Innovation Pathways: An Engineer Maps a Path to Entrepreneurship

To help illustrate where the pursuit of innovation management can lead, our Innovation Pathways series asks our current students, recent graduates, and established alumni to describe their journeys.

Mohit Patel photoMohit Patel MSE’20 is a consulting engineer at Pollux Automation USA. He works to conceptualize and integrate custom automation systems in the industrial lines for multinational companies across aerospace, FMCG, and F&B sectors. Besides product development and integrated control systems, he has a keen interest in growth strategy framework and business analytics, coupled with a curiosity in finance and economics. He serves as a VP of Finance on the executive board of the Penn Graduate Consulting Club. He also does pro-bono consulting projects for nonprofits to give back to the community.

As an engineering student, how did you incorporate the study of innovation management into your time at Penn?
Engineers are generally well equipped with applied mathematics and aptitude skills but learning core management concepts is critical if they want to make a difference in today’s business world. When I joined Penn, I explored Wharton’s offerings and enrolled in a variety of courses in statistics and management. Through STAT 571 (Modern Data Mining), I learnt the concepts of neural network, regression, and machine learning alongside building, interpreting, and adapting techniques for handling large and complex data with applications in finance, marketing, and other fields. Spending time on innovation-related programs at Penn was very beneficial. As part of Penn Biotech Group (PBG), I worked on identifying collaboration and licensing opportunities in a key therapeutics area for a midsize Japanese multinational pharmaceutical company. I helped to develop pricing and promotional strategies to increase client base for a Philadelphia-based yoga studio with Penn Graduate Consulting Club (PGCC). These projects provided me a perfect platform to gain hands-on experience about business necessities and innovation management. As I look back, I think my time at Penn was well spent in exploring the varied management concepts since I want to start my own venture in the future.

How have you been involved with the Mack Institute? And how has the experience impacted your career?
Mack Institute provided me with many opportunities to explore what I wanted, and I have gained much knowledge, confidence, and exposure.

The beginning of my long-standing collaboration with Mack Institute came through Prof. Saikat Chaudhuri (executive director of Mack Institute) under whom I worked as a research associate assessing the impact of offshore deals on the stock prices of multinational IT outsourcing firms. Under his and Prof. Joydeep Chatterjee’s guidance, I applied data-driven approaches to propose future trends of corporate decision-making and their impact on an organization’s growth. I quickly learnt how economics, finance, supply chain, and entrepreneurship are all connected. This background proved to be a key asset and later helped me in viewing consulting projects from a manager’s perspective rather than solely an engineer’s.

Recognizing my interest and passion for business research, Prof. Chaudhuri encouraged me to participate in Mack Institute’s Collaborative Innovation Program (CIP). Through CIP, I worked with two major corporations — one in automotive and another in telecom — to solve technology and business problems by innovating, adapting, and entering new markets using expertise in emerging technologies, innovative business models, and high-performing networks. I put to use data-driven techniques that I learnt in STAT 571 to turn data into actionable insights that the corporations can use.

Collecting my experience from CIP, I led the Innovation Acceleration Group in an ad hoc project with the Miami DDAand identified business development and capital improvement strategies to grow, strengthen, and promote the economic health and vitality of Downtown Miami. I received an internship at The Global Education & Leadership Foundation (tGELF) through Mack Institute in which I worked with like-minded passionate individuals who are looking to build a community of ethical, altruistic leaders by identifying and supporting entrepreneurs around the world. Mack Institute was also helpful in mentoring my team for IXL’s Innovation Olympics, the world’s largest innovation consulting competition, in which our team of non-MBA students took third place competing against experienced executive MBAs from across the world.

These experiences instilled a lot of confidence in me to speak and present ideas in a coherent manner to the top management. My collaboration with Mack Institute was thus incredibly rewarding. As an engineer who wanted to understand the business world and how it operates, I learnt a lot.

I quickly learnt how economics, finance, supply chain, and entrepreneurship are all connected.

What did you find most rewarding about working with your Collaborative Innovation Program team?
CIP is the closest to real-world management consulting experience one could get. These hands-on experiences taught me how to comprehend the full scope of strategy to ensure that the right strategic outcomes are defined. I learnt how to lead execution efforts and measure the results appropriately. I had direct intellectual conversations with CFO, CTO, and department heads who are decision-makers for multinational organizations.

I believe that greatness is contagious. Just by surrounding yourself with talented individuals will enable you to automatically adapt their style and flourish. My CIP teammates were wonderfully diverse. My team for the German luxury automaker represented four nationalities, five different spoken languages, and included four diverse disciplines. Such cultural integration among people at various stages in their careers brought together the range of skills that helped us bring in different perspectives to systematically assess the viability of multiple product offerings for our client and develop a dual brand strategy with an action plan to enter new emerging markets.

Additionally, my teammates guided me throughout the project to bring out the best in me. I was reluctant to ask questions to the client initially as I was the youngest in the team and felt my inquiries might seem vague. But as the project progressed, I realized that most of our findings were based on the questions I had in mind and my teammates backed my abilities and provided me the confidence to lead meetings and navigate the project as well. It helped me realize my potential and what I am capable of achieving.

Where are you hoping that your career will take you in the next 10 years?
I’m quite excited about the range of responsibilities that I’ve been trusted with at very early stage of my career, and I am looking forward to expanding the client portfolio at Pollux Automation with our recent expansion to the U.S. After gaining several more years of industrial exposure, I’d like to pursue an MBA from one of the top business schools (Wharton is most certainly at the top of my list!) and later a career in management consulting. I’m hoping to build valuable connections as a management consultant, and with this luxury of a strong professional network and well-rounded skills, I’d like to accomplish my ultimate goal of starting a business in the next decade, particularly in the hospitality sector with an idea to generate a passive income alongside a full-time job at one of the top consulting firms in New York City.