Tag Archives: Engineering

Eastern Dreams on Western Shores: Aditya Patwardhan

From Indian engineer to international filmmaker, Aditya Patwardhan is making a mark in Hollywood and we need to keep an eye out for him. Aditya is rare – his filmmaking combines aspects of engineering, music, cinematography, and multilingualism. 

Relocating from India to LA to pursue his passion, Patwardhan has worked on a multitude of projects, from documentaries to series pilots and shorts; some of his works included Kiski Kahani (music director), Red House by the Crossroads (director), Red Souls (director) and are in international markets including in the US, India, Baltic and Eastern European countries, and South America. 

Though it may seem that the skills between the two careers are non transferable, the Indian diaspora might disagree. Indian culture is entrenched in the arts and it can be traced back to one of the first comprehensive books on performing arts, Natya Shastra (NS), written in 200 BCE by Bharat Muni. Far beyond the theatrics, the NS is ingrained in almost every aspect of Indian society. It has influenced Indian sculpture, architecture, painting, poetry, day-to-day normal conversation, forming the connection between Indian mathematics and music. So when Aditya felt drawn towards filmmaking, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. 

Aditya confesses that switching from engineering to films was borne out of a natural subconscious process. It was during his time as an undergraduate in engineering college that he created a few ‘zero-budget’ musical videos, with his friend and music composer, Hiren Pandya. 

He took a bite into filmmaking and liked the taste. 

Graduating from engineering college, Aditya knew his calling but the path wasn’t linear. 

Aditya got a big break in 2013 during the Vidhan Sabha (state legislature) elections in the Indian state of Rajasthan. He worked in the IT and social media department of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). His group ran a very successful social media campaign and the BJP won in a landslide. From IT to social media, Aditya began deviating from the standard.

It was during his time working in Social Media Management that Aditya came into contact with a musician and composer, Gaurav Bhatt. Gaurav, a Jaipur-based musician who had trained in the famous Bhatt Gharan, had composed a few Hindi songs and was looking for someone to help popularize them on YouTube. The two collaborated and created a music video. Grainy images shifting through a dreamlike narrative, overlaid with the poignant Indian classical fusion melody of Garauv Bhatt created magic; it received considerable attention and was featured in local newspapers and TV, including The Rajasthan Patrika and The Times of India

 “The success I received in these low-cost music videos gave me the confidence to enter into filmmaking professionally,” Aditya fondly recounts.

Newfound success and a heavy dose of determination brought Aditya to Hollywood. Eager to learn the tricks of the trade, he enrolled in the Masters in Film and Media Production program in the Los Angeles branch of the New York Film Academy. His thesis – ‘Red House by the Crossroads’ – a film about a Jewish family in 1970s Poland who were facing the backlash of the Nazi era occupation – culminated in a showcase at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.  

Aditya hasn’t looked back since.

He is versatile and diverse, much like the background he comes from. His documentary ‘Eastern Shores of the Western World’ explores “cultural, linguistic, and genetic similarities between India and Eastern Europe.” And in the same breath, he has made films with social and environmental causes. In his soon to be released ‘Rivers: The Upstream Story’, he takes on the issue of river-water depletion through a civilizational lens. 

Filmmakers, like Patwardhan, with a voice and cultural competence are filling the gaps in global cinema. Aditya Patwardhan is slowly becoming a household name, as he continues his journey of Eastern dreams on Western shores. 

Afters spending several years in IT, Avatans Kumar now works as a Columnist and PR professional.  Avatans frequently writes on the topics of Indic Knowledge Tradition, Language, Culture, and Current Affairs in several media outlets.

Edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.

Skip the MBA and Work at a Startup

A question that students and parents put to me most frequently is whether it is worthwhile to pursue an MBA as a ticket to success in the business world.

I tell them that a master of business administration from Harvard, Stanford or the University of California at Berkeley may be worth the high cost because of the brand, location and network value — but not those from most other business schools over the world. The time and money could be better spent in starting a company that solves real-world problems. Students will gain better practical experiences and have a greater purpose than the investment bankers and consultants that business schools strive to graduate.

With the falling cost of a broad range of technologies, from computing to genomic sequencing to sensors and synthetic biology, entrepreneurs can now do what only big companies and governments have been able to do: Solve the problems of humanity. They can design and build smartphone apps that act as medical assistants, digital tutors to teach almost any subject, and artificial-intelligence-based apps that improve public services and infrastructure. They can even build electric vehicles, spaceships and revolutionary energy-storage technologies.

I encourage graduates to start or join world-changing companies and to be the masters of their own destiny. They will surely be earning a lot less than if they worked for the investment banks; and they will take huge risks, and their startups are likely to fail — as is the norm. And they will have to work extremely hard and endure endless runs of sleepless nights. But they will develop real-life skills that no MBA could train them in; they will gain a far broader and more realistic understanding of the world; and they will have a far greater sense of accomplishment and position themselves for long-term success. If they start the right company, they may well make the world a better place. And you never know: The startup could get really lucky and be worth a fortune.

MBA heyday

It wasn’t always this way. When I completed my MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business in the 1980s, I considered it to be the best investment I had ever made. It helped me climb the corporate ladder and become an entrepreneur. As a tech CEO, I also readily paid a premium to hire business-school graduates. I also used to advise tech startups to strengthen their management teams by recruiting professional managers from MBA programs.

That was, however, at a time when there were few other options. The cost of starting a technology company is now less than that of a business degree, and the rewards are much greater.

The world has surely changed since then, but business-school curricula have largely stayed the same. As they say, academia moves at the speed of molasses. That is how it is supposed to be. And, to be fair, I need to acknowledge that the topics that business schools teach do have real value.

Subjects such as management, marketing, law and accounting are still as important as they ever were. The MBA that I completed as a programmer allowed me to become a project leader and then a vice president. I found that I could communicate effectively with user departments and my bosses; I could deliver projects on time; I knew how to manage and motivate employees; and I had the confidence to present business proposals to managing directors and board members. When I became an entrepreneur, I had the knowledge to develop and manage budgets, market products and review legal contracts.

But that was decades ago, in an era in which large companies held the keys to economic growth and competitiveness; when major research labs produced almost all of the cutting-edge innovation. Since then, the cost of developing world-changing technologies has fallen dramatically, and startups can out-innovate the big players.

Engineering degrees

Higher education certainly makes sense for some students. For students with technical backgrounds who want to pursue higher education and prepare themselves to solve complex engineering problems, I recommend master of engineering programs such as the one I teach at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Engineering. These teach specialized skills in fields such as biomedical engineering and materials science. For students in less technical fields, there are also year-long master of engineering management programs such as those at Duke, Northwestern and the University of Southern California. These teach management, marketing, law and accounting skills and skim over the intricacies of finance and investment banking. And they are half the price of an MBA. After all, the skills that matter aren’t how to conceive new types of financial products, but how to create technologies that actually do good for the world.

Students now have opportunities that their parents could never imagine. My message to them is always the same: Rather than wasting your lives working for a Morgan Stanley  or Goldman Sachs  use your intellect and energy to make the world a better place — you surely can.

 

This article was published with permission from the Author.

Civic Leadership: Pavan Raj Gowda

Ever since he was young, Pavan Raj Gowda has been heavily involved in his community. Now 18 years old, Pavan has already written two books and founded his own non-profit organization: Green Kids Now Inc. The goal of his organization is to bring kids from around to world to share experience and take care of the environment through STEM areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). At Ding Ding TV’s 3rd Civic Leadership Forum of 2018, Pavan shared his experiences as a climate leader in his community and encouraged the audience to do the same in order for the world to be a better as well as cleaner place for future generations.

https://youtu.be/CGvRvM0B8NI

Why Liberal Arts and The Humanities are as Important as Engineering

Earlier in my academic career, I used to advise students to focus on science and engineering, believing that they were a prerequisite for success in business. I had largely agreed with Bill Gates’s assertions that America needed to spend its limited education budgets on these disciplines, because they produced the most jobs, rather than the liberal arts and humanities.

This was in a different era of technology and well before I learned what makes the technology industry tick.

In 2008, my research teams at Duke and Harvard surveyed 652 U.S.-born chief executives and heads of product engineering at 502 technology companies. We found that they tended to be highly educated, 92 percent holding bachelor’s degrees and 47 percent holding higher degrees. Hardly 37 percent held degrees in engineering or computer technology, and just 2 percent did in mathematics. The rest had degrees in fields as diverse as business, accounting, health care, and arts and the humanities.

We learned that though a degree made a big difference in the success of an entrepreneur, the field it was in and the school that it was from were not significant factors. YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki, for instance, majored in history and literature; Slack founder Stewart Butterfield in English; Airbnb founder Brian Chesky in the fine arts. And, in China, Alibaba chief executive Jack Ma has a bachelor’s in English.

Steve Jobs touted the importance of liberal arts and humanities at the unveiling of the iPad 2: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.” With this focus, he built the most valuable company in the world and set new standards for the technology industry.

Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell, who majored in English, also emphasized this. I recently asked him how he turned his company around and caused its stock price to increase by an astonishing 450 percent over five years. He said that it was through relentlessly focusing on design in every product the company built; that engineering is important but what makes a technology product most successful is its design.

The key to good design is a combination of empathy and knowledge of the arts and humanities. Musicians and artists inherently have the greatest sense of creativity. You can teach artists how to use software and graphics tools; turning engineers into artists is hard.

And now, a technological shift is in progress that will change the rules of innovation. A broad range of technologies, such as computing, artificial intelligence, digital medicine, robotics and synthetic biology, are advancing exponentially and converging, making amazing things possible.

With the convergence of medicine, artificial intelligence and sensors, we can create digital doctors that monitor our health and help us prevent disease; with the advances in genomics and gene editing, we have the ability to create plants that are drought resistant and that feed the planet; with robots powered by artificial intelligence, we can build digital companions for the elderly. Nanomaterial advances are enabling a new generation of solar and storage technologies that will make energy affordable and available to all.

Creating solutions such as these requires a knowledge of fields such as biology, education, health sciences and human behavior. Tackling today’s biggest social and technological challenges requires the ability to think critically about their human context, which is something that humanities graduates happen to be best trained to do.

An engineering degree is very valuable, but the sense of empathy that comes from music, arts, literature and psychology provides a big advantage in design. A history major who has studied the Enlightenment or the rise and fall of the Roman Empire gains an insight into the human elements of technology and the importance of its usability. A psychologist is more likely to know how to motivate people and to understand what users want than is an engineer who has only worked in the technology trenches. A musician or artist is king in a world in which you can 3D-print anything that you can imagine.

When parents ask me now what careers their children should pursue and whether it is best to steer them into science, engineering, and technology fields, I tell them that it is best to let them make their own choices. They shouldn’t, I tell them, do what our parents did, telling us what to study and causing us to treat education as a chore; instead, they should encourage their children to pursue their passions and to love learning.

To create the amazing future that technology is enabling, we need our musicians and artists working hand in hand with our engineers. It isn’t either one or the other; we need both the humanities and engineering.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2018/06/12/why-liberal-arts-and-the-humanities-are-as-important-as-engineering

This has been reprinted with the  permission of the author.

 

For Here Or to Go? An Apt Movie for Today

For Here Or to Go? An Apt Movie for Today

For Here or To Go?

When the movie The Martian first came out, my interest in seeing it was piqued when I realized that the writer Andy Weir, was a software engineer. He ended up self-publishing the book, because no publisher wanted to touch it. After it became popular on Kindle, Crown Publishing decided to publish it under their banner. When the book was finally made into a movie directed by Ridley Scott, it became a “must see.”

My interest in For Here or To Go was similarly piqued when I read that both the writer and director are Silicon Valley engineers. The movie itself came to fruition following the trajectory of a typical start-up. Instead of Powerpoint presentations, the writer Rishi Bhilawadikar and director Rucha Humnabadkar pitched to investors with the script and costing spreadsheets. When I asked Jayan Ramankutty why he decided to invest in this movie, he felt that the storyline had universal appeal. For the viewers in India who may think that America is purely a land flowing with milk and honey, this movie will serve a dose of reality. They get to see the struggles that South Asians go through as they try to earn a living and assimilate. For viewers in America (especially for those living in Silicon Valley), they can truly identify with the issues that the protagonist faces.

The movie is set in the backdrop of the 2008 recession. The movie centers on the work struggles of Vivek Pandit, played by Ali Fazal. He is poised to become a key hire at a promising healthcare startup. However, when they realize that his work visa has validity for less than a year, the offer disappears.  Vivek draws upon his own ingenuity, struggles with flaws in the “its just paperwork” mentality and battles with forces beyond his control to get his visa extended. You find yourself rooting for Vivek to succeed not for some contrived reason (of being deemed a success in the eyes of his doting, forlorn mother in India), but because you want his courage, hope and doggedness to succeed.

The most appealing aspect of the movie to me was that it told multiple, believable stories of the diaspora as they face their own individual tussles- a daughter dealing with a father that is not available to her; an uncle trying to protect his hoodwinked nephew; an investor trying to convince his partner to give up on his idea of going back to India. The plot line draws on various characters to paint a mosaic of the immigrant experience. Omi Vaidya, who played Chatur Ramalingam in Three Idiots and Amitosh Nagpal provide the humorous interludes in the movie. The humor is not “forced” and is woven well into the script. In fact, the title of the movie comes from when Amit is asked the question “For here or to go?” by the clerk at a 7-11 store.

Just when Vivek is getting ready to give up and head back to India, he meets Shveta (played by Melanie Kannokada, former Miss India America). This motivates Vivek to fight the inane immigration system even harder. Rajit Kapur, known for his National Award-winning portrayal of The Making of the Mahatma plays the role of Vishwanath Prabhu, Shveta’s father. Vishwanath has just published a book that urges Indians in America to go back to India and help India succeed. He is passionate in delivering his message and steadfast in his strong views even when presented with an opposite point of view.

The movie has several breathtaking aerial views of Silicon Valley, including a beautiful aerial shot of the Golden Gate bridge. It also shows several familiar locations which residents of Silicon Valley will recognize.

For Here or To Go succeeds with wit and humanity. It is incredibly enjoyable and totally worth watching!