The Santa Clara Convention Center played host to hundreds of people gathered for the IIT Bay Area meet on June 17th 2017. The prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology have been declared as institutions of national importance by the Government of India. First founded in 1951, there are currently 23 institutes in India. Since inception, the institutes have produced thought leaders, and research scholars who help shape today’s world.
The theme of the event was “From Engineers to Leaders,” and the list of distinguished speakers included leaders in the industry such as Arjun Malhotra, Rajat Gupta, Shail Kumar, Parag Agarwal, Abhay Bhushan and Deepak Chopra.
Talks ranged from India’s higher education opportunities to entrepreneurship, artificial intelligence, clean energy, and autonomous vehicles. Clean energy panelists discussed how clean energy could become a way of improving quality of life for people. Similar panel discussions involving autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, investment in frontier technology, etc showcased the different problem areas in which the alumni contribute.
Looking around at the meet, I could not help noticing the few number of women. It is a point that the P.R consultant, Divya Gupta, acknowledges and says that they do plan to ensure that more women alumni are invited to participate in the future.
The halls were full of professionals who lead teams, projects, and mentor people on a regular basis. I asked Rajat Gupta, the former head of McKinsey consulting, how each of the middle managers, architects and leaders there could help shape the tone of their teams to ensure good working cultures that fostered the best in people. He said that while some of that comes down to the top management setting the tone, it also places an obligation on individuals to challenge hierarchy, have an obligation to speak up, and set up a meritocratic tone to ensure that politics doesn’t dominate.
Several IIT-ians are gifted in areas other than engineering, and it was heartening to see a panel discussion on “Success Off The Beaten Track.” Some IIT alumni have gone on to pursue their passions in running, music, writing, social and environmental service. The panelists agreed that passions need not be restrained to one particular area and that contribution to society can and should happen along different aspects.
Hearing inspirational discussions and speeches have the potential to change people’s thinking. The ability to be able to step out of one’s day-to-day activities to gain the inestimable gift of perspective, kinship and leadership from one’s alumni is an excellent opportunity, and the IIT-ians have certainly done their part towards ensuring a good network.