What are the top challenges in your job that you solve every day?
The top challenges on a day-to-day basis are (a) to keep in constant touch with recruiters and (b) co-ordinate with academics to ensure that students are trained in the skill sets required for today’s world. Student expectations keep rising as do corporate expectations. In my view, the chasm is growing with every passing year. In the Indian scenario, the slowdown in the economy has significantly affected the prospects for young people. Unless the manufacturing and service sectors grow rapidly, job opportunities cannot be created for the thousands who graduate every year.
How difficult or easy is it to have a good corporate culture in a education institute?
It is extremely difficult, not just in India but across the world. The basic problem is the differences in perspective. Educational institutions prioritize on teaching (knowledge) and research (intellectual property). The corporate world’s priorities are different – they are essentially interested in solving real-world problems. Again, I believe that an academic institution should not even attempt to bring in a corporate culture. That would be detrimental to the quality of education. For example, the corporate world believes in maximizing shareholder wealth (why else would Google’s shares touch US$ 1000/-?). Assume for a moment that academic institutions adopt the same approach. Higher education would be beyond the reach of most citizens. Societies and countries should treat education as a service – a legacy for the next generation. The moment they start thinking in terms of a corporate culture, the decline and perhaps even an implosion would be the result.
What do you feel are the most important factors to solve in your current role to make your institution a national level brand?
First we need an internal customer (student) orientation and an external customer (recruiter) orientation. What do students want? What do recruiters want? From this baseline, we need to work relentlessly to bridge the gaps of which there are many. National level brands require (a) great students (b) passionate faculty and staff and (c) an environment that nurtures creativity. If these three are addressed adequately, building a national (or for that matter a global) brand is not all that difficult. An institute’s achievements should be transparent and visible to all. After all, branding is about perception. How do you create this perception if you have a “frog in the well” syndrome and you cannot see beyond your nose?
What new skill sets do you feel are relevant for your students today to get accepted at good organizations?
The only skill set that matters anywhere in the world is the ability to solve problems – this includes critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, communication, team work, collaboration, and a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, very few institutes can claim to train students along these lines. In fact, as Creativity Expert Sir Ken Robinson has so profoundly explained – our education and in particular the university system, is designed to kill creativity. Again, Professor Clayton Christensen’s words ring loud and clear – our educational system is primarily designed for mediocrity, not excellence. Being the No. 1 business thinker twice in a row now, it is time we started listening to his sage advice.
How do you keep yourself updated and relevant on a daily basis?
Reading, networking, communicating with experts in the field, constantly trying to improve. As my mentor (he prefers to remain anonymous) is so fond of saying – quality is a journey, never a destination. I have tries to practice this dictum.