Ashis Pal

BE - Civil Engineering, 1967
Interviewed By: 
Damayanti Chaudhuri

Mr. Pal was born in Jamshedpur and moved with his family to Kolkata in 1957. Following his older brother, who was a Mechanical engineer from Jadavpur University, Mr. Pal also went to Jadavpur Universty and majored in Civil Engineering.

His professors at JU were a great influence towards shaping his career, one of them being Ashok Chakraborty, a professor of Architectural Engineering, who mentored and inspired him to excel in academia. Even though Mr. Pal skipped a few classes (as most students from his alma mater will be able to relate to), he spent the nights working on projects and studying for exams and graduated with flying colors.

Immediately after finishing his undergraduate studies in 1967, Mr. Pal started with Bridge & Roof Co. (India) Ltd., a multi-disciplinary engineering and construction firm. His major project at the firm was the design, development and construction of a Pelletizing Plant in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand.

After spending for years at Bridge & Roof, Mr. Pal moved to the US for higher studies in 1971 and completed a Master of Science in Structural Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology (then known as Newark College of Engineering). He started working for Research Cottrell in Somerset, NJ; a major provider of air pollution control technology solutions for utilities, refineries and other industries. He worked extensively on the design and shape optimization of electrostatic precipitators (ESP), an air particulate collection device that removes particles from flowing gas and helps power generation and industrial plants meet stringent emission standards. He also developed a computer program for design and optimization of ESP’s and holds five patents for his inventions.

With decommissioning of coal-fired power plants and prevention of construction of such power stations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ESP related research naturally dwindled. Mr. Pal then channeled his passion towards CADD (Computer Aided Design and Drafting) and was instrumental in implementing this technology at Research Cottrell.

While leading the Value Engineering division at Research Cottrell, Mr. Pal was invited by a friend to train the engineers at the CAD department of Huth Engineers in Lancaster, PA and became such an indispensable part of the group that the firm offered him a position and Mr. Pal moved to Pennsylvania in 1986. During his tenure at Huth, he also introduced GIS (Geographic Information System). In the year 1990, when the firm was in the process of being acquired by a bigger firm, Mr. Pal made an attempt to buy and save it. Even though he did not succeed at this endeavor, he started his own GIS consulting firm.

He is currently the President and CEO of geographIT, a firm that provides GIS consulting services to several counties in Pennsylvania. He has also been on the board of various professional and cultural organizations, some of which include the Pennsylvania Geospatial Association, the Asian American Cultural Exchange Association.

Mr. Pal loves to travel and as he likes to put it, has been to all the countries that the Romans have ruled. He has also developed a passion for gardening and is a huge dog-lover.

When asked for words of advice for aspiring CEOs, Mr. Pal preaches what he practices; treating employees with compassion, encouraging them as much as possible when they are performing well and also providing constructive criticism when the need arises.

And if you too would like to win clients over like he does, just take an assortment of cookies and sweets to your next meeting and tell them what Mr. Pal does: ‘My grandma told me a little secret when I was a kid; if you share sweets with someone you want to be friends with, you can always win them over’.