A profile of MIM alumni Ruthwik Kuppachi
Ruthwik Kuppachi has lived all over the world. He was born in Nellore, India, but his father is a diplomat, so they moved around a lot, making Turkey, Ukraine, and New Delhi their residences for a time. While living in Ukraine as a 10-year-old, he became interested in chess. “It’s a really good exercise for the brain,” he says. “I’ve always liked puzzles and playing strategy games.” Over the next 5-10 years, he represented India in international competitions and came in the top 10 a few times. The biggest tournament he played in was the Commonwealth Chess Championship in which he came in eighth out of approximately100 participants. He had more success in regional tournaments in Ukraine where he won a few tournaments, especially in rapid chess where players have only 15-25 minutes to play the game.
Kuppachi came to the United States in 2018 for his undergraduate studies. He received his degree in information science from the College of Information Studies (INFO) in Spring 2021. He could have gone in a different direction. His first year at the University of Maryland he was a computer science major and didn’t realize there were other options. He didn’t like that computer science was overly technical; he knew he wanted a career where there was more interaction with people. “I didn’t want to just sit in front of a computer every day. I didn’t like that.”
Kuppachi spoke with friends who were at INFO, and they described it as a mix of people, technology, and data and that appealed to him. He stayed on to get his Master’s in Information Management (MIM) in part because he wanted to be competitive in the job market but also because he loved the professors, classes, and the material. “I didn’t want to graduate,” he says.
His relationship with his professors was one of his favorite things about INFO. “The professors weren’t there just to teach; they were there to guide you.” He was a teaching assistant for Senior Lecturer and MIM Faculty Director Katy Newton Lawley’s capstone course while in graduate school. Working closely with Lawley helped prepare him for the job market. He learned skills he’s using in his job today—public speaking, managing projects, and communicating with stakeholders.
For his own capstone project, he worked with a local nonprofit, Central Kenilworth Avenue Community Development Corporation. They were collecting surveys from their community and his group built a database and visualization tool so that they could easily see their survey responses. The surveys collected data on existing and potential community development and engagement programs offered by the nonprofit. They were deployed to understand the challenges and preferences of residents of the Riverdale area, and the results of the surveys were used to create better targeted programs.
Helping Companies Measure their Impact
Kuppachi currently works as a product manager, but he considers himself a generalist—able to jump in and help the engineers at his company because of his background in data engineering. At INFO, he was able to take a range of courses and recommends that those interested in his field do the same. He works at an ESG data management software provider called Hydrus.ai.
ESG is a framework that evaluates a company’s performance and impact in three key areas: environmental, social, and governance. Environmental criteria assess a company’s efforts to minimize its negative impact on the environment, such as its carbon footprint, use of renewable energy, waste management, and conservation practices. Social criteria evaluate a company’s treatment of its employees, customers, suppliers, and the communities in which it operates. This includes factors like labor relations, diversity and inclusion, customer satisfaction, community involvement, and human rights practices. Governance criteria examine a company’s leadership, transparency, accountability, and adherence to ethical standards. This includes the composition and independence of the board of directors, executive compensation, risk management, regulatory compliance, and shareholder rights.
Investors and stakeholders increasingly recognize the long-term sustainability and ethical implications of a company’s operations. Many investors now incorporate ESG factors into their decision-making process to as he sess the overall performance and risk profile of investments. Kuppachi’s company helps companies collect, manage, and analyze their ESG data through the software they provide.
As a product manager, Kuppachi talks to customers and potential customers to see what kind of features they can add to the platform to meet their needs and what pain points they’re encountering and passes the information along to the designers and developers. “You have to put yourself in the shoes of the customer,” he says. “You have to be a good listener and make sure you understand their needs correctly.”
For instance, a carbon module, which helps companies determine their carbon footprint by inputting their energy bills and other information, was difficult to use. He worked with designers and developers to make it more user-friendly, allowing companies to easily track and reduce their emissions.