Dr. Vallabh Sambamurthy

Alumni Cell: How was your journey as a Business School student to a dean at a reputed business school?

Vallabh Sambamurthy: Actually, it was a great journey, but I'll start by saying that when I graduated from IIM Calcutta, I didn't plan on becoming a professor, let alone being a dean. I loved my job in marketing, it was really great, but after a couple of years, a chance meeting with a fellow classmate who was going to the US, made me think about other options and that's how I became intrigued. And then I realized that, I probably didn't see myself working in the industry for a long time. However, sometimes, the other side looks greener, so I thought more about it. When I was a student here, I was also a teaching assistant for the accounting course and that had been good. So, I wanted to feel the thrill of teaching and that's why I went there. I discovered that professors don't just teach, they actually do research. The job is much more multidimensional, richer. So that made me think that I made a good choice. The next goal was to be the best professor. So excellent teaching, excellent research, and creating a lot of new courses. And so, for 20 years, I was mostly focused on being a professor

AC: How do you think your time at Joka prepared you for the professional world and personal life after MBA?

VS: My time here at Joka made me a more outgoing person. Inherently I was a shy and a reserved person but interacting with people from various backgrounds from various walks of life helped me open up and break my social shortcomings. The friendships that I formed have lasted a lifetime. This community gave me the confidence to take risks, seek new challenges and continually scale new heights of professional success.

AC: What would you say was a defining or turning point in your career?

VS: There were multiple turning points in my life, the first one being coming here to IIM Calcutta. The most notable was one deciding to quit my job and pursue teaching as a career. I got the motivation from a classmate and never looked back. The next turning point was when I was offered the opportunity to become a department chair of one of the most prestigious departments while at the business school at Michigan State University. That career path was the last option on my mind; I was about to go on a sabbatical to MIT. However, I seized the moment and challenged myself to take advantage of this opportunity. Not only did I do well, but I enjoyed academic leadership. This has set me on the path to becoming Dean today.

AC: If you were to leave one line of thought for those graduating from an MBA, what would it be?

VS: Never stop being curious; learning how to learn is at times more important than the subject itself. Being curious was critical earlier but as time is passing it's becoming even more pivotal because the world is changing quickly. An openness to learning means that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone, unlearn old habits, and take risks. It means talking to people you generally don't interact with. But, the rewards of continually learning and reskilling yourself are immeasurable.