Interviewed by Rahul Anand R (M.Sc TCS, 2017- 2022)
Photograph by Shashank Narayanan (M.Sc TCS, 2017- 2022)
The Reunion of the B.E & B.Tech 1993/ B.E(SW) 1994 (read about it here) batch presented us with an opportunity to interview the person with the highest number of patents (60) in the batch, Mr. Prakash Mahesh (B.E EEE (SW), 1989- 1994). He is currently one of the Vice Presidents of AMETEK, an electronics manufacturing company. This is an excerpt from the interview.
Q: Post your undergraduation here at PSG Tech, you went on to do your Masters in Computer Science from Drexel University, Philadelphia and then an MBA from the California Coast University. How did this journey come about?
A: For me, learning is a never ending process in life. I have never been satisfied with what I have learnt. So, after finishing my Bachelors, I felt that I definitely needed to do a Masters degree. But even after finishing that I was not satisfied, so I went on to do an MBA. There was a PhD degree in the mix as well – I had a thesis, but I became busier in life with work and kids, and that degree never came about.
Q: How different did you find the other institutions from PSG Tech? How did your experience here help you?
A: There was a drastic difference between the approach towards learning. Here, we had just read the questions and we almost knew what questions to expect, but it was totally different there. That was a big cultural shock to me, which took time to subside. The system here does not promote critical thinking, which I think should be changed. That doesn’t mean my degree here didn’t help. It laid the foundation for me to be able to study further, and frankly, has had a major role in making me what I am today. I certainly owe this place a lot.
Q: How important a college was PSG Tech during your days, seeing that there weren’t many engineering colleges back then? Also, the sandwich programme is not something that is available everywhere. So did it prove to be effective?
A: It definitely was one of the top colleges alongside of the IITs and RECs (now NITs). And I was also very particular about wanting to get into PSG Tech. I got what I expected from the college when I came in. About the sandwich programme, I would say that it was the best thing for me back then. We had to work at odd hours, which was tiring. But we got to work with machine tools like lathes and pay regular visits to foundries which a conventional EE engineer would never have had the opportunity to do. So, I am happy about it.
Q: We learnt that you were a part of a NASA funded VR startup in 1998. This is very interesting considering that even now VR hasn’t reached its full potential. Please tell us more about it.
A: After my Masters degree, I was flooded with almost 8 – 9 job offers, but I ended up taking the one that paid the least. It was in a project for NASA and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. After the completion of the project, we commercialized the idea and founded a startup. We converted the idea used in the project into a game involving graphics and VR. There, I took up the responsibility of handling sales, which motivated me to do an MBA later on.
Q: How well has your knowledge of computers helped you in your managerial role in a company pertaining to technology?
A: I run a billion dollar company with almost two thousand people and I usually communicate effectively with two sects of people – engineers and sales people. My knowledge has helped me understand their difficulties well and be reasonable about my demands. This knowledge has also helped me to maintain a healthy relationship with people in the lower rungs of the company ladder.
Q: How much has changed in Coimbatore and PSG Tech since your days?
A: Everything has become bigger. The infrastructural growth both in the city and in the college is phenomenal. The department buildings have grown in size, elevators have been added and there is the skywalk as well. As for Coimbatore, I used to complain that there weren’t many places to eat at back then, but now Avinashi Road itself is filled with a lot of good hotels leaving you spoilt for choice. Now, there are more things to do, with hangout spots like the malls and restaurants, than during my time here. However, the city still has a long way to go, compared to cities like Chennai or Bangalore.
Q: You are involved in some biomedical projects as well. Seeing the kind of growth this field has had, can you tell us more about it?
A: I have been involved in projects at companies like GE, Hospira and few others in this sphere. Even though I do not have any formal education in biomedical engineering, I wanted to delve into this sector since I thought that it would be an avenue for me to do some service to the society, with technology becoming a vital part in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals. Most of my patents are in this field, specifically relating to image guided surgeries. I know that that has become commonplace now, but my patents were among the earliest in this technology.
Q: What do you look for in a student while recruiting for your company? Does their college/ university play a role?
A: Some of the people around me insist on recruiting only from a set of reputed institutions, but I don’t really believe in that. I know where I came from and I know where I stand now, so I wouldn’t want to take away an opportunity just like I had, from a person only because of their institution. The prime requirement I have from a potential recruit is humility and the willingness to learn. I would prefer them over someone who is highly skilled, yet arrogant.
Q: What is something you wish you had done differently during your college days?
A: I was a really studious person back then and I wouldn’t actively take part in college events like the Renaissance (forerunner of Kriya). I would head back home straight from college. I wish I had been more interested in all this. Another major thing during college was that the day-scholars like me, who were an alarming minority, missed out on a lot of fun that the hostelers had. I wish we had that experience as well.
Q: How well connected are you with your classmates, with all of you having busy schedules?
A: Social media have been a saviour in this matter. I do not know if WhatsApp is as important to you people as us, but since the day this app emerged, we have spent way too much of our time chatting. We have multiple groups for sharing media about a variety of topics like religion and this has been going for two years. So when we met during the reunion, it wasn’t even like we were meeting after decades as technology has kept us sufficiently connected.
THE BRIDGE would like to thank Mr. Prakash Mahesh for his time and interest towards this interview.
Rahul Anand R (Author)
You’ll find me somewhere between Agam and AC/DC.
Shashank Narayanan (Photographer)
I am an aspiring photographer and a passionate programmer. I love anything under the sun that involves anime.
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