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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Work Around Glass Ceilings

Srinivas Koushik
Sunday, October 27, 2002
Srinivas Koushik
I WANTED TO STUDY MEDICINE AND BECOME A doctor. I suppose fate decided otherwise. While I came fifth in the Indian Central Board for medical schools, it wasn't good enough for a system, that sought financial "incentives" to accept students. No, I am not complaining. My father, who was a technical executive at Asian Paints, insisted that I quit "whining" and explore new avenues. I owe a lot to him, for the unshakeable support he lent me. After an undergraduate degree in Physics from Vivekananda College in Chennai (erstwhile Madras), I went to the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute (VJTI) in Mumbai for an MCA. This was among the first graduate programs in computers, being offered in India, and the computer frenzy was just beginning. Looking back, I am glad that my father drove me to explore this field. I was, in fact, ready to pursue a master's program in labor relations at XLRI, but was fortunately dissuaded.

VJTI gave me a good education and it landed me with a good job even before I graduated. I was offered a job at Tata Burroughs who promptly packed me off to Australia, where I spent a few years on various projects with different clients. I wrote the compiler and IDE for a fourth generation language (4GL), at a company called BBJ in Melbourne. "Today," their language, demanded deep understanding of the inner workings of a system, and I think these first years have stood me in good stead. Typically short staffed, the company pushed people to become familiar with many jobs, and I was grateful for that effort, for I honed my technical skills at their expense. But I did feel that my career wasn't going anywhere in Melbourne.

In early 1989, I joined Raj Vattikuti's CBSI (now Covansys), as one of their first employees. It was so very different in those days, from what they are today, with over 4,000 employees! My extensive systems programming background was put to good use, as I was put on projects with clients such as McDonnell-Douglas, where again I worked on another 4GL, called Pro IV. From there, I moved on to develop applications for the banking industry. One of my first projects was for the First National Bank of Chicago(now a part of BankOne), where I led the development of a lockbox application. This solution helped the bank automate the high-transaction process of registering incoming checks, imaging them and reading them for various data. This was my first exposure to developing a business solution and it gave me a new perspective on how to use technology to achieve competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In the early1990s, I was assigned to a systems integration project at IBM, which was my first exposure to Big Blue, which I still rank as one of the best places to work. In 1994, IBM hired me, and I moved to Columbus, Ohio.. In 1992, I planned to equip myself with another tech degree, with an M.S. or PhD in computer science. I was once again guided down a different path, this time by Brian O'Keefe, my mentor at IBM who urged me to go for a management degree.

The MBA program at the OSU's Fisher School was a turning point in my life. It opened up fresh perspectives for me and validated my beliefs that there was a significant gap between the business and technology worlds. It also helped me develop the guiding principles that technology for technology's sake is meaningless and the role for technology was as an enabler and a source of competitive advantage. This was also around the time when the Internet was taking off. IBM rechristened its services division to IBM Global Services (IGS). I put my new skills to good use, and quickly, I grew to play at the management level as the Chief Architect of the Business Innovation Services unit and finally to the CTO of this $2 billion division.


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