iMahal Interview Series: Rahul Roy
August 22, 2002
iMahal: We can only imagine how difficult that must have been, given your father’s success and his inability to pass it on to a son. But maybe he did pass on the inner attributes that lead to being successful. This would be part of what you brought to America with you. Please tell us how that came about.
Roy: When I came here to America for the first time there was pressure. At the age of 20 I had married my high-school sweetheart, which is common in America, but not in India.
I left my wife in India, telling her, “I will check out Silicon Valley. If I find things better there, then you will come. Otherwise there is no point in you going there; this is not a vacation.” It was a career search with a lot of soul-searching. So I came and stayed with my third brother who had left IBM and was now working for Raytheon.
..I will check out Silicon Valley..this is not a vacation..
We were a joint family, which means the extended family, including married siblings and their children, lives together under one roof. So I came here, good or bad I didn’t know how it would turn out. The thing I noticed was that I did not feel that closeness of a joint family in the home of my brother in Silicon Valley. He had said, “Come over! We are with you.” But when I came here I saw a little coldness there in the family house. Things I am not supposed to touch. Places I cannot go. I could feel that my sense of belonging was not there. This was a tough situation!
I called my dad and said, “I’ll come back if I can’t make things work here within 30 days.” He said, “That’s the spirit! Come back.”
iMahal: It sounds like you came close to missing out on the opportunities here.
..every interview feels like you got the job..
Roy: Yes, but luckily, I got some job interviews. I must tell you I love the American system. In India when you go to a job interview it is obvious whether or not you got the job. But here, when they interview you they make you feel so comfortable that every interview feels like you got the job.They talk about benefits, they give you a tour of the building, they make you familiar with everything, and they will even show you the desk where you will work. So you think you got the job. I had 4 interviews and thought I got them all. My brother would be waiting in the parking lot and I would say, “I got the job!” But afterwards I would call and they would say they gave the job to somebody else.
The fifth interview clicked. The job totally matched my background. It was with a small new company in cryogenics that was later acquired by Kinetic Systems. They had an AS-400 and they didn’t know how to use it. They had a flower vase on top of it with artificial roses. The interview was very direct. I walked in and the man said, “The only thing on your resume that attracted us was your statement that you are familiar with the AS-400.” He pointed to the machine in the corner and asked me, “Do you know how to use this box? We bought an expensive accounting software package for more than $100,000 and it still doesn’t work. We are still spending $20,000 a month to do our accounting the old way. Our bank is getting upset that so much of our money is going into these kind of expenses.”
Now you must understand my background with the AS-400 and why it was listed on my resume. In India at IIT there were 500 students and one AS-400. I may have gotten to use that computer, during my whole course there, maybe 2 or 3 times. The course was all theory, no practical applications. I had done some COBOL and FORTAN programming on the computer.
So now I’m thinking, should I say yes, or should I tell the truth that I didn’t have that much experience with the machine and I wasn’t sure I was capable of doing what he needed to be done.