Design your life: How Prasad T Rao charted his course from coding to entrepreneurship

Written by: Ranjani Rajendra

Name: Prasad T Rao | Designation: Founding Partner | Company: Modutecture Technologies | Place: San Francisco 

(June 10, 2024) Born in Hyderabad, Prasad T Rao did his schooling in Malawi, went to university in Nebraska, and made a career for himself in the Bay Area; first as a software developer and then as an entrepreneur. As he looks back at his over three decade-long career and journey across three continents, he tells Global Indian, “I’ve built some meaningful relationships along the way and have learned valuable lessons. Honestly, I couldn’t have scripted my life any better.”

Prasad began his career with The Buckle as a senior systems manager before he made his way to Cisco where he spent 17 years in various roles followed by an entrepreneurial stint as GM with MuleSoft, which went through one of the most successful IPOs before it was eventually acquired by Salesforce. Today, as the founding partner of Modutecture Technologies, the Indian-origin entrepreneur has his strong educational background and thirst to constantly learn to be thankful for his incredible journey.

Prasad T Rao | Work Life | Global Indian

Prasad T. Rao, Founding Partner, Modutecture Technologies

Childhood in Africa

With a chemical engineer father and a Montessori teacher mother, Prasad was always taught the importance of a good education. He began his schooling at Hyderabad Public School, before his family moved to Malawi. “Here I was one of the very few Indian students in a majorly European school,” he says, adding, “While I enjoyed my time in Malawi, my parents decided not to let me lose touch with my Indian origin and family ties. So I made my way to Bangalore where I enrolled at Bishop Cotton Boys School and stayed in the hostel. It was here that I developed my love of sport, Indian food, and learnt to appreciate the cross section of Indian culture.”

As he finished his schooling Prasad headed back to Africa where he worked for a year before deciding to move to the US for his higher education. “Back then though, the general perception in most Indian households was not very positive when it came to going to the US; concerns regarding exposure to drugs etc was a cause for concern. However, my father agreed to send me and said he would pay for one semester. I have two other siblings and he had to consider their futures as well,” he says, adding, “Fortunately, I was able to maintain straight A’s as a student and landed a full ride scholarship. I enrolled for a B.Sc in Marketing and Information Systems at University of Nebraska, Kearney.”

A global career

Following this, Prasad began his career in 1994 working for a bank in Michigan, which he didn’t enjoy too much. So he decided to move back to Nebraska, a state he loved and landed a job as a senior systems engineer with The Buckle, a retail chain. “I had some good leaders and colleagues here and learnt a lot. The best part was, these colleagues became good friends; the kinds that root for you.”

Prasad T Rao | Work Life | Global Indian

In 2000, Prasad came back to India to get married; by this time his parents had also moved back home. In his late 20s, Prasad went back to the US with his wife and the couple decided to make California their home. “We had a lot of cousins in this part of the country and we decided to settle here as well. We had our daughter in 2001 and son in 2003.” He had landed a job with Cisco by this time as an advanced services program manager.

In his nearly 17 years with the communications technology conglomerate, Prasad frequently changed roles across Canada and US. “Changing roles every three or four years was stressful for sure, but it was also very fruitful. By the time I had moved back to the US after a few years in Canada, I was working on API strategy and was moving towards the software side. I also had the opportunity to mentor a company that was picked by Cisco as a company to watch out for. I got front row seats to a lot of pitches by young founders who were all very enterprising,” he says, adding that he loved every bit of it.

By 2016, when things at Cisco had begun to look a little shaky, Prasad had moved on to MuleSoft, a software company, as GM where he helped them grow the business unit. The company went public in 2017 and was hugely successful. When it was acquired by Salesforce in 2019, Prasad ensured that his entire team was well taken care of and did his best to advance their interests.

While his tenure here was hugely successful, by 2022 he felt the urge to start something of his own. He had been making small investments in companies along the way and would advise them and was now looking forward to becoming an entrepreneur himself. “But I decided to first take a year off and stepped away from Salesforce. I had never really taken a break and I just wanted to spend that one year with my family and playing golf,” he says.

An opportunity for entrepreneurship

Prasad T Rao | Work Life | Global Indian

Funnily enough, the day Prasad resigned, he went to a club with his wife and friends to celebrate his sabbatical. As fate would have it, he ran into another friend who was looking to set up his own company and asked Prasad if he would help him deal with data and API challenges for his company. “Now I usually help companies, find people for them to hire and put things in place before I move on. This time though, I was so entrenched in it and learned so much; it was too exciting an opportunity to skip. I had no choice but to join Bob, who had been asking me to partner for some time. It was almost fortuitous,” he says. And that’s how he began his entrepreneurial journey with Modutecture, a digital platform company that aggregates data to create contextual intelligence.

“We’ve been building the company from the ground up. It has been very exciting and we’ve been breaking new ground every day. We want to transform and disrupt the industry in a positive way,” he smiles.

A proud Indian, Prasad makes it a point to participate in and promote Indian culture and activities in the US. “I want to advance the better part of who we are as Indians,” he smiles, adding, “There’s a lot of pride in what we do, our history and our culture. In fact, a lot of locals here are not exposed to Indian culture or food, despite such a large Indian population here. We try to bridge these gaps; we throw fun Diwali parties, invite them into our home for a glimpse of our traditions.”

Giving back

Prasad T Rao | Work Life | Global Indian

Even as he’s been charting his own journey, Prasad says that he hasn’t forgotten about giving back to the society he lives in. “It’s something I learnt from my parents, who would actively rally community support for causes they believed in. As we began doing well in the US, my wife and I decided to give back. We’ve adopted a bunch of charities that are close to us: from helping fund research for juvenile diabetes, educational charities, military services charities and pitching in at the local food bank,” says Prasad, who also tries and ties golf, food and wine with good friends into a lot of the things he does.

Passionate about travelling, he loves to travel for golf as well, apart from annual visits back home to India. These trips to India also involved him establishing business back in Hyderabad; be it for Cisco or MuleSoft. “In fact, plans are afoot to set up a global development centre in Hyderabad for Modutecture too in the foreseeable future. This is my attempt to build bridges and get some great talent on board while helping grow employment in India.”

“We also love good food and good wine. We’ve tried all kinds of food, but we always circle back to Indian food,” he smiles. During his free time, he loves to read and watch videos on subjects that interest him. “I also love to talk to people who are experts in the area,” he says, adding, “I firmly believe we are products of our environment. Which is why I always tell people to surround themselves with great people and you will go to great heights.”

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