After earning a masterís degree at NJIT, Bala Thirumalainambi found a great job. And heís confident that his employer will sponsor him to work in America. Thatís why he came to America, and thatís why heís happy.
Then, the professor who taught the healthcare class told Bala he was hired. Along with teaching at NJIT, the professor directed a regional health care information exchange. He hired Bala to work there as a project coordinator. He started work the day after he graduated.
“I could not believe my good fortune on that day,” recalls Bala. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
In this interview Bala, who graduated in the winter of 2009 with a master’s in Engineering Management, talks about his job, his studies at NJIT and why he believes his employer will sponsor him to work in America.
When you were in India, why did you apply to NJIT for a master’s degree?
Based on my research of U.S. colleges (Princeton Review, word by mouth, Google, etc.), I found that NJIT was top-ranked for my preferred course of study. I also realized that the New Jersey metro area, where NJIT is based, is overflowing with job opportunities. So many companies are based in northern N.J. I could not think of a better location for a university, so NJIT was an easy choice.
Was it a good decision to come to NJIT for your master’s degree?
Absolutely. From day one the experience has been much better than what I had expected. NJIT truly gives you a chance to grow. NJIT had played a major role in every step of my growth and I am proud to be continuously associated with NJIT throughout my career.
What advice do you have for students abroad who are considering coming to NJIT?
I definitely encourage them to enroll at NJIT. For one, you’ll get so much support from the Office of International Students, whose staff works closely with international students, helping them in every way. And the exposure you get to technology at NJIT and the learning experience in general is amazing. The education system in America, or at least at NJIT, is more student centered than in India. The classes at NJIT push you to think and learn in a different and creative way. The professors train you to think out of the box.
What is your job and what are your main responsibilities?
I’m the Project Management Office Coordinator for New Jersey-Health Information Technology Extension Center. It’s the federally funded Regional Extension Center for New Jersey. I’m responsible for various project management duties, including but not limited to provider support, process management, business analysis and project coordination. I play a role that has a mix of information technology and project management responsibilities. The extension center was funded through NJIT, so in that way I’m employed by the university.
Do you like your job?
I love it. The project reaches every doctor in the state, helping them to get on electronic health record systems. It will lead to better health care, with fewer errors and more accurate medical info. Medical records for patients can be shared electronically by hospitals in the near future and used quickly to help patients. That’s very beneficial for the entire society. The Regional Extension Center's vision is focused on the same concept.
Did you plan to work in the U.S. after getting your master’s? And why do so many international students, like you, crave American work experience?
Of course, when I decided to come to NJIT I planned to use the Optional Practical Training (OPT) time -- 29 months -- granted to international students who get degrees in America. It’s great for me to get American work experience because the technology in America is far beyond that in India. And in my field, which merges technology and health care, America is way ahead of India. I’m working at the forefront of health information technology. So in five years, if I return to India, the experience I’m getting in America will help me get a great job.
How much long can you work in America?
I started working the day after my graduation and I’ve worked for a year now. I still have another 17 months left on my OPT, After that, I will need H1-B visa status.
You said you are confident your employer will sponsor you for an H1-B visa. Why is that?
My role at the organization is fairly important and I believe I have done a good job so far. So getting the H1-B visa should not be an issue. Once I have that visa, I can work in America for another five years.
You had professors who took a personal interest in you. Can you discuss that?
The NJIT professors are amazing. They not only teach you, but mentor you. One of my professors, for example, advised me to take a class with Tomas Gregorio, a Chief Information Officer and also the Vice Chair of Health-e-cITi NJ, a regional health information exchange. I was immensely interested in health care IT which helped me do well in his course. On the last day of class, after my final presentation, Professor Gregorio, who is also my mentor, said to me: “Bala, I’d hire you if you could work in America.”
Did you tell your professor that you could work in the U.S.?
Yes, I and the other students in the class told him about the 29-month work period granted to international students. So he hired me to work for the health information exchange. I started work the day after I graduated. That last class was the best day of my life. The same day when he hired me, I got an A which gave me a 4.0 GPA. It could not have gotten any better than that.
(By Robert Florida, Office of Strategic Communications)