Photo courtesy of Illinois Tech M. A. and Lila Self Leadership Academy
Adithya Sudhan was born in Kerala, India and was raised in Oman where his family provided him with a love of learning and the importance of helping others. He aspires to find meaning in the work that he does and wishes to maintain his search for meaning in whichever career path he pursues after graduation. Sudhan will be graduating with a degree in computer engineering and a minor in artificial intelligence (AI). AI has been said to be the “new electricity;” it is a vastly growing field with many philosophical implications. The potential for change and the multiplex of ideas that AI provides is what inspired Sudhan to minor in AI. During his time at Illinois Tech, Sudhan was a teaching assistant for the Computer Science department for three years, participated in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Robot Mining Competition (NASA RMC) club and attended conferences on behalf of United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and through Internship Academy.
Question: What's something that makes you, you?
Sudhan: I love knowledge. In that respect, I could say I’m a thinker of sorts. This has prompted me to acquire a breadth of information which I then like to connect in new ways. It’s all an experiment. My parents have always encouraged me to provide value to others and contribute to society. I think they have given me the gift of wanting to be helpful.
Q: What do you think is vital for anyone to be a good leader? What do you think people need to have in order to be a good leader?
S: Well, it’s a different answer for different people. The first question to ask would be about what a leader is trying to lead. If you’re leading a company vs. leading a social movement, you need a very different mindset. So it really depends upon what you’re trying to do. I’d say the most important requirement is empathy. I also notice how it all comes down to a few basic qualities like being respectful, disciplined, empathetic and focused. I think these should be deeply ingrained in leaders.
Q: What has the Leadership Academy meant to you? Can you describe the moment you found out you had been accepted into the Leadership Academy?
S: It was an interesting moment. We were told that the decisions would come out the next day. I was already grateful I had gotten into the LEAD session. That itself was an honor. I was nervous, but I distinctly remember that I slept very well that night. I woke up, checked my email and saw that I had been accepted. I called my mom and told her; she wouldn't stop crying for five minutes. I had no doubt that I could be a part of a well-performing leadership team, but I was doubtful that I was the kind of person that the Academy was looking for. I thought they were looking for a certain kind of leadership, or maybe a certain kind of personality and I was not sure that I’d get through those filters. It was a pleasant surprise. I've been in the Academy for two years now, and I've seen excellence in several forms. Every time we meet together as scholars, the usual takeaway for me is that so many people are doing so well and standing out in unique ways. That makes me want to get better; that's been the influence. It has pushed me to make something out of myself. I’ve seen exponentially more perspectives on virtually every aspect of life than I ever have.
Q: You've mentioned certain people have influenced you--do you know specific examples of people who have?
S: The rocket scientist and ex-president of India, Dr. Kalam had a significant influence on me, as I was growing up. After my 12th grade, a few days before I flew to the U.S., my mom called me to let me know that he had passed away. I had never met him and only knew him through his books and speeches, but the impact he had on young minds was incredible. He was all for strength through humility and achievement through sheer discipline.
Most recently, Dr. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto, has influenced me to reconsider my assumptions on many issues and broaden my horizons. He has been very popular lately as part of the “intellectual dark web,” with his central message being the adoption of reasonable amounts of responsibility in pursuit of meaning. Besides this, his influence on me has been to question my way of thinking about social problems.
I also have to say that most of my thinking has developed from reading a lot of books- fiction as well as non-fiction. All those authors have guided my path and I am grateful for that.
Q: What is a piece of advice that you wish someone else had given you when you went through a hard time?
S: I think it's just about what kind of meaning you give to anything that happens. Life is a battle between order and chaos. We don't know how to deal with that chaos. I think it’s important to recenter yourself. It's like recalibrating, you have to reevaluate where you want to be and what you should do to get there. You should be able to take disappointments naturally because disappointments are normal. The expectation that nothing will go wrong will lead to so many problems: in terms of relationships and work life. Take traffic, for example. Several people get very passionately angry at having to drive through heavy traffic. But we don’t have the right to no traffic on the road. The advice then, is that you have to see what you have and how rare it is to have it. You should take disappointments like they are just another feature.