Gurinder S. Ahluwalia
“Decide what you’re passionate about and pursue that passion to the very best of your ability, always keeping the goal of excellence in mind.” That’s the advice Gurinder S. Ahluwalia, of Danville, CA, offers to young people contemplating the path ahead.Ahluwalia, the recent recipient of one of six NJIT Alumni Awards for achieving career success, is president and chief executive officer of Genworth Financial Wealth Management. At Genworth, he heads an investment-management and consulting firm that has overseen upwards of $25 billion in assets and is helping some 6000 independent advisors build their individual practices.
His academic journey included a 1990 master’s degree in electrical engineering from NJIT, preceded by a dual bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Cooper Union and New York University.
It was in graduate school at NJIT, coincidentally near his dad Daljit, who was the long-time head of NJIT’s notable Department of Mathematics, that the younger Ahluwalia saw the light. Although he was succeeding academically, he wasn’t happy. The work, itself, was unappealing. The teaching part of the job, however, was different. He liked being engaged with people. Eventually, he realized it was time to change directions.
Sure enough once he had his master’s degree in hand, opportunity knocked. Ahluwalia was soon able to leave academe for a manufacturing-management position in the aerospace industry with GE in Boston. A subsequent move to GE Medical Systems included a move to Wisconsin and assignments as far afield as Tokyo.
But it was the mentoring relationship Ahluwalia had with his GE plant manager that set him on his present course. One day chatting about his future, he mustered the courage to ask his boss a surprisingly direct question: “How do I get your job?”
His manager’s generous response: “You need a financial background. Join the GE Audit Staff.”
Not that this was going to be very easy. It is generally well-known then and now that auditing applicants must pass an intellectually and physically grueling one-month test of their ability to acquire and apply the knowledge essential for resolving a complex business challenge. Ahluwalia, thanks to his background in math and engineering, succeeded with flying colors. The results on this real-world test marked the starting point of a career which, through corporate evolution, has taken him from auditing to positions of increasing executive responsibility in the financial world, to, of course, president today.
Has Ahluwalia’s science and technology education been relevant to his achievements in finance? Of course, he said. “I learned how to break down problems into component parts, and to use available resources to come up with the best possible solution. Studying science sharpens your analytical skills and bolsters self-confidence; these are requisites for success in any field.”