Arvind Ramanathan joined CEC in 1996 and passed out in 2000. He had a great time at college and became the Arts Secretary. He further pursued an MS degree at UT Arlington and an MBA degree from the prestigious Kellogg School of Management. He is currently the Director of Application Development and Infrastructure at a Healthcare Organization in the United States. Below is an interview with him conducted by Kiran Chandramohan (CEC 2003):
1) Could you tell a few things about yourself?
I was born and raised in New Delhi and joined CEC in 1996. Our batch completed the full enrollment at CEC. I love traveling, sports, writing and I am a consummate foodie. My girth should be a testament to the last point. I’ve been in the IT industry for about 14 years now and currently work for a health care organization- American College of Chest Medicine in a senior technology leadership role.
2) When you joined CEC in 1996 the first batch had not yet passed out. Why did you think that CEC will be a good college for you?
I was a little apprehensive when I first walked into the CEC campus in 1996. The flashy college building of today was not around then and construction of the first phase had just begun. The college operated out of the pre-existing school building rows. My fears and apprehension were washed away after we spoke with the Principal(Dr.KGB sir), Prof.Sridhar Sir(HOD computer engg), few other lecturers and my seniors. The administration and willingness have always been strong points with CEC. It has been a fantastic experience.
3) College life seems to have been great for you. You were the Arts Secretary.
I totally enjoyed the experience at CEC. Coming over to Chengannur after living all your life in Delhi is definitely a life changing experience. Perspectives and thoughts change with environment and I am no exception. I came from a non Malayalam speaking household and learnt the language and the local culture thanks to my friends. I also got a first hand experience at student leadership as the arts secretary at CEC. The fact that almost everything is student led and has the blessing and participation of the college leadership and faculty is truly a positive at CEC. My friends and I still remember our arts festivals and other cultural events at CEC fondly and I still retain the nickname I was given by my buddies. Sorry can’t be shared here 🙂
4) You joined Servion Global Solutions after you passed out. How did you find your first job?
I did my final semester project at Servion. Our team had done a good job with the project and our liaison at Servion asked us to reach back once we were done with college if we were looking for jobs. Post CEC I approached Servion for a position and got hired.
5) Why did you then decide to go for higher studies in the United States? Did you think of other options in Europe/India? Were you a studious person in college?
I was never a studious person any time in my life truth be told. I had tonnes of fun at CEC and studied whenever the exams were around!! Lot of my learning and understanding of software design paradigms and languages actually happened outside of CEC and on the job at Servion. It is one thing to study and write exams on data structures and database schemes and entirely another to actually implement them on live production environments that impact customers, revenue and business. I felt my understanding of computer science was fledging and decided to improve my skill sets if I wanted to succeed as a software engineer anywhere. My brother was already in the US at the time finishing up his Masters so I did not consider any other option at the time.
6) How was the MS course in University of Texas at Arlington?
UT Arlington has a good engineering program with a wide array of research and multi-disciplinary options for those interested in it. The MS course allows a lot of flexibility in terms of what you want to pursue. New content and classes are added based on what’s happening in the industry.The professors at the school are thought leaders in their field and collaborate with industry on different studies.Since UTA is in the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth technology corridor it provides for a lot of interaction, incubation, concept studies and technology collaboration with top telecom and technology firms in the area.
7) How did you fund your studies there?
I funded the first semester with my own resources and worked with my prof at UTA on research topics and ended up securing a teaching assistantship for the rest of my education. This paid for the education and provided me a living expenses stipend.
8) You worked at multiple places in the US after your graduation. How is work life in the US?
A lot of focus is on process and respecting personal and professional boundaries. Most organizations I have worked for expect staff to take on responsibility and be accountable for their actions and decisions. The work culture in most places I worked for was relaxed and engaging.
9) And then you decided to do an MBA.
Yes. I was taking on roles that required a lot of interaction with different business groups and customers and required taking strategic decisions and determining ROI and the economics of a decision. This was something I was not equipped to do and decided to immerse myself in understanding strategy, finance and marketing from an economics purview.
10) Kellogg is a top B-School. How did you secure an admit?
I am based out of Chicago and Chicago is home to two of the top b-schools in the world. The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Booth school of business at the University of Chicago are pioneers in management education. Admits are competitive and selective. Admissions to both schools require high GMAT scores, evidence of good academic credentials in undergrad and grad(if any), work experience, extra curriculars, strong recommendation letters, good interviews and most crucially- unique and very strong essays that uniquely portray you and provide a vivid insight to your personality and thought process. Since I didn’t have exceptional academic scores in CEC compared to my peers(71%), I knew I had to score high in the GMAT to be even considered and prepared for about 4 months and was able to secure a high score. Lot of work went into the essays with multiple revisions. This is the toughest part of the admissions process IMHO and my advice to fellow CECians considering this route is to focus on the essays as much or more than the GMAT. I had admits from Booth and Kellogg and finally chose Kellogg because it was a much better fit for me.
11) How was the MBA experience?
The MBA at Kellogg is very intense and fun experience. The school admits students from different professional, linguistic and national backgrounds. My class had students from all over the world and with artists, musicians, finance, accountants, bankers, marketers, engineers, doctors, military people as classmates, you learn not only from the professors but also each other. The program is incredibly flexible and quant oriented and you can choose what you want to study and focus on. As with most programs, classes are very dynamic and interactive and provide safe environments where you are encouraged to participate, make mistakes and work in teams to learn. The school provides plenty of experiential and case based training with real world simulations. There are also multiple clubs and activities to engage and network with and has a strong alumni network you can tap into.
12) What are you working on now ? What plans for the future?
I currently work as Director of Application Development & Infrastructure at the American College of Chest Physicians and lead the department in implementing solutions for the organization. Going forward, I would like to remain in the technology management field.
13) Now, many people have this dilemma on what to do after B.Tech, MBA or MS/Mtech. But you have done both ! What will be your advice to current students or a CEC Alumnus facing this situation?
I think there are no right or wrong answers on what one should focus on. It depends entirely on interests and situations one is in. See where you are and what would help you move forward in your career. I don’t think one needs to be swayed with opinions and decisions of friends, colleagues and peers. Ask yourself why you need an MS or an MBA and be honest to yourself. My advice is you do not need to be exceptional or brilliant in order to do things. Just have the right reasons why you want to an MS/MTech or MBA. Initiative is key to success and once you make a decision, follow through and don’t look back.
14) What fond memories do you have about life in CEC? Did it play a role in your further life, career and higher education?
I have lots of fond memories of my life @ CEC. Too many to list but nonetheless the best years of my life. CEC provides a great environment for personality development. It is a tightly knit community of students and staff where every one pretty much knows everyone’s names. I have been to two other educational institutions after CEC and did not see such close interaction and camaraderie.
15) Anything more to share?
Best wishes to everyone and please feel free to reach out at my Gmail ID: Arvind.Ramanath