Bridging engineering innovation and business concepts

Bridging engineering innovation and business concepts

10/23/19

By Cassie Kidwell

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As a sales engineer for Okta, a company that provides cloud software to secure identity management, Penn State alumnus Ashwin Ramnarayanan effectively applies business communication and technical content creation skills in his daily work. When working with clients, he uses these skills during discussions and demonstrations with clients to showcase how they can implement cloud software in their organizations.

Ramnarayanan credits the education he received in the master of engineering in engineering leadership and innovation management (ELIM) program with enhancing the skills learned in his undergraduate electrical engineering program, also at Penn State. 

“The ELIM program presented me with technical challenges to solve with a team and simultaneously taught me how to present it as a business idea to varying audiences every semester,” he said. “Effective communication was a skill that was trained continuously throughout the program, a skill that is very much essential in my current job where I have to interact with multiple departments within and outside my organization.”

In one of the courses Ramnarayana took, ENGR 804: Engineering Product Innovation, he applied these skills in a class challenge focused on using business communication and innovation when selling a technical product. Similar to his current role in sales engineering, Ramnarayanan sold his product to the ‘managers’—classmates reviewing his product.

“I sold the project to the managers by telling a story, focusing on the impact that the technical solution had using the assertion-evidence approach,” he said.

Ramnarayanan said the program’s ENGR 501: Engineering Leadership for Corporate Innovation course allowed him to apply team and leadership skills, instead of just knowledge absorption.

He believes the most effective part of this course was the review process of created projects. After learning leadership theories and the styles within them, Ramnarayanan explained the critiques post-project acted as fodder for the students to become increasingly self-aware of their own biases.

“The ELIM program is built on the fact that in the 21st-century, change is not initiated by one person’s technical prowess, but the combined efforts of people from multiple walks of life,” he said. “The true skill lies in learning from your peers and improving yourself in order to lead others well.”

One such leadership experience occurred during Design Thinking Week, held in Berlin, Germany. Ramnarayanan participated in the week-long workshop with Penn State engineering design and ELIM students, as well as other engineering students from around the world.

“A deep dive into design thinking and leadership in a new city with new people was truly an enriching experience,” he said.

Ramnaryanan believes ELIM’s teaming experiences and leadership opportunities allow students to develop unique academic plans, tailoring their coursework and experiential learning for their post-graduation plans. As an ELIM student, he conducted research studies, studied project management and published a journal article.

“The ELIM program is the equivalent of adding a turbocharger to your car,” Ramnaryanan said. “Every student has their own unique academic plan that lets them hone the technical skills they [already] have and practice communicating that in a graduate program.”

 

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As part of the ELIM program, Ramnarayanan participated in a team-building activity at Stone Valley Recreation Center, located 17 miles from the Penn State University Park campus. 

“The ELIM program is built on the fact that in the 21st-century, change is not initiated by one person’s technical prowess, but the combined efforts of people from multiple walks of life. The true skill lies in learning from your peers and improving yourself in order to lead others well.”

-Ashwin Ramnarayanan, ELIM alumnus

 
 

About

The School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) delivers effective engineering education and unrivaled research opportunities through active, collaborative, project-based, and professionally oriented classroom experiences. SEDTAPP offers a variety of programs that partner faculty, students, and industry in the study of real-life engineering problems. Our programs teach students to solve real-life problems with innovative solutions. 

School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs

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The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2952