. He joined the organization in 1984 as a bookkeeper. He then became comptroller, then CFO and finally, CEO.
Unlike most people who come to this field from a mental health or social work background, Jignesh has a totally different skillset and background. A CPA, Jignesh has an MS in computer systems management. He feels his education and skillset have led him to focus on management practices and processes that in some ways, help Vesta run more like a for profit company.
Jignesh is always focused on learning and growth for both himself, and the organization.
About Asian Representation & Nonprofits
Jignesh believes that immigrants like himself are well-suited to nonprofit life and leadership positions. As he says, “for an immigrant, change management is an already developed strength.” He believes that in his early days he had a singular focus on success that is common with immigrants. He often worked 60-70 hours a week. In retrospect, he thinks focusing on balance would have been helpful. He also believes a better understanding, sooner, of American history and education would have been a benefit. About ten years ago, Jignesh began seriously studying the Civil Rights movement, and the African-American experience.
Asian immigrants and first and second-generation Americans of Asian descent have a strong tendency to work in STEM-related fields, and so nonprofits are not usually part of their career path. However, Jignesh believes, that as in his case, this background can be an asset to nonprofits. He also sees that his children, and other Asian-Americans of their generation feel less pressure to work in certain fields.
Jignesh sees his work as a labor of love. He has found his work with Vesta to be a rewarding journey.