Executive Q&A: Dell's new Oklahoma City site manager is prepared for anything

In his 10 years with Dell, India native Rohit Keshava has worked across the Americas. Last month he was named one of two general managers of the company's 175,000-square-foot business center in Oklahoma City.
BY PAULA BURKES pburkes@opubco.com Published: February 19, 2012
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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:

Q: Can you tell us about your roots?

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.

Q: When did you decide to come to America?

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.

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Personally Speaking

Position: General manager, Dell Oklahoma City Business Center.

Hometown: Mysore, Karnataka, in India.

Birth date: June 27, 1977.

Education: Texas A&M University, master's in industrial engineering and business administration.

Pastimes: Running (he's training for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon), biking, tennis and attending performances at the Civic Center Music Hall, which is blocks from his loft apartment in Sycamore Square.

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