Distinguished Alumni Award:Venkata Padmanabhan

Venkata Padmanabhan is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research India, where he founded the Mobility, Networks, and Systems group in 2007. He was previously with Microsoft Research Redmond, USA for nearly 9 years. Venkata’s research interests are broadly in networked and mobile systems, and his work over the years has led to highly-cited papers and paper awards, technology transfers within Microsoft, and also industry impact. He received the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize and the inaugural ACM SIGMOBILE Test-of-Time paper award, both in 2016. Venkata holds a B.Tech. from IIT Delhi and an M.S. and a PhD from UC Berkeley, all in Computer Science, and has been elected a Fellow of the INAE, the IEEE, and the ACM. He is an adjunct professor at the Indian Institute of Science and was previously an affiliate faculty member at the University of Washington.

In an interview with Dr Vanita Srivastava, he talks about how the Institute helped him grow and stresses on the need to create a meaningful impact.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

What did you study in IIT Delhi? What is the one thing that you learnt from the Institute that has helped you in tackling day to day problems of life?


I studied Computer Science & Engineering at IIT Delhi and obtained my B.Tech. in 1993.

There are so many things I learnt from my 4 years at IIT Delhi that I can’t relate all of it here, but if I had to pick two, I would say (1) taking the initiative in any endeavour instead of merely following instructions, and (2) multitasking (if one can juggle multiple, academically-demanding IIT courses semester after semester, most things that come thereafter would seem like a cakewalk!).


What is the message that you would like to communicate to the young students of IIT Delhi?


The one message I would like to convey to students is to think of themselves as agents of impact, not merely as someone who moves on to a “routine” job or career. What is “impact”? Let me offer a simple definition: if your work gets noticed, used, or acted upon by people unconnected with you, possibly on the other side of the world, then you will know that you have had an impact. I firmly believe that every graduating student should aim to make a difference through such impact, regardless of what line of work they choose to pursue: research, engineering, entrepreneurship, administration, or anything else.


What is your mantra for staying positive and confident?


Have a sense of humour. Keep an open and inquisitive mind. Have a healthy respect for people who you consider as role models but don’t be overawed by them or anyone else. When you peek closer, you will realize that they too are human, not embodiments of perfection. So don’t be afraid to stand your ground when you believe in something, even if you find yourself to be in a minority.


He can be reached online at http://research.microsoft.com/~padmanab/.