MALVERN, Pa. — Recent Master of Engineering Management program graduate Aditya Mathkar isn’t afraid to admit he wasn’t always the best student during his undergraduate years, he said. But during his graduate education? It’s a much different story, a success that Mathkar credits to the environment at Penn State Great Valley.
Surrounded by fellow international students who were highly motivated fostered a sense of “healthy competition” for Mathkar, encouraging him to study hard and explore learning opportunities outside of the classroom. That immersive, collaborative environment more than paid off — Mathkar graduated with a high grade-point-average (GPA), important practical knowledge, and a full-time job that stemmed from his on-campus research assistantship.
“This campus doesn’t have a whole lot of people and that’s what makes it special,” Mathkar said. “It makes it an experience where the professors can pay enough attention to you, and you can actually go ahead and ask them, ‘Hey, I don’t know what you just said. Can you please repeat? Can you please explain this again?’”
The hands-on environment extended past the classroom, too. Mathkar was a research assistant for Raghu Sangwan, professor of software engineering, and worked on a variety of projects through the campus’ Big Data Lab. One of those projects was in collaboration with iLink Digital, which led to Mathkar landing a product management internship where he was part of a team that designed software for a major healthcare company.
As he settled into the role, Mathkar said, he found he could easily apply what he learned in classes to his work at iLink. After a few months and with his manager’s encouragement, Mathkar began to speak up more during meetings to become more visible, and take the lead on certain parts of the project. From there, his role expanded.
“At iLink, they give you responsibility of the highest kind,” Mathkar said. “There was no way it was put in perspective of, “Oh, he’s only an intern.’ They kept adding responsibility and after the end of two or three months, I was heading a feature by myself. There is enough visibility in the sense that they recognize your work. You can’t be a passive team member. You need to show you’re ready to take responsibility.”
His hard work didn’t go unnoticed — shortly before Mathkar graduated, iLink began to transition him to a full-time alliance lead role. Now that he’s a full-fledged iLink employee, Mathkar intends to act as a liaison between the company and Penn State Great Valley; he’s particularly looking forward to mentoring students.
Participating in cross-disciplinary research for on-campus work helped prepare Mathkar for his new client-facing leadership position, too, he said. He worked with data analytics and software engineering students on various projects, which exposed him to new topics like artificial intelligence and data modeling. By delving into unfamiliar concepts and broadening his horizons, Mathkar said he felt well-prepared to shift away from the healthcare-focused project of his internship to a new, separate business-focused project — and any other project that follows.
“As an engineering manager, I can work in the creative domain, I can work in the analytics domain, and I can work in the business domain as well,” Mathkar said. “That was something I had considered right before I applied for a position like this because I wanted to keep my tracks open.”