With a deep passion for the ever-changing world of business, technology and economics, Dilan Tank, a junior at Northville High School, spends his free time understanding how to make improvements within his community. Interested in new technological ventures to help the elderly, Tank co-founded technanagy.org, a website that supports senior citizens as they navigate the fast-paced world of computers. Tank is a young man to observe and will be, without a shadow of a doubt, the face of the next generation of entrepreneurs.
The Indian Scene: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Dilan Tank: I am currently a junior at Northville High School, am part of the Northville Rowing team and live with my mom and younger brother in the Stonewater neighborhood. I moved to Michigan from San Francisco when I was five years old and have lived here ever since. Though moving to Michigan was due to unfortunate circumstances (because my mom was battling cancer and because my parents got divorced), I feel so lucky to be part of this great Michigan Indian community where I’ve learned about my culture and the importance of giving back. I love anything to do with business, stocks and technology and spend much of my free time researching topics related to the economy and new technological developments. I really enjoy seeing the progress of technology and how as a society we are able to better ourselves and to help others through these improvements. The quality of life because of technology and business for all people constantly improves and it is fascinating to me. As an example, when I was 5 years old, we had large, clunky phones with no camera capabilities and separate flip cameras that produced low-quality images. Now we can take the high-quality photos and videos from our handheld smartphones and be able to share this with thousands of people with a click of a button. It is absolutely amazing to me!
IS: You started a program about nine months ago called “Tech for Senior Citizens.” Can you please describe what this is to the readers and tell them what inspired you to create this?
DT: This is a non-profit organization that I started in 2019 and strives to help all senior citizens find joy with technology. My Dada (grandfather) is now 84 years old and has lived in Michigan since 1957. He moved to Michigan from India when he was only 22 years old and attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he got his Ph.D. in Engineering. He and my Nani (Grandmother) were very active community members and were even part of the early founding group that started Bharatiya Family Services (now MAI Family Services). Since my Nani passed away 4 years ago, we have spent much more time with my Dada, going out to dinner, visiting him and joining him to the Gujarati Samaj and other Indian events in the community. During our visits, I noticed how much he struggled with technology. Some things would frustrate him, especially when new updates were pushed to his phone or when he couldn’t figure out why his settings were changed on his TV or his Wi-Fi. I also noticed he hardly used the amazing technology in his car because he just didn’t know how to use it to help make his life easier (lane assist, automatic cruise control, etc.) Seeing this inspired me to start Tech for Seniors so I could help all senior citizens in my area in a positive way.
I launched this organization under the name of “Tech for Senior Citizens” in the summer of 2019 but gained much more traction on the program in the past 6 weeks. I posted a NextDoor ad about my volunteer services and received some requests for help and a lot of positive feedback on the idea. Just recently, another group of people striving to also help senior citizens with their technology reached out to me with an offer to merge our two organizations to create one stronger, more impactful one. After analyzing the offer further, it was clear to me that it was a win-win situation and we have been working together ever since. We recently launched our new venture under a new name, “Tech-NANA-gy.” It brings technology, my Indian roots, my desire to help the elders in my community and my passion to learn about business together. Together, we are working on creating curriculum for senior citizens to teach them about a variety of important topics that we believe are the most common problems they will face in their everyday lives. The content includes password protection, learning how to use find my iPhone, how to clear storage, how not to get scammed, and much more. Our plan is to teach classes in local libraries and retirement homes. We are also working on creating a YouTube channel to allow seniors to view our tutorials from wherever they are.All of what we are doing is volunteer-based and all free.In many ways, I feel this has come full circle because my grandparents helped so many people in my community and now I feel I am on my way to do the same for the elders in my community.
IS: How does working with the elderly help you to value your youth? Do you have a deeper appreciation for them as a result? How?
DT: Working with the elderly has not only made me value my youth but it has helped me value my ancestry and my roots. I am inspired by stories I hear from the elders including immigration stories, stories about arranged marriages and about how they took care of all their siblings and cousins despite not having much money for themselves. Sometimes I think about the challenges I have faced in my life and I think about how those things compare to the hardships the elders faced when they were my age. I value the fact that I have much easier access to things they had to work so much harder for and it makes me appreciate them for what they have sacrificed so I can have what I have. I would say it makes me value education more because they put such a heavy emphasis on it and I strive to make them proud. Through my experiences with both my mom and Nani going through cancer, I know things can be taken away just as easily as they are given. It makes me more grateful for being able to grow up in America with so many more opportunities and resources than I would have had if my grandparents did not make the sacrifice to come to America.
IS: I know that many people out there would be so appreciative of a program such as this. How might this be accessible for people elsewhere, both nationally or internationally?
We are working on a YouTube channel to help expand our impact to seniors anywhere in the world. I know this could be a program that could reach many lonely elders in the community. I also hope to see elders using technology to stay more connected to each other and their families.
IS: With so many extracurriculars during your junior year and a challenging academic schedule, how do you juggle your time? What do you do to decompress from a chaotic and loud day?
DT: It never has really felt like I am juggling my time because most of the extracurricular activities I am involved with are activities that I enjoy participating in. If I really need to decompress though from an extremely chaotic and loud day, I just row. When rowing is in season, we have Saturday practices at 7:30 a.m. This is usually my preferred method of decompressing, because it is so refreshing being awake before everyone else and sitting in the middle of the lake. It is always so still and quiet which allows me to clear my mind and reset every week. I guess I’d say I am more of a morning person because I try to get as much done before I go to school and am not very good at studying late into the night (I like my sleep!).
IS: Another meaningful idea, which eventually turned into something more, was your ice cream business. What did you learn from that experience and has that encouraged you to consider business as a future career path?
DT: So, this is a funny story… when I was 9 years old, I told my Nani I wanted to start a lawnmowing business. She was mortified at the thought that her precious grandson could possibly hurt himself and did not trust that I was old enough to mow lawns for money. She researched and found a Good Humor ice cream truck and asked me and my brother if we were interested in selling ice cream instead. I honestly did not care what I was doing, I just remember being so excited that I was going to be able to start my own business. I remember the day we went to buy the ice cream freezer and I felt like this was going to be my way of earning millions of dollars one day! (Unfortunately, that was not the case.) The cool thing is that I ended up learning so many valuable lessons that are applicable to life and business. It taught me how to work with my younger brother, how to manage cash, and it sparked my passion in pursuing business as a career path.
The Indian Scene: Who or what inspires you?
DT: My Nani and Dada have always been my inspiration. They were completely opposite in personalities and I feel I learned so much from them. My Nani taught me to be strong minded and what it means to persevere even when things are not easy. She was diagnosed with a rare cancer and was given 6 months to live when I was 3 years old. She fought her disease with a positive attitude and cherished her time with us and she was my biggest fan. Even when she was so sick from chemotherapy, she would come to my band concerts and sports events. She tried every alternative treatment and she luckily survived for another 10 years. She passed away when I was 13 years old and I feel so happy that we got to know each other so well. My Dada has taught me how to make the best out of any situation even when things aren’t so easy. He has had many losses and hardships in his life and still he came to America and got his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and chose to focus on all of the good things about his life. He is very interested in the stock market also and has passed on many of his trading strategies to me. He is a proud Wolverine and I hope to walk in his footsteps one day and attend the University of Michigan. My grandparents are my biggest fans and I am theirs. My mom has also inspired me greatly. Even though she has had so much hardship in her life and has had to raise me and my brother by herself, I have seen her work so hard and jump through so many hurdles to make sure that my brother and I have everything that we need to succeed.
The Indian Scene: How do you stay active in the Indian community?
DT: When I was in middle school, I asked my mom why all the parties were adult-only events. She and some of her friends decided it was a good idea to start an organization to bring together the kids and the adults to celebrate events together. They started an organization called MIAA so that the young people in our community could get involved too. This was so awesome because they would plan bowling events and picnics and the yearly MIAA Diwali show. Every September to November, I would look forward to Sunday practices for Indian Bollywood dance class and Indian skit practice with our friends. It has taught me a lot about Indian culture but also a lot about being part of the Indian community.
IS: As an Indian teenager in this country, what would you say are the biggest struggles? Have you overcome them? How? What advice can you give to the teenagers reading this piece about staying true to themselves?
DT: Being an Indian in an American world can be challenging in some ways, but it is so much easier than what it was like when my grandparents and parents were younger. My Nani made sure that I knew my culture before she passed away. She taught me many bhajans and prayers and I learned a lot about our culture and about the philosophy of life. Some struggles I can relate to are mostly about feeling pressure to be like everyone else for the sake of what it looks like on the outside. My biggest piece of advice is stay true to yourself because at the end of the day, this life is yours. My mom dealt with a lot of struggles when she divorced and would say she felt different, but I have seen her pave her own path in a positive way. At the end of the day, I think it is important to be yourself and trust you will succeed if you do you.
IS: In your opinion, what is the most valuable aspect about being a part of the Indian community?
DT: Being a part of the Indian community has been so valuable to me. I have had the opportunity to engage with my Indian peers and learn from them. I love the social aspect of participating in events and being part of a bigger community. I also like seeing how people help each other in so many ways. My mom has taught me that if you can help others, do it. My grandparents showed me that even if you don’t have much, you have more than others.
Dilan’s Best List
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:Mint Chocolate Chip
Favorite Activity to do with Grandfather:I enjoy talking about the stock market with him. My grandfather has always been an avid follower of the stock market and has taught many of his successful strategies to me
Favorite Vacation:Palm Springs. Last Christmas, our entire family was able to go to Palm Springs and my grandfather values family.