Victor Bahl to receive 2024 Dean’s Award for Achievement

Victor Bahl.

SEAS alum Victor Bahl  will return to the University at Buffalo to address the class of 2024.

By Elizabeth Egan 

Published May 7, 2024

At this year’s commencement ceremony, Victor Bahl (MS ’88, BS ’86) will return to the University at Buffalo to accept the Dean’s Award for Achievement and address the class of 2024.

“Moving here from India and then pursuing engineering turned out to be a great decision for me as I look back. I found the university to be very open, and it was a nice place to grow.”
Victor Bahl , Microsoft Technical Fellow and Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft’s Azure for Operators

The Dean’s Award for Achievement is the highest honor presented by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), annually recognizing an individual for their contributions to the practice of engineering or for an outstanding professional career.

After seeing his brother have a positive experience as a student at UB, Bahl decided to follow suit and pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering.

“Moving here from India and then pursuing engineering turned out to be a great decision for me as I look back,” said Bahl. “I found the university to be very open, and it was a nice place to grow.”

While the winter temperatures in Buffalo came as a bit of a shock to Bahl, the rewarding experience of his time at UB and his appreciation for the Buffalo Bills and chicken wings more than made up for it.

One experience that stood out to Bahl during his time at UB was a class on communications systems. He enjoyed the class so much that he did not mind having to wake up at 6 a.m. to catch the bus for the 8 a.m. class. Although, Bahl did not realize how prevalent the course would be in his career.

“I learned things in that class that have applied to real-world systems that I have built,” Bahl noted. “The foundational aspects of that class are still with me today.”

This has remained true throughout his 27 years of working at Microsoft, and in his current positions as a Microsoft technical fellow, the highest level of engineer in the company, and chief technology officer of Microsoft’s Azure for Operators, a telecom-focused platform.

During his time at Microsoft, Bahl has spent significant time working in networking research, publishing papers, and creating seminal cloud systems that have helped the company to grow. Currently, he is leading a team that is building pathways to demonstrate how cloud networks can function just as well, if not better, than typical cellular networks, paving the way for new pathways in the telecom industry.  

In addition to his position at Microsoft, Bahl supports a nonprofit, Computing for All, founded by his wife Ritu in 2015. The Seattle-based organization is dedicated to helping those who are underrepresented in the IT industry to prepare for and secure equitable and upwardly mobile careers in information technology.

He also enjoys visiting different universities to speak about his work and engage with the students. While living on the West Coast makes visiting UB a challenge, Bahl strives to maintain connections to the school, keeping in touch with different department chairs in SEAS.

After graduating from UB, Bahl went on to earn his PhD in wireless networking and mobile systems from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Bahl co-founded the ACM special interest group, SIGMOBILE, and founded the ACM’s MobiSys (Mobile Systems, Applications and Services) conference and GetMobile journal. He holds over 200 patents and has authored over 140 publications.

In 2018, Bahl returned to Buffalo to address the SEAS class of 2018 as a Distinguished Alumnus Speaker. He urged students to use their skills as engineers to be a force of positive change in the world. The experience also sparked the memory of getting a job as a student employee making sub sandwiches at a café in Norton Hall, even though he had never heard of a sub before his first day.

In his address to the class of 2024, he plans, tentatively, to talk about confidence and the endless possibilities that come with an engineering degree.

Ahead of his speech, Bahl offered the following advice to students as they seek out their first job: “Find a job where you are surrounded with smart people who you can learn from, who think critically and have a can-do attitude. They will up your game and you will up theirs.”

He continued, “The world is ready for technology disruptions, and those who think boldly and operate fearlessly will get us to the next level. Develop great instincts by doing more, taking initiative and, above all, persevering. Also, pay attention to your boss; that person has to be someone who lets you grow and explore the things you want to achieve.”