Vivek Wadhwa is a senior research associate with the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, an executive in residence/adjunct professor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, and a visiting scholar at the School of Information at University of California at Berkeley. He helps students prepare for the real world, lectures in class and leads groundbreaking research projects. He is also an advisor to several start-up companies, a columnist for BusinessWeek.com, a contributor to the popular tech blog, TechCrunch, and writes occasionally for several international publications. Since joining Duke University in August 2005, he has researched globalization, its impact on the engineering profession and the sources of the U.S. competitive advantage.
His report on engineering education dispelled many common myths about graduation rates in India and China being an order of magnitude greater those of the U.S. While both countries graduate many more “engineers” than the US, their definitions of those terms are loose and include everyone from mechanics to trade-school graduates. Elite institutions in both countries do turn out world class engineers, but the numbers are small.
Subsequent research revealed why companies were going offshore and highlighted new trends in the globalization of R&D and innovation. To explain how India was achieving success despite its weak education system, Wadhwa published a seminal research report which analyzed its surrogate education system and workforce development practices. Indian companies, in particular, have become global centers of excellence in high-skill areas including software development, chip design, pharmaceutical research and advanced engineering tasks like aircraft engine design. Wadhwa found that the best Indian companies simply accepted that the educational system in the country was inadequate and developed their own highly innovative training programs that more than compensated for this.
Wadhwa’s research on American competitive advantages focused on entrepreneurship, skilled immigration, and university research commercialization. This revealed key insights into the age, educational background and motivation of tech entrepreneurs. He also documented that over one-in-four U.S. technology startups were founded by immigrants. These immigrants tended to be highly educated with strong backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Wadhwa found that a flawed immigration system had created a backlog of over a million skilled workers who were waiting for permanent-resident visas. This backlog has the potential to cause a sizeable reverse brain-drain of talent from the U.S. to other countries which could lead to a weakening of U.S. competitiveness.
His research has been supported by several grants from the Kauffman Foundation and by the Sloan Foundation. Wadhwa has collaborated with highly regarded academics from Harvard, Duke, NYU, UC-Berkeley and other universities. His work has been cited in over 2,000 national and international media outlets over the past five years. This has garnered the attention of policy makers Wadhwa has spoken at dozens of conferences including the National Governors Association and the National Academy of Sciences.
Before joining Duke University, Wadhwa was a technology executive known for being a pioneer of change and innovation. He started his career as a software developer and gained a deep understanding of the challenges in building computer systems. His quest to help solve some of IT’s most daunting problems began at New York based investment banking powerhouse CS First Boston, where he was Vice President of Information Services. There he spearheaded the development of technology for creating computer systems which was so successful that CSFB decided to spin off this business unit into its own company, Seer Technologies. As Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Wadhwa helped grow the nascent startup into a $118 million publicly traded company.
With the explosion of the Internet, Wadhwa saw an even greater opportunity to help businesses adapt to new and fast changing technologies, and started Relativity Technologies. As a result of his vision, Wadhwa was named a “Leader of Tomorrow” by Forbes.com. Relativity was named as one of the 25 “coolest” companies in the world by Fortune Magazine.
Mr. Wadhwa holds an MBA from New York University and a B.A. in Computing Studies from the Canberra University in Australia. He is founding president of the Carolinas chapter of The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TIE), a non-profit global network intended to foster entrepreneurship. He has been featured in thousands of articles in worldwide publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, Washington Post, New York Times, U.S. News and World Report and Science Magazine. He has also made many appearances on U.S. and international TV stations including CNN, ABC, NBC, CNBC and the BBC.