A Thought-Provoking Idea: 3rd Golden Jubilee Lecture
NITR’s Alumni are making their alma mater proud by achieving the pinnacles of success in various different aspects, all across the globe. A passionate person who rose the rungs with sheer dedication and hard work – Dr. Surya Narayan Mohapatra was not just a star alumnus of the 1971 batch but a true inspiration! He visited the institute on Saturday, 26th March, 2016 to deliver the 3rd Golden Jubilee Lecture at 1:00 p.m.
Dr. Surya Narayan Mohapatra is the former Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Quest Diagnostics Inc., a Fortune 500 company and the world’s leading provider of diagnostic testing, information and services. He is a member of the Board of Directors of XYLEM Inc. and a Trustee of Rockefeller University. After completing his B. S. in Electrical Engineering from REC (NIT) Rourkela and Sambalpur University, and M. S. in Medical Electronics from University of Salford, England, he did his Doctorate in Medical Physics from University of London and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
The talk scheduled at 11 a.m. commenced with a delay of two hours owing to the delay of his flight. Meanwhile, the audience was kept busy by Mr. Reddy of Indian Oil Corporation Limited, who shared various anecdotes with the audience and amusing tales of his life across the country.
Dr. Mohapatra started his talk by briefly introducing himself and narrating stories of his times in REC. Electronics was always a passion for him and not merely a subject which he had to study to get good grades. He spent most of his time at REC in the lab building electronic gadgets such as stereos, radios, and amplifiers. He joked about an incident when the entire campus had to miss one of the favourite evening radio shows of those times because he had jammed it to teach some people a lesson!
He exclaimed to see a drastic change in the college as he visited NITR after 45 years but confessed on getting goosebumps as he passed the arches of what he considered a holy shrine.
Then he shared with the audience a few situations and incidents in his life that lead him to shift into the field of Medical Engineering. His most prominent contribution to this area of study was the “Non Invasive Cardiovascular Monitoring by Electrical Impedance Technique.”
He moved on to talk about how the trends of the current world are undergoing a massive change because of which companies like Microsoft, Google and Twitter are being created independently without the tutelage or patronage of a bigger organization. He called this a disruption that we are all undergoing in our everyday lives, a kind of change that we are experiencing without true realization.
The next thing he talked about was the changing technology, especially the Internet of Things which is going to transform the way we live our lives. Different kinds of technology, be it nanotechnology or biotechnology or robotics, is all converging into a single entity, and this is another notable trend of the 21st century. Phone companies are patenting better camera lenses, which suggest that 20 years from now, the phone which was used for making calls is now converging into other greater things.
Dr. Mohapatra touched a common chord when he talked about how the Information Technology industry has drowned out creativity in India. The thousands of people who get sucked into IT companies eventually end up punching data and testing codes, making their engineering degrees basically redundant.
There is a need for changing analytics and informatics in this country, so that people understand the applications and deeper implications of what they are doing, and don’t end up serving the West, once again!
The world that we live in has open accessibility, which simply means that two different people of the world have the same access to the same information irrespective of their age, upbringing and social background. Dr. Mohapatra emphasized, “This is the key to thinking the unthinkable – you no longer need to be an engineer to have opportunities.” He highlighted the upsurge of the start-up culture and rise of a generation of entrepreneurs, which is a distinct shift from the way lives were lead previously. He said, “By the way, you don’t need a billion dollars to start a company now; all you need is brain power!”
The next thing on his agenda was about how the global market is opening up to Asia-Pacific, which is why everybody wants to come to India or China, except Indians themselves who don’t realize that they’re practically sitting on a gold mine. He told the audience how 65% of Indians are below 35 years of age, because of which the market can be used to create massive growth for this country and hoist it upwards. Mohapatra says, “The rules of the game are changing and we need to change with it. Previously people asked you to be experts, whereas now if you’re an expert you’re delinquent and deficient. If you only know how to use a hammer, every problem will look like a nail – but if you have access to the entire toolbox your problem solving approach will be greatly improved!”
Finally he spoke on three important things that any leader at the helm of affairs will require – courage, creativity and communication skills. Many great students lose out on becoming CEO’s because they lack courage and creativity. “People work for people, not for companies – so developing communication skills is imperative!”
Dr. Surya N. Mohapatra ended his lecture on “Thinking the Unthinkable” by stressing on how it is not merely a tagline but a way of living life – the way in which he leads his life, and he believes that we can lead ours to an even greater extend.
He also received his certificate for Most Distinguished Alumnus, which was conferred upon him during the Annual Convocation, 2016 which he had been unable to attend, from the Director, Prof S.K Sarangi.
The occasion was also graced by another NITR alumnus, Mr. Venkata N. Peri who resonated Dr. Mohapatra’s ideas and said that he too believes there is a need to accept and work with the change that we are all experiencing in our day-to-day lives.
Overall, the third Golden Jubilee Lecture, which was poorly timed in the middle of a long weekend because of which many students were unable to attend it, turned out to be an eye-opener for all those present. Our distinguished guests were lucid in their dialogue and their delay hardly made a difference, as people sat enamored with the great ideas that had just been projected upon them.