This edition of our GTS Labs #IBMLeaderSpeak Series features, Arun Hampapur, who leads the Cognitive Technology Services Platform as the Director and DE of Engineering and Integration for GTS Labs. In this article, Arun, talks about the “start-up” work culture at IBM and shares, how joining IBM accelerated his success and how he has been able to do work that matters to IBM, our clients and the world at large. For students and professionals who want to make an impact in the Cognitive Era, Arun has a message on #WhyIBM Why #GTSLabs.
Arun is an alumnus of JCE Mysore; he graduated in Electronics & Communication and refers to himself as a home grown computer engineer. Arun did his Masters in Computer Engineering from Louisiana State and later attained a PhD from Michigan. He fondly shares the good times he had hanging around with the “bad boys” in school and though he did well in academics, he wasn’t really the ‘tech geeks’ types and back then – it was an adventure all along. Talking about his move from the west coast to the east, Arun says he found a good home in IBM having joined the organization in 1997
Tell us more about your educational background, your early career and what keeps you motivated…
When I was at JCE – the college had bought a new computer and the professors had no idea how to program it. One of the professors reached out to me and one more student, and asked us to figure out what to do with it – and we did – we ended up building one of the first speech recognition systems back in 1989. The point I want to make is, you need to know your code and any piece of knowledge that can change something; you don’t quite need to be an expert to start – it is important to be able to get in and do the work. So, while you are at college find a way to enjoy what you learn. The key to success is the ability to admit what you don’t know. In that sense, I feel I am truly gifted that I don’t know much – that makes me strive to learn and know more.
What has impacted your career most at IBM?
In the year 2015, I worked on “Commerce Hybrid Solutions” – this was an e-commerce optimization solution that solved a big challenge that the retail industry faced. The year 2015 was a tipping point for the US retail industry with millions of people choosing to shop online instead of going to retail stores. The retailers saw their margins dipping as their supply chain was designed for customers who would pay for their own transport, drive to the store, select and pickup the products, where as in e-Commerce the retailer bears the last mile costs. Our solution nailed this challenge and the client signed a full production deal for this commerce product later in 2016. This project gave me the opportunity to team up with some amazing scientists, data & analytics SMEs around New York and the overall experience had a great impact on my career at IBM.
I also had the opportunity to work on many Smart Cities projects and some of the very interesting offerings from IBM. Once such was the water management project where we partnered with Washington DC’s Water and Sewer Agencies, studied their pipes for failures. The solution that we finally built was a predictive maintenance solution for water infrastructure and similar such problems. For those of you who have read about the Cauvery water issue – the problem we face is the same – water lost in transit in Bangalore.
Yet another project that made a great impact on my career was on Predictive Crime for the City of Fort Lauderdale. Our solution involved the use of big data patterns and cognitive techniques to produce insights and predictive models to arrive at solutions. And it so turned out that the underlying technology for predicting the failure of pipes and predicting the occurrence of crime are not that different!
The secret to innovation is working on real life problems that our customers and societies at large face. At IBM, I got to do just that – working closely with clients to understand their challenges, building innovative solutions and finally productizing the solutions. Building products that are valuable to the markets – that’s what good start-ups do and I got to do that at IBM.
How did IBM help accelerate your success?
My journey with IBM started at the Watson Research Center – I joined the Computer Vision Group and my first startup within IBM was for video security. We were a team of five and we partnered with government officials from Chicago to build a product called “intelligent video analytics” that helped search data from hundreds of cameras and video feeds. So, this product that was born at research then went to be a GTS solution asset, later moved to the Software Group and now is a part of the Analytics business. Check it out!
What is unique about IBM is the tremendous knowledge base that is available for an individual to further build on. I had this great opportunity to work with the NYPD in the shadow of 9/11 on a key project and collaborate with some of very prominent people. When I think about the work we are doing at the GTS Labs, I feel we are exactly on the same trajectory.
How is the GTS Labs poised to change the world?
The GTS Labs is a means to an end and is at the heart of where we really need to go. Enterprise IT and consumer IT are on two entirely different levels from a consumability and usability perspective. For e.g. , I can get all kinds of stuff going on my iPhone with nobody’s help. However, the minute I walk into a company and try to configure my work email on my phone – it’s such a big thing. Why?
The GTS Labs is working to resolve the “Why”. At the GTS Labs, we are enabling enterprises to move their IT delivery to the level of consumer IT. And we are doing this using cognitive technologies. To make an iPhone / Apple experience for every enterprise IT capability that gets consumed – is the vision for GTS labs.
And finally your message to students and professionals on #WhyIBM
At IBM, we are always focused on solving problems for our customers and real life problems – and all innovation flows in from there. Life at IBM teaches you to work with people from different backgrounds and cultures and collaborate with global teams; that makes you not only a better professional, but a better person as well – diversity & inclusion is at the heart of IBM’s culture.
It’s an honor to work for a company like IBM. You may want to read about IBM’s 100 icons of progress and you wouldn’t take much time to realize that this is an amazing organization – that’s #WhyIBM that’s why #GTSLabs.
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