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A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Alumni, Sanjay Patel

Sanjay Patel graduated from the MSC program in 2000 and also holds an MBA from DePaul University. He is currently the Chief Operating Officer at the Illinois Power Agency. Sanjay is a government, risk, and compliance leader with over 25 years of progressive experience within management consulting, information technology, financial services organizations, and state government.

How did you decide on attending the MSC program?

I was drawn to the MSC program because I knew how important communication is from an individual, relationship, and transactional perspective. I also knew how important it was when thinking about corporate culture and behavior. I connected the dots for every aspect of an organization and found that communication was the foundation. Communication is a lifeline no matter what industry you’re in. I wanted to be in a program that stressed the importance of communication while focusing on leadership, and I knew the name recognition of Northwestern University was important.

I scheduled interviews with the program director as well as a few of the faculty members because I knew I needed to do my due diligence on the program.

Now I’m in the c-suite and I have to tell you that communication has had a profound impact on my career. A lot of people come to me for help with various written communication items and I consider that validation not only of my skills but also what I learned from the program.

Did any specific courses have an effect on your work or personal life?

One that stands out was the Leadership and Decision-Making class taught by Paul Arntson. For me, leadership means you lead by example. I have led many project management teams in my career and every time everyone knew more than me, but no one could manage a relationship as well as me. They were not experienced enough to manage a client like I could – not only when it came to sales but also delivering value.

What advice would you have for someone considering the MSC program?

I would say don’t just jump in, but evaluate what you want out of it. What does the MSC degree mean to you? What is its relevance to your professional journey? Is it something that’s going to help you evolve?

They have to ask themselves a critical question which is, ‘What is it going to offer me and, more importantly, what am I going to offer the MSC?’ because the cohort aspect is very important.

They need to understand that communication is the lifeline of every relationship and transaction around the world. For example, why do people shake hands? It consummates a relationship and a transaction – it’s nonverbal communication.

Finally, they have to do a self-reflection about how they are going to get the most out of the program. They will benefit most if they take a deep look at the courses, faculty, and the cohort and understand how they’re going to leverage those attributes toward accelerating or repositioning themselves in their professional journey.