Breaking New Grounds with Innovation: Leo Paulose
Leo Paulose, a 2012 graduate from the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering is currently serving as the ‘Innovation Expert’ at Amdocs India, Club Growth Director of Toastmasters International and the Vice President of NITRAA, Western Zone. This dynamic personality recently visited the campus to conduct a seminar on ‘Planning your career and beyond’. Owing to his tight schedule, Team MM caught up with him for a brief, yet productive interview. Hereby, we present you with the essential excerpts from it.
Monday Morning: Tell us something about yourself before joining NITR. What was your motivation behind pursuing a career in Engineering?
Leo Paulose: I originally hail from Kochi in Kerala. However, I was abroad for a long period of time and I have spent my childhood in different parts of the world. It wasn’t that as a child I wanted to become an engineer but engineering always fascinated me. Growing up as a child, I was keen to know how things worked, how mechanics happened and machines operated. So that is the genesis of how engineering began and the rest of it was fate. I got admitted to NIT Rourkela in 2008 and I think that’s the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
MM: How would you describe your experience at NITR?
LP: If I were to choose one word to describe the experience, then I think that would be ‘Awesome’. There is absolutely nothing that I would want to go back and change in those four years. I have definitely made a lot of decisions in those years that I am not really proud of, but still the kind of learning that I had and the type of transformation I went through as an individual was amazing. The credit of my success today goes to the four years that I spent here. I have gone through a lot of hardships and unpleasant challenges but all those difficulties have made me evolve as a strong person. After coming here, I got to explore so many skills within myself that I myself wasn’t aware of.
MM: What all clubs and extra-curricular activities were you a part of?
LP: I was an active member of many clubs such as the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Linux User Group, E-cell, Degree 361, IEEE Student Chapter and Microsoft Campus Club (MCC). I was the convener of MCC in my final year. One achievement that I will always cherish is the fact that I was the first student convener of the International Students’ Meet. In fact, I was one of those people who actually suggested to have something called as an ISM and I am glad that it was acted upon by the institute. When we came with our ideas for organising an ISM, many students ridiculed us. But to our own amazement, two things happened. Firstly, United Nations decided to support us and UNESCO sponsored our first ISM. Secondly, we managed to get students from seven countries.
2010 was a Golden Jubilee Year and two of us were selected to be the student representative of the Golden Jubilee Year. So we organized a lot of activities to be carried out during that entire year so as to promote the Golden Jubilee. So ISM was one, which we did under Prof. Jha from the Department of Civil Engineering and the second was something called as National Student Convention which we did with the help of Prof. Snehashish Chakraverty from the Department of Mathematics. I was also involved in the technical fests and the cultural fest, Nitrutsav.
MM: How do you think the club culture has evolved in the past few years?
LP: I am associated with a lot of students through NITRAA. We have been working with a lot of clubs and we have tried to mentor and sponsor them. I think, over the years, the club culture has matured. At one point, it was focused on expanding horizontally which meant we created random clubs irrationally and hence, they have been diluted now. The clubs which are existing now have a good thought process with well-defined objectives and modest purpose. Earlier, we were going wider whereas now we are going deeper.
MM: How did Amdocs happen? How has your experience been?
LP: Well, I got placed in Amdocs via the campus placements. I was selected in a couple of companies during my campus interviews but I chose Amdocs because I liked the business that it was into. Amdocs is a company which gives each employee the potential to achieve hundred percent of what they are good at. I come from an Engineering background and I began my journey in development.
Today, I am more into techno-management and the peers who handle this in the industry are people who have been in that field for at least a decade or so. But still, Amdocs chose me and took a risk in terms of giving me this portfolio. And needless to say, in all of my reviews and deliverables, I have outperformed and I’ve made my company proud. But it’s really good to see a company that believes so much in its employees. Anyone who wants to explore their passion and their full potential, Amdocs is a brilliant place to be in. And yes, the sky is the limit; I have sat face to face with the CEO of the company and discussed innovation and how to improve the company.
MM: Tell us something about your association with the Toastmasters International. How has been the experience so far?
LP: I was a follower of Toastmasters since my childhood but I couldn’t join because of the shortage of time. So right after my graduation, I googled Toastmasters again and got the opportunity to join the organization towards the later part of 2012. We are predominantly an organization dealing with improving one’s communication and leadership skills and the organization has been doing a brilliant job for more than 90 years. In fact, most of the premier institutes abroad as well as in India like the IITs, NITs and the IIMs approach Toastmasters to improve the leadership and communication skills of their students. It helped me sharpen my skills and allowed me to explore one side of leadership which I never knew I was good at. The organization has trusted me with growing the movement in seven states across the country. So yes, it has absolutely been a great journey.
MM: How important do you think is an effective alumni network for the development of the Institute? How would you describe the current scenario and how do you think it can be improved?
LP: It is essential to ensure that connection between the institute and alumni network is very strong. The alumni association has brought people together irrespective of their age and branch of study. NITRAA is doing an amazing job and our institute has been very supportive. But there is a disconnect between the junior alumni members of NITRAA as most of the alumni with whom we are engaged today are the senior members. We are working effectively with the students from NITR and there are around 30-50 students who are connected with the alumni association at present. We are integrating our databases, building a new website, developing a newsletter and there are many more things are in the pipeline.
MM: You currently serve as the Innovation Expert at Amdocs India and have experience with innovation and incubation of products and services. Considering the fact that of late, students are coming up with many innovative projects but there is a lack of proper platform and resources to experiment their ideas. How do you think can this situation be improved?
LP: Globally, we are ranked among the top 4 countries in the world as far as start-ups are concerned. But we lag behind when the number of quality startups coming up from India is taken into account. There has been a huge cultural shift from service based companies to start-ups that focus on indigenous products. There are many incentives and schemes being provided by the government for the people who are willing to start a company. There are organisations like NASSCOM and CII who are ensuring the improvement of the start-up ecosystem in the country.
The premier institutes of our country are providing the proper platform where students can shape their innovative startup ideas into reality. Moreover our academic is helping students experiment with their ideas. But one thing that I have seen from my experience is, culturally we are afraid of failure. Students should go ahead with experimenting their innovation keeping aside the fear of failure.
MM: We have a few emerging start-ups coming up from our Institute like Penny India and Ovotees. From NITRAA’s perspective as alumni and from Amdocs perspective as an Innovation Expert, how do you think can students be encouraged to begin a start-up?
LP: Amdocs is always ready to partner with start-ups provided that those companies work in the domain that we interested in. We have alumni who have set up successful start-ups. We are trying to build an ecosystem where there is a support mechanism for students to drive their start-up. We are trying to provide mentors who can guide students with right mentorships. Secondly, we are planning to fund the start-up companies and we see how we can support the incubation center here. There is a state of art incubation center set up here which is not being utilized in the best possible way. NITRAA would definitely want to partner with TIIR and see what is the kind of support that can be provided.
MM: You had written and published a book called ‘The William Brothers’ in the first year of your intermediate course. Briefly, elaborate what was that about?
LP: I released my first book ‘The William Brothers’ in the first year of my intermediate. I was the first Indian student in Riyadh to have written a book and the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia had released my book. This experience helped me understand that there is no boundary to whatever you want to do. Whatever I have achieved today or whatever I might achieve ahead is because of willingness to do hard work and willing to dream big. If you have determination and willingness to work hard, then no bounds can stop you.
MM: What message would you like to give to our readers?
These years that you are going to spend here are going to be the best time of your life. It is essential that you utilize the best of your time and excel in whatever you feel you are good at. Do not ignore your academics and ensure that you figure out what you really want to do in life and attain your full potential. The most important thing that I would like to say is to never stop believing in yourself as there is nothing under the sun that you are not capable enough to do. The only question that you need to ask yourself is ‘Do you want to do?’.