BITSAA Conference

The Birla Institute of Technology and Science Alumni Association in Silicon Valley hosted a conference in San Jose, Calif., Sept. 8 and Sept. 9. The event, attended by hundreds, featured a number of keynote speeches, as well as a fireside chat with Versa Networks’ Indian American CEO Kelly Ahuja (left) and Cisco chairman John Chambers. (photo provided)

The Birla Institute of Technology and Science Alumni Association in Silicon Valley hosted a conference in San Jose, Calif., Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 in a full display of BITS alumni spirit.

Attended by more than 450 people, the event featured a number of fireside chats and various keynote addresses.

Versa Networks’ Indian American chief executive Kelly Ahuja and Cisco chair John Chambers were front-and-center for the first day of the event as part of a fireside chat with the two touching on a variety of topics ranging from the formative years of Cisco to Chambers’ leadership style to his unabashed support for Prime Minister Modi and his role of chairman of the U.S.-India Business Council.

The second day featured a number of keynotes, beginning with BITS Pilani vice chancellor Prof. Souvik Bhattacharya. The vice chancellor noted the huge strides made by BITS Pilani, including in excess of 2,500 publications in international journals and graduating more than 850 doctorate candidates. Bhattacharya also noted the vision of the institution is to be among the top 50 schools in Asia.

Also speaking at the event was JetBlue Airways chairman Joel Peterson. In his keynote, Peterson said he lived by, both professionally and personally, the President Dwight Eisenhower quote, “Plans are worthless. Planning is everything.”

Additionally, the airline chairman encouraged the audience to build their personal brand, one conversation at a time. “You need to be able to listen without an agenda,” he said, according to a BITSAA news release.

The event’s closing keynote featured the husband-and-wife team of Deepa Thomas and Thampy Thomas, founder of Elxsi, in which they talked about their life journey. Deepa Thomas talked about how she was able to help her husband recover from an acute diabetic condition purely by eating the right foods.

“We are in the crucible of plant based food,” she said, and yet 50 percent of the more than 3 million Indians living in America are diabetic. Her book, Deepa’s Secrets, includes healing recipes that are nutrient packed. “The secret to good health is to eat food that our grandmothers will recognize.” 

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