Q & A with NANA Employees

A Conversation with Manoj Savalia, Senior Enterprise Applications Architect for NANA Development Corporation's Commercial Sector

This is part of a series of interviews to learn more about our diverse employees throughout the NANA family.

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Five years ago, Manoj Savalia came to NANA for what he thought would be a three-month stint in IT. Now, he says, NANA is family. “Now, my mindset is that I’ll be here forever.” Photo by Chris Arend. 

 

Tell me about your name.

My name is a long story. I was given the name Manoj, but in school kumar was added as a designation. Kumar means boy and kumari means girl in Gujarati. Even my passport says Manojkumar. My surname, Savalia, is our family name. (Gujarati refers to the people and the language of Gujarat, a state of India.)

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Surat, in western India. With almost 7 million people, Surat is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It’s known for its textile and diamond businesses.

Talk a little about your family.

I was raised in a very traditional Indian family. I have an older sister and an older brother. My mom was a homemaker. My father supported us.

We weren’t allowed to watch TV more than one hour a day. We had no time for games. We had to concentrate on our studies. Every day, it was like being grounded by my parents. There were a lot of restrictions, socially and culturally, in my home.

Where did you study or train?

I went to P.P. Savani International School in Surat. It’s a really good school, with a focus on English, math and science. My father wanted me to be a doctor. I wanted to be an engineer.

You were really good at math when you were young?

Still am. [laughing]

I had the highest scores in math, from the 5th to 12th grades, and an 800 on the GRE. (The GRE is the Graduate Record Examination which tests mathematical concepts such as geometry and statistics. An 800 was a perfect score.)

What made you come to the States?

In India, I completed my undergrad degree in computer engineering. It’s a highly competitive field there. I wanted some international exposure, so I thought I should get my master’s degree abroad, in the U.K., Australia or the U.S., which was my first choice since Yahoo, Google and Microsoft were all here.

After doing my research and considering all the factors—location, city size and weather—I settled on San Diego. San Diego is the eighth largest city in the States and the weather is similar to Surat’s.

What brought you to Alaska?

All my friends said, don’t go to Alaska. It’s really cold!

I remember the first time you went skiing.

You have video, right?

Why NANA?

I worked at Bank of America and IBM. Then NANA offered me a three-month contract. I worked on integrating Taleo with Costpoint to exchange data between the applications. They liked my work and asked me to stay. NANA has always been good to me, so I couldn’t say no.

What is your job?

My position is senior enterprise application architect. I operate across all departments (IT, HR, finance, accounting and legal) to improve the flow of information. It’s a business intelligence job. It’s integrating software applications, compiling data from different sources and putting it in one location and reporting center, a data warehouse.

What projects have you worked on?

There have been several integration and upgrade projects, as well as our transition to FEHB (the Federal Employees Health Benefits program).

Here’s a list, in part: Taleo Costpoint integration, Zoho Costpoint integration, Learning Management Costpoint integration, Concur Costpoint integration, Dyna File Costpoint, Adaptive Planning integration, Premera Blue Cross Costpoint integration. NSC Navigator Costpoint integration, Costpoint upgrade projects. You get the picture.

What do you like best about working at NANA?

It feels like a family. We support each other. It’s a good atmosphere for me, especially being so far away from my family. NANA’s been good for me, for the community, for shareholders and for employees.

NANA shares the same values that my father taught me: honesty, integrity and respect.

Who has inspired you?

I can say my dad, because of the way he raised us and supported us.

His formal education stopped when he was young. His father was a farmer. At 16, he started his business. He started slowly and built it up. He always said, no shortcuts. Take the long route. He’s had his ups and downs, but he never made us worry.

He has holdings in real estate, a chemical plant, construction supplies and a hardware business. At home, he is well known.

What important lessons have you learned?

Working hard with passion and honesty pays off. From the fourth to 12th grade, I was top-ranked, but college was tough. I had to keep pushing myself. Then, in grad school, I had the second highest GPA. I want to fulfill my father’s hopes for me.

What do you like best about your job?

I chose information technology (IT). It’s an ever-changing field. I’m a good programmer, but that job is the same every day. In business integration, every day there are new questions, new challenges and new problems to solve. And new projects, so I’m always learning. I work with different departments, different companies and different people. They encourage me. They say, "you can do this thing."

I came to NANA five years ago for a three-month stint. Now, my mindset is that I’ll be here forever.

How did you adjust to life in Alaska?

I spent five years in Alaska. I now think of it as home. When people ask me where I’m from, I say Alaska. I miss it. I miss the mountains. I went hiking and camping (and skiing) for the first time. I have so many stories to tell. I’d never lived in a small town before.

Funny that you say Anchorage is small. Many Alaskans think of it as big.

Remember, I came from a city with 20 times its population.

Why did you move to Houston?

I left home when I was 17 and stayed away for 13 years. Five years ago, I lost my mom. Then my dad had heart bypass surgery and I wanted to spend more time with him. Now that he’s retiring, he spends several months at a time with me.

In Alaska, there’s no Indian community for him. Houston is big. (It’s the fourth largest city in the U.S.) It has an active Indian community, 40 or 50 temples, and lots of festivals.

For me, there’s a big IT community. I’m active professionally. Every day I learn about new technologies.

What was it like for you down there, during Hurricane Harvey?

Where I live, I wasn’t affected by the hurricane. There was some flooding, a foot and a half of water down in the parking lot, but it was gone the next day. We stocked up on food, which was good, since everything was closed. We had to sit at home for a week, but I didn’t miss any work, since I work from home.

I felt connected to people up here. They sent me messages, "are you safe out there?"

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Manoj Savalia was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.