Coffee break, Google style: Roshan Baliga at work in Mountain View, CA.
As a product manager at Google in Silicon Valley, Roshan Baliga ’99 is a long way from his Winston-Salem, NC, home. It’s expensive to live in California and too far from friends and family, but he’s happy to work at the cutting edge of his industry. “If you’re in high tech, this is the place to be,” he says.
Baliga draws on his two electrical engineering degrees from MIT to lead a wifi networking group, making routers for the consumer market. His role requires him to keep up with electrical engineering developments but also work on user experience and project management. “Planning is a challenge,” he says of working at Google, where the culture can be impromptu, verging on chaotic. “There’s also a lot of flexibility in what you work on,” he says, “so you gravitate to the projects that interest you.”
Of his time at NCSSM, Baliga says he values most the chance to “live in a dorm with a bunch of people and get to know them well. We were all intellectually curious. You don’t get that same level of interaction at your home high school.” He refers to his former Science and Math teachers as professors. “The caliber of the faculty is phenomenal.”
His time as a Unicorn prepared Baliga well for MIT. Having already lived away from home gave him a big head start. And having taken so many advanced classes in high school, he was game to take experimental classes, something his fellow college students shied away from.
Baliga gives regularly to the NCSSM Foundation for two reasons. “One, I don’t live in North Carolina, so I’m not contributing via taxes or my time. If I lived in the Research Triangle Park area, I’d volunteer to work with students. That would be fun, not even altruistic.
“And I know that the state legislature doesn’t give as much money to Science and Math as I would like,” Baliga adds. All the other things he took part in — from mentoring to bus loops, clubs, and more — prepared him well for the rest of his life. “So I give to the unrestricted fund, to make sure all the extra programming remains viable. Great classes and teaching are easier to sell to the state legislature to get funding, but it’s not where Science and Math has the biggest challenge for funding.”
State appropriations currently fund about 92 percent of the school’s operations, with the balance of funding supplied by private gifts. The NCSSM Foundation uses unrestricted funds to support, among other things, academic programming such as research and mentorship and operation of the new Peter T. Haughton Fabrication and Innovation Laboratory.
Baliga calls his time at NCSSM “two of the best years of my life.” Fellow alumni, take note: “If an alumnus of NCSSM contacts me about a job at Google, I’m much more likely to recommend them; it’s the shared experience we have,” Baliga says. “Someone contacted me yesterday, actually, to ask about an alum, and I said absolutely, yes.”