Raja Tamilarasan worked with Dell products before he actually worked for Dell. Before pursuing his Master's in Computer Science he worked for a television broadcasting company that set up data centers for companies in Asia, often using Dell products. So when Dell visited the Purdue campus to recruit the next class of interns, Tamilarasan thought it would be an awesome opportunity to work at the headquarters of “this big US company that we were getting products from.”
Dell visits over 260 universities every year as part of our University Relations Program. In 2008 Raja was picked as an intern and worked within Dell's IT Services group for three months. He quickly learned the corporate ropes and got to know his colleagues and the projects he would be working on during his internship. He began having regular one-on-ones with his manager and expressed an interest in applying for full-time positions with Dell in the United States.
"Network with as many people as you can," his manager recommended. “Go and meet with my colleagues and other groups within Dell – that's what you're here for."
Tamilarasan took this to heart and met with several of his manager's peers, ending each meeting by asking for a few more names of people he could get to know at the company.
"It was mind-blowing to be able to network with so many Dell employees as an intern. I never thought that it would be so easy to go meet with people and talk to them about their role in the company” Tamilarasan shared, “People always made time for me, even though they were busy with their day jobs. It was so cool that they would meet with an intern with no possible interest or return for them. They were just meeting up to help me."
He eventually found and applied for an entry-level programming role within Dell's Product Group working on server firmware for data centers, something he had been studying in his Master's program. Tamilarasan continued networking throughout his six years in the Product Group where he had several mentors who he would meet with on a regular basis to check in on how his career development was progressing. One of these was his new manager who guided him through becoming a team lead which meant learning a new set of managerial skills in his new role.
"He would meet with me every two weeks and give me ideas on how to be a better leader. I was going from being a programmer to leading a group of programmers – which was a very, very different task. So he helped me learn how to delegate and how to follow up, and showed me how he did those things."
Tamilarasan's mentors were also there to help him make big career decisions, one of those decisions was whether to pursue a second Master's degree and in which field. Raja leaned on their wisdom and decided to go back to school and apply for a Masters of Engineering Management program at The University of Texas at Austin. Once accepted, Tamilarasan worked with his manager and his colleagues to determine how he would continue working while going to classes for a full Friday and Saturday each month on top of having classwork and assignments.
"Every month, I had one Friday off and took classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I would finish as much of my work as I could the day before and then finish the rest the following week,” Tamilarasan recalled. “Both my managers and teammates were very supportive of my decision and helped me through it."
Now that scheduling was accounted for, there was one last piece of the puzzle to figure out – cost.
Tamilarasan was able to apply for partial funding for his Master's through an Education Assistance Program available to Dell team members in a number of countries.
While working on his masters, Tamilarasan took a new role as a product technologist in Dell’s Internet of Things division to manage Dell’s flag ship Internet of Things Data Center in the heart of Silicon Valley, which included a move to a new location and a new team in a new business.
“Even though I changed roles, teams and had more responsibilities than earlier, it was amazing to see that both my new manager and the new team was very supportive of a decision to go back to school,” Tamilarasan said. “My team at Dell enabled me to continue to be committed to my education and allowed me to take Fridays off and continue with school remotely.”
In December 2015 Tamilarasan graduated thanks to his hard work and the support of his friends, family and colleagues.
"The biggest thing I've learned is that there's always something new that's going to come up. It might look like a big hurdle at that time, but if you talk to people and ask for help, there's always help available,” he shared. “Dell is a great company that’s made of amazing people who are always there to help you with whatever you're going through – whether personally or professionally.”