York College grad, who came to America from India with little, is now a CEO
Anything is possible. That’s what Debabrata (Deba) Mukherjee’s ‘00 own experience has proven to him. More than 28 years ago, he moved from India to America with nothing, but a solid educational foundation. Today, he’s a CEO and the recipient of a York College of Pennsylvania Year of 50 Spartans award.
“Over the years, there were numerous people and organizations who helped me,” he says. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York offered him a full fellowship that brought him to the United States. After earning a PhD and Master’s in Chemical Engineering, he moved to Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, to work at Glatfelter, a leading global supplier of engineered materials.
But he wasn’t finished learning. He quickly realized he didn’t just want to be some employee; he wanted to be the one making the decisions. “I wanted to make sure my career was meaningful,” he says. That’s when he entered York College’s MBA program.
Putting in the work
Deba would work all day at Glatfelter, then head to the York College campus four nights a week. He wouldn’t get home until 9 p.m. His second year in the program, his wife, Anindita, gave birth to their son, adding caring for a newborn to the already crammed schedule. “It was a hectic time for us,” Deba remembers.
But he loved the program at York College. Looking back, he says it had a huge role to play in his career later on. The program helped him with his soft skills, and he was continually impressed with the quality of education he was getting. “That made the hardship of going to school at night more worthwhile,” he says, “because I was truly learning things I didn’t know.”
Becoming an American
Deba’s plan was to return to India once he’d received his education, but the opportunities he found in America encouraged him to stay. “I got hooked on the fact that I could do a lot here,” he says.
The opportunities in India at the time were more limited, he says. But education here meant the possibilities were wide open to allow him to have a meaningful career. So, in the early 2000s, he and his wife did what they never expected to do. During a ceremony at the York County Courthouse, they gave up their Indian citizenship and became naturalized United States citizens. They still visit India, but he says he’s never looked back on that decision. “This is my home,” he says.
Making a difference
Deba is now the President and CEO of Finch Paper LLC in upstate New York. It’s not so different from Spring Grove. “These mill towns depend on these mills,” he says. “The entire community depends on the earning power of the full-time manufacturing employee.”
His job is to make sure his business stays successful, to help his community and the people who live and work there thrive. “I think that work has meaning,” he says.
Becoming a CEO wasn’t a natural path for someone like Deba, but he continually pushed himself and pursued his goals to meet his dream. “The key there has been to put your hand up, to solve problems that others find difficult to solve,” he says. “As a result of stretching yourself, you learn more. After that, the rest is history.”
His advice to others? Work hard and pass it on.
“There are generations after us that will probably also struggle,” he says. “I think it’s important to lend them a helping hand to make sure they get the line of opportunity that I have been privileged to get.”