Finding a Niche Within SDM’s Tech Community

Saujanya Shrivastava By Cody Ned Romano
September 16, 2011

Saujanya Shrivastava, SDM ’11, is the kind of technology enthusiast who can’t browse Facebook without contemplating its underlying source code. In his spare time, he reads blogs about social media and researches the latest digital cameras and mobile phones. "I’ll jump at any opportunity," Shrivastava explained, "to learn more about an emerging technology."

The systems and telecommunication engineer, who has nine years of industry experience, has discovered a community of like-minded students in his SDM cohort: mid-career professionals for whom technology is not only part of a job description, but a personal passion.

"My discussions with other tech professionals in SDM are lively and exciting," said Shrivastava. "Even outside of the classroom, we’re constantly learning and exchanging ideas." Workshops and lectures, such as a recent talk by Jack Welch (the former CEO of General Electric) provide further networking opportunities. After engaging his peers in discussion, Shrivastava often engages them on MIT’s courts and fields. "I’m really inclined towards sports, especially cricket," he said, laughing. "I think it’s in my Indian blood."

Shrivastava’s engineering career began in northern India, where he earned his engineering undergraduate degree from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). By the time he graduated in 2000, the engineer still yearned to improve his understanding of complex digital systems. To this end, he earned his MS in software engineering from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, with a focus on complex design and software program management.

The systems thinking perspective that Shrivastava Saujanya developed while at Oxford and AMU became critical to him when he encountered a crisis a few years later.

While working as a technical architect for Nokia Siemens Networks, Shrivastava realized that a module within the company’s core network, for which he was responsible, had suddenly malfunctioned. If left unchecked, the problem could have had a cascading effect, spreading throughout the entire system. Every minute counted as Shrivastava and his team raced to resolve the issue.

"The core is essentially the brain of any mobile network," Shrivastava explained. Like a brain, Nokia’s core network was constantly abuzz with activity, as it routed text messages and phone calls between millions of customers worldwide. "Working within such a large and interconnected system," said the engineer, "we needed to make sure that solving one problem wouldn’t cause another."

By isolating the problematic module, then carefully reintroducing it into the larger system, Shrivastava returned the network to its normal state within just a few hours. Applying systems thinking to this case, and several others, the engineer averted crises to achieve a 99.999 percent availability rate. In other words, his system never stopped functioning for more than five minutes in an entire year.

Shrivastava’s experience in the tech industry informed his search for graduate schools. Although he considered a handful of top business and technology management programs throughout Europe and the United States, Shrivastava chose SDM because its curriculum blends elements of engineering and management.

"Although I’ve always had a passion for technology," said Shrivastava, "SDM has given me the confidence and business leadership skills I need to communicate my ideas to clients, as well as co-workers."

Saujanya Shrivastava
Photo by Kathy Tarantola Photography