From IBM Sales Manager in India to Professor in the U.S., a Career Reboot Brings a New Life

Burned out as an IBM sales manager in his native India, Gaurav Sabnis, then in his early 20s, began thinking about a career in academia, where the pace would be less grueling.

He planned on making the move after a few years. But that changed suddenly in 2005 when a post on his personal blog angered one of IBM’s clients, leading Mr. Sabnis to quit. It wouldn’t be the last unexpected twist in his professional life.

Now 40, he is a tenured professor specializing in social-media marketing at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, married to an American.

“It’s maybe a sign of my luck or privilege, or both, that it just happened that I accidentally fell into this life,” Mr. Sabnis said.

Mr. Sabnis landed the coveted position with IBM after getting his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management-Lucknow in 2004. His days at IBM started early, typically with a multicity conference call. To meet sales targets, he would spend hours phoning or visiting clients.