Engaging with the Elite: Amaresh Tripathy
Leadership, motivation and optimism are all synonymous with Amaresh Tripathy, an alumnus of the batch of 1999, Department of Civil Engineering. Currently, an analytic head and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he believes analytics to be that driving tool which can make people’s life far bigger and better. Team MM caught up with this affable personality for an interview session. Following are the excerpts of the conversation:
MM: Going back to your beginnings, tell us something about your life before NITR?
AT: I was born in Jamshedpur. I spent a few years in Nepal because my father was posted there. I was in Delhi before I came to Rourkela. I used to do a lot of quizzing during my school days. That is how I started understanding how different disciplines come together in a very interesting way. So going to various quiz competitions is one of the memories that I always cherish. Apart from quizzing, I also used to play cricket.
MM: How did NITR happen? Did you always want to become an engineer or it just happened?
AT: Among the choices that I had, engineering was one of them. (chuckles) Like everyone else, I also appeared for the entrance exam from Kurukshetra. After my rank was declared, the options available for me were Mechanical Engineering at NIT Jalandhar and NIT Bhopal and Civil Engineering at NIT Rourkela. My ideal choice would have been NIT Jalandhar as it was near to my home. But on the contrary, I chose NIT Rourkela although I knew nothing about this place. Interestingly, my father also wanted me to go to NIT Rourkela as he is from Odisha. So, I kept NIT Rourkela at the top and finally landed here.
MM: How was life at NITR back then? Any enriching experience that you would like to share with us of your time at NITR?
AT: Coming to Rourkela was kind of home-coming for me. Before coming to Rourkela, I thought it must be a bigger city, but was quite intrigued to see the tin covered shops and stuff here. Unlike now, it used to be a very empty campus. I used to stay in MV Hall where food was the best among all halls. I guess I was the only guy who gained weight. There used to be a culvert just around the dispensary called Shimla point at that time. It used to be an open space and always be cooler. So, my friends and I would hang out at that place.
MM: Did NITR bring about any change in you as a person?
AT: In a broad context, I would say NITR helped me build my character. Here, I got to meet people from all over the country with different backgrounds which changed my entire perspective.
MM: What extra-curricular activities were you involved in?
AT: I was very much involved in quizzing. We had a lot of fun doing and organizing school level quiz competitions.
MM: During your time, were there any people, peer or professor that had a strong, lasting impression on you?
One very unique thing about professors here is they are very simple and humble. Inspite of them being so knowledgeable and experienced, the kind of humility they have is something you don’t see in the real world outside campus.
I received a family kind of support from the professors here. One of them was Prof. M.D Kar, head of the department, who helped me in my higher studies and many others.
MM: How was the department of civil engineering at that time? How was the placement scenario back then?
AT: From the professor quality perspective to access to the labs to infrastructure, the Department of Civil Engineering was great even back then. Placement scenario of my department was decent. From my batch, around fifty percent of them got placed. I was also among those lucky ones who managed to get a core job in L&T despite the fact that I was not so good a civil engineer at that time. (laughs)
MM: After graduating from NITR with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, you went on to pursue MS in transportation systems from University of Texas and later on started a career as a data analyst. What prompted you to shift from engineering to analytics and consulting?
AT: I never changed; I am doing exactly what I learned here. Very rarely do people change things; they evolve to incorporate newer ideas and concepts. When I was here I used to research a lot, taking help from professors of the Department of Electrical Engineering, Department of Physics and my own department. It made me appreciate a lot of things and one important area I focused a lot on was optimization. This concept when applied to transportation scheduling and routing problems caught my attention and I published a few papers too which helped me get admission into MS later. Professor Mahabir Panda had just come in and he helped me a lot in the thinking and analyzing process. So when I went there I continued with my earlier work but also explored newer domains. I was fascinated by how problems on data were solved. I then decided I did not want to do my Ph.D. I would rather solve problems, real life ones, the ones the industry faced back then, quite a true engineering trait. (laughs)
I continued with the data analytics work and at one point, I felt the urgent need of the whole analytics sector to be organized in a different way which was when I got to start this new division at Diamond. It is a series of evolutions. Each time it connects to the stuff I was doing earlier and moves slowly and slowly forward. Until recently, I was doing this project on aircraft operations optimization and that is transportation engineering!
MM: How has been your experience so far working with PwC consulting?
AT: PwC is a fantastic company. I became a part of it when it acquired another firm which I was a part of. Through PwC, the scale of impact that you can have in people’s life is far bigger. In some ways, only your ideas are the limiting factor. You have a lot of flexibility, chances to go entrepreneurial, you work with a lot of driven and intellectually bright people. You enjoy the whole process of contributing something to the society and it feels really good.
MM: How have you been associated with NITR after graduating?
AT: This is my first visit but I have been associated all along. For nearly six years after leaving, a few friends and I were working on streamlining the process of applying for graduate programmes in the US. We prepared a manual that detailed the whole procedure, writing of statement of purpose, the resume etc. We included a lot of contact information too to make it easier. I learnt it the hard way; I had a few seniors who guided me but there was no big group of students who were doing it. We did not have much access to information at that time, there was no internet. The only place that had internet in Rourkela was the post office.
So that was the first phase, helping out juniors for higher studies. Until recently, I noticed an information gap existing, people did not have enough exposure. I am associated with a great company and I have learnt a lot working there. I wanted to share with them my experience. That led to the second phase where I began interacting with the students. In 2010, I had a video conference where I shared tips and tricks for acing an interview.
Students often try to be artificial in an interview to impress the panel but they need to know that the people judging them can see through it. They need to believe in themselves and be who they are.
Apart from this, I have been involved in organizing and keeping active the alumni association in New York and the US alumni association too. So someway or other, I have had some sort of link with this wonderful place.
MM: What are the significant changes you see in the institute since you graduated and what reforms would you like to witness in the near future?
AT: It is a long time indeed, 1999 to 2015. There are so many buildings, roads now, the infrastructure has become very impressive. There are so many Ph.D. students now, that’s a really good sign. That we are able to organize an event in collaboration with a reputed foreign university shows we are capable now. Frankly during my time, even if you had an interesting idea and got together the right people, the institute would not have been able to get the idea materialized. Today, it is a lot better. I could see a lot more girls on the campus at night, which would have been unheard of in our days. It points to better security and a more lively and interactive campus culture. Also I see quite a number of young faculty members, which is a good development. I saw a few teachers having lunch in the mess, again something unheard of and a positive change of course.
I have been associated with a lot of IITs for years and if you consider them as the benchmark, as they generally are considered to be, I would like the students here to get more exposure, to get into multi-disciplinary learning, to pioneer new ideas, to explore on their own.
I would want them to stop chasing degrees and money and rather focus on doing something meaningful for the people around, taking out time to solve problems of the less fortunate. They need to give back to their institute and with it, rapid changes will surely occur.
MM: You conducted a workshop on analytics today. How was the experience interacting with students of your alma mater?
AT: It was great really. When we were students we would easily get bored in lectures and workshops. We would be the first to take the last bench so we could doze off. During my workshop, not all were paying attention, but I saw a few very enthusiastic students. They listened, asked interesting questions and made the session very interactive.
MM: Lastly, what piece of advice would you like to give to the NITR fraternity?
AT: There is one thing I would urge everyone to do, start thinking that you are among the elite of the country. As much as you are chasing your own dreams, you need to realize your responsibilities for others. Give back in interesting ways. This is a great institute; it will teach you a lot of things. And the friends you make here will be life-long ones. Work with them to do good, meaningful stuff.
To see the video message from Mr Amaresh Tripathy, click on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm2_3fAqaoI
Team MM thanks Mr. Tripathy for taking out valuable time from his hectic schedule to interact with us and wishes him all the very best in all his future endeavours.