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Rajesh Ramaswamy
Rajesh Ramaswamy

Rajesh Ramaswamy

Practice Head - BI/DW/ Analytics

Marlabs Inc.

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The Journey - Early Days to How I Got Here
I completed my graduation (ostensibly in Engineering and Science, but really in Shakespeare and bridge!) from BITS, Pilani and joined what was then called CITIL (later iflex, now Oracle Financial Services). After more than 6 years there, at a time when private insurance firms were taking baby steps in India, I got a great opportunity to build a green-field DWH system for TATA AIG. A couple of years down the line, the entrepreneurial cravings took over and I joined iLink a “start-up-ish” company started by BITS alumni. A combination of personal and professional needs took me to Marlabs from there, where we were building a BI team from scratch. And there I have been ever since – for about 5 and a half years now.

Decisions That Mattered
I think the shift to TATA AIG and Marlabs were the most important decisions; the former because I got to see the world from the end-user perspective and the latter because I was increasingly having to make a choice between being a generalist at iLinkor going back to be a specialist at Marlabs. I started my career in DWH-BI and been faithful ever since; despite the occasional flirtations.
Turning Points
I think there were three important ones. The first was my CITIL/iflex/OFSS experience – where I had exposure to a wide variety of roles – in both product development and project services, across the entire SDLC, client implementations, even SQA.

The second was the movement to TATA AIG. There I was reporting to the head of marketing and helping build a marketing analytics solution. That gave me an end user perspective – a service receiver, rather than a service provider.

The third was, of course, the Marlabs switch that allowed me to look at a more holistic picture – people, marketing, sales, finance, pre-sales, practice, delivery – the whole hog!
Work & Role: Then and Now
I think over time it is important to be able to see an ever larger picture when solving a specific problem. Initially it was all about how my code would do what it was supposed to do; then is became how that functionality would fit into a module and then the system and then the organization; maybe the industry; how the code can be an organizational framework; how it can probably help build IP; how can its benefits be measured; how can it provide RoI; how it can be a marketing asset; how it can help accelerate a new project.
Few Years Down the Line
Probably on a Goan beach; I hope!

If I am still working, what I would like to be doing is building innovative solutions and offerings that we can proactively take to the market rather than reactively servicing business problems.
What I Learnt Along the Way
Several! My top 2 are off the top of my head:

• To be successful, you need to be passionate about what you do
• We are in a people industry – surround yourself with people who are better than you!

Has BI Evolved?
Fundamentally!

If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say that the focus (in mature areas) when I started was on diagnostics, now the focus is on prognostics. Tomorrow, business is going to expect your BI tools to be working as a crystal ball.

DW-BI is an area that has evolved very rapidly in the last 10 years and if Rip Van Winkle woke up today after a 10-15 year siesta, he would not recognize BI as he knew it then. Keeping in touch with what is going on around you is an absolute must.
Trends to Watch Out For
Marlabs sponsored a conference on “Emerging trends in BI” last month in Trivandrum. I think most of the leading trends were covered (or alluded to) there. They included Predictive Analytics, Big Data, Mobile BI, Social BI and Advanced Visualizations. The other areas that we wanted to cover (but could not, due to constraints of time and resources) included real time BI, embedded BI, cloud BI, self-service BI etc.

We are tracking almost all of the above, especially Predictive Analytics, Big Data, Mobile BI and Cloud BI.
My Advice if You are Starting Out
Focus on the fundamentals and not the tools. Any tool can be picked up in a few weeks, but the fundamentals serve you for a lifetime. You know, teach a man to fish versus giving him a fish story and all that.

Also, BI is probably the only technology field that is more about business and less about technology. It will pay to remember that.
Must Focus Areas in the BI Domain
If I had to place my bets, I would put my money on Data Scientists, Predictive Analytics Professionals and Visualization Engineers.
Do We Need Certifications?
I think certifications may be useful for acquiring tool specific skills. I am personally not a big fan, but some people learn more with a certification target at the end. So, whatever works for each, I guess.

However, there are more than enough resources available on the net, both for theoretical and practical learning. The only popular non-tool specific certification is probably the CBIP.
Books/ Websites I Recommend
That is a question I have been asked more often than any other; here is the answer I gave way back in 2008 (http://www.beyeblogs.com/rajeshr/archive/2008/07/). Most of that is still valid, especially the last sentence: “… nothing can replace someone actually sitting with you for some time and walking you through an introduction; assuming you subsequently follow up by actually working on a project to implement what you have learnt.”
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