Long-Distance MBA Shapes Business Success Across Continents

Sunil Patil
In the mid-1990s, Sunil Patil was an admitted “hard core techie” working for Bell Labs, the research and development (R&D) division of Lucent Technologies in New Jersey, but he wanted to learn about the business side of the industry in order to advance in his career. So, he sought out the MBA by a distance learning program offered by Ball State’s Miller College of Business.

Fast-forward 12 years, and Patil, MBA 1998, is now the director at the Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management in his native country of India. The institute is a division of Symbiosis International University, which is known as the “Oxford of the East.”

If weren’t for the distance learning classes offered by the college, he says, a master’s degree in management would have been far more difficult to obtain, and his dreams of moving into a leadership position may have been nearly out of reach.

“While working in Bell Labs, I realized that I was miles away from understanding the business dynamics that were being discussed by the business and product managers for Lucent,” Patil says. “I knew I needed more education.

“Ball State had one of the few distance education programs in the country at the time. It was convenient, and the Ball State staff was highly responsive to the students’ needs.”

“I remember a young man who was very inquisitive,” says Ray Montagno, chair of the marketing and management department who taught several televised classes. “He was determined. He had a drive to learn and expand his knowledge. In my years of teaching our televised classes I think Sunil was the most involved student I ever had. I am not at all surprised by his success.”

Patil’s existing technology skills were enhanced by his classroom experiences. As a result, he was promoted by Lucent to project manager and worked with various business divisions, customer account managers, and R&D teams throughout Asia and Europe.

“Working across cultures and global teams was an interesting experience, and Ball State’s business faculty prepared me though extensive case studies, classroom discussions with leading professionals, and presentations by people working in the field,” he says. “My experience of working with professionals from a number of countries and cultures provided me with substantial exposure to various work styles, ethics, mannerisms, body language, and languages. It was invaluable to get to know the do’s and don’ts while working in different countries.”

More than a decade after receiving his diploma, Patil has capitalized on his interests in business management and combined them with his technology skills as he focuses on developing an academic division of a major Indian university.

In 2003, he returned to India to take advantage of the nation’s growing economy. He served in various management positions with several technology, software, and communication firms until 2009, when he was named director at Symbiosis.

“We are creating a powerful brand in the field of education in India,” he says. “It is great to play a role in that. I personally think that I have been fairly successful as a business technology and technology management professional over the last 25 years. I sincerely believe that my Ball State education played a key role in shaping my career.”