FROM A VILLAGE IN NEPAL TO A CORNER OFFICE AT MICROSOFT, A COMPRO SUCCESS
Nabin Khanal, 42, grew up in Gaushala Bazar, a village in the Mahottari district of Nepal, in circumstances of extreme financial challenge. The village lacked plumbing facilities, power, and running water. Bathing had to be done at the river. Nabin sometimes had to wear the same pair of shoes for two or three years running.
But he was a good student, determined to rise above his circumstances, and Nabin eventually found his way to Bangalore University to earn a Bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1995.
After learning of MUM, he applied and was accepted in 1999. He secured a visa at the U.S. embassy and was all set to go — except for one problem. Although his tuition was covered, he didn’t have the $825 airfare for the flight from Kathmandu to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Fortunately, an acquaintance offered him a loan, which he accepted — but only reluctantly, given his personal values — with a resolution to pay it back within one year.
Nabin arrived at MUM with two suitcases in hand: one filled with clothes and the other with computer science books. A determined student, he excelled in his on-campus studies and, in 2001, prepared for a paid internship, a part of the Computer Professionals, or Compro, program.
MUM’s job placement office organized a phone interview with Microsoft Corp., and Nabin was hired as a software test engineer to work at their Redmond, Washington headquarters. On the day of his first paycheck, Nabin knew exactly where it was going. “First I sent a financial gift to my parents,” he says. “Second, I paid back the loan. It felt great to do that, finally.”
Over the next few years, Nabin was promoted several times, from engineer to lead engineer to engineering manager. Today, he is a group program manager, managing 30+ employees worldwide and a multimillion dollar departmental budget.
“I like to have a career plan,” Nabin says. “What’s next? What should I learn now? Where do I want to be in five years?”
But it wasn’t always that way. Reflecting back on his initial job search as he was completing studies at MUM, he felt lost. “I didn’t know how to look for a job,” he says. “I didn’t have vision, I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have a clue. I just knew developer job.”
In fact, many international students who come to the U.S. for the MUM Compro program face these same challenges.
MUM’s job placement service helps these students find jobs. And Nabin has become a part of that process, coming to MUM periodically to teach a software engineering workshop that is focused on technical knowledge but which also includes valuable, hard-earned career guidance such as how to develop job search and career strategies, networking, and interviewing.
“Now I have perspective, I know what success looks like,” says Nabin. “If you do this, here is where you get to. I tell students, ‘Go to where your strength is, not just toward getting a job.’ But you have toknow what it is first.”
Why travel all the way to the MUM campus in Fairfield, Iowa to give the workshop?
“I want to give back to MUM and its students,” says Nabin. “I’m gratified when I learn that a student has gotten a job. They tell me, ‘The things you taught me, the interview questions, I knew what to say.’” In fact, Nabin has been adviser and mentor to many of MUM’s internship students who have gone on to work at Microsoft.
Nabin also wanted to be a continuing part of a Compro department that had helped him so much, particularly when he first arrived in the U.S. “The department was always there with their support,” he says. “It’s not everywhere you get that kind of care and attention.”
When he’s not working, Nabin enjoys being with his wife, Nabita, and their twin daughters, Abhilasha and Akanksha. He enjoys working in the yard, cycling, and serving in local communities.
The distance he’s traveled from his early days in Nepal is never far from his mind. Nor is the help he found along the way. “If not for MUM, I would not be living the kind of life I have,” says Nabin. “I am blessed to be part of the MUM family. MUM is a part of my success story.”
Written by Warren Goldie