Few people can say that getting fired is one of the highlights of their life. Yet for former “Apprentice” star Surya Yalamanchili, getting personally fired by Donald Trump on national TV has been a peak moment of his life. Well known for the passion, energy, and business acumen he displayed on the hit NBC reality TV show, Surya, 25, has been a fireball of a businessman since he was 15, when he started his own Internet company. Since then, he has catapulted himself into the big leagues. Last year he became one of the youngest brand managers ever at Procter & Gamble. With his sheer exuberance and love for tackling business problems, Surya is poised to take on the world, and Donald Trump’s “You’re fired!” only fuels him to go even higher. Learn about what went on behind the scenes in The Apprentice and what Surya’s exciting plans are post-firing as we feature him in this week’s Young & Professional profile.
Procter & Gamble
Reality TV Star
Old Bridge, New Jersey
Procter & Gamble
Director of Marketing
December 1999 – May 2001
November 1996 -July 2000
What’s your background? What’s your story?
I started an Internet consultancy during the start of the bubble (while in high school), and then while at Rutgers, I worked as Director of Marketing. I’ve always loved business and working. In both cases, I did this as much out of a need and desire to make money as out of pure joy. I worked, while going to school full-time, was my class president for a year, and then packed up my bags and moved to Cincinnati, OH for work. I joined Procter & Gamble after graduation because I saw the Internet world I was a part of implode, and wanted to learn the fundamentals of marketing at the world’s largest advertisers and see how grown-ups ran a business! I’ve been here four years now and it’s been a ton of fun. So during the last 12 years between the Internet companies, college and P&G, I basically grew up (mostly). It’s been an incredible 12 years!
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Working in Marketing at P&G is an incredible thing. You work on everything from the idea of what the product should be, what the packaging should look like (and how the product should smell!), pricing, marketing and even work with the agency on the advertising. From beginning to end, you help to birth and raise a little baby-product. And if you’re in Brand at a company like P&G, they’re multi-million dollar sized babies!
Most recently I’ve been working on media innovation strategy. As the world’s consumers are slammed with more and more stimuli every day, and more choices on how to consume their media, we as advertisers have to evolve how we reach and talk with them. I work with smart people as we figure out what that should look like, and how we can enable our brand’s to evolve to talk to our consumers when they want to hear from us. It’s an interesting time in media innovation!
The Apprentice Experience
Going on “The Apprentice,” and reality TV, was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life! It was incredible in that I got to hear a private concert with Andrea Bocelli, rap with Snoop Dog, go surfing (when I can’t even swim) and a ton of stuff, all the while hanging out with Donald Trump! The business challenges were like brain candy, so I loved that part. The editing and hearing the nasty things that people are willing to say on TV was quite an eye-opener. Having a few hours boiled down into five seconds and a voice-over is depressing.
Most notable milestones
- Started an Internet company at 15 (1996)
- Director of Marketing at multi-million dollar publishing firm at 18 (2000)
- Commencement Speaker/Class President at Rutgers Business School (2003)
- One of youngest Brand Managers in P&G history at 24 (2006)
- Hand-fired by Donald Trump on national TV : ) (2007)
What’s the niche?
My niche is that I love everything. I read books on everything and am constantly fascinated by seemingly everything put in front of me. Some might say that I have the attention span of a gnat because I’m always looking at something new every five seconds – those who say this are right. I love to solve new problems and try and figure out what’s going to happen next. Paying attention to and wanting to learn about everything really helps in problem solving and trying to predict the future.
What has been the greatest obstacle you have faced in your career?
I really struggled with the decision to join a large company out of college. I had started my own firm and worked at a small start-up – so joining one of the biggest companies in the world scared me. In hindsight, what really scared me was the thought that life doesn’t always happen in a straight-line in the shortest time possible. Eventually I realized that no matter what I wanted to do, joining the best marketing company in the world and working with amazing people would only help me in life – no matter what I wanted to do or where I ended up. I haven’t regretted my decision for one day.
What’s in store for the future?
I’m writing a book on politics and my (our) generation. It’s titled “Forsaken: the betrayal of America’s future for the expediency of power today.” Basically our politicians say and do anything to get elected, all the while ignoring all of the long-term issues which will determine the world we inherit from them. We’re going to have to clean up (or try to) their mess! I want it to be an eye-opening primer for the Jon Stewart generation – basically all my friends whose only source of news is “The Daily Show!”
A dream of mine has always been to actually build something – to start a company again. I’m sure at some point I won’t be able to resist!
Best way to keep a competitive edge
I’ll quote Steve Jobs here, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
I can pretty intense when I really want something – that’s the hunger and tenacity. You’ll tear yourself to pieces to achieve your goal. (important to note that you tear yourself to pieces…not to be confused with tearing other people to pieces to get your goal)
Stay foolish. I love this. Always believe you can achieve something – even if others tell you its crazy. Ask yourself “why not (me)?” All too often I’ve found that I’ve limited my own options by not believing in myself or assuming that I couldn’t. No longer!
Stay hungry! Stay foolish!
Guiding principle in life
Act so that when you wake up the next morning, you’ll be proud of everything you did today, and everything you’re planning on doing the following day. In the end, all we’re left with is who we are as people. Nothing else matters.
Yardstick of success
Being able to be proud of my actions, not any other types of measures. Taking the hard right over the easy wrong is always success.
Goal yet to be achieved
Seeing the world. I need to travel more!
Best practical advice
Do what makes you happy, not what others expect of you. Life is too short to live with someone else’s life. In the long run, this is better for everyone.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your ventures
My mom has always told me that no matter what, I could never disappoint her. This makes all the difference in life.
Far too many. I see inspiration in everything around me. I’ll choose my mother and uncle as my mentor and hero. Because the best mentors live the kind of life that you should want to live. Advice or words are fine, but watching someone sacrifice and “walk the talk” is true inspiration.
What motivated you to to get involved in your industry?
I love business. Some people have a gift in their ability to paint and love it. Others in putting things together or programming. I love looking at business problems and figuring out solutions. I’m a loser, yes.
Like best about what you do?
The scale. I can make multi-million dollar decisions on a daily basis. When you work at mega-billion dollar company, you never blink at massive decisions.
Like least about what you do?
It’s such a big company!
I’m pretty distanced from actually “running the lemonade stand!”
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I wanted to be a lawyer.
Man, I’m glad I forgot about that one!
What was your first job?
Door to door selling greeting cards and shoveling driveways.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Reading, volunteering, sports, hanging out and sleeping!
Person most interested in meeting
Bobby Jindal. What this guy is doing is amazing. I may not agree 100% with his politics, but he’s shattering all kinds of barriers. It’s astounding to me.
Leader in business most interested in meeting
Mark Cuban would be a pretty great guy to meet. He’s a self-made entrepreneur who has made billions and still seems to have stayed humble (and hungry). I love it!
I actually have a list of people I want to meet. There are literally hundreds of names on it.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I can’t swim.
- I couldn’t blow a bubble until I was like 15.
- When I was really young (maybe 5?), I saw that “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs commercial.” You know, the one with the egg, and then the egg gets fried. I seemed to have gotten confused. I thought they were saying that the fried eggs were drugs. I didn’t eat eggs for a year. Then I figured out these things called metaphors existed. Are young kids supposed to understand metaphors?
Three characteristics that describe you
- Easily distractable.
Three greatest passions
- Meeting new people.
- Making a difference.
“East of Eden” by John Steinbeck or “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Anyone with passion, inspiration, and energy for creating the future. Most specifically in business (startups, etc) or politics. But honestly, I’d love talk to anyone who wanted to speak to me! The best and most valuable connections always seem to be the most random! I look forward to connecting with you. Yes, you, dear reader.
|June 4th, 2007, 12:30:20
I loved watching you on The Apprentice and really enjoyed your interview with the desi connect. I hope to hear more about you in the near future.
|June 9th, 2007, 23:02:42
Thanks, Sofia! I appreciate the support : ) check out my blog (suryasays.com) for updates from me, etc. I look forward to seeing your comments there!
|June 10th, 2007, 23:42:14
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