Sunday, 11 July 2010

Up Close and Personal with Atul Bhargava - MD Intel M'sia

A rafting trip to the Grand Canyon is what Atul Bhargava hopes to do when he turns 50. One has happened (he turned 50 recently) but the other, not quite – yet.

But that’s really by choice. Atul is not ready to visit the Grand Canyon yet but hopes to do it next year with his family.

This year there are too many things happening – his daughter has exams and soon after will head to the Oregon Health and Science University in the United States for an internship. As such, Atul would rather wait another year to accomplish his grand trip.


Even so, turning 50 was no less auspicious. His sister, niece and her husband arrived from India to celebrate the day with him. “To me, family comes first,” says the managing director of Intel Malaysia, who has been in the country for some eight years.

A typical Sunday in the life of Atul involves playing tennis with his two daughters and looking forward to dinner – his wife’s cooking.

Family man

He is clearly a family man. “My youngest daughter recently went for a trip to Sabah and I was the only male parent who signed up to go with her. It was a parent/child programme. In fact I missed an important business meeting in Costa Rica to be with her.

“My daughter spoke to my boss and asked if I could go to Sabah with the children and people asked me if it was the right decision. On hindsight, a lot of people would not remember if I was present at the meeting but my daughter will remember that I was with her in Sabah. That’s the difference the trip made to her,” he says.

Atul hails from Benares in India. It is a holy city and famous for saris. But he did not stay long enough to enjoy the colours of Benares.

He studied in Dehli and later moved to Kanpur to study engineering. As soon as he finished, Atul, like many other young aspiring boys from India, applied to go to the United States.

He got it and the next thing he knew he arrived in the land of milk and honey, with only US$1,000 and two luggage bags.

He enrolled into Clemson University for a Masters programme. To support himself, he worked part time, correcting exam papers and doing research.

Being used to the Indian style of marking papers, he had to loosen up his marking style.

In the US, the approach to creativity and innovation and the process taught him to look at “multiple view points” and how to apply and learn instead of purely learning.

He got paid US$600 a month, which though a meagre amount, kept him going till he finished his Masters. “You just learn to budget and prioritise,” he says.

After finishing his Masters, he stayed back in the US and joined Intel. But after a while, he yearned to return to his homeland.

He joined a small semiconductor company in India with the intent of learning more about the business.
Sometime around this point, at the age of 27, he got married to an electrical engineering graduate.

“It was an arranged marriage but in the US, I said it was a blind date as people there were surprised to hear about arranged marriages,” he says. Soon after he called his ex-boss at Intel to inquire if he could rejoin the company. Knowing his expertise, he was hired via the phone. He landed back in the US but this time not alone – he was accompanied by his wife.

She was employed by Intel as well but in a different department. “The good thing is that when we moved, Intel made sure that both spouses move together and that makes it easy for us. They are supportive and it is a great place to work,” he says.

But Atul had bigger dreams and ambitions and wanted to lead and not be led. He told his boss that he wanted to go back to school to continue his studies. Again, it helped as Intel believes in nurturing talent. So lucky for him, he got paid while studying.

That lifted him professionally and job offers came his way but he would not move as the “kind of freedom and privileges” he got at Intel kept him with the giant chip maker.

Turning point

At 37, it marked the turning point of his career. At Intel there is a mentor system where people can call upon their mentors to discuss their career path. “It is good to have a few mentors,” he says.

His mentor advised him that if he were to “go for his next dream he needed to improve in certain areas” and that gave him an idea of the direction he needed take.

“I believe you have to have passion in your work. That’s important. Love your work and you can achieve a lot in your life,” says Atul.

That’s what he tries to inculcate in his eldest daughter, who is deciding whether to study medicine or something else.

This happens to be Atul’s second posting to Malaysia. His first was in 1989. “At some point in our lives we will go back to the US but this (Malaysia) country has a mix of east and west, the food is great, the environment is great, working conditions are good and my children also like it here,” he says.

His work style is to allow everyone to be creative and be leaders at what they do. Intel has various programmes where it works with schools by introducing technology and provides research grants.

To have a knowledge- and innovative-based society, Atul believes that involvement has to begin from the early years and that is why Intel is providing computer schemes to some schools.

Atul has travelled extensively and has been to 35 countries. Apart from the Grand Canyon, the other things on his to-do-list include an African safari in Tanzania because of its unmatched wildlife.

By B.K. SIDHU
bksidhu@thestar.com.my

1 comment:

  1. Not bad, Atul got two masters degree:
    MBA and MSc to get into Intel.

    The Rightways
    http://rightways.wordpress.com/

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