Alumni spotlight: Vivek Sreedhar

Adjusting to a new way of life can be difficult, but Vivek Sreedhar (M.B.A. ’09) said it does not have to be a guessing game. The author released his debut book, Ketchup & Curry: Your Guide to Life and Success in America in May. The book is a byproduct of his experiences and frequent stereotypes immigrants face. The idea for the book came after he completed his M.B.A. at the Wayne State University School of Business Administration.

Sreedhar said earning an M.B.A instilled confidence to quit a technical engineering job and make the leap towards product management and marketing. He began that journey with a medical device company in California. Sreedhar believed that an M.B.A could present more opportunities.

Sreedhar appreciated the experience his professors brought. Celia Romm Livermore, professor of information systems management, aided him in stepping out of his comfort zone and taking risks. She taught him to gather all his thoughts in a journal. He still applies this principle and the process led to the shaping of his book.

Coming to America

In his book, Sreedhar uses his fictional main character Subbu to give a first-person account of what it is like coming to another country and culture. While he and Subbu share many of the same experiences, Sreedhar said Subbu takes longer to adjust and feel at home in the United States than his creator did.

In 2004, Sreedhar moved to the United States after being accepted into WSU’s electrical engineering graduate program. The author found that socializing with people from other countries and cultures helped him become more familiar and comfortable with his new surroundings.

"I am very happy that I made friends and socialized with a diverse group of people because it helped me learn so much and gave me a lot of new opportunities," he said.

Sreedhar faced many adjustments when he moved to the states. He did not know many people, so he had to do a lot of learning on his own. While he quickly adapted to the dialect differences between British English and American English, he found other cultural differences – attitudes toward punctuality, for example – a little harder to master.

While a lot of Indian immigrants rely on family, friends and the internet to understand how things work in America, Sreedhar believes the process is laborious and often ineffective. Hence, the need for a book like Ketchup & Curry.

More wisdom gained at Wayne State

A couple of years ago, Sreedhar moved back to Michigan and landed a job in the automotive industry. He currently works in marketing and research and development for Alps Electric.

He credits Professor of Marketing and International Business Attila Yaprak, with teaching him a lot about international marketing. Sreedhar valued this because he wanted to go back to India to start a company.

"Dr. Yaprak’s course instilled a ‘nothing to lose, but everything to gain’ attitude in me," he said.

His experiences along with his education helped him create a strategy to market his book in India, the United States and the United Kingdom. He said that building an audience through social media has made a huge difference in marketing his book.

Gary Shields, part-time faculty in management, also helped him improve his public speaking skills through class discussions. In June, Sreedhar presented at the Detroit Malayalee Association’s Professional Summit and Leadership Conference in Southfield regarding how to overcome cross-cultural differences between India and the United States.

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