Photo courtesy of <i>San Jose Magazine</i>
Issue: Spring 2005
Alumni Profile - Radha R. Basu
Whether she’s braving the bitter winds of Mount Everest or confronting the cutthroat competition of Silicon Valley, Radha R. Basu MS ’73, MS ’74 knows how to keep going: “Take one step, then another.”
It’s the through-line of her life.
Basu is CEO of SupportSoft Inc., a multimillion-dollar software firm in
Redwood City, Calif. In her “spare” time, she has twice trekked 18,000
feet skyward to the Mount Everest base camp.
She has definitely followed the trail not taken – at least, not by most
of her peers back in Chenna (formerly Madras), India. Born to a
traditional household, Basu was “expected to be well-educated but then
to marry and be the anchor” for her own family.
But while her parents were picking out a husband-to-be, Basu snuck off
to take an engineering school admission test. When she got the top
score, her parents gave in and let her enroll. Eventually they scrapped
the wedding plans, too, and Basu, yet a teenager, was off to USC for
graduate work on a full scholarship.
En route to degrees in electrical engineering and computer science,
Basu worked as a research assistant at Martin Luther King (now
King/Drew) Hospital in Watts, an experience that made a lasting
impression. “I saw firsthand what it means to work in low-income,
poor-education environments,” she recalls. “I learned resilience, being
committed, making do with what you’ve got and working [amid] adversity.
I also saw the power of technology [to help people] when it’s simple to
That last lesson would prove crucial. After more than 20 years with
Hewlett Packard – during which time she helped establish one of the
first software centers in her homeland, and also met her husband of 28
years – Basu joined SupportSoft. Today she runs a firm that “creates
technology to diagnose a problem, find the root cause of it and heal
it.” SupportSoft’s clients include many Fortune 500s and most of North
America’s large broadband providers.
So what’s it take to be a CEO? “Resilience. A super juggler. The
ability to make tough decisions,” says the 54-year-old. “You have to
share the success and the pride, and stand alone with the failures.”
||Radha Basu stands with husband Dipak at the Everest base camp.
weather the pressure, Basu often looks to her Everest experiences. “You
must have a maniacal focus on your goal,” she says. “This requires
conditioning – you can’t get to the top in either endeavor without it.
Start small and build on your successes or failures.” There’s also
teamwork. With the Himalayan Sherpas in mind, she points out that
“those who have climbed to the top had a whole team helping them, each
member with a role to play.”
Basu relishes her life path as
one she chose herself, not one laid out for her. “You are personally in
charge of mapping out your career. Don’t talk about a glass ceiling or
male-dominated industry or cultural difference,” she says.
Which, in the parlance of an Everest adventurer, means that you “just push yourself against a yak and keep going!”