Mosaic Stories

    Mohit Lala

    An explorer at his core, recent recipient of the highly desired H1B visa Mohit Lala describes his excitement for working in St. Louis as an R&D engineer in the start-up company Rezilient, advancing tele-robotics to provide top-rate medical care. Originally an immigrant from Mumbai on a student visa while studying electrical engineering at NYU, Lala finds a continual learning process to be what draws him to the mindset of the start-up world: “you learn a lot because whatever your title is you don’t just learn that one thing. You wear so many different hats that you learn so much more.” This passion for constant seeking and understanding of new things is the same quality that Lala has used to explore not just his career but the city he now calls home.

    Searching for further knowledge, Lala was certain he wanted a more advanced education. He first asked a family relative completing a PhD at Stanford for his advice about the opportunity and value of an American university education. Knowing that it was going to be a challenge, Lala researched different electrical engineering programs and found “the programs were lucrative and the opportunities seemed great compared to what was available in India at the time.” He submitted his applications and finally came to the United States to attain an M.S. in Electrical Engineering at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.

    Even before his graduation, Lala remarks he was determined to stay and work in the United States at least for the 3 years of his Optional Practical Training period post-grad: “I was really set on taking advantage of the OPT period I had and getting that experience in a work environment here. See how things work, see how people think, how people analyze different decisions and how different it is from what would’ve happened back at home. And it has been great so far.” Keeping a broad job scope following the recent political administration change and questionable policy directions, Lala maintained a calm attitude towards his employment search, recognizing that his unique background and experience would be an additional benefit to any work atmosphere: “That’s just the environment at the time, so I didn’t really stress about it. I just kept looking. Sure, because people or companies not knowing what the policies were going to be for sure, there was less hiring for international students, but I found a job.”

    Lala, eager and unafraid of asking questions, accepted a job offer after keeping in touch with the CEO of a different start-up in St. Louis called Strayos. Although the technical work did not align exactly with what he had studied at NYU and throughout his educational career, the thrill he feels working in the start-up sector away from larger corporate firms and his love for truly great innovative ideas are what pulled him to pack up his student life in New York and land in St. Louis in June of 2017 without any other contacts or resources beyond his coworkers. “Right from the airport I went to the office with all my luggage because I did not know anyone, had no connection or friend or anyone else that lived around here or had been here before, and so the only eyes I had in St. Louis was through GoogleMaps. I literally just showed up.” And Lala showed up fully. He remained open and ready to integrate into the start-up team and the community beyond. The first thing that Lala remembers noticing about St. Louis is the closeness and helpfulness of its community. This quality of a strong and concerned community, people going out of their way to help others, is what Lala admits has kept him here, helped him move to Rezilient and to apply for the H1B visa process.

    Lala joined Rezilient as an R&D Engineer in September of 2018, working with the whole team and handling electronics, embedded systems, programming, robotic systems and building the first prototypes of robotic avatars to assist doctors in executing physical exams from remote locations. Right away, the two founders of Rezilient Danish Nagda CEO and Jeff Gambles CTO were supportive of Lala’s request to be sponsored for specialized work in the United States. The team got in touch with St. Louis Mosaic Project who referred them to Diane Metzger, a lawyer in the St. Louis area at Tueth Keeney who focuses on business immigration needs including obtaining the H1B visa. Diane began the process of working through and preparing for the H1B visa application in January. After lots of review and dedication spent on all the details, Lala heard from the USCIS in May with the news that his case was received and selected in the lottery for approval.

    With the visa selection in hand, Lala is excited to continue his work at Rezilient. “What we are trying to do, the concept is amazing to me. It’s going to be beneficial for people who need the care, for physicians and for caregivers specifically because now they get to be a part of every appointment. It’s really improving or I should say redefining the tele-medicine technology that’s out there.” Lala is exceedingly proud of Rezilient’s goal and how he has come to play a part: learning from the many different experiences of others, executing the work he is passionate about, and helping people in the process.

    With such a supportive team and amazing opportunities to advance his life-long learning, Lala channels his inquisitive mind for engineering challenges into exploring the culture of St. Louis as well. Calling the city an “unexplored gold mine,” Lala defines St. Louis as packed with various opportunities and resources once you take a deep dive and look. Lala often looks to get involved and meet new people by going to popular local spots and activities outside his own neighborhood to really branch out. His best advice for anyone, whether new immigrant, new resident or recent graduate in St. Louis, is to look for something you enjoy doing and ask questions. “There are enough opportunities in St. Louis all you have to do is find them…you have to go out and explore, you really have to look for them to find them. But this is a great place to be in and a great place to work. What I’m trying to get at is that community that St. Louis has somehow formed by itself is amazing, where, if you know the community, they will be there for you, whatever you need.”

    By diving into the many networks that make up St. Louis, Lala has become a proud part of the community here. With the true mindset of an explorer, an evolving position on a start-up team in a ‘gold-mine’ city has turned out to be an unexpected yet optimal destination for Lala as he seeks to take on further learning challenges and adventure deeper into the community he has encountered in St. Louis. Without knowing much at all upon arrival, Lala admits that St. Louis has convinced him to stay here much longer than he originally anticipated. So, how can we find and create more connections between the native and foreign-born community in St. Louis? Lala advises that if both sides open up and begin really searching then they will discover the talent hidden in St. Louis for those who are determined enough to look beyond the surface. The key is simply getting to know the real community.

    “You’ll find the right people, you’ll find the right resources. All you have to do is ask and look for it.” 

    Interviewed and written by Julia Cogan