When Rohit Keshava (pronounced row-heth kay-shah-vuh) interviewed with corporate managers at Dell a decade ago, he, after sharing what he could bring to the company, asked about their expectations of him.
“Just be prepared to do anything, including taking chances and working on new things, and your opportunities will be limitless,” they told him.
Their response couldn't have been more accurate or fortuitous. Keshava's work with Dell has taken him around the world — from the company's headquarters in Austin, Texas, and all across the U.S., to weekslong projects in Panama, Malaysia and Mexico, and in early 2011, to Oklahoma City where he last month was named one of two general managers of the company's 175,000-square-foot business center at 3501 SW 15.
In his new role, his duties include external relations and oversight of the center, from its employee cafeteria to its security system and its internal information technology (IT) services.
Dell here employs some 2,000 employees who work round-the-clock, not only selling or supporting computers, but also providing outsourced IT services to companies nationwide, which are operations Keshava directs.
“Anyone who's serious about moving up in the company doesn't spend more than nine months to 12 months on the phones, before being promoted,” he said. Salaries, he said, range from $35,000 to six figures — with commission and bonuses.
Keshava, 34, sat down with The Oklahoman on Monday to talk about his professional and private life. The following is an edited transcript:
A: I grew up in southern India in the town of Mysore. Though it has a population of 2 million, Mysore is a small, closely-knit city relative to the dense 1.2 billion population of India. My father worked, and still does, in conservation for the Indian government. And my mother took care of me and my brother, who's four years younger. We have about 40 cousins, so vacations were fun and family weddings and other festivities, fantastic.
Our parents sent us to a private school with plenty of academics, extracurricular activities and sports. I was the top of my class through high school and always played soccer, until I recently tore ligaments in my knee. Along with a holistic education, our dad made sure we had a good value system and didn't lose sight of hard work and sincerity.
From the time we were 13 or 14, he took us every Sunday to volunteer on farms and work alongside paid laborers, picking weeds or watering and fertilizing coconut and banana trees or coffee plants.
A: When I was in the seventh grade, but my parents didn't take me seriously because after college, I'd have a job in India and social network there. My generation — who were taught English from early on and grew up watching MTV — was fascinated with the U.S. and the freedoms and opportunities people value here. India is a democratic nation, but my deceased grandparents lived under British rule and faced many constraints.
For me, coming to America was about branching out and experiencing a new country. After earning a degree in industrial engineering in India, I decided to pursue a master's in industrial engineering and business administration at Texas A&M, which awarded me in-state tuition and a stipend for work I did for the university, writing billing and curriculum programs.
A: Right after graduate school in 2002. I'd interned with Compaq Computers, which was just being acquired by Hewlett-Packard. Funny. On my drive from College Station to Compaq in Houston, there used to be a billboard advertising better jobs 180 miles east. Following graduation, Compaq offered me a full-time job, but I joined Dell at their Austin headquarters as a consultant for their business strategy group.
A: I moved early last year to be close to my wife's family. We've since divorced, but I'm planning on staying. People here are nice and service-minded. Also, most of my team is here. Of the 1,700 employees in the IT outsourcing operations that I direct at 10 locations across North America and South America, 600 are based in Oklahoma City. Panama City and Nashville have the next largest groups, with 350 and 300 employees, respectively. We have 65 customers, including Boeing, the U.S. Army, Mount Sinai and Cedar-Sinai medical centers, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We take care of their IT for them — whether they use Dell computers or not, and many don't — so they can just do what they're good at.
I bring all potential customers here to Oklahoma City to showcase our outsourcing services, and where we've been successful and where we've stubbed our toes. Customers appreciate that kind of honesty.
A: Yes. They came in early 2000. HP led them for a decade. But as of this year, Dell is the No. 1 computer provider in India.
A: No, I'm a permanent resident. India doesn't allow dual citizenship. So if I were to apply for American citizenship, I'd have to really think it through.
A: I'd probably be a doctor and, in fact, almost was. My pre-med scores were better than my pre-engineering scores. But in the month before college admissions, I had a change of heart. I was concerned I'd go through seven years of training and not be emotionally ready to deal with patients' pain and suffering.
I believe I chose the right path. Dell recently donated a $197,000 computer lab to the Boys & Girls Clubs at NW 36 and Western, and it was tremendous to see the looks on the kids' faces. They could do everything from paint and talk to friends on Facebook to download games and work on homework. In today's world, IT is the true enabler.