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The theme of IIT alumni transforming the world through technology is a fitting one for the Pan IIT Conference to be held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, July 5-8. The conference will “showcase the impact of the IITs and its alumni, in driving innovation, creating new enterprises, and enabling social transformation,” says Sanjiv Sahay, conference chair and CEO of Zirana.com. The presence of keynote speakers such as Senator Hillary Clinton, GE CEO Jeff Immelt, and Vodafone CEO, Arun Sarin is testimony to the impact of IIT alumni. Other luminary speakers will include Nobel Laureate, Arno Penzias, Robert Birgeaneau, Chancellor, UC Berkeley, William Brody, President, Johns Hopkins University, Jared Cohon, President, Carenegie Mellon Unvierstiy, and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. These experts drawn from science, technology, political, academic, and social realms will “explore the frontiers of new thought, and identify the big forces and trends that are yet to come,” says Sahay.
The Indian Institutes of Technology, or IITs, are a group of seven autonomous engineering and technology institutes declared as institutes of national importance by the Government of India. Collectively, they are regarded amongst the leading educational institutes in the world. The IITs were showcased on 60 Minutes in 2003, when the first Pan IIT conference was held in California, with Bill Gates as the chief keynote speaker. Pan IIT-USA is an umbrella entity representing the alumni organizations for all the IITs, with a stated goal of building the IIT brand, enabling alumni networking, and giving back to the IIT’s and India more broadly. The annual conference venue now rotates between India and America.
The IIT community has been at the forefront of creating impact in the business world, and this is driven home by alumni panelists like McKinsey’s Rajat Gupta, Desh Deshpande, CEO, Sycamore, and entrepreneur and philanthropist, Kanwal Rekhi. Contributions of women in the IITs will be the special focus on the first day, July 5. “Despite women graduates being among the minority in the IITs, they have made important contributions,” says Rahul Bhargava, a conference organizer and Director at PayPal. “Day Two of the conference is focused on alumni interactions with batch reunions and fun events for spouses,” says Sachin Maheshwari, a conference organizer. Attendees are traveling from all over the world and conference organizers recommend locking down travel plans to avoid disappointment. Attendees like Milind Dange, class of 1983, IIT, Bombay, now CEO of Optimal Manufacturing in Florida, are, “looking forward to getting reenergized and inspired from hearing the speakers and the success stories, and to renewing old bonds face to face, that is otherwise difficult due to geographical distances.”
This year, almost 4000 attendees with the majority of them being IIT alumni and spouses, will get together “to celebrate successes and accomplishments, renew bonds with fellow alumni, faculty and their families, and make new connections,” said Bhargava. However, said Bhargava, “we do not wish to be exclusive, and the conference is open to non IITians as well, who will also enjoy networking with like-minded people who share similar interests.”
Lest anyone assume that it will be all work and no play, after busy days filled with listening to keynote speeches, panelists, and professional networking, attendees will “get to kick back and relax in IIT hostel-style while reconnecting with others. They will also enjoy excellent entertainment in the evenings. Stand-up comedy, with a live DJ will entertain guests on Friday, while esteemed classical music artists will perform on Saturday evening,” said Sahay. For registration, www.iit2007.org
Thursday July 5-Sunday July 8. Santa Clara Convention Centre, 5001 Great America Pkwy., Santa Clara. www.iit2007.org