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The architect of happiness

BY MANI THANGADURAI

Throughout the course of my life, I have opted to study certain subjects in an attempt to try and indulge an interest. The main aim, however, was to forge a future for myself with an emphasis on financial security and the chance to work in my country of choice. I remember the peer pressure being piled on me by many of my father’s contemporaries who suggested that I go into medicine like he did, or do something related to the sciences which would have promised more in terms of money and fame. Even my own father was never keen on me trying to pursue the theatrical arts or anything related to the arts in question for the understandable fear that I wouldn’t really earn a living.

After finishing high school I decided to study architecture because I remember being fascinated by the art and science of building something tangible from the ground upwards and something that could last longer. I liked to try drawing and remember having some ideas of how to design a building. But my first year at the university where I studied architecture was the year when I had the passion taken out of me by professors who simply were unable to understand me or appreciate the ideas I had, and the overall experience was one I despised. I don’t regret studying architecture, and I know that it can be financially rewarding. In fact, I still take a keen interest in the subject and am always ready to read more literature and keep up with some of the latest trends. However, like any other profession there is a lot of competition in architecture and I would have had to struggle for a long time before gaining recognition. It was certainly difficult for me to find work for a long time, and an attempt to study for a Master’s Degree in Architecture ended up becoming unfulfilled. After a period where I wasn’t feeling content with the way my life was going, I decided to write the Graduate Management Aptitude Test in order to prepare for a possible MBA education. The rest, as they say, is history.

An MBA degree is otherwise known as an evergreen degree. There will always be a great demand for people who have a knowledge of business operations and how projects and work can be organized. This is why many people who have studied courses in the basic sciences, even engineering and architecture, have opted to study for an MBA Degree. By studying business and taking classes in management, marketing, and especially economics, we can also gain great insights into human behavior and how the world works. I remember joining UT in 2013 for the MBA program and being delighted with the classes on offer in management, marketing and finance among others, not to mention the great potential for personal and professional development. While I accept that business studies wasn’t really a passion of mine at first, I was able to take some interest in those courses and truly develop some understanding. And one of the greatest things about studying here at UT is that I was able to somehow indulge my passions by attending theater shows, getting politically involved via various student organizations, and this year, by writing for the university newspaper! I also remember being bitten by the entrepreneurship bug via the Hult Prize. The chance to think of an idea for a business, pitch the idea and see it come to fruition really got my energy levels high. It was a passion which aligned with my interest in world affairs and I was excited to be a part of it. While the first MBA attempt wasn’t successful, I was able to rectify that at my second university here in Florida and after coming back here to UT, I was proud and happy to join the MS Finance program and give myself the chance for redemption and career progression.

Why finance, though? Well, I’ve always been pretty good with arithmetic and with numbers, and in contrast to accounting which was rather drab, finance was more appealing to me. I also realized that as much as I loved my main passions, I didn’t know if I would have an opportunity to truly develop them without addressing the need for financial security. I am happy to have joined this program, and I know that I will be more successful in this field than I probably would have been as an architect. 

Having never had the chance to follow my passions and study theater, literature, politics or even entrepreneurship at an undergraduate level, I probably am too far gone to be able to try and go back to doing that. However, by opting for a career path in a subject in which I know I am good and have some interest, I know that I have a chance of making it, becoming a success, and at least earning enough money to make myself comfortable. There is, of course, no guarantee that I won’t delve into entrepreneurship or even politics in the near future, and I will always retain keen interests in theater, literature and even architecture. There is certainly nothing wrong with having many interests. Having said that though, I can’t look ahead to the future with the same wide-eyed enthusiasm for everything that I might have had as a youngster. I’m 37 years old. I need to grow up and make a life for myself. I know that I’ll make something out of it, even if I’ve had to choose financial security over everything else. 

Mani Thangadurai can be reached at m.thangadurai@spartans.ut.edu

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