IIM Americas

1. Tell us something about yourself, the fascinating journey starting from IIT to IIM B, career in the corporate world and then transition to the education sector.

I started out as the standard science-oriented kid who gets into IIT. However, on the IIT Kharagpur campus, I found my voice not as an engineer, but ironically as a creative person with limited engineering orientation. To escape the shop floor, I went to IIM Bangalore. There, I fell in love with advertising, creative writing and my wife. After graduation, I decided to experiment as a copywriter for 6 months and fall back on my IIM degree if that experiment failed. It didn’t.

2. What motivated you to transition from the corporate world to the education sector?

Sheer luck. I came to the US looking for a job in Advertising but didn’t find anything. A couple of days before heading back to Singapore, where I lived at the time, an old IIT friend who worked at UC Berkeley told me to come in and meet some people there. Turns out one of the people I met was keen to hire someone who could help set up a brand platform for UC Berkeley. The rest, as they say, is history.

3. What are the striking differences and similarities between corporate world and education sector?

Lots of money, few inspirational stories.
Lots of inspiring stories, very little money.
You can guess which is which.

 4. Describe the typical day of the Chief Marketing Officer of UC Berkeley.

There is no typical day. Every day is a blur of activities aimed at spreading the brand message across and beyond our 1200-acre campus. My job requires me to network with and evangelize the brand platform to communicators from other campus units. I also direct the creative work of my writers, designers, social media and web technology teams on a number of ongoing projects. From time to time, I strategize with senior leaders on campus wide projects.

5. What are the challenges that a premium institute like UC Berkeley faces? How does a strong marketing team help overcome the challenges?

UC Berkeley is among the world’s top 5 or 6 brands in the higher education field. The Berkeley brand was built over the last 148 years on the back of its academic and research achievements, both by faculty and famous alumni. However, in today’s world, there are many forces that are buffeting the world of higher education, from its inherent business model to the rapidly changing consumer trends. To keep pace, we need a unified marketing team that can work together and leverage our considerable equity and heritage in smart ways. We need to show that Berkeley is relevant today in more ways than ever before.

6. Who were the biggest influences on you personally in your journey?

I’ve had the most amazing luck! Practically every single boss I had in my corporate career was an inspirational teacher. From the alcoholic Creative Director in my first job who was one of the finest
writers I have ever known, to the suave entrepreneur who remains the finest business mind I have ever come across, I was fortunate to learn my craft at the feet of true virtuosos.

7. How can we innovate our approach to career building? How to disrupt our natural career progression to follow the path that takes us to our true potential?

In the end, it’s all about how well you know yourself. I have spent a lot of time exploring my creative and spiritual self. The better I got to know myself; the easier it was to discover my path. Of course, you have to be willing to take risks. But then, you take a risk every time you cross the road. Or do an interview.

8. What advice do you have for recent MBAs embarking on their corporate journey?

Congrats on your first job (or is it your second?). Keep an eye out for things that you find interesting enough to make your third career. Explore them as you rise in your chosen field, and make the switch when the passion begins to wane (at work).

Ram Kapoor

Chief Marketing Officer. U.C.Berkeley