An Ebullient Persona : Manas Panda
After the silver jubilee celebration of the class of 1992, Team Monday Morning had the timeous opportunity to talk to Manas Panda, a graduate from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of NIT Rourkela, the then Regional Engineering College(REC). Currently working as an Architect and Engineering Leader at Cisco Systems, Mr.Panda has also worked at IBM and Alcatel-Lucent. In this interview, Mr.Panda speaks about his professional life while also showcasing how one should live his passion.
Monday Morning (MM): A man of your stature can be easily searched online and researched upon. Keeping your every available online description aside, how would you describe yourself?
Manas Panda (MP): I am a very easy going, approachable and fun loving individual who loves to develop new technology products. Outside of my profession of software engineering work in the Silicon Valley, I like volunteering to organize events for the Oriya and NIT Rourkela alumni associations in the US (NITROAA). I had a great time helping organize the Silver Jubilee celebration for the Class of 1992. I am pretty excited about the upcoming NITROAA annual convention in San Francisco in September 2018, where I live.
MM: Going back to your beginnings, tell us something about your life before NIT Rourkela (the then REC). Any childhood memories that you will always cherish?
MP: As my Father was in the Airforce, I moved around different Air Force bases, and lived in colonies with other Air Force families in the cantonments. The most memorable part of my childhood was the time I spent in these colonies. People from various parts of the countries with lingual and cultural diversification were residing at one place and each festival always brought about a reason for celebration, togetherness, and happiness.
I did my schooling mostly at the KV (Kendriya Vidyalaya) chain of schools. I graduated matriculation at KV Balasore and then I completed my higher secondary education from BJB Junior college located Bhubaneswar in the year 1988. Later on, I got admitted into the Regional Engineering College, Rourkela (now christened as an NIT) and completed my Bachelor’s Degree in the year 1992.
MM: Share with us your experiences at your Alma Mater. How has NIT Rourkela contributed to your accomplishments?
MP: I owe a lot to this institution for providing a foundation for my career and moulding me as an individual. This institution has helped me fulfill my dreams and aspirations by awarding a degree in the field of Computer Science and Engineering, which was cutting edge at that time. I had a great time during my four years in the campus, made many friends and spent leisure time with them playing cricket and volleyball, hanging out in hostel rooms, back post, and Rourkela sector markets.
MM: You are the Architect /Developer of Cisco Systems. You have also been a part of IBM and Alcatel-Lucent. Tell us about your professional journey that has been.
MP: I have been developing software for various technology products in across different industries throughout my professional life. I started out working as a research software engineer at the Centre for Development of Telematics for a couple of years, developing software for Digital telecom switches. In 1995, I got an opportunity and immigrated to the USA to work at IBM Labs in North Carolina, where I developed software for IBM networking stack. After 2 years, I got an opportunity to work at Lucent Technologies (AT&T) Bell Labs to develop software for their flourishing Broadband Wireless Network products. After 11 years at Alcatel-Lucent, I moved to the west coast Silicon Valley to work for Cisco Systems in 2008. I have worked on different industry products, ranging from Wireless Gateways, IP video systems to Security products. Presently I am working as an Architect and Engineering Leader for Cisco cloud security systems.
MM: How essential was your MS degree to your corporate career? How much a higher degree such as MS/MBA matter to the career of a student? What are the factors that shape the career apart from Education?
MP: It undoubtedly helped me gain a foot in the industry, as well as get noticed by employers. Degrees from reputed foreign universities improve one’s career prospects. Higher studies help to get in-depth knowledge in a particular field and definitely boost one’s career opportunities. I feel every individual need to be keen to explore new things in their fields and should always work passionately. These two factors will definitely help each individual to achieve success.
MM: What advice would you offer youngsters who will be starting their respective professional careers after graduation?
MP: Follow your heart and do something you are passionate about.
Do not get influenced by other people’s opinion when it comes to making career choices. Do something which you are comfortable in for at the end of the day, there are many things to life other than your job.
Discover your intrinsic skills and then tally your interests with it before choosing a profession. Remember, you can always switch careers in case you’re not happy with what you do. Life will give you many opportunities, be bold and feel free to make mistakes because that’s the way you can learn the biggest lessons of life.
MM: You have been associated with volunteering in various organizations such as the Alameda Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity International. Tell us about the motive that inspired you to do so.
MP: After working hard all day, you want to do something which makes you happy and peaceful. Volunteering has always been one such thing for me. It gave me solace to work selflessly for a cause, to help those who need it the most. Living in the United States of America (USA), the prevailing culture of volunteer work and social service inspired me. Honestly speaking, in the days of my youth, I was more inclined towards studies unlike the kids there, who were encouraged to indulge in volunteer work at a very early age. I have been involved in social service for over 10 years now, in association with various non-profitable organizations such as Alameda Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity International, the Oriya Society of Americas. Lately, I have been putting a lot of efforts in apposition with NITRAA.
MM: How do you manage your hectic schedule to accommodate the workload of your multiple positions?
MP: Time management is essential in whatever you do. When I am at work, I am entirely focused on giving my best to it. Same goes for spending time with my family as well as giving time to other activities. I believe one should not overstress themselves by taking up too many things and should learn how to juggle between things while dedicating time to a particular task with utmost devotion.
MM: Are there any memories of your workplace that you relish? After a hard days’ work, what is it that you always look forward to when you return home? Do you pursue any hobbies actively, even today that you might have taken up during your college days?
MP: I took pleasure in participating in hackathons along with my team. In my group, during a hackathon, some of my co-workers essentially stay up overnight in the office and it has always been fun to compete with the running clock accompanied by my teammates. Those are some of the moments from work that I cherish.
When I return home, I look forward to spending whatever little time I have, with my family. On weekends, I take some time off for the purpose of doing volunteer work. I sometimes help my elder kid with Mathematics and Science, while my wife, who is also an alumnus of REC Rourkela, helps him out in other subjects such as Literature. I personally love to travel and explore new places. My kids love beaches so we often go on family trips during their vacations. Apart from that, I indulge in several physical exercises such as running and sports, as it serves the dual purpose of relieving stress as well as keep me fit.
MM: How recently have you visited the institute and what did you feel about your visit?
MP: I visited the institute after 25 years for the Silver Jubilee Celebration of our batch (the batch of 1992). I was delighted to be back. In our time, we had only 5 halls of residence with a total 1500 boarders. I used to stay at the Hall-1 of those times, (now known as the SS Bhatnagar) hall in my first 2 years and at Hall 5 in the pre-final year as well as the final year. Seeing Hall 1 being transformed into a married couple hostel came as a surprise to me. Since my graduation, quite a long time has passed with a number of changes being made in the institute. The overall infrastructure has improved, the institute has expanded in terms of area, the number of hostels has increased, and the number of courses as well as the number of students has soared. I’m extremely pleased to see these changes as they have improved my alma mater’s national rankings as well.
MM: How important is alumni relations to an Institute like ours? Please comment on the current scenario.
MP: Alumni relations are very important for any institute especially for one like NIT Rourkela since it still has a lot of scopes to grow. There are innumerable ways in which Alumni can help in terms of endowment scholarships, funds, new innovative ideas, career coaching to the current students and more. Our batch has certain ideas which we are trying to implement through NITRAA.
We are presenting plans and getting in touch with the industry to enhance the chances of getting NIT Rourkela included among the 10 institutes to be funded with a sum of INR 1000 crores by the Government of India.
Furthermore, we are trying to shape the Alumnus corpus fund which is in its incipient stage. Through NITRAA, we are trying to get in touch with alumnus across the world, informing them about the research work and potential ideas of the students so that they can help in organizing crowd-funding platforms and getting the research papers published.
MM: What message would you like to give to the readers?
The most prudent advice that I can give to the students, would be to keep faith in oneself. When you graduate, things might not always turn out to be the way you expected; you might not land up at your dream job. When you face such untoward circumstances, don’t ever lose hope, rather be persistent, live your passion, sooner or later you’ll reach your destination.