Hopes and Dreams of a new CTO


On Friday 1/19/2018, I got a new role in IBM services as the CTO for North America.

It was an honor and privilege leading the CBDS business and I am very grateful to our team and our clients for a very fulfilling time. Pat Eskew and Rafi Ezry will lead it to greater heights and I look forward to working with them and cheering on the team every step of the way.

There are a few people to explicitly thank specifically for this new adventure I am embarking on. First, my boss Ismail Amla who runs services for North America for his trust in me. Second, my uncle Dr Krish Pillai who gave me his computer and the Dennis Ritchie book on C, when I was in eighth grade. I learned BASIC on that computer to code video games and had a huge collection of custom games on cassettes. And I struggled through the K&R book line by line till C became how I think of logic. Third, Prof Kalyanaraman who taught me statistics in Business School – he bridged the gap between math, computing and business for me.  I owe a huge gratitude for my parents who never questioned or hesitated in finding ways to support my varied interests , even when times were REALLY hard. And it goes without saying – more people than I can list here have helped me and continue to help me. Please know that you have my sincere gratitude and I will continue to seek your guidance.

I have some hopes and dreams about the journey ahead of us.

What I would like us to do for our clients is to be a champion for technology minimalism and simplicity. 

Technology has become incredibly sophisticated over time, and unfortunately also quite complex. On top of that there is the constant noise on hype. Every category of tech is a trillion dollar opportunity if you believe the analyst reports. This complexity and hype leads to clients not being able to use the sophisticated tech to solve their biggest problems. Instead – best case they get stuck in endless proofs of concepts, and worst case they stay still and risk becoming irrelevant for their customers.

Its very rare that any one technology is going to add value by solving a big problem. It usually takes the convergence of multiple technologies to arrive at meaningful solutions. This comes with the risk of over engineering , low speed of execution, and a real danger of designing a brilliant solution that can’t change on a dime when market changes. Striking a balance between all these is where engineering meets art.

I have a degree in engineering and business. And though not by design – I had a career where I had one foot each in tech and business. Growing up as a developer and later as an architect, I absolutely enjoy tech for the sake of tech – and I am not ashamed of it in the least.  But with roles in delivery, sales and general management,  I equally appreciate that in enterprise software, no one cares about tech that does not make or save money for our clients. Bringing biz and tech together – discussing the art of the possible, providing reality checks on emerging tech, ethics and trust issues that come with tech, connecting clients with each other and with ecosystem partners, building business cases to justify investments , debating usability of code for humans and machines etc are all things I look forward to working with clients on.

End of the day, its not what we make that is important – its what we make possible for our clients !

I would love for us to be known as the team that our clients depend on for solving their unknown unknowns  

We have an amazing team with a multitude of backgrounds, skills and experiences. Thanks to the opportunity to work with clients across several industries and solving a variety of problems, we know several common problems and also the solutions for those. That minimizes the risk of reinventing the wheel, and maximizes the execution speed.

But that is just the starting point – we need to be able to help uncover problems and opportunities that are not well defined yet. For any given problem – I have no doubts we have the skills to solve it. But a problem is only as good as how it is defined – simply because solutions depend on how a question is asked. The speed with which the world around our clients is progressing – we need to feel comfortable with the unknown unknowns, asking better questions and constantly striving to iterate towards better answers. Technology might not even be the lone answer for many questions – it could be a change in process or people.

This needs us to keep learning, and teaching each other  – broadly and deeply. Tomorrow belongs to the polymaths ! A very wise leader told me once that learning is like breathing – you just can’t stop. I plan to actively continue with our learning initiatives – both as a student and as a teacher/sponsor. The world of technology consulting is changing quickly , and in quite disruptive ways. I hope and dream for us to be on the right side of this change.

On the personal front, there are two things I am committed to this year . First is to exercise more . And after procrastinating for over a decade, I finally signed up with a personal trainer yesterday. I told him that I will hold him responsible for my success in my new role since I will need a lot of energy and strength .  He nodded, and there is a possibility that he may have rolled his eyes 🙂 .

The second is to teach programming to my daughter, to supplement the class she has started . Today I helped her with some nested conditional logic. She was impressed for about 10 seconds and then started telling me that such complex code is useless because she won’t be able to remember later the reason for writing it and none of her friends will get it . A part of me is proud that she immediately realized something about the big picture that took me a few years as a developer to get . And the other part of me is wondering if I have it in me to keep up with this despite my resolution . I see a lot of eye rolls in my future 🙂

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35 thoughts on “Hopes and Dreams of a new CTO

  1. Vijay

    Congratulations on the new role!
    Your career has been both a rapid rise and very successful – deservedly so

    All the very best
    Doug

    Like

  2. I have enjoyed your blog posts,and feel you will a great CTO, with a good balance between looking forward, looking behind on what you learned, and a humbleness to laugh at yourself.

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  3. Motivational note as a CTO Vijay! Very interesting and thought provoking view point on Technology minimalism and simplicity. Technology shouldn’t be used for the sake of it unless it is aligned with solving a business problem!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Vijay…congratualtions on the new role at IBM. Of course you have been playing much bigger role in helping others with your wonderful blog posts. Keep it up, hopefully will get a chance to work with you.

    Vamsi

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Vijay, I hope that all of your hopes and wishes come true this year! I appreciate you joining me on the NA analytics journey during the past 2.5 years and I will look forward to hearing and reading more about your new trip over the coming months. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Congrats Vijay. Always enjoyed following your blog and As IBMer I see you as Great Mentor. Happy for you and wishing you all the best in your new role.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You were one of the first supporters of the BPX community (a now defunct online community to bridge business process expertise with tech). I think we were “ahead” of our times back in 2006 and I am so proud of your “persistence” in finding the correct historical inflection and environment to turn a vision into practical application.
    I also note with pleasure your:
    1) reaching out to be mentored
    2) mentoring your daughter to program

    I cannot imagine anyone more uniquely suited to hold the reins now in your hands. I imagine a light but firm touch, guiding, steering, galloping forward.

    Enjoy the ride!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Marilynn – very few people have impacted my life and career as positively and as consistently as you . I am very grateful for all of that. You introduced me to how communities work, you helped me overcome my inertia for blogging, and you played a big part in me grasping the idea of “pay it forward”. Thanks for being such an awesome mentor to me and many others .

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      • Talking with Jon Reed about how happy it makes us, that you got that job with an always helpful and down to earth attitude to everyone around you. You don’t seem to be driven to make a career, more to do the best job that you can do where you are and you are able to bring others along to do/be their best too.

        Talking with Jon, I remembered one of my favorite SAP Mentor stories. Way back, Sapphire 2009, you were a newly minted SAP Mentor, back then doing your first tour with IBM.

        You bumped into senior IBM executives 2 levels above you. They raised some eyebrows, as you were not in suit and tie, but wearing the SAP Mentor shirt: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ibmsapalliance/5716838986. After some explanation, they blessed your choice. What really left them with an open mouth was, when you shared your meeting schedule that week, which included Vishal Sikka and even Hasso Plattner. Top level SAP executives, that they were not able to secure a meeting with 🙂

        Now you are the two+ level up executive. Keep an eye out for the Vijays further down the line.

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  8. VIjay, good luck buddy. No doubt you will be super successful in this role. IBM Services is in pretty safe hands for sure. On the personal note, may be we should start playing tennis more again then;).. good luck to ur trainer too;)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations, Mr.Vijaysankar.
    All the best for you.

    I am Prof.Mariakutty Varkey from SCMS Cochin School of business, collegue of Prof.Srikumar
    You had come and interacted with our students a few years ago.
    It was wonderful and I thank you once again.

    Liked by 1 person

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