Saying Bye To 2015, The Year Of Yin And Yang


Christmas is over, and as I woke up today I started thinking about the year that passed me by. It certainly was not the most pleasant year amongst the forty that I have lived on this planet – I lost some very dear friends and relatives throughout the year. On January 3rd, my mentor John Leffler passed away.  The tribute I posted became my most widely read post ever on this blog – and that is painful in its own way.

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In October I lost my dear father in law , and my uncle lost his long fight to cancer in December. I could not bring myself to write about them in this blog , so I left shorter notes on Facebook.

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Sandwiched between the tragedies were some pleasant memories too. I managed to spend more time with my wife and daughter this year (mostly thanks to the break between MongoDB and IBM jobs) and that was priceless. I still can’t believe Shreya is nearly eleven now.

Shreya and me

I flew a lot less than most years – to the extent that I won’t have enough trips to make Executive Platinum on American Airways next February. I am still processing that realization that a year of no upgrades is staring me on my face. Maybe that is finally the push I need to lose some weight to fit into the middle seats.

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Shreya continues to be a straight A student, and the irony is that my wife and I have changed our perspectives on grades and stuff. Dhanya and I both grew up in typical Indian families where moms demanded excellence in school. We were both convinced that we won’t push Shreya for grades. Guess what – our DNA kicked in big time as she started in school, and we are now pretty much the same as our parents when it comes to grades. I just remembered my English teacher explaining Wordsworth’s “Child is the Father of man” in school 🙂

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Dhanya was in engineering college when we got married in 2002. She had to travel multiple times to India from here to finish her classes and exams and get her degree. She did not want to pursue a career as an engineer, and went and got her certifications in Cisco networking etc. And this year, she went to realtor school and passed her state and national exams with flying colors on her first attempt itself. Between her dad’s sickness and his passing away, and raising our daughter ( and me and the three fur kids too), it was not easy on her – but she did it. I can’t be more proud of her.

Our youngest fur kid – Ollie – did quite well for himself too when he hit the dog show circuit with Aunt Rebecca training and handling him.

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Boss and Hobo stayed home keeping us company. Boss has been a wise man from the time he was a year old .

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Hobo who will turn seven on new years eve is still the puppy who never grew up mentally even though he is built like a tank.

I keep telling myself that I am still an ace handler and obedience trainer, but I no longer have what it takes to compete. I am out of shape, and I do everything to spoil my fur kids that I used to tell people not to do when I was personally active in the sport. The irrational side of my brain still tells me from time to time that I have it in me to enjoy holding the leash in the ring. We shall see – never say never 🙂

Ollie and me

It was an interesting year at work for me. I left MongoDB and went back to IBM .

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I am totally enjoying my second innings here – connecting with old friends (mostly when they call me to ask SAP related stuff – and then refuse to believe that I have left that world) and making new ones. Couple of weeks ago, I took on a new role as VP of digital transformation – which is the ultimate irony to close out the year given how much I have made fun of the term. I already know 2016 will be an amazing year – full of challenges and fun. As I closed out the year with thank you dinners and lunches with my clients ,my team, and Thelma (my awesome EA who keeps it all together for me)  the theme every time was the excitement about the things we have in the works for next year.

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Thanks to whatsapp, I also managed to reconnect with several friends this year from high school and college . It is amazing how we could pick up conversations from two decades ago without missing a beat.

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It was great meeting some of them in person too in different parts of the world. I am sure this theme will continue in years to come as well. Given the simpler times in which the roots of our friendship took shape, it is easy to discuss all things that are NOT politically correct and still be friends.

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2015 was also the first time when I could take an extended vacation for the first time since I left college. And it was fantastic spending that time with family and friends in India. Although I visit Trivandrum every year, this trip was special and more relaxed and it was fun to see  how my home town has changed from the time I grew up there. 

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Bye bye 2015 – I am ready for 2016 now !

 

Guess What, I am VP of Digital Transformation Now !


Yes – me – the guy who has never passed on an opportunity to make fun of the term “digital transformation” in public, private and hybrid platforms. On Friday, I got the job to lead our digital transformation service line for communications sector clients – companies in Energy, Utilities, Media, Entertainment, Telco, Sports etc.

You don’t need to securely collaborate via Cognitive analytics on your mobile, running on big data stored in the cloud to find that insight – I admit it, and I will be buzz word compliant. And I probably won’t stop making fun of the hype even if my business card reads “digital transformation”. I was a VP of Big Data till yesterday and I was and still am a critic of the hype around that term too – so why stop now 🙂

For people who are reading this for the first time and thinking WTH I am talking about – here is some of the background 

When my new boss told me on the phone that the name of the new practice will be “digital transformation”, the irony was delicious. My seven year old fur kid Hobo and I went for a walk around our neighborhood to think through this . Pretty sure I was grinning the whole time.

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First things first, many of you asked me what exactly is this digital transformation service line I am going to lead. IBM goes to market primarily by industry, not by technology. For example – we will provide solutions for churn management for a telco company. That solution typically will need many technology practices to come together – data management, strategy, analytics, Watson, Mobile, Design and so on. Those service lines all have their own “horizontal” solutions too – things like “Analytics as a service” for example. All we are doing now is to consolidate such service lines under one portfolio called “digital transformation” .

This will help us have better effectiveness (We will have sharper focus on industry specific solutions , and more comprehensive horizontal solutions.) as well as better efficiency (We don’t need to figure out per customer which service lines to bring together). This also helps us offer more flexible and outcomes based solutions to clients .

While my business card will read “digital transformation” , I don’t think I will switch to a “let me digitally transform you” conversation with any CXO from tomorrow. I will instead be continuing to have conversations like “Can we help you reduce your customer churn” or “Can we work together on cutting down on the time your customers need to spend to find answers” .

Change is hard for clients – even if we call it “transformation”. Our job is to make it easier and pleasant for them.

Technology – the “digital” part of the equation is the somewhat lesser challenge. We know really well how to bend technology to suit business needs , without breaking it. The focus on the tech part is one of keeping on optimizing since technology is rapidly evolving, and we don’t want clients to worry about it. I have a bet going on with an old friend on how many days it will take before I try my hand designing or coding something myself that my new team is tasked with:) . Fair warning – I am learning scala now and can’t wait to try it somewhere !

The harder challenge always will be putting a solution in the specific context of a client’s business. This is also what makes it interesting for our consulting team – going deep into a business and bringing in our experience with similar experiences from other clients, as well as from our research and other colleagues. The speed of execution is another thing that excites me – since I grew up in long multi year ERP projects. While a transformation program might run into many years in the new world too, there is a lot more “instant gratification” along the way. Fast iterations are the name of the game now – and it makes me have the same excitement today as I had when I wrote my first production quality program in the 90s.

Final point – there is an aspect of fun that I cannot just gloss over. This is a new business which we can help shape as we grow. Working on designing fan experience for a soccer team is plenty fun in itself – but integrating that with the supply chain for hot dogs takes the fun quotient to a whole new level. I cannot wait to get introduced to my new gang – and start learning from them.

It will be a fun ride – and if you (or some one you know) think you should be part of this gang, let me know. We are hiring at all levels. Send me your profile and contact information at vijay dot vijayasankar at us dot ibm dot com.