Interview by Arjun
Dr. Vandana Sonawaney is currently working as the Director of Symbiosis Institute of Operations Management, Pune. She has been a gold medalist at high school and she has completed her graduation in commerce and her post-graduation in management, she is also a registered Ph.D. guide in the area of Management and has been awarded “Distinguished Service” Award by AIMS International for her contribution for fostering Management Research and Best Professor in “Marketing Management” by the 2nd Asia’s Best B- School Award in the year 2011. She has also been a Member of Academic Council, at Symbiosis International (Deemed University). She currently is a member of CII Maharashtra Steering Council of the India Women Network (IWN) Maharashtra Chapter. She bagged ‘Indian Leadership Award for Education Excellence’ by All India Achievers Foundation, New Delhi and ‘Dewang Mehta National Education Leadership Award’ recently.
She has worked for various multinational brands in FMCG and services sector with profiles in brand liquidation, Logistics service enhancement, S&OP, and SCM as key foci. After a decade in the industry, Dr. Vandana started her own consulting firm in corporate research services.
She joined Symbiosis bringing with her not only the experience of various multinational brands but also wisdom and vision of the most apposite Industry Academia Interface and synergies that could be created with it, and her able leadership was contributory to several awards and laurels that SIOM bagged specifically for “best Industry Interface” and “Industry oriented curriculum” every year since 2009.
Dr. Vandana Sonawaney’s teaching experience demonstrates an enjoyable way to mold student’s personalities
The best part of education Industry is that it gives you the opportunity to mold personalities and create professionals. I entered the Education sector to give my best for preparing higher level of industry ready MBA’s through vibrant industry– institute connection. You meet 130-40 young minds and hearts every year, each one of them is unique with dreams and the quest to learn and grow. With the new paradigm shifts in Teaching, learning, and assessment it’s a challenging hence enjoyable to be in this sector today
Dr. Sonawaney’s journey from being a student to being the director of Symbiosis Institute of Operations Management
It’s not important to be just a topper in academics. One needs to convert the knowledge into wisdom to solve personal, filial, social and national problems to better lives for self and community. This is enacted through triggering one’s leadership capabilities and giving play to social skills. My journey has been challenging and hence satisfying. Post-MBA, working in industry was crucial.
I never had education sector (and teaching in particular) in my career plan then. Talent supply chain management was always an issue in companies and it’s still so. Hence my curiosities to investigate this issue led me to pursue a Ph.D. and later consulting to organizations in Research. Post Ph.D. to ensure industry gets the right competencies & skill sets through a refined industry interfaced curriculum and experiential learning pedagogies, I entered the teaching field and the Journey from a faculty to Director was sheer outcome of plunging into latent areas and the confidence of my seniors in me to handle them.
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Significant challenges faced by Dr. Sonawaney as the director of SIOM
Challenges are synonymous to responsibility and wisdom. One must challenge oneself each day. I think maintaining and upholding incessant Industry relevance with every endeavor is an everyday operative challenge for us that we face willingly and the technology needs to be paced with it too. There’s huge competition for entry into good MBA Program. It’s important to keep your assessment systems updated so as to ensure only fit candidates enters in.
Creating Opportunities through live projects and Internships for SIOM Students
We are doing exceedingly well on this front and the number of new companies on day zero is snowballing and we have been able to retain them year on year. We strategically infuse Industry interface all through the year with consultancy, live projects and Internships to showcase our students’ capacities which converts into excellent placement opportunities. SIOM attracts great companies from Manufacturing, Logistics, Consultancy, Finance, IT Sectors, and Infrastructures.
How Dr. Vandana’s experience with various multinational brands and services helped her at SIOM
My stint with the Industry made me realize that the gaps in business education early enough for me to conceptualize this niche Institute of Operations. The complexities of business today be it manufacturing or services are prompting and ordering effective and efficient operations responses; adding fuel to it is the e-commerce industry which has disrupted business models drastically demanding Internet-based integration of operations activities , globalization of operations networking, use of Information-based technologies, environmentally sensitive as well as Lean process design and Supply chain management, Fast time-to-market methods, Customer relationship management , Supplier ‘partnership’ and development , Failure analysis and Business recovery planning and so on. There could be no better time than this for Operations professionals.
Building a positive environment among the students
Strength in Diversity is a very unequivocal portent across Symbiosis campuses that resonates with University’s’ motto of ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbkkam” which means the world is one family. For SIOM it is a confluence of Engineers with varied cultural backgrounds that creates the amassed pool of ideas, thoughts, and cultures.
We weave events and activities all year through for them to mingle and intersect for an interdisciplinary whole to emerge. Our campus in mini India and hence nurtures sensitivities to diversity through appreciation, dialogue, and understanding.
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Industry relevant Curriculum and Excellent Industry Interface are the two categories of awards that SIOM has been receiving year on year since 2009 from several Institutions and bodies of excellence. Our board of studies council is inclusive of Industry representatives and Alumni who deliberate critically twice a year on the dynamics of curriculum which becomes the base for our decisions related to updating curriculum.
Academics, Admissions, and Placements are part of the same vicious cycle. SIOM has an environment of constant exposure to modern industry practices which ensures that each student is industry- ready on their departure from the institute.
A reliable relation with students
I have an open door policy. Students are free to walk up to my office with any grievance. My only expectation is they come with at least one solution to the issue they feel pestered with. I have close connection with the Teams during events.
I categorize to see that I take up one subject to teach with both the batches. This keeps me connected and I get a firsthand feel and texture of the batch. This also opens up for them a lot of opportunities to discuss and interact one to one on various issues with me. Apart from this, we have an Open session every month for students to openly put forth their points and suggestions.
The goal is to fuel super specialization areas within Operations
SIOM over the years is now looked up as an Operational excellence hub by Academia and Industry alike. Collaborative research and consultancy with the Industry has become our strength. Apart from pumping more than a hundred operations professionals into the Industry every year, SIOM is approached for conducting need based training and development programs Consultancy services and short-term customized training programs by top companies.
SIOM will work on Internationalization and Collaborative & interdisciplinary faculty research. We aim to fuel super specialization areas within Operations be it sectorial or domain specific.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
Aspirants must take time to explore more to understand uniqueness and strengths of each Institute they apply for. I see a typical herd mentality here. MBA is about giving direction & focus to your career profiles and to train you for higher leadership positions. The rigor during these two years is crucial, and today’s youth have immense capabilities plus potential. I am a die-hard believer in this and I wish them luck in exploring their own uniqueness and follow their passion well thoughts and not just follow others.
Last Updated - 08 Aug 2019