“Love made me do it,” says Tejnadh Paila ’20 MBA, when recalling why he decided to pursue an MBA. And a year and a half into the Eller Full-time MBA program, it’s love—and focus—that have landed him a coveted technology product manager job after graduation in May 2020.
Following his undergraduate degree in computer science in India, Paila thought a more technical master’s degree—computer engineering or information systems, perhaps—would complement his work as a software engineer for companies like Qualcomm and Teradata.
But as he joined MBA coaching classes to be closer to a woman he so admired, he realized that the more general business degree was right for him, particularly if the program could have a technology component. Though the woman dropped the class—and Paila’s relationship with her never blossomed—he finished the course and then applied to and was accepted by several top programs in the U.S.
“I chose the Eller MBA because technology is at the core of the program,” he says. “Eller has a reputation as one of the best technology management MBAs, and that’s proven true.” A scholarship offer sealed the deal.
But the transition wasn’t as easy as he expected. “I struggled in business communications,” he says. “I was challenged because there were several of us from other cultures with conflicting ideas. Finding a balance between diverse people who work in different ways was key.”
The business communications course that helped Paila find that balance was, in the end, “a really good experience.” As was his participation in the semester-long Eller Business Consulting program, where he partnered with other MBA students to serve as a consultant on marketing strategy for Sunquest Data Systems.
Though the focus of that student-led consulting project wasn’t technology, Paila knows that strategy is critical regardless of industry. “I’ve always wanted to be a product manager who focuses on strategy in the tech industry,” he says.
He got that opportunity this summer when he interned for Teradata in San Diego, where he worked on strategy for the tech giant’s cloud platform. “I presented to the leadership team,” he recalls. “They really liked my ideas and asked me to expand the strategy, offering me a full-time job when I graduate.”
And that’s where love comes into play again. Paila spent two years at Teradata before joining the MBA program: “I loved working for Teradata, both in India and in San Diego for my internship. And I love the vision of Teradata—that cloud-based analytics is the future. I’ll have the opportunity to help build that strategy.” He will join Teradata at its office in Santa Clara, California, as product manager for analytics platforms.
Until then, he is bridging his internship and full-time job by working part-time for Teradata remotely while completing his MBA. That requires a keen focus and speaks to the advice he has for others who are passionate about technology and considering pursuing an MBA.
“Be clear about what you want from the beginning,” he says. “I knew I didn’t want to be a software engineer, but instead wanted to build strategy.”
Was the person who grew up in the small south India village of Palasa always so focused? Not necessarily. “I sat down one day and analyzed all my technical skills and strengths,” Paila says. “Knowing that I love technology, I asked where I wanted to end up. Then I identified how I could get there.”
That focus brought Paila to the Eller MBA, which brings him to the next logical—and emotional—step in his career: “I’m going back to Teradata because that’s where my heart is.”