Howe Student Named Employee of the Year by Siemens Audiology

Credits Stevens Training with Giving Him Perspective on Problem-Solving

5/30/2014

When the Siemens Audiology group was looking to recognize one of its staffers as employee of the year, Prahal Viswanathan was an easy choice.

Viswanathan, who’s pursuing a dual degree from the Howe School of Technology Management, saved the company roughly a quarter of a million dollars in production costs by helping to implement new software that improved the quality of the hearing aids Siemens produces at its Piscataway facility and reduced the amount of time between a customer order and fulfillment.

Technology, Viswanathan said, has revolutionized his industry with electronic ear impressions. Siemens Audiology had the software to manage the electronic impressions on the production floor, but it didn’t align well with other applications on the floor, Viswanathan said, which increased processing time. So he put together a team to solve the problem “we came up with the solution, which allows the direct communication between the customer and the production floor.”

Viswanathan credits his Stevens training with helping him to see the problem from a big-picture perspective.

“In this experience, I quickly I understood how deep the problem was for the company, because I have a big-picture view,” he said. “If I were just a programmer, I wouldn’t imagine the big picture. Because of the classes I’ve taken, I can visualize the impact of small problems on the big picture. I can think about the whole solution — the technology available, the resources available to fix the problem, how we can work with them.”

That was the kind of experience he wanted from his education, and is why he hasn’t missed a class since first enrolling in September 2012.

“I had a lot of experience with technology in India, but I wanted to go into management,” said Viswanathan, who has lived in the United States since 2001. “I had a choice of the computer science and information technology courses, or a mix of technology plus management, or pure management. But I though the mix of technology plus some management knowledge would give me a better chance to move into management, and that’s what Stevens had.”

Viswanathan, who is pursuing a dual MBA and master’s degree in Technology Management, said a business simulation class he took at Stevens really stood out for him. The capstone course involves playing a role at a fictional company. Viswanathan served as production manager on his team, which was pitted against other “companies” in the class.

How the Stevens MBA emphasizes real-world practical skills

“It’s almost like you run the company, and you compete with other teams, they run the same type of product and the same type of company,” he said. “So you have to plan the production, you have to plan your marketing, your promotions, and the financial stuff.

“I can connect some of this role I was playing in the capstone with my real life. The capstone gave me a big-picture role of the company, the connection between each role — the connection between sales and marketing, the connection between sales and finance, and production. You can visualize where you’ll get impact.”

That’s the goal of the Stevens dual-degree MBA, said Dr. Murrae Bowden, program director.

“We’ve built our MBA around what we call the 4Cs,” Bowden said — critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. “Those are critical points for recruiters when they’re looking at candidates who have MBA degrees. But we also emphasize technology at the core. That’s where we distinguish out MBA from plain vanilla MBAs. We recognize that technology is an important component in any business, and have tailored our core to include courses on technology and innovation management, as well as entrepreneurship.”

Also helping him in the award-winning project, Viswanathan said, were courses teaching him how to build and lead a team, how to motivate others, and how to manage new technology.

“Stevens gives you a sense of the technologies in the pipeline and in use right now,” he said. “There are so many technologies out there, so many can be applied to existing problems, so you’re not reinventing wheels.”

The employee of the year honor comes with a cash prize and a trip for Viswanathan and his family to Orlando. He hasn’t decided when he’ll be taking the trip, since his MBA classes are just starting now, but hopes he can bring his daughter when school lets out in the summer.