Interview by Yash Panchal
Dr. N. T. Rao is currently the Dean of Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management & Engineering (MPSTME), NMIMS University, Mumbai. He is a Doctorate in Civil Engineering from NIT, Warangal with over 3 decades of experience in the field of education, training, strategic planning, establishment of institutions, accreditations & institutional governance. He was associated with Intercontinental Consultants and Technocrats Private Limited as a Vice President, New Delhi before joining MPSTME.
He was also associated with NIT- Kurukshetra, Principal Roads Engineer (Government of Botswana) Garbone, VIT University- Vellore in various capacity as an Academician, CEO, Director, Vice President, Consultant, etc. His professional engineering expertise is Civil Engineering road infrastructure projects, institutional strengthening projects, road safety expertise in India & Abroad, Continuing Education expert for an ADB projects in India, Traffic rules enforcement expert for ADB, monitoring & evaluation projects for the World Bank, Team leader for an international project funded by African Development Bank, etc.
Dr. Rao has accolades of recognition to his credit like -one of the 20 certified Road Safety Engineers & Auditors in India by Road Transport & Highways, Government of India, Able Leader /Outstanding Officer by Government of Botswana, ABET Accreditation Officer of India, An Expert recognition by ICT Private Limited, etc. He is a member of various governing bodies and has also undertaken major International & National Training.
Dr. Rao’s experience in the education industry
I reckon that working in an education industry gave me opportunities to train generations of future professionals capable of making lives of today’s people ‘better than they were’. Most professional roles involve working towards meeting set targets and delivering for the stakeholders. On the other side of the spectrum, teaching aims at molding future achievers. When a former student credits the role of the institution for what he is today, the teacher in me feels proud that I too have made a contribution to the societal change. After all, it is the people who change the society and it is the teacher who makes those people. Hence, education is the best industry to work for as no other industry can give you as much contentment as education industry can give.
Dr. Rao on the changes in the various industries over the years
Save for the R&D sector, the industry is predominantly client and customer driven. From the times when it was acceptable to provide the end-user expected deliverables, times have changed where the client/customer is looking for more than what has been agreed in the form of delivering value additions. This is a huge challenge for the industry not only having to stay afloat amidst cut-throat competitive market but also to deliver within the available resources optimizing profits. This may appear as a non-issue for organizations with a reasonable market share but down the line, industry finds itself burdened by the end user expectations.
Dr. Rao’s philosophy of leadership
The biggest advantage of my associating with all these institutions is able to operate in inclusive environs where one would appreciate other’s perspectives and be adaptive to different cross-cultural situations. All the institutions that I have worked for till now are progressive and forward thinking and operating beyond the defined geographical confines attracting students from the widest spectrum. This aspect had a deep influence on my leadership and functioning.
I see myself as the captain of a football team where everyone has a defined role in working towards winning either by defending as done by the defenders or a goalkeeper or scoring a goal as done by the strikers or midfielders. The captain’s role must be of that ensuring that everyone plays his role to perfection. There are other leadership styles like that of cricket where the captain has to be dynamic and controlling shots practically at every instant of the game. I prefer to ascertain and appreciate constraints of individuals before ‘requesting’ to complete a task by a particular timeline, unlike some leadership styles where a task and deadline are dictated together.
Most optimum path for a student wanting to excel in any field of Technology Management and Engineering
Straight path. Whether it is mathematics or life, the best and the easiest path will always be the straightest path which is also the shortest path to excel in any field. The straight path would imply that students should approach all academic and related activities during their professional studies by simply following the laid down procedures with commitments that are expected of them. Students do not have to do anything extra nor walk any additional miles. They just have to follow the set procedures. This will not only help the student to excel during their stay at the institution but will also help these future professionals to approach any challenges with the confidence that they have already gained invaluable experiences by following the straight path as students.
Growth of students through placement opportunities available at Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management & Engineering
One of the most interesting features of Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management & Engineering is that the students are groomed to be not only as future employees but they are also trained to be future practicing professionals, entrepreneurs and as well as employers. Further, a big section of graduating students would like to expand their knowledge at premier institutions of higher learning around the world. On that count, MPSTME students are not dependent on placements thereby making them be among the unique set of students. The curriculum, designed and delivered in close association with the industry has built-in the best practices of industry placing our students at a few notches higher than the rest of the students.
Dr. Rao on what makes MPSTME stand apart from other institutions
Our institution is founded and backed by one of the most respected educational groups in India, SVKM. Located advantageously in the city of Mumbai, it is also a constituent institution of NMIMS Deemed to be University which is ranked in the Category-1 among deemed universities by MHRD, Government of India. Our students learn engineering through a curriculum that is benchmarked with the best of the world; our techno-manager students are encouraged to present their innovative business plans after learning the fundamentals in the classrooms; any student groups willing to participate in international events are supported liberally; there is a regular interaction with domain-specific industry and so on. Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering helps its students to fulfill their dreams by shaping their destinies in our classrooms.
Dr. Rao on the qualities that helped in creating a brand name for Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management & Engineering
The urge to be the best of educators is the single biggest hallmark of the 83-year old SVKM group to which Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management & Technology belongs to. The quality processes, their sustenance and continuous updating keeping abreast with premier institutions of the world have enabled NMIMS University to produce the best engineering and techno-managerial professionals capable of making a positive impact on the society. The fact that NAAC, in all its three cycles of accreditations, gave NMIMS the highest possible ranking is a reflection of the institution’s quality education systems and its standing as a brand to reckon with.
Dr. Rao on how to prepare students to face challenges of modern organizations and global standards successfully
As mentioned already, MPSTME students are trained and groomed in an industry supportive pedagogical environment. The curriculum, course outcomes, program educational objectives, and all other aspects are developed by benchmarking with the best of institutions around the world following global standards. This enables the majority of our students who seek and secure admissions at prestigious overseas institutions to seamlessly integrate into to those systems. The same applies when they join modern industries too because of the fact that they would have had hands-on experience with the machinery or the software that they would anyway be practicing with as professional engineers and techno-managers.
Goals in mind for MPSTME for the next five years
MPSTME would be a leading institution in the country with its futuristic dynamic pedagogical initiatives and delivery of industry-driven curriculum. To place MPSTME on the international map will be the goal to be achieved in the next five years. MPSTME would seek ABET accreditation which is arguably the most respected of accreditations for engineering programs in the world. It is an established fact that what differentiates a college from an institution is the research and hence, every effort will be made to take research to the next level with targets being set to exponentially increase the research output in the next five years. Conscious of the industry needs, programs will be introduced to ready our graduates to join and be the leaders in and of the industry.
Suggestions to the current youth and the aspiring students
The aspiring students must realize that challenges and opportunities come in the same measure for them. Knowledge gained in classrooms may help them to compete better with others but if they are to excel more and stay ahead, they must make use of opportunities to garner additional skill sets which they can acquire from online. Further, while being in the institution itself, they must be on the lookout to keep them updated with changing dynamics of the industry and be ready for them when they graduate. No matter what profession or career one may choose, they must be conscious that they have a role to play for the society and must leave their footprints with their professional and personal endeavors.