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Live, Work, Do Amazing Things: Choose New Brunswick

Imagine a place where you can be yourself, work with phenomenal people, and do some really amazing things! Sometimes finding this place involves a bit of a journey, but at the end of it something wonderful happens – you make a discovery. This is very much the case for Dr. Dhirendra Shukla, Associate Professor and Dr. J. Herbert Smith Chair in Technology Management and Entrepreneurship (TME) at the University of New Brunswick. In this case, his family discovered New Brunswick.

Last week, we spoke to Dr. Shukla regarding the University’s new MTME program, read that post here. Dr. Shukla now shares a compelling tale of how he and his family found a new home.

ONB: You moved to Canada from England. What brought you here?

Dr. Shukla: I have very fond memories of visiting Canada as a child. My family loved coming to Canada. We all felt that it was a very warm and welcoming country. It felt very fresh and open. As a comparison, when I think of cities like New York, they are very different. Of course they have their own benefits, but for me it feels like the city is coming down on you. It is all massive buildings and concrete; it closes in on you. We never had that experience here.

As I grew up, I continued to enjoy my visits to Canada. When I finished Grad School, my parents asked me what I wanted as a present. My request was simple; I wanted to go to Canada. So, off I went to Ottawa in 1997. While there, I applied for a number of jobs. I was offered a position with Nortel Networks, and my wife and I stayed.

ONB: It sounds like Ottawa was a good fit for you. What brought you to New Brunswick?

Dr. Shukla: When Nortel took a turn for the worse and went into bankruptcy, the division I was working for was purchased by Ciena. At that time I was already considering moving to a new location, but they made me a pretty nice offer to stay. As things progressed with UNB, their offer changed. They were so convinced I would dislike New Brunswick that they offered to hold a position for me for a year. In fact, they were so confident that my wife and I would not like New Brunswick that it impacted how I was thinking too. I didn’t sell my house. We were only going for a year.

ONB: That was in 2009. You are still here. I take it they were wrong?

Dr. Shukla: I love New Brunswick. I genuinely love it. I sometimes feel that people outside New Brunswick just don’t have the opportunity to see how wonderful a place it is – how beautiful it is! It is just such a wonderful place to work and raise a family. It is easy to get around, easy to do things, and easy to be included.

It is actually a missed opportunity for so many. What really stands out for me as the best aspect of New Brunswick is the quality of people here. Intelligent, accepting, collaborative, inclusive – I could go on and on.

ONB: Are there things that you feel set New Brunswick apart from other places in addition to those you already mentioned?

Dr. Shukla: There is something that always stands out for me. When considering my next move, I was being interviewed at multiple universities in different cities. Immediately, I felt that it was different at UNB, and Fredericton in particular. It was the only place that made me feel that I could be myself. 

While the other places offered great opportunities too, it was much more restrictive. It was very cookie cutter. They had an entire plan for you, when you would do certain things, how you would do them, etc. It was very prescriptive.

UNB on the other hand made it clear that they wanted me for who I was and what I could bring to the University. It was a place that respected me for the industrial experience I had, the background I had, including my international experience and my technical and entrepreneurial experience. It was truly the only place where I felt that I could really be me.

ONB: Tell us more about the process of making the move to UNB?

Dr. Shukla: When I think about it, I can’t help but smile. We came here thinking that we would only be here for a year. That was definitely the plan. The subliminal message was planted by the people at Ciena.

Leading up to getting the job with UNB, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that I didn’t yet have my PhD. I was a true industry guy, I wasn’t a professor. I hadn’t taught before. Then all of a sudden I become the Chair of this important initiative. I was literally jumping into the deep end; hiring staff, building programs, developing initiatives. But we have done some truly amazing things. Every time I think about what we have done, what we have accomplished, I can’t help but be both amazed and proud of every program and every student who has been a part of it. Of course the icing on the cake was being named the Most Entrepreneurial University in Canada. That was exciting!

ONB: With such a full agenda, was it difficult to finish your PhD?

Dr. Shukla: I have my wife to thank for that. She had finished her own PhD before we moved to Ottawa. She was always very supportive of me finishing, and I did finish it while still ramping up the TME program at UNB. You could say my wife was the motivation and support I needed to finish.

Dr. Shukla was such a great interview subject we decided to split this piece in two given the amount of material he gave us. Stay tuned for part two of this interview next week!

Want to learn more about UNB and the TME and its new Master’s program? Click here. Want to expand your business to include New Brunswick? Click the button below to connect with one of our Business Development Executives.

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