Shyamala Ramakrishna was born in New York to parents of Tamil heritage from India. Her mother and grandmother, both classical Carnatic musicians, taught her singing. By the age of four she was performing onstage at South Indian music festivals.
As an undergraduate at Yale College, Shyamala was a scholar in the selective Multidisciplinary Academic Program in Human Rights with a focus on arts and advocacy. She music directed Shades, a singing group that centers Black musical traditions and conducts vocal music workshops at underserved public schools around the United States. She worked in legal research at the American Civil Liberties Union and in arts administration at the Asian American Arts Alliance. Shyamala graduated cum laude with a degree in ethics, politics, & economics, an interest in the American labor movement, and concerts lined up in New York with her band.
After graduation, Shyamala worked in future of work policy as a fellow with the State of New Jersey, where she contributed to regulations addressing the discriminatory impacts of algorithmic hiring technology and co-proposed a system of portable benefits for vulnerable contingent workers. She also organized as a volunteer with Court Watch NYC and co-founded a national database of policy proposals to redirect police funding to critical community services. Her experiences informed a desire to prioritize grassroots labor movements and people-led economic justice struggle as critical to all forms of social change.
At Yale Law School, Shyamala has supported attorneys enforcing workplace protections at the US Department of Labor and has helped to represent unions at the labor-side law firm Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP. She was awarded the 2023 Peggy Browning Fellowship in workers’ rights law. She also serves as a team lead in Yale’s Tech Accountability and Competition Project, working to address the social harms of big tech products and business models. Shyamala plans to dedicate her career to workers’ rights in the “future of work,” including supporting arts workers in their collective efforts to be valued fairly in the age of digital music distribution. She is still the lead vocalist in her band, FORAGER, selling out venues in New York City and beyond.