Neel Chowdhury ’15

His path at U of R led to double master’s degrees, a GIS career and marriage.

When Neel Chowdhury ’15 chose to pursue an MBA at the University of Redlands, he had no idea it would lead to double master’s degrees, a career in geographic information systems (GIS) and marriage to the woman of his dreams.

As a software engineer in India, he sought a master’s program to strengthen his skill set and expand his career opportunities. Redlands stood out among other graduate programs, he says, because it offered an option to complete the degree in a single year.

“Because of that opportunity, I was able to double up my classes and used the first year to get my MBA and the second, my MS GIS,” says Chowdhury, who now works as a mobile app product engineer at Esri. “So for two master’s, instead of taking four years, it took only two!”

He credits adjunct faculty member Brian Peterson, an Esri marketing team leader, with introducing him to several GIS software programs during the course of his MBA studies. Chowdhury used the software to conduct research for a marketing project. That experience sparked his interest in GIS as a potential career path.

For his individual master’s project in the MS GIS program, he combined his business and GIS skills to optimize delivery routes for energy drink manufacturer Red Bull, working with program alumnus Johnson Kosgei ’09, at the time a GIS specialist at Red Bull.

“Having that master’s project and working with a real client on a real-world problem was amazing,” Chowdhury says. “Johnson had done the MS GIS program, so he knew the balance I needed between the project and my regular studies. I got good guidance from him and that project helped me prove on my resume that I had the skills for the job at Esri.”

The master’s project was one of several highlights during his time at Redlands. Others include interacting with a small class of about 16 students, enjoying monthly potlucks and outdoor adventures—and meeting Shilpi Jain ’15, the woman who would become his wife.

Like Chowdhury, Jain had come from India to pursue a master’s degree at Redlands. They started as classmates and study partners, and formed a friendship based on a desire to support each other in the MS GIS program. Over time, their relationship blossomed into something deeper.

“It started as a respect for each other’s knowledge and wanting to help each other succeed,” he says. “There were times when I was really frustrated and she was such a good support. It was one of those many small things where you realize, ‘this is the person.’”

They fell in love and later wed in January 2017.

Both now work as software product engineers at Esri. Hired five months apart, they work on different teams and projects to avoid any conflict of interest. Yet they enjoy the benefits of commutes and lunches together as well as insight into each other’s professional life.

“Coming from the same background, we know what it takes to do our work,” he says. “Shilpi knows why I’m busy today or how much effort a project might take.”

His professional network includes former classmates and Redlands faculty members. He values these connections, along with the years of mentoring and guidance he received through the two master’s programs at the University of Redlands.

“I came from a different country, yet because of those two programs—MBA and MS GIS—I got counseled by and connected with so many people,” Chowdhury says. “Then, I landed a great job. I don’t think many schools can offer that kind of opportunity.”