Nirmalya Bannerjee, SDM ’11: Connecting the Dots with SDM

Nirmalya Bannerjee By Cody Ned Romano
June 18, 2012

A former project manager for Apple, Nirmalya Banerjee sums up his experience in SDM by drawing upon the wisdom of his company’s founder. "Embrace different opportunities," Steve Jobs said, "because you never know how and when you’ll be able to look back and connect the dots."

Banerjee’s resume is a testament to Jobs’ advice. An Indian national scholar in mathematics, Banerjee began his career as an electrical engineer, followed it with an MBA in marketing and went on to work as an SAP consultant. After five years as a consultant, he wanted to grow and explore new horizons.

Interdisciplinary courses such as System Dynamics drew Banerjee to SDM. He also appreciated that SDM integrated engineering and management via systems thinking. Diving into the curriculum, Banerjee earned close to 178 academic credits in just 13 months. This included studying Negotiation at Harvard Business School and learning basic Chinese. "SDM", says Banerjee, "was an immensely enriching experience. It provided unparalleled opportunities to learn and compete with the best and brightest minds and to network with industry leaders of the future."

"SDM is the place where I’m trying to connect the dots," Banerjee said. "It is where I’m trying to integrate all that I’ve learned through my education and experience to develop a holistic perspective for the future."

In addition to his formal studies, Banerjee worked on an MIT project aimed at improving public health in India. Nearly half of Indians who develop cataracts go blind because of untimely detection. The equipment for detection is too expensive and is not readily available in the rural medical centers. To facilitate this, Banerjee, along with his team, helped develop a plan for delivering affordable technology for residents of Indian cities and villages — a smartphone app and a clip on device that scans the eye for cataracts. Their project won the MIT Global Challenge Choice Award, which provided $10,000 in funding.

Prior to matriculating at SDM, Banerjee worked at Apple Singapore as a project manager where he led a team of 32 consultants who supported the SAP system, Banerjee focused on developing innovative process changes to tackle global challenges. A significant change he initiated by involved redesigning the Asia Pacific month-end closure process of business activities. This resulted in greatly reduced closure time and created more opportunities for the business teams to carry out critical order fulfillment operations. These new processes introduced by Banerjee have since been standardized as the team’s regular business processes.

Banerjee’s SDM thesis, which reflects his continuous commitment to redesigning and simplifying complex business processes examines conflict mediation in the multi-vendor scenario from a systems perspective. It provides a quantitative angle to a qualitative concept, such as conflict and mediation in a multi-sourcing environment, using system dynamics modeling and sensitivity analysis. "Other project managers should be able to use my research to identify which conflict factors should be the key focus areas for information technology project managers in a multi-sourcing environment and which mitigation strategy(ies) work(s) best to increase the productivity and output of their teams," he said.

After he graduates from MIT in June 2012, Banerjee will work for Open Access Technology International (OATI), an energy software company located in Minneapolis. There, as a development manager, he will apply systems thinking to create software solutions for emerging fields like smart grids and energy trading. By moving into the energy sector, the professional who began his studies in electrical engineering is coming full circle. Yet he will enter the industry with a fresh perspective, having integrated all that he has learned, embracing the new opportunities and continuing to practice what he learned at SDM — connecting the dots.

"This is an ongoing process for me and I will continue to interface with both MIT and SDM," he said. I want to contribute to the program and the Institute in any way possible, and use my education to make a larger impact someday. This is when I will know that I have finally connected all of the dots."

Nirmalya Bannerjee
Photo by Kathy Tarantola Photography