I stared my career as a developer, working with client server technologies. For a brief period, I dabbled with client-server on the User Interface (UI) side, and for some time worked as a data programmer. I started with Deloitte in 1994 and realized that the most important thing in our business is to understand what the client wants and to help clients solve complex business challenges involving technology. This was the time when I got closer to Business Intelligence (BI) and data warehousing. It gave me a wholesome perspective about what the client really wants to achieve.
Decisions that mattered
First, was to understand that technology and business come hand in hand, and that they cant be dealt in silos. Therefore, I decided to focus on the business aspect of technology. Second, after I moved back to India from the U.S seven years ago, I decided to focus to grow the BI capabilities and learn about how to best serve clients remotely, and more importantly, I decided to learn all the ropes about how BI can be delivered in the distributed delivery model
Work and Role: Then and now
When I started with BI, it used to be more reactive. BI used to be an afterthought – "Can we get some reporting out of it? Can we get some data into a separate database?" It was never about thinking holistically like – "what can I do for you in entirety?" Now, I am more into an operational and leadership role, where I focus on building the practice and help build capabilities of our people in order to serve clients in the best manner. I am also looking ahead, more on the analytics side, where I can help business by using information to make decisions. So, while earlier it used to be more about operational reporting, now it is more decision-making and foresight to grow the business.
What I learnt along the way
An important lesson that I have learnt in my career journey -: Firstly, there is no right or wrong answers. Answers need to be sorted, discovered, repurposed according to that particular situation. Secondly, technology is truly an enabler and not the driver of business. Technology is all about enabling the business to solve the problem. They are not two separate entities anymore, they go hand in hand. Thirdly, we have to be forward-sighted when solving business problems, especially in the present environment which is all about tectonic changes. What we invest today will reap benefits for the next couple of years because it is so costly to change technology every year.
Two years down the line
I align my goals with that of the firm (Deloitte) so that I can shape my career in a more directed manner. I am a Director at Deloitte, heading a service line in Technology. According to me , in the next two years I will be more into business analytics - shaping it up in terms of clients problems, not only dwelling upon what my current business is doing, but also on how we can leap forward by, using the power of business analytics in a more integrated way.
Trends to watch out for
Some of the trends that I am watching out for are - visualization which I am very passionate about, and which I believe will take off in a big way. Other trends are In-memory database like SAP HANA and Mobility. So, they are exciting avenues to look out for. My advice if you are starting out
Get your fundamentals and concepts right. If you have your content, you will be able to handle any client issue in a more holistic manner - both from a technology and a business lens. One way to be on the top of things is to have an in-depth knowledge about the Industry which you are serving. As a BI professional, your cornerstone is the fundamentals. It may come in different shapes or forms, but fundamentals are for keeps! Whether it is data management, enterprise data management, master data management (MDM), professionals should have a depth and breadth of knowledge in that area.
Must focus areas for the future
The traditional way of doing data warehousing is soon going to change. In-memory database will become popular – so traditional tools and techniques will definitely change and obviously newer technologies and newer methods of delivering information are on the way. Finally, we need to get ready for Advanced Analytics – that is the next big wave.
Do we need certifications?
I have done few project management certifications. If you are a professional with considerable years of work experience, then getting a tool certification is not really going to help. But if you are an upcoming BI professional, certain certifications will help you a long way to gain credibility and knowledge in a structured way. Also, if you are an experienced hand in a particular domain but want to get into a new reporting tool, a certification can come handy to impress credibility. Though, I must admit, that I have not seen too many clients asking for a certified professional.
Books I recommend
The book I suggest is The Data Warehouse Toolkit by Ralph Kimball and to get your fundamentals right. I would recommend you to read books on Advanced Analytics.