While in high school, Sujay Peramanu, a fourth-year industrial engineering student and current Georgia Tech Student Government Association (SGA) president, began thinking about collegiate involvement in SGA. The summer before his senior year Peramanu attended the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program, where he received some meaningful advice from his resident advisor (RA) – who just so happened to be the SGA president at the University of Georgia.
His RA noticed that Peramanu was both outgoing and liked helping others and talked to him about how he could make an impact by participating in SGA. In a recent interview, Peramanu said that after learning how SGA worked, he was “naturally drawn to it and to the advocacy aspect of the role.” He was further inspired by hearing then-Georgia Tech SGA President Dillon Roseen speak at FASET.
Upon his arrival at Tech, Peramanu joined FreShGA, the freshman leadership organization. And, he said, he kept the “dream of being SGA president in the back of my mind.” Last year’s SGA president, ISyE fifth-year student Nagela Nukuna, invited him to be part of her cabinet as the vice president of campus services, and that experience cemented Peramanu’s desire to run for SGA president. “Something that drives me is the desire to leave a lasting impact at Georgia Tech,” he said.
In this interview, Peramanu discusses what qualities of leadership are most important, how he views the social advocacy aspect of the role, and what he hopes to accomplish in his tenure as SGA president.
A lot of ISyE students are in leadership positions, and you’re certainly an example of that. Why do you think this is the case, and what about ISyE do you think engenders leadership?
ISyE is the leadership degree at Georgia Tech. There are two reasons for that. The first is the engineering mindset that you learn. Efficiency is part of what it takes to be a leader, which is an industrial engineering way of thinking – such as prioritizing well and removing extraneous parts of an organization that aren’t doing well. The second reason is that industrial engineering is not just cubicle work – it’s engaging, with a lot of team work. ISyE was a huge factor in making me talk to as many people as possible, and to be as successful as I was in my VP of campus services role, which in turn helped set me up for the presidency role.
Building on that, what are some qualities of good leaders?
First and foremost is listening. Here’s a Game of Thrones reference: Jon Snow, who is a main character and a member of the Night’s Watch, is a natural-born leader. He was able to rally troops around him, but he wasn’t the actual leader of the Night’s Watch, and he overstepped boundaries. So someone pulled him aside and said, “You have to be led before you can lead.” In other words, you have to be a good teammate before you can be a good leader.
This really resonated with me. A lot of us think we have the capacity to be good leaders, but leadership is more than taking charge and telling people what to do. Listening is so important, making sure you hear what everyone else has to say.
In addition, surround yourself with very smart and dedicated individuals. Most of being a leader is building the team in the first place.
You’ve said that the advocacy aspect of being SGA president was part of what drew you to the role. What are some specific goals that you want to accomplish by the end of your tenure?
So in terms of social activism, especially with recent events, we’ve come to the realization that certain organizations on campus – particularly certain marginalized communities – lack the resources they need to be successful: feeling secure, safe, and included. They should feel like Georgia Tech is a home.
So we obviously want to focus on these communities, but we also want to do things for all students. We want to revamp the GT Counseling Center website – the SGA VP of information technology is working on that to make it cleaner, better looking, and easier to navigate. We also want to allocate more resources toward the Counseling Center in general.
And something else we’re trying to do is to provide more resources for organizations, such as the LGBTQIA Resource Center, or the different minority communities such as the African American Student Union. They’re all struggling with funding. Our goal is to try to get resources for them, including space.
Another goal is to have every SGA member QPR trained – that stands for Question, Persuade, Refer – and to encourage other organizations to do the same. And Safe Space training [Georgia Tech’s LGBTQIA ally training program], diversity and inclusivity training – there are a lot of different things that people can be part of.
We have over 400 student organizations because of our diversity as a student body. And if we do not focus on our diversity as a student body and make sure that we embrace that diversity, then we’re going to struggle as a school.
Switching gears, could you tell us what you learned from your co-op and internship experiences?
I think it’s wonderful that Georgia Tech pushes co-ops and internships so hard. I did two co-ops at UPS, and then I interned at Clarkston Consulting. Working is an entirely different thing than taking classes because you have to be “on” for eight hours a day. It’s a different mindset. Co-ops and internships help you grow as a person in terms of your professionalism and your ability to be in a room with corporate executives, and they give you an opportunity to learn more. It’s a great training-wheels program to get you into the mindset of being an employee: waking up at 7:00 AM, dressing up every day, and going to work.
I highly recommend to younger students to go out and do it. Go apply at CareerBuzz. Even if you get rejected, interviewing is important. And you’ll learn a lot about what people want to hear from you.
What defines success for you?
I want to have a legacy at Georgia Tech. I want to be able to say I came to this school, but that I didn’t just get my degree and leave. Hopefully I will be able to make a positive difference. I want to be able to come back and see the progress of Georgia Tech – to see the things I helped build. For example, I’ve been part of working on the new Student Center, and when it eventually happens, I’ll be very excited to see what’s come of it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to leave my own mark.