August 25, 2010

10 Minutes With Pradeep Haldar

By: by Pam Allen The Business Review


"It's OK to be a geek."

Pradeep Haldar, 47, the head of Albany Nanotech's nanoengineering constellation, considers himself a geek. He'll also go to any lengths to get in a round of golf.

What brought you to the Capital Region?

I came here to work for Intermagnetics (later acquired by Royal Philips Electronics). I worked there 12 to 13 years and worked my way up to head of R&D.

Around that time I did my executive MBA at RPI and that taught me business and management skills to put together a business plan and spin off SuperPower (now part of Philips).

How did you come to the College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering?

I realized that I really enjoyed tech-development activities and commercialization. I also like the educational component.

In 2001, I was speaking with Dr. Kaloyeros [head of Albany NanoTech] and he was talking about a vision. It was just a dream at that time, and there was only one building.

There were big dreams about what was planned here and it was really exciting to hear those the plans. That definitely attracted me.

What's it like working with Alain Kaloyeros?

I've enjoyed working with him. He's obviously someone who gets things done. That's one of the important elements of being successful.

To me, he takes care of his people well. On one hand, he will be a hard-nosed person to make sure that people do their jobs correctly. But he will also make sure people are rewarded for doing a good job.

From that standpoint, he does a good job in building a successful organization. You can't say that about a lot of people.

It has been an exciting ride in terms of the growth we've had here. It's just been non-stop growth and it's really exciting to be a part of that.

When I first came here, the executive team had meetings every Saturday at Starbucks. We haven't done that in a long time because we've grown so large.

What is the Capital Region's future in technology?

What Albany was 20 years ago when I came here compared to what it is today speaks volumes. I really see more growth in the next 10 years or so.

A lot of that has to do with what we're doing here and some has to do with what's happening north in Saratoga.

What opportunities have you turned away to work at Albany NanoTech?

I get calls probably three, four times a year saying, are you interested in this, are you interested in that? Sometimes I'll solicit those requests and find out a little bit more about those opportunities.

But I will say that the gig we've got going on here is perfect. I love working in technology and I love commercializing technology. And the third is the education piece. I get to do all three right here. That's very rare.

I think the stuff we're doing here is phenomenal and I haven't seen the kind of vision and activities that we have here duplicated anywhere else.

What is a geek and do you consider yourself one?

To me, a geek is a techie person. I tell my kids it's OK to be a geek.

For us here, it comes from the top. Our boss is a geek and he calls himself a geek.

Being able to use some of the gadgets out there, that is geeky. Having the latest and the greatest BlackBerry, for example, or getting an iPad or the latest computer. Yeah, to that extent I am a geek.

At home also, I want all the gadgets-everything from the computer, to the TV, to the GPS for the golf course.

If you could have only one piece of technology, what would it be?

There really is no comparison out there yet to your smartphone. It acts as your computer, your scheduler, your actual phone. And you carry it around with you so wherever you are, you are still in your office.

Sometimes the wife doesn't like it because you're always working, but we're getting to a point where you cannot do without it.

You once had an empathy ear-piercing.

We were on vacation on an island in Guam, where my wife is from. My daughter was 1 and was having her ears pierced. It sounded like a painful process. And for a little kid to go through that, I didn't think it made sense.

So when she was getting pierced I decided to do it, just to feel what it's like. There was nothing to it.

I wore an earring for almost a full year. It was a small diamond and you couldn't see it. I had it on for a while and thought, this doesn't look good in the corporate environment.

You came close to missing your daughter's graduation because of your love affair with golf.

It was this past May. I usually play once or twice a week, usually on the weekends, real early.

My daughter's graduation was at noon and it's a short ceremony. She tells me, you better be there and I'm telling her, I will be there.

This specific day, we got delayed. My wife told my daughter, you should probably give up on him; he's not showing up.

I played 17 holes and this was a tournament. After the 17th hole, it was 11:45 and I said, I gotta go. Fortunately, we had already won.

I changed real fast and went to the graduation. I made it there at 12:01, when the line was starting to form. My daughter saw me and had this big smile on her face.

My mother-in-law said, I knew you were going to make it because you always keep your promises.

How do you want to spend your 50th birthday?

Scotland was one of our favorite vacations, so I was joking to my wife that I want to be at St. Andrews (known as "The Home of Golf"). I'm working on it.

Describe your personality.

I would say I'm the kind of person who takes on a job and tries to make it happen. I'm very focused and driven. I make sure I complete the task at hand.

I absolutely want to build on success, even when it means pushing hard or upsetting people along the way. It doesn't faze me to be direct and tell people to their faces what I think about them.

I've done crazy, impulsive, spur-of-the moment things before. At six in the evening, I'll say, we're going for dinner to New Jersey. Or, all of a sudden I'll say, OK, we're going to Florida next week. There's never a dull moment. That's the way I like it.