Engineer Namita Dalmia wanted to use technology to help the but did not know how. She decided to go for an MBA degree but did not have the funds. That’s when the Reliance Dhirubhai fellowship gave her wings. Dalmia was one of the five Indian students selected for the first batch of the Reliance Dhirubhai fellowship in 2009.
Belonging to a middle class family, Dalmia did her schooling from Modern Vidya Niketan, Faridabad. As she was interested in electronics and technology, she took her bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
“I had two choices after postgraduation, either do a PhD or work for the betterment of underprivileged children,” says Dalmia, currently in her second year at Stanford Graduate School of Business during a recent trip to New Delhi. “I always strived to make life a little bit better for the poor children I saw on the streets – I had made that my goal in life.” She then worked with Pankhudi, a non-government organisation in Mumbai helping underprivileged children. This was one of the many opportunities where she got the inspiration to do something good for society.
She had received offers for fellowships, but then decided to work at Intel Technologies for 10 months as a design engineer, before moving to the National Knowledge Commission as a research associate. Though her stint at these institutes gave her experience on how technology and planning can bring about a change in society, she wanted to work at the grassroots level and help people.
“Policy making at the knowledge commission was an interesting job, but I knew that implementing those ideas would require me to work among the people,” says Dalmia.
“The potential of using technology for the betterment of the people had been planted in my mind when I worked at Intel and the NKC, but I did not know how I could implement my ideas in a beneficial manner,” says Dalmia. That’s when she decided to pursue a course in management. Management schools in foreign countries had never been on her radar; she did not have the funds to afford the expensive education. Her friend alerted her about the Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship at Stanford.
“The fellowship opened up the gateway to Stanford for students like me who could not afford to study at such an institution,” says Dalmia.
The admission process had two steps. The candidate first had to give an application to Reliance with a 250-word article on ‘How do you aspire to shape your country’s future’. The company selected 50 students. Dalmia then took the Graduate Management Aptitude Test, paid for by Reliance, and went through the Stanford admission process.
Being selected by Reliance didn’t give Dalmia or the other 49 contenders any advantage.
“Stanford aims at developing business leaders who are innovative, principled, and insightful, and they prefer students who follow their passion, have authentic ideas and work hard towards fulfilling their goals,” says Dalmia. “Aspiring candidates should think hard about their choice. The curriculum vitae of the student should reflect their dedication.”
She describes Stanford as an exciting place to study at. “It is a perfect place for those who want to expand their horizons. You meet people, share ideas, debate them and learn a lot in the process. The classes at Stanford are very different from the teaching-learning process in India. You have to prepare yourself before you come to class, which is usually a discussion and debate session rather than a lecture. The classroom consists of intelligent people from various spheres of life from a multitude of countries, and they provide topics from their personal experiences and from different perspectives, which makes the interaction very interesting,” she adds
Apart from classes, students can become members of some of the clubs active on campus. Dalmia joined the social venture club and the South Asian Students’ Association. “These helped me a lot in shaping my course on how to implement my ideas back in India.”
There are some services at Stanford which she found really helpful.
“The career management centre helps students chart their future course after their studies. Career advisors help students decide on strategies, provide contacts and help them realise their goals by giving them different ideas and perspectives on their goals,” she says. The alumni association at Stanford is very active... One of the many programmes that the alumni association does is about mentorship, where students can choose a mentor, in the field of their choice and learn from him or her.”
Dalmia is currently exploring how to harness the power of technology to bring about development.
“The penetration of mobile phones in the Indian market is a sign of how technology can reach the masses, if managed properly and this can be a beacon for other technologies to follow, helping in better educational and healthcare services even in the villages,” she says.