RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Serial entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa’s immersion in the world of academia is deepening, and he likes it.
Wadhwa, the executive in residence at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, has accepted a fellowship to the Harvard Law School and will work with them as a “non-resident scholar” for the next year.
“This means that for another year (maybe two), I am going to stay an academic and to continue to make big waves as I have been doing,” Wadhwa told WRAL Local Tech Wire. “It is very intellectual rewarding to be in academia and I’m not ready to rejoin the ‘rat race.’”
Wadhwa, who launched software firm Relativity in 1997, has been making waves with research about immigration with heavy emphasis on outsourcing, engineers and scientists. Working with students and faculty at Duke as well as with the Kauffman Foundation, Wadhwa has also written extensively about the numbers of engineering graduates in the U.S., China and India. He has written about trends and threats to the U.S. economy in the online version of BusinessWeek, and he has appeared as a guest on TV shows such as Lou Dobbs’ nightly business report.
The Harvard appointment came as a surprise, Wadhwa said.
“I myself was surprised that they would offer such a prestigious fellowship to a non-academic like me,” he said. “I don’t even have a PhD…But this will be very helpful in the my next research project.”
His transition from CEO chair and board room is an example other entrepreneurs can emulate, he added.
“Not only is it feasible, but people like me can succeed,” Wadhwa said of the career move. “I was delighted that the academic world did welcome me and helped me adapt and become successful. Not only have I had the support of [Duke] department heads like Jeff Glass of the Masters of Engineering Management Program, but also of the Provost, Peter Lange.
“So the message to other techies who want a break from the "rat-race" is that there is a parallel universe where they can contribute and succeed, where their ideas and insights are welcomed and appreciated, and where it’s not about money — but about adding to the base of knowledge and making the world a better place,” he added.
Wadhwa suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 2002 and stepped down as CEO at Relativity in 2003. He later left the firm’s chairmanship post and became embroiled in a nasty legal fight with the company and its financial backers. Wadhwa and Relativity later reached a settlement. He dabbled in film making before taking the position at Duke in 2005.
“Academia is much different from ruthless and money-obsessed world of venture capitalists and investment bankers! Here ethics and values abound.”