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Curiosity Over Clarity: Sitting Down with Dr.Rajeev Suri

Dr.Rajeev Suri, President and CEO of Nokia, visited his alma mater on the 19th and 20th of November, 2016. During his visit, we had the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Suri and know more about his life experiences as well as his commitment to life-long learning.

1. Why did you directly join the industry without studying for a postgraduate degree?
Dr. Suri: I actually wanted to do my masters in the US at that time, but my family fell into financial difficulties so I decided to get a job and help out a little bit. But then I got so much on-the-job experience that I thought I didn’t need another degree. Learning is lifelong and learning is on-the-job. That’s the way I enjoy it.

2. You were a student of the Electronics and Communication Engineering department. Right now it’s a pretty grueling department, was it like that in your time as well?
Dr. Suri: Yes, it was grueling. (Laughs)
 Do you think E&C shaped you in a certain way and put you on your path?
Dr. Suri: Yes it did. I always wanted to do E&C and that was my passion. Now, I’ll spend my life in it.

3. What characteristics do you look for while recruiting an employee?
Dr. Suri: I look at value. You can always get the skills but what you can’t get are how people think. I look for passion because everyone can come to work, but only special people exert that extra passion. I look for a ‘never give up’ spirit (which I can see plenty of here), and I look for creative, out-of-the-box thinking.
People who can not only challenge others but also challenge the leadership. I also like people who listen more than they talk.

4. How does someone develop their emotional intelligence?
Dr. Suri: Some of it is instinct, some of it is inborn but most of it is through meeting people, engaging them, and being sensitive. It also includes recognizing team work, collaboration, and spirit. Emotional intelligence, in my opinion, is more than just sheer proof of IQ (which is also important). Emotional Intelligence is very important to me because it forms the basis of leadership and a lot of it is common sense as well.

5. On the basis of your visit here and what you’ve seen, is there anything you would like to change about MIT and the way it functions?
Dr. Suri: I think the new incubation entity that has now been formed, of which Dr. Hebbar is the CEO, is a step in the right direction. I think we need more of that because ultimately we have to teach a lot of students to be entrepreneurs. Whether they want to be entrepreneurs or whether they want to work in a company, the entrepreneurial spirit is what is needed more than anything else. This sort of pre-activity, out-of-the-box thinking comes from things like these. Somebody told me that a lot of students are not going home because they want to finish their projects, and that takes a lot of passion and care.

I also like the way there’s so much teamwork because this is the thing that brings in emotional intelligence, where you learn to work with other people and share the responsibilities. There is somebody who becomes a natural leader. It’s always like that. You find that one of you will become more of a natural leader under the circumstances, one of you will start helping other people with their problems. I think that more incubation, more out-of-the-box thinking, and more drive for entrepreneurial-ism leads to all of that.

Prior to speaking to the Post, Dr. Suri participated in a town hall-like interactive session where he answered questions from the students of MIT. Pranav Iyer gives us an account of the proceedings that day. Read on.

Even as preparations for the end semester examinations were in full throttle for most, over a thousand students occupied the MIT Quadrangle on the 19th of November to attend a Q&A session with the CEO of Nokia and one of MIT’s most distinguished alumnus, Dr. Rajeev Suri, who was in Manipal for the twenty third Convocation and was to be awarded an honorary doctorate later that evening.

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The proceedings began at 11:00 AM with the Director of MIT, Dr. G. K. Prabhu welcoming Dr. Suri and all the other dignitaries who were in attendance. He was followed by Dr Hebbar, a former professor in the department of E&C and currently the CEO of MUTBI, who briefed the crowd on the remarkable achievements of Dr. Suri’s career. When all the introductions were done, the new logo for the college’s Diamond Jubilee year was unveiled by the Director and Dr. Suri, which was consequentially met by cheers from the students.

A formal felicitation was carried out, with a slightly amused Dr. Suri being made to wear a shawl and a ‘Mysore Peta’, before being presented with a bouquet as a token of appreciation. Once all the formalities were carried out, Dr. Suri took to the podium. He was eager to spend more time answering questions and spoke briefly, reminiscing his time at MIT, which he claimed was one of the best periods of his life. He fondly recalled his time spent in the D-16 block and said that he often visited the temple with his friends, jesting that it had nothing to do with the fact that it was near the girl’s hostels.

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When asked about how college helped him improve his management skills, he recollected his time as the secretary of Sheetal Mess and how he learnt to work on a limited budget. He also helped two of his friends-who (unsuccessfully) stood for the student council elections-campaign by convincing other students and by giving speeches. Dr. Suri also spoke about his transition from an introvert to a confident person after he stepped out of his comfort zone and opened up to others during his college years.

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As a final piece of advice, Dr. Suri revealed his mantra, “Curiosity over Clarity”. He never stayed in his comfort zone for prolonged periods and always challenged himself by leaving it. His confidence and eagerness to excel certainly left a lasting impression on the students in attendance and will hopefully create more success stories in the future.

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