One Saturday night in 1984, a twenty-year old Indian engineer disembarked at San Francisco International Airport from a journey originating in Madras (now Chennai), meeting a friend attending the University of California at Berkeley. A Grateful Dead concert had just ended, and Dead Heads were everywhere on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue. For the young man from India, Berkeley’s counter culture was a complete shock. Having come to UC Berkeley to study mathematics, the young man now wondered what he had gotten himself into. But the bigger surprise came when his friend drove them to his office at UC Berkeley and proceeded to start working — on a Saturday night! The young Indian engineer soon realized that this was the real culture of Berkeley, the dedication, hard work, and passion for excellence that makes it one of the great universities of the world. These were values that he grew to embrace himself. They have shaped his professional career ever since.
Nearly 37 years later, in March 2021, Arvind Raghunathan, the Founder and CEO of Roc360, reflected on his “long, strange trip,” in a one-on-one conversation with Prof. Shafi Goldwasser, Director, Simons Institute at UC Berkeley, and Turing Award winner. The audience, comprising mostly of undergraduates from Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, employees of Roc360, and Arvind’s friends and mentors, were treated to Arvind’s inspiring career journey from a young immigrant engineer to the Founder/CEO of Roc360.
Watch Arvind share his stories of moving from Berkeley to Manhattan, from UC Berkeley professor to one of the most successful traders on Wall Street, and the big learning moments in his career journey.
If you’d like to go directly to the themes in Arvind’s interview that are most relevant to you, choose from the following:
How did it all happen? (0:30)
When you came to Berkeley, did you know what you wanted to do? (1:53)
From Berkeley to New York (2:21)
The lean years, learning from failure, and finding support from those who believe in you (7:53)
Creating a supportive culture and respecting diversity (10:51)
Roc360: bringing technology and quantitative methods to real estate (12:36)
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your twenty year old self? (18:50)
Looking back, could you or would you have taken any other career path? (19:45)
What responsibility does the finance industry have in battling climate change? (19:55)
If you were graduating today, would you still choose a career in fintech? (21:37)
Final thoughts: “Without Berkeley I wouldn’t be the person I am” (23:09)
Many thanks to UC Berkeley for organizing Arvind’s session with the undergraduates of the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, and for making the video recording available to us.