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Sanjay Raj
Sanjay Raj

Sanjay Raj

Practice Director - BI/DW

Syntel

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My Journey: Early days and My Path to BI
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.
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