Together is better: Thriving through connection and cooperation

Farzad Sunavala
  • Hometown: Houston, TX

Meet Farzad Sunavala, a first-year student in the Cornell Engineering Management Online Learning program. Farzad works as a Software Engineering Lead for Chevron Corporation in Houston, TX. Like most students in the program, he has found alignment with his work and his studies: “I have my company backing me to participate in this program and report out every semester findings to senior leadership on best practices and lessons learned from the program.” Farzad was recently selected as a MEM Program Ambassador.

Tell us about yourself. 

Greetings! My name is Farzad Sunavala and I currently work at Chevron Corporation in Houston, TX since graduating from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering. I am a Software Engineer in the company's Horizons Program, which is a 5-year development program design to develop my skills through multiple assignments, mentoring, various learning activities, and formal training supported by technical resources. My roles at Chevron have been primarily as a Software Engineer in the Chevron Technical Center with increasing levels of technical leadership responsible for delivering innovative and complete solutions, driving them through design, planning, development, deployment, and support that simplify businesses processes and workflows to drive business value.

In addition to my technical roles, I also am an active member in the Blockchain for Energy (B4E) consortium where I volunteer my time as a solution architect to reinvent the oil and gas industry's workflow process by building a forward-thinking community that creates inventive ways of leveraging blockchain technology to maximize efficiencies, reduce costs, improve timelines, and drive industry transformation through collective synergies. I also volunteer as a STEM mentor as part of the STEM-E youth development program. 

I am an also active member of the Zoroastrian Association of Houston serving on scholarship youth philanthropy, and fundraising committees. One of my favorite hobbies is indoor spin cycling as I find it one of the most fun ways to destress, burn a ton of calories, and get a great cardio workout. Alongside volunteering and cycling, I enjoy listening to podcasts, playing with dogs, and traveling around the world. 

Why did you choose the Cornell Engineering Management program?
I have a passion for mentoring and coaching others. "Together is Better" - Simon Sinek, is one of my favorite quotes as I fundamentally believe that the way we solve the problems in the world is by working together in unity. I love working across different cultures and geographies and teaming with people from a variety of different backgrounds. I have always been fond of engineering and have been recognized by my peers as a servant leader. I want to accelerate my learnings through this program by acquiring important skills as a leader such as systems thinking, project management, and decision analytics. I chose Cornell to ultimately get a diversity of thought from my area. Houston is the energy capital of the world and the majority of the economy is driven by the energy workforce. I sought to obtain a diversity of thought with my cohort, faculty, and staff by attending a university with participants from diverse academic and industry backgrounds such as technology, pharmaceuticals, banking, etc. Additionally, I wanted to be part of the Big Red Alumni network because so many of them are changing the world for the better.

When do you find time for your coursework?
Due to the asynchronous nature of the online learning program, I enjoy being a night owl and spending the last few hours of my day dedicated to watching recorded lectures and completing homework assignments.

Which class are you looking forward to?
I am most looking forward to Product Management. Product Management is such a growing field in every industry and more importantly, this role is on my short-term career development plan to lead digital innovation products in the energy sector.

What are you reading?
I am reading, (listening), to an audiobook called "Change by Design" by Tim Brown. Design Thinking has been something I have recently been trying to incorporate into my skill set as well as my organization. 

Who is your engineering hero and why?
Bill Gates. I have been inspired by Bill Gates's story since I was a kid and have always looked up to his ability to empower others to explore new ideas. 

What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?
I ate a Carolina Reaper (hottest pepper in the world) and didn't find it spicy. Maybe something is wrong with my taste buds?

Can you give an example of something you learned in class that you then applied to your job?
Learning about the different types of leadership styles was really interesting. I actually submitted a summary explaining how a particular leadership style applies to various scenarios.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
Network with current and past students in the program. Don't be afraid to reach out on LinkedIn! Ask them about their experience in the program and any advice they may have on admission.

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