In 2013, Shankar Radhakrishnan made a brief career detour, leaving the construction industry for Bollywood.
Radhakrishnan graduated North Carolina State University in 2009 with a master’s degree in construction engineering and management, then returning to his home country of India to work. But in 2013, a movie production company owned by family members of Radhakrishnan’s asked for his help and he stepped in as CEO. He spent two years there and under his leadership, the company produced and released a feature film in India in 2014.
“Most of my cohort and the MBA admissions office know me as a movie producer,” Radhakrishnan says today with a laugh.
Radhakrishnan, who returned to NC State in fall 2019 to pursue a Jenkins MBA in the Poole College of Management, said there’s connections to be made between his work in Bollywood and in the business world.
“My experience in film production has helped me manage projects in the program,” Radhakrishnan said.
Projects happen in phases and in the same way, movie production involves several phases from pre-planning to executing movie shoots to post production. Radhakrishnan likens the final release date of the film to handing off a completed project.
“It helped me understand something about myself – that I could multi-task and handle projects under tremendous pressure,” he said.
That experience came in handy when he was accepted to the Jenkins MBA Program. Radhakrishnan and his wife decided that she and the couple’s two young boys, ages 3 and 7, would stay behind in India while he pursued his MBA in North Carolina. Multi-tasking and time management became essential skills between coursework, research and the desire to keep up with his family back home.
“My family is so supportive – my wife is my pillar of support,” he said. “She motivated me and said, ‘we can do this.’”
On a day-to-day basis, he said advances in technology make keeping in touch and feeling a part of his family’s life that much easier.
“I would compare it to the time that I was in the U.S. in 2009 – then, communication was either email or phone,” he said. “Thanks to technology now, we can see each other; we are just a video call away.”
In addition to his coursework, Radhakrishnan was also part of the Supply Chain Research Cooperative in Poole College his first semester as a graduate research assistant working for Caterpillar’s Building Construction Product division in Supply Chain Planning and Data Analytics.
“I was able to apply what I learned theoretically in class in the real field, which helped me a lot,” he said.
While his role as a student and a researcher kept Radhakrishnan busy, the time difference between North Carolina and India helped him manage time with his family. He said he could have dinner and chat with his family in the evenings while they were starting their morning in India.
Radhakrishnan said he chose to pursue an MBA because he felt his career trajectory had reached a saturation point and he believed an MBA would be the best way to grow his managerial skills.
“NC State places prominence on the importance of academic and industry experience, and values supply chain management,” Radhakrishnan said. “These were the reasons that motivated me to come back.”
Following his time in the film production industry, Radhakrishnan worked in Oman from 2015-2019 with a prominent construction company.
Through that and previous experiences, he said he was always trained to think conservatively and “play by the books,” so he was taken aback when, on his first day of orientation with the Jenkins MBA, he heard over and over that it was time to think outside the box.
“I was trained one way and they’re telling me the exact opposite,” he recalled.
But as his coursework got underway, Radhakrishnan said it all became more clear. Approaching case work in a marketing class, for example, he saw real-world ways to approach situations on the job.
“I saw that it shouldn’t be a single perspective, it should be a bird’s eye perspective, and from there, you make a decision,” he said.
Upon graduation, Radhakrishnan hopes to work his way up to a COO or operations manager role.
Radhakrishnan is back in India for the spring semester, taking a brief pause in his MBA pursuit as he spends time with his father who recently underwent major surgery. He plans to return to NC State for the fall semester and complete his MBA in 2021.
He’s quick to tell those who may be weighing the pursuit of an MBA with the potential family sacrifices that they should pursue that MBA.
“The experience of the MBA, and exposing themselves in an international environment with a diverse cohort, that experience will be worth it.”
“Don’t be afraid to try new things because you never know what’s waiting for you and what’s in store.”