An Ocean Away from
the Status Quo

Taking a break from the daily grind, Chowdhary traveled half the globe to find a renewed sense of purpose and direction
Vivek Chowdhary, TOWER Fellow 2019
The Journey
By any measure, Vivek Chowdhary has led a successful and fulfilling career. Most recently, he was the CEO of a large Asian family business office, Sana Family, located in Dubai. The company's total asset size under consideration is approximately $15 billion. Before that, Vivek served as Vice President at Essar Group in Mumbai, where he was involved in the creation of a joint venture with Vodafone PLC, one of India's top three mobile service providers.

After spending 25 years in a highly demanding corporate career, Vivek found that when he woke up in the morning he was no longer looking forward to the day. Although his business was thriving, he felt he was no longer growing as a person and was instead stuck in recurring routines. Every day felt like "just another day," and Vivek had lost the excitement and passion he once held for his work. He recognized it was time to move on and to "reset himself."

To do this he knew he needed to be away from his usual social, personal, and business circles for an extended period. He needed to leave his comfort zone and the status quo of the last 25 years. He'd always had a curiosity for learning, so he sought to find a university where he could go and spend a year. One major criterion was that the university was far from what he knew. When choosing a program, he was drawn to the fact that the TOWER Fellows program was highly flexible, allowing him to pick and choose virtually anything he wanted to study. He was also attracted to the city of Austin, and all it had to offer.

The Experience
Going through the enrollment process, Vivek intentionally selected courses he knew very little about, making sure his studies were drastically different from his professional endeavors. After 25 years in the business world, he kept away from the business school entirely. Instead, he focused his first semester around health and wellness, both physical and mental. His fall courses included Positive Psychology/The Good Life, Physiological Basis of Conditioning, Yoga as Philosophy and Practice, and Mind and Body. In the spring, he centered his studies around emerging technologies including AI and blockchain, with coursework including Honors Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain/Decentralized Economy.

Vivek has found the courses at UT to be extremely enjoyable and enriching. Though he remained an avid reader and learner throughout his professional career, he felt it especially valuable to go through such material in a structured manner. Having his questions answered within a classroom setting enabled a greater depth of learning. The courses left him curious and wanting to learn more.

Beyond the classroom, Vivek enjoyed the experience of being outside his comfort zone – in his case, literally on the other side of the globe. He relished the chance to feel like an undergrad again – to put on his backpack, pick up a Starbucks, and walk to class alongside thousands of other students seeking answers. For the first time in over 25 years he found himself as something other than a "coat and tie," which he found refreshing. He immersed himself in the experience, frequently joining fellow students and professors for lunch and spending time in UT's many libraries.

"When I wake up in the morning I feel like getting up and running again. This program brought that back."
The Impact

With exuberance, Vivek asserts the TOWER Fellows program has fully met his objectives both for learning and for personal growth. Being thousands of miles away on another continent put him outside his daily routine and comfort zone, and the courses satisfied his curiosity in a way he hadn't had a chance to nurture while chasing a corporate career. The experience reinvigorated his passions, got him excited and returned his energy. After being in the same routine for so long, the year left him feeling like a "human being" again.

Being in the city of Austin afforded some unique opportunities, as well. Vivek enjoyed the myriad cultural experiences Austin has to offer, and particularly a performance at the Skylark Lounge where he heard the "best blues of my life."

Today Vivek finds himself re-energized and happy, and ready to begin moving towards his "what's next" although he expresses that he's in no hurry to do so. Filled with excitement, he knows he will find his calling in time, it just may not be tomorrow. Vivek has grown as a person and learned a lot, which to him is the most important thing.

Vivek's UT TOWER Fellows experience was so positive, he and his wife plan to continue the momentum by spending a few months each year learning together at a university going forward.

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