After graduating from BIT, Mesra, I started off my career at a process manufacturing company called Swadeshi Polytex where I was an Electronics Engineer. I then worked for about 6-7 years on setting up testing services for missiles. As an employee of DRDO, I worked with many topline Indian companies. There was an embargo on export of high end computers to India, so we worked to develop our own machines. Then I did a 11 year BI consulting stint starting in 94 till 2005. I decided to go to the U.S. for my first project which was with a pharmaceuticals company Hoffman La Roche. I started on BI work and we created their first data warehouse in 95-96.Worked there for six years and then worked with Bristol-Myers Squibb. I consequently moved to GE in the U.S. and created a program for their global data warehouse. Then I moved back to India working at GE capital (now Genpact). In 2008, I shifted to Syntel where I am heading the practice of BI.
Decisions that Mattered:
All decisions along the way were major ones. One major decision was to move out of a process manufacturing company, another was moving from a private job to a government job where I learnt a lot of things as we had the flexibility to experiment. The US was an eye opener as before the job nature had been conventional. Once I stepped into the consulting arena, the game plan changed. I was supposed to direct the customers on the technology front. Moving from GE to Syntel was another major jump because GE was a huge organization and Syntel back then was relatively smaller. But here I got to be a part of a huge change. When I joined, there was a team of 400 and now this has tripled to 1200. Work and Role: Then and Now
One thing every company needs to do today, especially small companies is learn to differentiate and understand the customers business. You need to understand what are the challenges faced by the customer to keep them competitive in the market and how to give them an edge.For example, in an insurance market one challenge is to introduce new plans,policies and speed up the adoption rate in the market. You have to come up with solutions that can accelerate this process. That is what is unique about my work at Syntel.
GE was process oriented and I learnt so much here. Earlier as an independent consultant, I did not have much knowledge of processes. I learnt all processes at GE and the important lesson about standing your ground. At GE we worked as a single entity on behalf of the company.
Few years down the line:
I would continue doing BI work. I would also want to get into colleges and educational institutes and speak about Business Intelligence and business trends. I want to dedicate my time to this purpose.
Evolution of BI as I see it:
The immense competition is driving technology to come up with solutions. Earlier we were getting point of sale data, whereas now we have competitive data. There is so much information which can lend so much insight. Now we have the trend of Big Data. Few years down the line business BI analysts will be in demand over the technical analysts.today we may have tools and technology which are difficult for a business user to utilize and so they depend heavily on the IT professionals. But BI will simplify with self service BI tools.
What I learnt along the way:
When you are in a service organization, people truly matter. Trust your people. Place your faith in the individuals who work with you. It is quite common for project managers to say "I do not want to work with a trainee." It is the first sign of distrust they usually show towards a beginner, but they do not realize that a fresher has a lot more to prove than an experienced individual. There should be fierce collaboration within a team in the sense; they should be able to work together and voice their opinions freely and face the work-related challenges.
Trends to watch out for:
Mobility will play a big role in the future. Although mobility is becoming a big deal, the executives are still very unsure about whether they should provide their employees with mobile devices to access data but in the next five years it will popularize. Collaboration is going to be pretty big as well. Analytics is being done now but not everyone realizes the importance of it. If I am in the insurance business and I can predict with 98% accuracy about which policies are going to lapse in the next 3 months, one can take preemptive action. Social media also is an important platform for collaboration.
My advice if you are starting out:
My advice is understand the business and how BI can help the business first; then learn BI so that you have a focus. Else you will be learning without direction. Learning how to create a dashboard is the second step, first you need to learn why you need a dashboard. And never be someone who just takes orders, apply your mind to come up with solutions. You must learn to innovate. My opinion about certifications:
While they do help, there is a huge need to focus on practical experience and individual growth. Books/Websites I Refer to:
I go through Ralph Kimball books and refer to them. I look up websites such as SearchDataManagement and SearchBusinessIntelligence. I also access userboards on BI portals where users come up with problems. I try to troubleshoot and recommend the same. One can learn a lot from this.