Hello Spartans! Sorry for the delay in posts. Between midterms and work schedules, it was difficult to connect with Aditya. I did not want return without a plethora of information to share with you, and I finally feel like the information that I have acquired is more than worthy of sharing. Here are the big takeaways that I got from our discussions:
I am Aditya Ashok. I am from Bangalore, India. I am pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Data Science with a minor in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. I plan to work for 2-3 years after graduation in a data science related role and hopefully do an MBA. One of the biggest reasons I chose to come to MSU, outside of our engineering program, is because of basketball. I love basketball. The tipping point for me to choose to enroll at MSU was the Final Four run a couple of seasons ago. I mean that game where we beat Zion and RJ Barrett’s Duke, that was it. I also love Ultimate Frisbee, Soccer, Pool, Motorcycles, and long drives.
What inspired you to start the “college to CEO” Speaker series?
Leadership. Mentorship. Networking.
I asked myself, what do I do after graduating? I had no clue. To be honest there are several times I even question why I am even studying what I currently am. Why engineering at all? What am I supposed to do with what I learnt (or didn’t) in Calc 3 and CSE 231?
C-Suite executives can answer this the best. Whatever they did, right or wrong, it worked. They are now at the pinnacle of the corporate world. As a college student and throughout their career, what did they do right? What do they think they did wrong? What helped them get to the top? Do they regret having not done something in college?
Their journey from being a college student to the leader they are today is full of interesting stories and experiences. Their experiences and choices can guide us on how we can avoid their mistakes and make better decisions in our lives. They can mentor us to become better leaders.
Often I have felt that it is difficult to build connections with industry professionals who have so much more experience, especially an executive. Can you describe how you went about building your connections with these executives?
Contrary to what we assume, executives want to interact with students and help emerging leaders. They want to give back to their alma mater, communities, and students especially. You just need to ask. The best advice I’ve gotten to sending cold emails/dm’s or requests to connect on LinkedIn is, “What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t respond.”
When I reached out to executives, they were all supportive of the idea. I just had to reach out and be respectful of their busy schedules and be flexible to make it convenient for them to participate.
More often, I had to reach out to them through my network. I do not have everybody’s email. But I knew somebody who knew somebody. They were vital for me to reach the executive that I wanted on the lineup. Networking is a gift!
What would your advice be to someone who is trying to build their network? What are some things that you have found work well and maybe even some things that do not work well?
Professionalism. Be courteous, calm, and respectful. Be punctual. Honor your commitment. Don’t stand anybody up. If there is an inconvenience, let them know at the earliest. People are understanding.
Follow up. Thank them for their time. If they haven’t responded for a long time, follow up and find out what happened. Maybe your email got lost in their inbox. Always follow up.
Be clear. Don’t beat around the bush. The last thing you want to do is waste their time.
Be yourself. Storytelling is an excellent skill. Always have a personal elevator pitch ready.
WOW! I am truly BLOWN away by my conversation with Aditya. He is a great connection to make. Very accomplished, intelligent, and well spoken. There is no way you would know he's still in college from interacting with him. The only thing that is more impressive than himself as an individual, is his advice. It is SO TRUE that industry professionals want to help young professionals. There were there at one point and know what it is like to be starting out. They may be this powerful industry figure, but they are still a person who had to start somewhere. The core of what Aditya's advice is can be boiled down to the simple fact that you are a person and so are they.
C-Suite executives are busy and have achieved great accolades, but they are still a person. The key to building connections with them is presenting yourself with the professionalism that they see on a daily basis. Show them through your interactions that you are capable of interacting in a way that an accomplished business professional would act. This will open the door to conversations in which you can learn from their experiences and receive advice on how you should embark on your professional journey.
I want to thank Aditya again for taking the time to share his knowledge with myself and all of you as well. I hope that this discussion can help us all lay a strong foundation for building connections in the upcoming future. Stay Tuned and Keep Grinding Spartans!