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My education at Stanford has influenced the way I think: Neha Sheth

Neha Sheth

Neha Sheth

Neha Sheth is an entrepreneur who runs an IT firm Musikaar at Ahmedabad, she enjoys the position of CEO for the same. Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1971, March 31. She completed her MS EE from Stanford University, USA, now living and working in Ahmedabad. Mother to a 13 years old son. She enjoys horseback riding, classical music, gold and gardening.

Professionally she is focused on growing and managing her business.  She loves to be active and engaged in a myriad of activities like horse riding, gardening, working on creating spaces in her house, golf etc. Loves to travel and her favorite destination is Europe. “People call me passionate, ambitious, clear minded, decisive and a direct person with integrity. I am continuously trying to strike a balance of time spent for business and with family and friends. I love to listen to Indian classical music and also spend time learning vocal classical music”, says Neha.

Interview

Q: Neha, tell us about your early life in INDIA before you migrated to USA.

  • Ans: I grew up in Ahmedabad. I studied in Gujarat Law Society, and then later in Loyola High school for higher secondary education. As a child, I was very sincere about my studies. My parents emphasized the importance of education throughout my childhood. They also exposed me to Classical Music, Kathak, Painting and variety of other activities that I pursued during summer breaks. I always wanted to become a Doctor when I grew up. I did have the opportunity to enroll in VS College, but my father convinced me to go for Engineering since I wanted to study abroad after my graduation. I studied at DDIT and then LD Engineering to get a degree in Instrumentation and Control Engineering. I graduated in 1992 and left for California to continue my studies at Stanford a few days after I graduated with my Bachelors.

Q: You have pursued your Masters in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, USA. Would have it made any difference had you pursued the same in INDIA? In other words, according to you, what is the difference in education system in INDIA and USA?

  • Ans: It made a tremendous difference pursuing my education in USA. My life would not have been the same had I not gone abroad and if I did not attend Stanford.
  • My education at Stanford has influenced the way I think and how I have pursued anything since then. The methodology of teaching and learning anything is very different in USA. They teach you so that you understand how to apply what you have learnt to real-life situations rather than just learning formulas and theories and just solving problems without truly understanding what it means to solve a problem.
  • The academic and work culture in USA inculcates a rigorous emphasis on quality and comprehensively finishing any endeavor that one engages in. Consideration of others time and professionally contributing to a team while excelling individually is encouraged and is paramount to one’s professional success.

Q: As we are talking about education, I would also like to know of your take on current education system in Gujarat.

  • Ans: Overall, the education system of Gujarat is good and a lot better than it used to be when I was young. It now trains children to develop the ability to learn a lot while they are young. However, I feel the curriculum and method of teaching after 10th Grade is not good enough to prepare children for learning various subjects in a way where they can apply their knowledge to real world scenarios. It does not give them enough exposure to determine what is it that they are passionate about and are willing to commit themselves to.
  • Our system does not enable them to decide what career path they should follow for advanced studies. It does not motivate or stimulate them enough to strive themselves to follow their dreams and goals with originality. Unfortunately it is all about scoring well in exams as opposed to learning concepts very clearly and pursuit of knowledge. Their creativity and originality does not get promoted. Their energy is lost in memorizing lot of content for exams without understanding them thoroughly.
With her son

With her son

Q.: Neha, tell us about your early working life at Silicon Valley after you earned your masters degree from Stanford University?

  • Ans: It was a tough market (somewhat like how it is now) when I graduated from Stanford. I started working as a Software Developer in a start-up company. I have always liked to work for smaller companies. During my 10 years of working career, I worked for 3 start-ups which later became part of bigger organizations. (rest of the stuff can be taken from my company’s website)

Q: Generally, Indians find themselves lucky for getting a chance to live and work in USA rather than INDIA, mostly the educated ones like you. While in your case, you and your husband Mr. Sharvil Parikh decided to come back to Ahmedabad (INDIA). What made you take this decision? Was it easy?

  • Ans: We were always clear about coming back to India and to Ahmedabad as it were home for both of us. Yes, we were lucky to have the opportunity to live in US and to work there. However, we did not want to live in that country forever, especially after the end of our professional careers. So we had to pick the right time to move back here to be able to adjust fully here in India and to be fair to our son, we moved back when he was young enough to adapt to the style of education, life and culture here in India.
  • We never contemplated staying in US so it was easy for us! For us, to be among our family and people was more important than any place.

Q: How was the early life at Ahmedabad after coming back to INDIA?

  • Ans: I was not very happy when I moved back to Ahmedabad. I had not planned on what I would do once I moved back. Initially I wanted to focus on adjusting to the life here and spend time to get my son comfortable here. At first, I felt there was not much to do here and I was frustrated and bored! Basic facilities in a house do not come here by default as they do in US. Lot of energy was spent to get organized in the house!
  • I also realized some of good aspects of the society here. I came across very helpful people, got to meet a lot of family and friends and experience their support and warmth. We were able to attend nice cultural events.
  • So there were times when things were good and times when I was not very happy.
Neha Sheth

Neha Sheth

Q: How were the initial days of running the company? Where it stands today? How is the working environment you are providing to staff-team of Musikaar?

  • Ans: My initial days were very challenging, at the same interesting. It was a great experience setting up the company from scratch. I had assumed it may take lot of unnecessary time to set up the infrastructure but I was wrong there. Setting up the infrastructure was relatively easy. My childhood friend let me use her office to set up my company which was a big help to me. I started out with 3 employees and a very few systems. I now have 25 employees. All processes in the company are stream-lined and we are ready to expand and work effectively.
  • I think I am providing a good, friendly and free environment to the staff. We have flexible hours of work and I make sure they feel comfortable to express their opinions at every stage. I try to make sure that they are allocated to projects which would be of interest to them.

Q: What’s your taken on Indian family system? Also tell us about your family.

  • Ans: The Indian Family system can do wonders for many; at the same time can be restrictive and unhealthy for many, especially for women living in a joint family. When the emphasis is on following conventions and expectations are of fulfilling a traditional role without realizing whether this makes sense to the individual or to the family, it can be quite detrimental.
  • When there is a good understanding between members of the family, nothing can be better. I feel there is lot of warmth, love and support in the Indian family system. People genuinely care about others’ well-being in our families.
  • I live with my husband and my son with my in-laws. They are the most supportive and understanding people I have met. My parents are also in Ahmedabad. It is so nice to meet them whenever I want to! I have a sister who is in US.

Q: What are you passionate about?

  • Ans: I am passionate about life and how I live my life. I love so many things and wish the day had more than 24 hours! I am very passionate about my work. Apart from being in the office, I spend time about going for a short morning walk, learning Spanish, learning Classical music, riding horses, playing golf sometimes, exercising in the gym, spending time developing my garden or creating spaces in my house and I love each of these activities.
Neha with horse

Neha with horse

Q.: What are your future plans, both personal and professional?

  • Ans.: I feel I have set the base for my future. I want to continue working on growing my business. At a personal level, I want to see that my son gets all the exposure we can provide so that he can make the right choices going forward.

Q.: What’s your take on situation and possibility for Indian women to attain the financial independence on their own? As well, what message and tips you would like to share with them which can help them to become an entrepreneur?

  • Ans.: I feel women should always be in a situation where they can be financially independent. In short, they should always be trained while they are in school and choosing their careers based on their liking to ensure that they are in a position to earn(just like the thought would be given to men). It is quite normal to in a marriage to have a situation where one partner may choose to take responsibility of the household and children and the other takes up the responsibility to earn, but the woman should be qualified or trained to be financially independent if she needs to be. Also, many people feel that when a woman works, children are not taken care of. That is not true at all; In fact working women can devote as much quality time to their children as any other mother and the children become more flexible and learn to be independent sooner. My observation is that even in families where the mother works full time the children are still more dependent on their mother like any other household.
  • Having the potential to be financially independent brings tremendous confidence to any woman. Their thinking and attitude will be different and positive.
  • There are women who get too caught up with managing the family and children and sometimes are afraid to start working when they want to. I feel that the family and children want a happy woman around them, and will always adjust to the changes due to the woman’s work schedule. Once a woman starts working, it is no different than a man being an entrepreneur!
Neha with her son

Neha with her son

Q.: Indian economy is booming. Indian and Gujarati brains are in demand world over. Some of the recent years’ Nobel Prize winners are Indian born. And at the other side, we have the prevalent caste systems and the differentiation of sub castes within Indian regional communities, for instance Gujaratis. How do you look at this scenario?

  • Ans.: It is quite disturbing to see educated people talking about castes in India and within Gujaratis and to exhibit prejudicial preferences based solely on castes and sub-castes. Sure, there are cultural differences within different communities but it is not right for people to criticize others based on a stereotype.
  • I feel that there are a lot of people who behave this way and what is even worse is that they act and make significant social, employment and business decisions based on these prejudices. If the educated people still feel this way, what can be said about the illiterate people!! The real problem in stereotyping people in a negative way is that it affects an average person’s chance at opportunities and progress which results in lower self esteem and confidence. I think a vibrant democracy and a great ancient culture otherwise should not have this as a part of its system.
  • All is not lost though as there is some movement where a small number of people and organizations are trying to uproot this social stigma.
  • This has to completely disappear from our world, especially from the so-called modern educated families. We should think of ourselves as ‘Indians’ of Gujarat as opposed to Vaniyas, Patels, Jains or Brahmins!
  • The prevalent caste system is quite saddening. But this has to disappear from the educated class first. Opportunities for education should be given to all castes so that we all progress as people of our country.

About

Devang Vibhakar is the Founder and Editor of www.SpeakBindas.com. He has interviewed more than 350 people. His effort was recognized by Limca Book of Records, twice. He has been to Scotland as well as Germany as part of vocational & cultural exchange programs and has compiled five books so far. He's passionate about bringing forth interesting stories & interviews of entrepreneurs to avid readers of SpeakBindas. He can be reached here.

9 thoughts on “My education at Stanford has influenced the way I think: Neha Sheth

  1. Hi Neha,

    After reading your interview in G2 – Global Gujarati magazine, I was very much interested in interviewing you. And now that I have done.

    Indeed, the thoughts that you have produced have a weight, mostly about your take on Entrepreneurship and women.

    Thank you so much for participating.

    1. Neha says:

      Hi,
      I enjoyed writing answers to your questionaire! Thanks for having me participate in this.
      Best Regards,
      Neha

  2. Harnish Jani says:

    Nice interview style- I loved the lady (girl) Her passion for Work-Hobbies-Gujarat-I found her very level headed person–This is just a beggining-She can reach to the sky-Of course ,nothing could have been accomlished without her husband’s support- Speaking of Stenford-one of the best uni in the country-It is not easy to get in any of Stenford’s programs. Conratulations- God’s speed for Neha.

    1. Neha says:

      Thank you so much for your wishes!

  3. A A THAKER says:

    bindas speak.congrats for doing something for gujrati and gujrati people
    I would like 2 congratulate neha sheth–can u give me her email address ??
    I would like to communicate with all the readers …how do i do that

    regards
    Ashit Thaker
    bombay

    1. Mr. Thaker, Best way to communicate with readers is through comments.

    2. Neha says:

      Thanks for your wishes!

  4. Kelvin says:

    Hey!
    I am a lot..lot..lot passoinate about studing in stanford,MIT,UCB., etc.
    But the problem is that it’s like going againt the current flow and scenario..
    Everyone laugh at me when i’m talk about it..
    There is no one to guide me….
    Further more i’m fist year student of engg. From a middle class family….so it is like playing with fire…
    But i feel very happy and inspirational by reading this article…
    By the way congrates!!

  5. roshan sharma says:

    Hey Nice article, and very inspirational for the ones wying to return to India. I think sex does not matter for achivements and entreprenural spirits, esp in IT field. And for an ivy league graduate it must be hard to return to India and launch her carrier.

    Congrates, and thank you also for an insight into your family pictures. I love the little one – he is so cute!!

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About

Devang Vibhakar
Devang Vibhakar
(Editor, www.SpeakBindas.com)
SpeakBindas is a Limca Book of Awards winning blog. It's a PR3 blog with 1000+ articles & Interviews. Devang Vibhakar - Founder - has interviewed more than 350+ people and has been to Scotland, London & Germany. He's a writer, speaker, traveler & movie-goer !! He has also written four books. He's passionate about bringing forth interesting stories & interviews of people from various sectors of life to avid readers of SpeakBindas. You can reach him here .