Prof Gurunarayanan visualizes WILP’s collaboration to become deeper and even more strategic in the future
Work Integrated Learning Programs (WILP) is a division of BITS Pilani that exclusively offers programs to working professionals. WILP programs culminate with a degree in Engineering or Management at Bachelor’s level (B.Sc., B.Tech.) or a Master’s level (M.Tech., M.Sc., or M.B.A.) to help students pursue the degree without any career break. BITS Pilani has a portfolio of programs for working professionals in new-age digital technologies and domains such as Data Science, AI/ML, IoT, Cloud Computing, FinTech, etc.
Synchronous instructor-led classes are distributed uniformly throughout the semester over weekends, and instruction is delivered either at the workplace or online directly to the learner.
Detailed digital content, including video lectures, is available to students for various courses to complement synchronous instruction and enhance the quality of interaction between the faculty and the students in the classroom.
There are virtual laboratories, remote laboratories, simulations, and case studies for effective experiential learning. Working professionals can spend adequate time learning, practising, and experimenting using the WILP’s learning management system from any geographic location.
The Success Journey in a Nutshell
Prof Gurunarayanan is the Dean of Work Integrated Learning Programmes, Bits Pilani. He says that he visualizes WILP’s collaboration and Partnerships with the Industry to become deeper and even more strategic in the future. He adds that there is a storm of new technologies blowing around the world, and unlike storms of wind, this seems not to be ending soon or in a foreseeable future. There is an enduring trend towards rapid adoption of digital technologies in all sectors and along with that a dizzyingly fast introduction of new technologies on a continued basis. In addition to the storm of new-age digital technologies, one also observes a war for talent among employers for recruiting, developing, and retaining a workforce skilled in new-age technologies.
Due to these trends, Gurunarayanan says that WILP is being viewed by many organizations as a strategy to win this war of talent. Programs offered by WILP for working professionals in domains such as data science, AI, ML, IoT, Cloud, FinTech, and more, are highly valued by employees. A growing number of organizations are enabling & supporting their employees to pursue such programs to attract, upskill, reskill & retain a quality workforce.
These trends are not a passing phenomenon but are here to stay, claims Gurunarayanan. Continuous Learning and Continuing education will no longer be seen just as a nice to do the activity by the Industry. The rapid change in technologies will make upskilling and reskilling a must-do activity for organizations to survive and thrive in their respective businesses.
A Versatile Leader
After Completing Post graduation in Physics in 1987, Gurunarayanan has Joined BITS Pilani in the same year. He had done both M.E. and Ph.D. from BITS Pilani while serving there as a faculty. After spending 30 Plus years on the BITS Pilani, Pilani Campus Gurunarayanan recently relocated to BITS Pilani, Hyderabad Campus. Currently, he is a Senior Professor at the EEE Department at the Hyderabad Campus. Gurunarayanan has been Associated with WILP since 2011. As a Dean WILP, he is responsible for managing the academic aspects of the WIL Programmes which include Programme and Curriculum Design & Development, Instruction & Pedagogy, Faculty recruitment, assessment, and Development. A team of Associate Deans works with Gurunarayanan in taking care of specific functions. A Large Pool of Faculty members across campuses, off-campus locations, and an adjunct pool from Industry and other academia participate in the academic aspects of WILP.
BITS Pilani is Gurunarayanan’s first employer, and he joined immediately after completing his post-graduation. He has spent around 34 years now here in BITS Pilani. During this period, in addition to being a faculty member, he had also held different responsibilities such as Dean Admissions, Dean Practice School, Group Leader, Warden Etc. BITS Pilani has been a pioneer in many educational innovations such as Dual Degree, Practice School Programme, and Work Integrated Learning Programmes. Gurunarayanan had the fortune of working closely with some of the eminent Faculty and Academic Leaders who were part of these innovations which has helped immensely in shaping my career as well handle some of the responsibilities. He also had the fortune of working closely with many of my peers and younger colleagues who have made significant contributions to the University in a variety of functions.
Sailing through Rigorous Internet Challenges
According to Gurunarayanan, the primary challenges in the initial phase of his career were associated with a lack of availability of internet-based communication technologies. This seriously limited the abilities to both communicate & connect with the Industry as well as engage with the learners. With the internet now being ubiquitous for many years, this challenge is only remembered only as nostalgia and no longer limits.
4 “E’s” To Win The Audience
Four Key Innovations of WILP sustains the appeal of its programs to its target audience, and Gurunarayanan call it the 4 “E’s”
- Exclusive: The program can be pursued only by full-time professionals employed in a domain closely related to the program. This ensures that working professionals study a curriculum that is highly relevant to their job roles and study with peers from similar careers and sectors.
- Equivalent: The innovative design of curriculum and pedagogy ensures that working professionals experience the same quality and rigour as a campus program. All credentials are created with equivalence to credentials awarded at the BITS Pilani Campus.
- Engaging: While WILP programs are pursued by working professionals without taking any career break or visiting the campus, the advanced technology-based learning infrastructure and ecosystem ensure adequate opportunity to interact with faculty, teaching assistants, and peers.
- Experiential: While WILP programs can be pursued from anywhere, it does not mean they have less hands-on element. BITS Pilani has also invested significantly in simulations and software, which are hosted on the cloud as well as remote labs and made accessible to all WILP students supplementing their practical experience.
Rooting for ‘Human-Centric’ Tech Leaders
Gurunarayanan advises budding tech leaders and executives to remain “Human-Centric” and not just “Technology Centric” as they climb the career ladder. This will not just ensure the outcome of their work but will also help the communities better. It eventually ensures greater adoption of their solutions, and as a further outcome, this will also create greater overall wealth. According to Gurunarayanan, several cutting-edge products and solutions often don’t succeed as they disregard a deeper understanding of the needs and behaviours of potential consumers.
Three Attributes of Success
Gurunarayanan claims that WILP has now touched over 100,000 technology executives with its programs. While interacting with them and their employers for many decades, he feels the following 3 attributes are an absolute must:
- High on Curiosity, Great with Questions: Gurunarayanan has noticed that successful tech executives generally demonstrate high levels of curiosity and the ability to pose intelligent questions. As Voltaire said “Judge a man by his questions than by his answers”, same holds for successful tech executives also. They face every unfamiliar situation or problem with genuine curiosity backed by an ability to ask intelligent questions. High on this trait, successful tech executives are also active and lifelong learners. No degree, diploma, or certificate is considered by them as a conclusion of their learning or end of their curiosity.
- Imagination: Great Products and Solutions are first imagined in the mind. Tech Executives need to realize that just knowing how a technology works is not sufficient, success comes to those who could imagine new or better usage of technologies in solving problems or creating new opportunities & capacities. Successful Tech executives are highly imaginative in using technologies and building solutions that delight their beneficiaries.
- Communication & Negotiation abilities: A Tech Executive needs to both listen & express clearly. Be it, internal stakeholders, buyers of the solutions, or the ultimate consumers, communication & Negotiation skills are a must. Understanding customer requirements, agreeing on a scope of work or negotiating timelines or costs, solving conflicts, or eventually propagating solution adoption, all these vital activities can’t be wished away and a Tech Executive must strive to become a good communicator and negotiator.
Disruptive Technologies at the Center of Every Transformation
Gurunarayanan opines that the disruptive technologies are both spawning new businesses as well as compelling old economy businesses to transform the way they operate. E-commerce, telemedicine, smart factories & grids, smart banks just about everywhere, these technologies are showing tremendous promise for total transformation. However, despite all the promise and potential, it will eventually be up to leaders to envision how these technologies can be converted into products or services which can serve their customers in a never-before way. He adds that it is not just understanding the markets, but also understanding how technology can meet the demands of the market faster, better, and cheaper that will be critical for all leaders.