Praveen Koka MSIS '11
Principal Application Engineer, Oracle
Over its 150-plus-years, Santa Clara University has welcomed newcomers to California by providing excellent education and entry into a network of alumni lawyers, engineers, and business leaders who offered advice, introductions and funding for new enterprises. And while the latest students flocking to SCU aren’t seeking actual gold nuggets, they find Santa Clara’s community just as rich in knowledge and connections as in the Gold Rush-era.
Praveen Koka is a member of the 21st century wave of settlers. With an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and graduate work in plastics in his native India, he considered launching his own plastics production firm, following an entrepreneurial path in his country’s growing economy.
But California’s tech rush had lured many of his former schoolmates to Silicon Valley and Koka decided to test the waters in 2000 by moving to the U.S.
“I didn’t know how long I wanted to stay here,” he explained. “I started with a couple of start-ups and a consulting firm, and realized I wanted to stay.” He joined Oracle in 2001, and after a few years there working as an application engineer, he realized his future was in information technology.
Without any formal education in the industry however, he considered returning to school for an engineering degree but thought it would limit his options, and felt the more general MBA program was too broad to give him the depth he needed. “I knew I would be stepping up to senior positions in this line of work and wanted to get some experience in management, but I also wanted to learn the basics of information systems that I hadn’t picked up while working.”
Then Koka discovered Santa Clara and its array of business school options, including the M.S. in Information Systems (MSIS) degree. “I came across the MSIS program which offered the right mix of technical and management education,” he said. At the time, not many schools in the Bay Area offered this kind of balance in a graduate degree, and he was intrigued. “That aspect, combined with the fact that the Leavey School of Business is a reputable evening business school made it an easy choice for me,” he commented.
Once he started classes, his decision to come to Santa Clara was made even better by the extensive network he discovered there. In addition to the core technical knowledge he sought, the MSIS program delivered a broad array of colleagues and friends in the industry. “I have contacts everywhere in the Valley, all in big firms,” he reports. “I know I can tap into those if I need to.”
In addition to developing a great network, Koka has applied what he’s learned at SCU to his career and other aspects of life as well. “I’m a captain for a cricket club during my spare time,” he explained. “I’ve been able to apply the leadership skills that I developed, and even the basics like how to deal with people, to my role there.”
Since completion of Santa Clara’s program, Praveen has not only gained respect among his colleagues, but has advanced in his career and now works as a Principal Application Engineer. “I now have managerial tasks as well as technical ones, and have started mentoring people both in the Bay Area and in India,” he said.
Praveen’s journey in IT is not over now that he has achieved his initial goal of getting a master’s in Information Systems. Much like the forty-niners of the Gold Rush- era, Praveen’s entrepreneurial spirit drives him to venture into someplace new. “I want to find a role with the perfect mix of management and technical duties,” he explained. “One that leverages my 12 years of experience in IT but also allows me to use my MSIS degree more than I have been able to up to this point.” He doesn’t yet know what that will be, but he does know, just like the forty-niners, that he’ll be in California.