A Confidence Boost to Succeed in the Telecommunications Industry

Varun Sachdev, MS’09, chose Northeastern University’s College of Engineering to pursue a master’s in telecommunication networks because of its focus on industry experiences to complement the academic program.

Sachdev notes, “I had friends who told me about the co-op program—Northeastern’s flagship program. I came in with a lot of academic background, but no industry experience.” Upon arrival, Sachdev felt immediately welcomed by the international student community. “They helped with apartment hunting, the senior students helping the more junior ones. Northeastern has a legacy of international students who help each other.” Sachdev was also supported by the Dean’s Scholarship during the program.

At Northeastern, Sachdev focused on areas including 4G LTE, multimedia, and advanced networking, but he also was attracted by the managerial aspects of the program. He says, “The program focused on how to manage up and down, being a team player, understanding mergers and acquisitions. Everything developed organically through the coursework. Through the case studies, industry didn’t feel alien to me.” Sachdev credits his professors Peter O’Reilly and Rajiv Sridhar with teaching him how to interview well and be successful in the industry on a technical and managerial level. “The negotiations course helped me obtain my first salary higher than I expected.”

Sachdev completed a co-op with Qualcomm in San Diego. He notes, “San Diego is a different place from Boston. The weather is amazing, yes, but what excited me was Qualcomm. They take care of accommodation and transit, supporting their co-ops really well. The HR team made sure we had activities every weekend.” During his co-op experience, Sachdev felt prepared. “What was slightly different from school were the deliverables to hit and the real-world responsibilities to customers. Building a product from the ground up was an evolution of applying my Northeastern skills. It wasn’t just research; it was building a product that would bring in revenue.”

Successful career journey

Alumnus Varun Sachdev participated in company-organized activities such as surfing during his co-op at Qualcomm

After graduating, Qualcomm offered Sachdev a full-time position. “It was a no-brainer because I loved the company. It was also 2009, during the recession, making it an ideal job to start as a technical engineer. My career goals were always to be in the networking domain.” Following Qualcomm, Sachdev moved to Silicon Valley and worked at telecommunications equipment company Alcatel Lucent for ten years, including through its acquisition by Nokia. He credits Northeastern with preparing him for this. “I’ve been part of two mergers already. I was prepared for the changes and what to expect and how to fit into the new company. The management aspects of the Northeastern program stuck around for me. Case studies, workshops, negotiation sessions, these really helped me as I moved through the industry.” Sachdev rose to become a manager at Nokia in 2018.

In 2020, he moved to the cloud computing company VMWare, where he became a senior engineering manager overseeing a cross-geographical functional team. “My portfolio has only grown since then.” Looking forward, Sachdev sees himself growing in the leadership role at VMWare. “I value recognition for the good work we’re doing. I love the company and I want to see where it takes me.”

When looking back, Sachdev says, “Northeastern gave me the confidence boost to be extremely adaptive to the industry. It was amazing for me.”

Related Faculty: Peter O'Reilly