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Sustainability and Technology Innovation

by Nikhil Suares, MBA '12 (11/1/11)
Nikhil Suares, MBA '12

Though one may question how sustainability fits into my ongoing quest for innovation and technology management, the time spent in the Sustainable Global Enterprise Immersion has been one of my defining moments at Johnson.

From a very early age, I have always been fascinated with technology and, more importantly, how it has advanced through the decades; this, more than anything, led me to complete my undergraduate studies in Computer Science. After school, I began my career at Motorola Inc. where I worked on cutting-edge wireless technologies that power networks like Verizon and Sprint. I also participated in a number of initiatives that defined new avenues for wireless network security development.

After coming to Johnson, I knew that my career interests were in the management of technology and innovation. I was interested in gaining real work experience while in school. While there is no formal immersion which deals specifically with technology management, I was intrigued by the focus of the Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE); the SGE immersion consists of both coursework and a practicum where I could apply the knowledge I had gained. Luckily, the immersion allowed me to take additional classes geared towards my interest in technology; at the time, I had no background in sustainability.

I chose the SGE immersion for 3 reasons: 1) to learn more about sustainability, 2) to look at the methods by which sustainability can be sold and implemented by organizations, and 3) to utilize the flexibility it afforded in customizing my coursework toward technology and innovation. While sustainability is not my focus upon graduation I am intrigued by the concept of treating sustainability as a new product that requires innovation and market adoption.

During the SGE Immersion, I had the opportunity to do a project with Corning Inc, a world leader in specialty glass and ceramics for industrial applications. Our objective was to predict the prices at which CO2-saving technologies would be adopted by automobile manufacturers. Importantly, my project partner and I were able to approach the problem from engineering and economic perspectives to create a solution involving technology adoption, which tied in directly with my interests in innovation management. I also supplemented my SGE immersion experience with classes in “Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation”, “Management Cases and the Problem Solving Process” and “Data-Driven Marketing.”

I completed my summer internship at Bell Labs Innovations – Alcatel-Lucent Ventures where I had the chance to work on commercializing new technologies that emerged from the research labs. The team where I worked was small – functioning much like a startup. My focus was on product management functions like product design, strategy and marketing, for a product that creates efficient distribution of video via mobile networks.

Like many business school assignments, the project required me to manage ambiguity and missing information. My work in the SGE immersion practicum really helped me approach the ambiguous situations that arose during the course of the internship and frame solutions to the problems that we faced. In addition to gaining knowledge in sustainability, the most important thing I learned in the SGE immersion was HOW to take a new product – like sustainability, which people have only heard of – and then develop, market and finally sell it in a way that is beneficial to everyone. The combination of the Corning project on technology adoption, SGE coursework on how to consult with companies and come up with a solution, and additional Johnson courses were all instrumental in facilitating my success in my internship.