Alumni Spotlight: Debabrata Mukherjee, PhD, MBA ’00
For the past seven years, Debabrata “Deba” Mukherjee has been the President and CEO of Finch Paper in Glens Falls, New York. But, his path to business leadership did not travel through the traditional sales or administrative routes.
Rather, Mukherjee forged an impressive research career before entering the paper business. He took an MS and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and published widely in scientific journals.
Mukherjee also jointly holds three patents in inkjet printer technology that helped pioneer an activity we take for granted in 2020: the printing of photographs on personal-use printers. “I’m very proud of that,” he says. “That [technology] changed the way the world prints today.”
Pursuing an advanced business degree was not simply another diploma for the wall, but a pathway for Mukherjee to bring research strengths into corporate decision-making. “Once I entered into the business world,” he says, “I realized that [what] I wanted was not to be part of the decision-making process, but to have a lead role. Not just to have input in decisions, but to be responsible and accountable for them.”
Mukherjee enrolled at York College after moving to Pennsylvania to take a position at nearby paper company, P.H. Glatfelter. He says his MBA courses — and specifically those with Professor of Management Mary Meisenhelter — helped to meld the analytical strengths of his research career “with what a liberal education brings to a business curriculum.”
York College’s curriculum “provided me with a very different set of perspectives that a very strong technical education or technical MBA would never provide,” he recalls. “That was very critical to me.”
Mukherjee says a key lesson was his discovery that “the principles of making the softer side of business work can be very powerful…It has played a big role in what I was able to accomplish over the next 20 years, and in the business environment in which I find myself today.”
Specializing in production of uncoated papers for a wide range of technical and publishing uses, Finch Paper is a venerable — and stable — company that has been continuously in business since 1865. Indeed, Mukherjee is only the seventh chief officer in Finch’s 155-year history. And the blend of experiences that he assembled in both his research and at York College has been essential in guiding Finch Paper.
“What a research background provided me is bringing some structure to unknowns,” observes Mukherjee. Yet finding structure and clarity in corporate leadership is not an end to itself. “Part of my success,” he says, “has been not only having clarity as to how to make things happen, but bringing along larger and larger groups of people who deliver on that vision.