Interview with Krishna Nadella, '04 M.B.A.
What has been the most important growth and change at Smeal since you graduated?
In regards to growth, the new business building has been a great centerpiece to the Smeal College of Business and to the University at large. It represents the forward-looking direction of the school and validates our ability to compete with the top business programs across the nation. I could go ad nauseam as to why I think it is so great but in order to truly appreciate it I encourage you to see it in person!
In regards to change, Dean Jim Thomas’ tireless ability to meet and speak with alumni across the country has helped bring the Smeal community even closer. I truly believe this is one of his greatest attributes as I have always felt in-tune with what is going on at Smeal during his tenure as Dean. The Smeal College of Business has always had its place in the Penn State community, but even more so with the current economic climate that we’re experiencing; it has made it a point to remind alumni that we are not just a community of Penn State graduates but we are a family. As we all try to navigate through what is turning out to be one of the greatest recessions in the last half-century, Dean Thomas and the Smeal College of Business have done an amazing job reminding us all that they will always be there through the good times and the not so good times. In many ways, I think of Smeal as my home away from home. To be able to come back and visit campus is always something I look forward to. Even though change may be the only constant in life, what I appreciate most is that we haven’t forgotten who we are as a school, as a university, and as a community.
What has been your favorite Penn State memory so far?
Without a doubt, it was my first time in Beaver Stadium for a football game. I believe it was our season opener and we were playing the University of Central Florida. I’ve been a huge sports fan all my life and have had the good fortune to be in some amazing venues. That said, there is nothing quite like Penn State football in Beaver Stadium. You could call it one of the greatest architectural wonders of the world. I remember as I was heading over to my seat I was able to look across to the other side of the stadium. To see the sea of people (over 100,000) was one of the most powerful sights I have ever seen in my entire life.
The Penn State community on game day is truly something to behold. We do it right and we do it with class. I know this because I’ve brought many friends and business associates from other football schools to Penn State for football games and hands down they are all convinced by the end of the day that no one does it better than us.
What is your favorite hobby?
I have a few unique interests. First, I like to produce theater and have been involved at both the Broadway and off-Broadway level since 2004. That said, I should make it known that I am not a former actor or director or playwright. Quite frankly I’m not very artistic, but I’m very passionate about supporting the arts. I truly believe a world without art is a world without color. Life is meant to be lived and art is the color that allows us to feel the entire range of the emotional spectrum. I think that when I had the chance to produce in New York and overseas, I realized how much artists, in whatever genre, give of themselves to their craft. As such, I believe that as a society, we need to continue to support those causes and the respective opportunities that embrace the arts.
My other interest is that I’m a competitive Kendoist. Kendo, which is Japanese for “the way of the sword”, is competitive Japanese Sword Fighting. I am a member of the New York City Kendo Club and my rank is Sandan (3rd-Degree Black Belt). I compete in tournaments both here in the United States and overseas in Japan and made it to the qualification rounds for the U.S. National Tournament. Kendo is an ever-learning and ever-improving martial art and as such one is always learning to improve their skill. It is because of this mindset that Kendo is a wonderful complement to the corporate environment as it keeps me focused on always trying to better myself.
What is your favorite thing to do on a beautiful summer day?
Honestly, on a beautiful day my favorite thing to do is just get out and enjoy all that New York City has to offer. There’s always something going on, whether it’s a concert in Central Park or catching a Yankees’ game or outdoor dining at a nice restaurant with someone special. From a young age I always wanted to live in New York and now that I do I try never to take it for granted. I don’t look at my time in New York as a right; it’s a privilege and I never want to lose sight of that because you never know when life can change and you have to leave.
One thing in particular I love doing on a beautiful day is going to Times Square. Some New Yorkers hate it because it’s too crowded and the tourists walk too slow and stop in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, but it’s that very chaos that really gives it a life of its own. Times Square is known as the “Crossroads of the World” and all you have to do is spend five seconds there to see why!
What is the biggest reason for you to return to campus?
The first reason I return to campus is because I owe so much to the school. I was fortunate to be on a Graduate Assistantship during my time at Penn State. As such, my tuition was waived and that made a huge difference for me from a financial standpoint. In turn, I really came to appreciate the concept of giving back to the Penn State community. If not for the contributions of alumni that graduated before me, I would never have thought of continuing to stay connected with the University upon graduation. Now I try to pay-it-forward through my time or a monetary donation. The way I see it, in life there are always people who play a factor in your personal and professional success and as such you can’t always contribute that success solely to yourself. The opportunity that was provided to me and many others are due to the hard work and efforts of those before me. It’s now my turn to do the same for current and future Penn State students. This is why I am involved with various boards/committees throughout the University.
The second reason I return to campus is that when I did my undergraduate studies I went to school in Canada where the concept of an alumni community isn’t as prevalent. When I came to Penn State I realized how important the alumni community is here and that my first day on campus was really my first day as a member of the Penn State family. It is because of this family that I was able to get my summer internship and eventual full-time job upon graduation. But it’s not just solely about the good times. In December of 2007, I was let go from my previous employer due to budget cuts and found myself unemployed for the first time since I was 13. After my immediate family, it was through my Penn State family that I was able to get the support and career assistance needed to stay motivated, continue to network, and eventually find opportunities to get back on my feet. It would be foolhardy to think that I did this on my own. Now I want to take those same experiences navigating through this harsh economic climate and share them with future generations of Penn State graduates. It’s not because I think I have all the answers, it’s because I believe no matter how far you go you go in life, you should never forget where you came from. Penn State is many things to many people; a school, a university, a community, a family, etc. It’s because of all those things that we are who we are…Penn State!