Hot Seat - Interview with Mr. Pushpanathan Sundram

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Interviewer: Tell me a bit about yourself – background education, past, and current working experiences.

Pushpanathan: I worked for Singapore government for 8 years, and then worked at ASEAN Secretary as a professional staff. I was promoted as director for dealing with ASEAN Regional Forum and later became director of external relations, principle director of economic department and I was elected in ten members of states to be first professional deputy 20 years for region economic community, develop a framework for ASEAN Economic Community and I was first one implement as deputy secretary general. That was my background. I then moved to the private sector MD of European Consultancy Company and now senior director for top 20 pharmaceutical company of the world.

Interviewer: What motivated you to pursue Ph.D. in public policy? And what attracted you to CMU-SPP? 

Pushpanathan: The reason I decided to do a PhD is because I’d strong willingness to pursue a PhD after finishing a master’s degree at Lee Kuan Yew School a few years ago. But I was busy handling with working and family life so that I did not have opportunity to get back to studying. Lastly, I took a deliberate decision to do my PhD in order to contribute to ASEAN again. I envisioned myself to be an academician and a practitioner in contributing growing and developing ASEAN community because I had rich experiences in public and private sectors. Another motive is that there are a lot of scholars in politics than an area of public policy in the region. That’s why I want to contribute more to the public policy space to support the regional development. I expect the School of Public Policy provides everything for me to be trained public policy, and do research and work here public policy and contribute to ASEAN region.

Interviewer: Can you explain a little about your the course you are currently enrolled in with CMU-SPP?

Pushpanathan: Currently, I’m rolling Ph.D 1.1 which is more thesis track. It’s a good opportunity for me because I still continue to work, at the same time, and do my Ph.D. So, I’m managing a kind of balancing both working and doing a Ph.D. It is a bit challenging but all about managing time. I find the program supports me to complete my Ph.D because I find this an opportunity both to work and study in.     

Interviewer: What are your expectations about doing Ph.D. program?

Pushpanathan: Basically, my expectation is that I would like to strengthen my understanding of theory and comprehensive framework of area of public policy because it is important for any person dealing with public policy to understand the theory first. So, as a practitioner, I didn’t have an opportunity to understand the public policy theory. With the studies of Ph.D, I’ve a good opportunity to understand various theories how to build any policy using that framework to be more constructive in terms of making recommendation and proposals in public policy space and ASEAN. Therefore, I can become a public policy specialist focusing on ASEAN as well as East Asian.

Interviewer: What advice can you provide to potential Ph.D students studying at CMU-SPP? 

Pushpanathan: First and foremost, it’s critical to have a clear understanding of what you really want. Public Policy is one of the many areas under political science and comparative politics. So, it’s important to know what students need to specialise in studying in public policy. Second, a student must be 100 percent committed to pursuing a Ph.D because it is essential aspect to do a research, focus on reading materials extensively, and manage time rotate. Student must find a time to study, manage other things like family and work from the start to the end. It’s impossible to get the best of everything so that sacrificing and compromising are important. Another thing  to remember is to start early doing your work, working early process try to narrow your Ph.D thesis , talking to your experts at university, meeting right professor, talking to them and working through in term of building thesis.

Interviewer: Any final thoughts on the program?

Pushpanathan: The Ph.D program is targeting practitioners like me this helps many of us because we can't study full time because of other commitment this really helps us and the school provides a lot of support and assistances to practitioner, and so I find this very motivation environment. I understand basically giving opportunity practitioner like me also the academic to combine both we can do better work or job in term of dissemination public policy issue, working on issue, building ASEAN or member of state, in term of finding solution , and recommending for this issue.