Interview by Bhawna Rawat
Dr. S.S. Prasada Rao is currently working as Director, Centre for Learning & Sustainability, GITAM (Deemed to be University), Visakhapatnam. He has held several administrative portfolios in GITAM. He is a member of many professional bodies such as Global Economic Progress & Research, All India Commerce and Economic Associations, HMA, NHRD Network, and AIMA. An author of four standard textbooks, Prof. Prasada Rao presented several research papers in national and international conferences and published in national and international journals. He has actively participated in, as a resource person, and conducted several Management Development Programmes (MDPs) and Faculty Development Programmes (FDPs) on general management & finance and accounting functions. He has been an invited speaker at several international and national level conferences. He is adjudicator of M. Phil and Ph.D. theses of various universities in India and abroad.
Prof. Prasada Rao has received recognition for his contribution to management studies and education administration. He is a recipient of Best Researcher Award from GITAM, Mahatma Gandhi Gold Medal Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Education & Research by GEPRA, New Delhi, Lifetime Achievement Award for Education Excellence by Association for Economic Growth & Social Development, New Delhi, Shiksha Bharti Puraskar by All India Achievers Foundation, New Delhi, Innovative Leader in B-Schools for Director by Lemon Bridge Research and Innovation, ‘Thought Leader in Management Education’ by National HR Association of India (NHRAI) and Dronacharya Award from International Knowledge and Opportunities Network, Hyderabad.
A fulfilling experience in the education sector
It has been a very fulfilling experience for me. I have been fortunate to have worked in various positions, both as a teacher and as an administrator in this sector. More than being fortunate, it is my passion for this sector that led me to jump at an opportunity when there were no takers. I loved to be around kids when they are growing into mature adults, and I loved to contribute to their growth. It is this sense of fulfillment that makes education the best sector to work in.
Taking responsibility as a leader
Leadership for me is not flaunting authority. It is about taking responsibility for meeting the objectives of the institute and inspiring the team to own up their own responsibility. I always assume that all members of my team are mature enough to handle their assignment. I respect the mistakes they commit, if they are committed despite their earnestness, not out of negligence. I take responsibility for any failures and make it a point to give credit to individual members when it is a success. Every team I worked with felt I was the most accessible leader they met. I have been successful in keeping away the idea of hierarchy from their minds.
Challenge of keeping in mind the interests of the Institution and the Human Resources
In this position, one requires to constantly on the lookout for any training needs of faculty and non-teaching staff, and proactively intervene to fulfil them by designing and providing themthe right kind of learning inputs. Developing the human resources on a continual basis is very important for an institution to rise up to the challenges that changes in industry and economy pose, and to sustain amidst competition with relevance to current needs.
What I find challenging in this position is to constantly keep in mind the interests of the institution vis a vis current expectations of industry. Motivating the complacent faculty and staff, and convincing the top management about fulfilling a training need can also be sometimes challenging. But I have a liberal and open-minded management with me.
A regularly updated curriculum
It is a good practice at GITAM that we make it a point to revise our courses and curriculum on the advice of our good friends with a broad vision in top positions in industry. It is mandatory that every board of studies within each institute under the university has at least two members from industry. We also heed the advice about revisions of curriculums from other sources in the industry – it could be guest faculty from industry, someone from industry on a visit to our institution, our recruiters, etc. We value their feedback and try to incorporate their suggestions into our curriculum so that the students – our products – will be true industry ready.
Placement opportunities at GITAM University
We value the feedback of the recruiters of our students. Since we are, as an institute, committed to the employability of our students, we see to it they enter good companies even while they are studying here. Accountability towards students’ careers is the hallmark of GITAM. Of course, by bringing in more rigor into the training of students can improve their chances at employability.
The top qualities that an aspiring manager must possess
First of all, attitude matters. An aspiring manager should have an attitude of learning, an attitude of commitment to the growth of one’s organization, an attitude of placing the objectives of the organization above one’s petty ego. Secondly, one should have the inclination to update one’s knowledge, about one’s domain and about the global and indigenous trends and developments, about the changing social, economic, political and cultural milieu in which one operates. All this knowledge would feed into one’s understanding of the customers’ needs, of positioning one’s brand, and in critical decision making.
Future plans for GITAM
For a university to be worthy of its name, it should have an eclectic mix of disciplines. GITAM has already achieved this by accommodating several streams as diverse as medicine and humanities and social sciences. Through our understanding of the importance of interdisciplinary courses, we have introduced open electives under the choice-based credit system. The goal is to increase the rigor and reach global standards in every discipline.
Suggestions for today’s youth
Listen to your heart and choose a career path. Commit yourself to excel in it. Don’t look for immediate security. Don’t look for shortcuts. Remember that you are a member of the society first, and then a professional. So, you have a responsibility towards society too. Realize that your well being lies in the well being of all others around you.