Rumana Mallick: A Recent Graduate with a Great Job and a Hot Band

Rumana Mallick has a great career and a hot rock band.

Rumana Mallick graduated just last year -- 2007 -- but she already works as a technical analyst for Smith Barney, the leading brokerage firm, which is grooming her to be an executive. It’s her dream job -- the job she always wanted -- and she loves it. But the thrill of life doesn't end when she leaves work. For after work, Rumana has another job: she sings for a Bangladeshi-American hip-hop band called Stoic Bliss. The band’s first CD sold 300,000 copies and its upcoming release is expected to do even better.

Rumana was born in America but her parents are from Bangladesh. She grew up listening to American and Bengali music, and Stoic Bliss fuses American R&B and hip-hop and pop with strains of Bengali rock. The band plays mostly in the United Kingdom, which has a large Bengali population, and in Bangladesh. Rumana writes lyrics and sings in both English and Bengali. She also uses her management background -- she majored in business management -- to manage the band and its recording company, Stoic Bliss Records.

So at age 22, her life is fulfilling. “I'm never bored, either in my work or outside of it,” says Rumana. “I always tell my friends that every day is an adventure.”

In this interview, Rumana talks about her job, her band, and how studying at NJIT helped her launch both of her careers: corporate techie and rock n’ roll singer.

Can you first talk about your job?
I’m a Technical Analyst for Global Wealth Management at Smith Barney, which is Citigroup's brokerage division. Some of my responsibilities include conveying the status of multi-million dollar projects to senior managers at Smith Barney Technology through various forms of media and reports that I write. I also improve management procedures by analyzing current technology operations and business procedures, then developing a new concept, tool or process to automate or increase the efficiency of the current operation or procedure. I'm part of a special two-year Technical Executive Rotational Program that exposes the firm’s young Technical Analysts to various management projects and positions here. Currently, I'm finishing my first-year rotation. Next year, I can be in any division, which makes it exciting. Once I graduate from the training program, I'll be appointed to a technical management position here.

Can you give an example of how you make Smith Barney more efficient?
Well, when I arrived at the firm, there was a major problem delivering the status and financial data for a project. There were so many reporting mechanisms and sub-tasks/sub-projects that providing an overall update to executive management seemed mundane and distressing. This caused project managers to spend anywhere from two to five hours creating what appeared to be a simple Power-Point slide or an Excel report. But working with project managers and a reporting team, I created a tool that would automate much of the reporting functions and provide clarity to an immense amount of data.

Talk about your rock band, Stoic Bliss.
I’m the main female vocalist, the manager and the business manager of the band ( Given my immense passion for management, I wanted to apply it to a unique field -- International music. Although I have sung several songs for my band's first and second albums, my main role is managing both the band and our recording company, Stoic Bliss Records.

What kind of music does the band play?
It’s rock n’ roll – a fusion of Bangla rock and American hip-hop music. Since we combine musical genres our sound is fresh, especially to people overseas. We perform mostly in the U.K. and in Bangladesh, but we’ve played the States, too. The band members all live in Queens and the metro area. A few band members also have studios in their apartments. The band has been together for three years. I write the lyrics in English but we record the lyrics in English and Bengali.

Is there a connection between being a “techie” and a musician?
Today, music is digital and highly computerized, so a lot of us “techies” are into music. Music was once solely distributed through major record labels but, technology has opened the floodgates for musicians around the world by enabling them to sell their music without the support of a record label. Thanks to the World Wide Web and a keen understanding of technology, I have been able to market my music as a global brand.  We “techies” have our professional careers but we have our music, too -- a combination that these days defines many “techies.” We strive to have the best of both worlds – corporate jobs and rock n' roll.  

What’s the business side of the band like?
I’m extremely involved in the business side of the band and our recording company. I, along with our main male vocalist, went overseas and contracted deals with distribution companies. Initially, we were signed under a Southeast-Asian recording label. That firm partnered with a telecommunications company run by a conglomerate called Grameen Bank. Interestingly, Grameen was started by Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for developing Micro-lending, a way of giving loans to poor people. These days, many overseas telecommunications companies partner with major record labels. The companies sell ring tone versions of the music to consumers, who often buy the ring tones when they buy the CD. This telecommunications company also partnered with a Norwegian company that helped our band release both albums in the U.K. The regulations and music industry overseas differ greatly from the music industry in the States. It was a challenge at first, but like starting any venture, one has to overcome challenges and try to achieve “the bigger picture.”

What skills did you learn at the School of Management that helps you do your job?
What I learned from the core classes, such as Management 101, finance and accounting, have been a great help. Lately I’ve been using a lot of statistics at work, so the classes I took in statistics help me greatly. But my job duties change rapidly, so in a year I might call upon another management skill I learned at the School of Management. The classes I mention here are of course taught in all management programs. But the School of Management taught me valuable skills that go beyond the classroom and are not easy to teach in a core curriculum: skills such as team management and collaboration, professionalism in the business place and conflict resolution. To succeed in management, one must possess these skills, and I’m grateful to SOM for helping me to perfect them. The faculty and all the resources available at NJIT helped as well.

When you were a student, did the Career Development Services Office at NJIT help you get jobs?
The Career Development Services Office (CDS) helped me get two invaluable co-op jobs at Colgate-Palmolive, where I worked as a programmer/analyst. The CDS office offers workshops that help NJIT students perfect their resumes and interviewing skills. My CDS adviser gave me one-on-one prep sessions that continued throughout the entire time I was interviewing for the co-op job. It was a long and extremely competitive process and I’m really grateful to that office for helping me. 

You were also in the Honors College. How did that experience shape you?
The Albert Dorman Honors College is a great way to expand your horizons. Although I was enrolled in the School of Management, my affiliation with the Honors College made it so that I could work with math majors or engineering majors on projects. And by attending the colloquiums run by the Honors College, I learned how management techniques are used in new science-based industries such as nano-technology. The honors classes were rigorous, which forced me to work harder. But it was worth it because the college also gives its students so many opportunities to expand.

Can you talk about your family background?
My parents were born abroad and came to America in 1983. Like many people coming to this country, they sought a better life and prosperity. And they wanted me and my younger brother to get great educations. I was born in Queens, New York, but have lived happily for the last six years in Piscataway, N.J. It is my home away from “home” – New York City, where I work and spend a lot of time, is my first home.

What was it like being a first generation student?
It was a bit challenging to grow up as a Bangladeshi American. My parents could not always relate to what I was going through in school. Like so many first-generation parents, they emphasized good grades. If I came home with a B on my report card, my father would ask me “why not an A?” If I got a C, that meant deeper trouble. He was strict, so like many teenagers, I had my rebellious phase in high school. But I now understand that my parents always wanted the best for me. It's amazing how young people are more thankful to their parents after they are out of school. I knew that my parents struggled in adjusting to America. But they tried hard to make it easy for me to adjust to American society. And although they are more "Americanized" now, I’m grateful that they maintained their Bangladeshi culture and heritage.

You recently bought your father a car? Was that your way of showing gratitude?
Yes and no. It was a simple gesture of thanks. But I don't think all the wealth in the world can compensate my dad for always being there for me, and always reminding me that he is my best friend in this world.

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)