Saturday, 25 July 2015

Interviewed: Mr. Sashikant Mohanty

By: Aayushi Jajodia
AJ: From starting in Indian Oil as the Sales manager, to now being The Oracle Practice head of Asia Pacific and Japan, you have come a long way, passing through the likes of Oracle, Accenture, General Electirc, KPMG, Capagemini, and finally Hewlett Packard; Many would term your career so far as being “extravagant”! How do you view your achievements yourself? 

SM - I have taken a day at a time. I never knew I would work for such illustrious organizations along the way. I am glad they trusted me to the jobs. My clear focus was to do excel in what I do. My learnings - if I can share with the current students, would be - there is no dream job. You must love the job you do. That’s the only way you can given 100% to it. The second lesson is don’t get into a comfort zone. The moment you realize that challenge yourself with new milestones. Three, be true and honest to the core: don’t shy away from responsibilities. Look for opportunities to contribute over and above the expectations of the job. Start questioning - what you are doing, how your work adds up to the whole and how you can help in making a larger impact. As you do all these be considerate with fellow colleagues who may not be as privileged to get the opportunities. The humility pays off big time. Also, try and figure out how you can make an impact to others’ lives. The best lessons you get are the ones you get outside the classrooms! Lastly, I turned an entrepreneur quiting a highly paying an respectable job with a Fortune 500 company - Indian Oil Corporation. That, to me, is the boldest decision I could have taken in life. Industry has a passion for leaders and practitioner with an entrepreneurial zest, an unrelenting appetite to perform and one who’s dealt with failure along the way. I encourage students to be fearless of failure and be prepared to learn from it.

AJ: You completed your B.Tech in Mechanical engineering from the C.E.T. BBSR. What role has C.E.T. played in your achievements

SM - When I entered the portals of CET, it was a college without a campus of its own. We had limited resources - accessing a shared library owned by OUAT and many of our professors being visiting faculty. These were a perceived setback. For me, these were the best advantages of being in CET. We had the privilege to get an industry view through our visiting faculty, besides the best permanent professors which I still owe a lot of what I am today. CET provided a platform to challenge ourselves, early in life and deal with uncertainties with a smile. In work life you don’t get all resources that you’d need to solve a particular situation: you have to be prepared for such circumstances and then use available resources to be competitive. So, you must know how to convert an adversity into a challenge.

AJ: You were present at the Annual tech-fest held in the college last year. How much has the college changed, since the time when you were a student here? 

SM - Very much! When we studied, the only access we had to computers was in the lab which had order of 20 computers. While I can sound primitive by talking of the speeds of the computers, I will not. Most of the students have seen a smart phone, if not owned one. They have access to high speed laptops. Data is at their finger tips. They have tons of tools at their disposal. The access to such technology and devices have reduced, if not obviated, the inhibition to make themselves boundary-less, and cross-disciplinary. The students of CET have access to almost 100 permanent faculty members who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience. Many people have become enterprising enough to plan for their Masters and Research or even prepare for entrepreneurial careers. This is a paradigm shift from our times. The students of present day CET have arrived on the global scene!

AJ: What more changes are needed to be incorporated for the betterment of the college? 

SM - Industry is changing at an unbelievable pace. As part of the industry for almost two decades, I can vouch that the industry expects people to be specialized with broadbased understanding of the business, customers, and the eco-system. I would urge students to develop an area of expertise, and also gather a view of the surrounding eco-system. Nothing can substitute the need to develop depth in their respective curriculum. However it is both necessary and critical to try and take up some initiative, project, seminars etc which provides them an additional differentiator. A strong vehicle to achieve this would be a stronger industry academic interlock. Avail of as many opportunities to hear from industry leaders, follow case studies etc to broaden your outlook.

AJ: How was your student life, back here during your college days? We are curious about the Student activities, faculties, fests and more! 

SM - I am unashamed to admit we lived in a simple world. The extra-curricular activities were limited. There was a significantly large portion of our time spent in face time. Life did exist before mobiles, internet, etc! While the class size was less than 150, we knew each classmate not just by his name, but most of us would have visited their place on holidays or otherwise, at least once. Not just classmates, we would also know practically every other soul on campus - be it seniors/ juniors, non-teaching staff, right to the meek dog! Many of us still cherish the “Anna” shop that would sell sweets in Ganganagar or other neighboring shops. XTASY was a BIG event in town, not just for CET but for rest of the colleges in Bhubaneswar and peer Engineering colleges - there were just 4 - REC (now, NIT), UCE, IGIT, and OEM. The picnics were party time with a lot of preparation. The biggest student activism was witnessed during the elections and people would wear their loyalties on sleeves. The best part was that we enjoyed a thorough bonding and lived every moment of the time we spent on campus!

AJ: You even deliver guest lectures at top B-schools in the country. Being able to come such a long way, what would your advice for young engineers passing from the college be? Should we pursue higher studies, such as M.Tech or MBA? Or should we focus on campus placements, and work in that direction? 

SM - You should do what you’re driven by. But once decided excel in it. For that you need to identify your calling. This requires you to engage more with people across professions. The beauty is that as an institution 34 years old, we have alumni cutting across the professions. Leverage the vibrant alumni body. At the expense of using an adage - if opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.

AJ. The Placement Cell of the college has been in touch with you regularly and has also consistently got important insights. Talking of which, do you think the college lacks sufficient infrastructure for placement facilities? What more should be done to attract more recruiters?

SM - I interact with many students and faculty of many different institutions. I don’t think we lack either, while we might have a room for improvement. IIT Kharagpur is located 140 k from the nearest airport. NIT Rourkela is located at likewise distance from nearest airport, and isn’t even served by the fast trains. Their infrastructure challenges hasn’t limited their placements. What industry would like to know is the quality of talent, the research content, differentiators. While one of my host students explained infrastructure as a setback, I had asked if they ever explored a placement week with a theme. Oracle Corporation holds their annual partner/ client event in San Fransisco downtown where the available hotels and amphitheaters isn’t sufficient to hold conferences. “Oracle Open World” often has contingents run out of shamianas. Why can’t we? Aren’t there enough community halls with 1000 seaters which can be availed on rent for a week? You need to think out of box. The placement brochure needed a makeover. There are some changes in the current version: I’d expect more. There is need for benchmarking.

AJ: You support causes such as “Children”, “Education”, and “Social Services”. You have even done some volunteering work with Oracle Volunteers. Would you like to share some of that experience with us? Also, are you particularly passionate about helping the lesser privileged of the society? 

SM - We should never forget we are all social beings. Less or more is very relative. If everyone helps the other imagine how different a world we would have to ourselves. We all have our share of successes, and stresses too. The time you spend with a less privieged person, is the most humbling experience. It reminds you how people smile and live with much lesser. I recall a birthday I had spent with a bunch of children of different ages. They were different. They were differently abled in being developmentally challenged. They could hardly express themselves. We broke ice with breakfast which went through with little to no interaction. As we boarded the for Bannerghata zoo the students were curious and their teachers were attending to their questions patiently. As we were returning visibly tired, and it was time to bid farewell, one boy exclaimed “Mama!” It made my day.

AJ: You have a front runner in building the brand name of CET and always have led to create Alumni meet, like of Alumni meet-Bangalore 2014. Why do you think a reputed college should have a strong Alumni association? And how do CETians fare in this regard? 

SM - An institute is often as good as its students. If you checked the successful applicants for MBA  in the premier universities, a key criteria is the ability to network. With the kind of deep and broad experience, a strong and vibrant alumni network makes a solid base to build on. The difference between two colleges at competitive levels is branding. You can’t do effective branding without strong bonding. For an institute of CET’s legacy and stature, hence there is a dire need for making the strong alumni body even more dynamic and vibrant.

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