Suresh Narayanan (B.S. ’08) has his head in the clouds—literally. An alumnus of the FSU College of Health and Human Sciences dietetics program, Narayanan has a private pilot license and takes to the skies to clear his mind and think about his next projects. “It’s amazing to be in the air flying,” he says. “To think, I got into flying after my first week at my aerospace business, when a customer told me I did not know what I was talking about since I was not a pilot. I came back to that customer within a year and enjoyed telling them I can now fly.”
It’s that kind of determination and perseverance that has helped Narayanan find success since graduating from Florida State University. The skills, education, and connections he gained during his time at the College of Health and Human Sciences only enhanced his ability to navigate both clear skies and storm clouds.
Narayanan’s ties to aerospace began early on. His father was a Concorde mechanic and owned an aerospace business in Miami. Being around planes throughout his childhood, Narayanan fell in love with flying. However, when his parents closed their business during his sophomore year at FSU, things changed drastically for Narayanan. For one, his parents moved back to India, leaving him a world apart. For another, he still had bills to pay, and so he found work where he could.
While these events undoubtedly caused challenges, they also steeled Narayanan’s character and brought him closer to the FSU community. “FSU was by far one of the most important inflection points in my life story,” he says. With his parents so far away, he spent summers in Tallahassee and became close to classmates. He also joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity and served as its social chair for four years. These connections proved to be invaluable in his future endeavors. “At FSU, I was able to build friendships with so many different students from different backgrounds. I use those skills today when I meet all kinds of customers from all different parts of the world.”
He also gained a better understanding of business and leadership as he worked his way up at his college jobs. Eventually, he became a manager at a local establishment, where he “worked with the owners on every aspect of their business. I was in the numbers but also learned how they grew a business, brand, and culture within their employees. I still keep close touch with those friends and some of them own businesses now, so we bounce ideas off each other often.”
After graduating from FSU, Narayanan wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do next. The friends and connections he made at the College of Health and Human Sciences, however, helped him find his first job. He began his career in healthcare, where he quickly proved himself an effective leader and eventually became a department hospital director.
In time, he had an opportunity to work in the aerospace industry, rekindling his love for planes and flying. Moving from healthcare to aerospace might seem like a big jump to some people, but Narayanan believes being a successful leader transcends a single industry. “Industries for me were all intriguing since my leadership principles and process are the same, starting with a big focus on people. This focus really allowed me to float between all kinds of industries successfully.”
“I am a big fan of being in a business you are passionate about,” he says. He joined Aerospace Quality Research & Development, located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. The company provides repairs, modifications, and engineering services to aircraft. Over the years, AQRD grew from a small team to 65 employees, and Narayanan says that “seeing my team grow and do things far better than me has been awesome. The financial success and accolades are all byproducts and not the purpose; the people have been my favorite part.”
It’s this understanding of people and his talent for leadership that helped earn him some of the most prestigious accolades awarded by the FSU Alumni Association. This year, Narayanan was named a Notable Noles honoree, but even more impressively, he received a 2021 Reubin O’D. Askew award, which is the highest honor given by the Alumni Association to young alumni. “I feel honored to represent FSU through my community and professional accomplishments,” he says. “I investigated past and current winners and am honestly proud to just be in the company of everyone.”
“It also reminds me how amazing the teams I have around me in my businesses are,” he continues. “Even though the award might be for me, there is no way I would be recognized if I did not have amazing partners and teams around me.”
Always looking to the horizon, Narayanan is working on starting a new investment group, Mustang Entrepreneurs. While he is still a board member and partner of AQRD, he now seeks to embark on his next adventure in the world of entrepreneurship and investing.
If Narayanan can offer one piece of advice, it’s that the people in our lives matter as much as the skills and education we acquire. Reflecting on his time at the College of Health and Human Sciences, he says that the knowledge he gained helped him with his success, “but the network and experiences are equally important.” It’s much like flying: the skill and experience of the pilot will guide the plane safely, but it takes a team to keep an aircraft in flying condition. Fortunately for Narayanan, his personal skills and his team have proven time and time again that the sky’s the limit.