Please tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
“I came to Santa Clara to fulfill my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur,” explains Nikita Sushil Kumar from Bangalore, India, who recently earned her master’s degree in engineering management and leadership at SCU. With an undergraduate degree from Visvesvaraya Technological University in biotechnology, she was working in the medical device industry in India when she decided she needed to “get out and meet people and see how the world runs; see what’s outside and explore more. That’s why I chose SCU and Silicon Valley,” she continued, “I could have had a full scholarship in Philadelphia, but I wanted to be in Silicon Valley to meet entrepreneurs and learn from them. Santa Clara’s engineering management program is one of a kind. It teaches you how to work and think like a technical manager and the program has been a wonderful experience. The faculty are industry people who share their successes and failures. It’s been enlightening to learn from them.”
How was the experience at SCU?
During her year in the master’s program at SCU, Nikita didn’t waste a minute. “I knew I was only here for a short while, so I took every opportunity that came my way—I attended a lot of conferences and events, and participated in the CAPE program [the California Program for Entrepreneurship run by SCU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Leavey School of Business]. Through CAPE I developed a business plan and designed and built an oral cancer screening device. Going through the entire process of developing, pitching, funding, and selling a product taught me so many valuable lessons. It showed me my shortcomings and since I worked alone, I learned how important it is to have a committed team to help with launching a start-up. It was an amazing experience; almost like earning a dual degree—engineering management and entrepreneurship or an MBA. You have to have courage to be an entrepreneur and you have to know how industries and markets work. I want to learn before I jump in so that I can give 100 percent when I’m ready.”
Did you gain any practical experience at SCU?
The process of gaining practical experience has already begun. Even before graduating, Kumar accepted a position as Startup Specialist with Consure Medical, where she helps with strategic decisions regarding expanding business, sales, operations, and new product line development research. The company was seeded through Stanford University’s India Biodesign program whose director mentored Kumar. “Being at Santa Clara and having access to people both here and at Stanford has been amazing,” she said. “After graduation, I will continue working for Consure in India. It’s unusual, going back to India to work; I don’t know that there’s anyone else from my graduating class doing that. People generally want to stay in the United States to make money and offset the cost of their education. I chose not to stay here, but to work for my country. I’m a little afraid to go back. I’ve been in the U.S. for over a year and have adapted to the culture. I’ll be moving to a region that is very different from where I grew up. It will be challenging, but I’m really excited to do something I always wanted to do. Consure is very innovative and I see myself coming up as an entrepreneur with them. Being an innovator of the product is an amazing feeling to have.
What are your future plans?
“My goal was always to start my own company very soon. I’m not ready to do that just yet, but I’ve met some great people at SCU. When the time is right, there are a few I know I can call on to join with me to work on our dreams. I’ve learned so much and can see promising growth ahead. I hope something wonderful comes out of it. I’m a firm believer that persistence pays off. It’s just a matter of time. I will keep pursuing!”
Nikita currently works as Product Engineer at InnAccel, India.