From founder to frontrunner - Harsha Konduri
Harsha Konduri, part of the first batch graduated from BITS Pilani (Goa, ‘08), is now a leader at Microsoft. In the primarily software development-dominated culture of the 2000s, there are very few people who have gone through the initial phases of building the culture on a new campus and left with an ambitious drive to do something different. College may not always give you a clear-cut roadmap, and Harsha Konduri is a prime example of forging a meaningful career that is unique while always having clarity of thought in his decision-making through self-reflection.
Part of the first batch of BITS Pilani K.K. Birla Goa Campus, Harsha Konduri has lived up to its reputation with ardor. He pursued an MSc in Information Systems (2004-08). We are talking about times when the internet was drawn via cables, and IP Messenger was their WhatsApp. Harsha reflects on his days with fondness and found his first two years on campus his most impactful. He strongly believes the experience and lessons he got from bootstrapping everything from fests to clubs and departments taught him how to make efficient decisions that help him in his career even today. Harsha was part of the organizing team for the technical fest Quark under which he managed 100+ participants and powered his ability to diagnose and solve problems. He was also the academic club coordinator of his department. Harsha ponders how participating in elections played an immense role in his BITS journey and helped him understand people better. He realized early on that programming was not his cup of tea, but his interest lay in analyzing and building something of his own. He thanks BITS for helping him define his career path through the process of elimination. One thing that he wanted to convey to all the students currently studying in BITS is that the relevance of CGPA exponentially decreases over time, so everyone must strive for knowledge rather than maximizing their grades by taking electives they aren't interested in, as he himself regrets doing so.
Harsha has had a strong drive for entrepreneurship since his college days. He even launched his own startup where he outsourced web developers for the United States and got gigs by undercutting his competitors, using which he paid his own fees for the last 2 years of his college life.
Harsha worked with various companies, viz., Oracle, Citibank, and Quickborn Consulting LLC, as an analyst, and he saw that many solutions used for corporate problems could very well be used in various other sectors. This sparked another startup, SchoolTech, where a customized learning experience has to be provided to students like many companies in the Edtech space do today. He was the first person in India who tried to integrate predictive analytics appliances in the education space. He operated this while in Oracle, where he worked hands-on with predictive analysis. However, it failed due to multiple reasons, such as a lack of data back then and capital loss. He didn't let this discourage him but remarked on how he learned from this process. As Howard Marks famously said, "Being too far ahead of your time is indistinguishable from being wrong." Harsha advises the younger batches that life doesn't always unfold as we plan it to, and we cannot take credit for everything. It's the environment that sets you up a lot.
Harsha went on to strengthen his skills and got an MBA degree from Duke University, which has one of the top 10 MBA programs in the world. He remarks on how his personal potential was far better matched on choosing to study abroad rather than attempting CAT since he preferred an all-around experience rather than focusing solely on academic excellence. Upon specializing in decision sciences, he went on to work with Microsoft, where he started as the first ML/AI engineer in Field Sales. He most recently led Microsoft's 2-billion-dollar cloud-scale analytics business in North America. He has enabled several Fortune 500 companies to leverage Microsoft Cloud and AI services. He is now the General Manager of Azure Data & AI – Asia. Leading a group of deeply specialized teams in helping customers with their Data and analytics aspirations. His knowledge and love for technology, his ability to simplify complex vocabulary to layman's terms, and his knack for capturing gains are noteworthy.
He emphasizes how he wouldn't trade his BITS experience as well as his Duke experience for anything in the world. Whenever he has to travel for work or otherwise, he pings fellow BITSians, forging meaningful connections and expanding his network every time he gets the opportunity. He wanted to tell all Bitsians that they should cherish the connections they form during their college lives as they go a long way in the future. For him, BITS is family, and most of his family members are from BITS. He is inspiring for what he does and brings to the table for his company, which is something truly remarkable about him. His guidance is to find the intersection of what you are good at, what you are passionate about, and where there is a demand for it. Experiment with many things, select the right courses and electives, and most importantly revel in what you contribute to your workspace. He also emphasizes that it is hard to predict what is relevant and what isn't in the future, yet when you are at a juncture where you need to decide, it works better to take the harder route out when you want to take the easier one. The journey he embarked on showcases the impact of our institution in refining the abilities of aspiring leaders and preparing them to create a significant influence in the global arena.
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