It was a very interesting and new experience for me to visit the Developer Kick-Off Meeting (DKOM) at SAP earlier this week. The entire India office was there for this developers summit, that aims to showcase some amazing software codes to improve the world and make it a better place.
There were some amazing personalities who graced DKOM this year - an Executive Board member who is a technology geek, the CTO of SAP who has made every Indian proud with his success on the global stage, the founder of IIM - Bangalore, Mr. K.V. Kamath (the current Chairman of Infosys and the former CEO of ICICI Bank), Chetan Bhagat, Kailash Kher with a live performance et al. The invitee list with such luminaries is just another certification of the diversity that SAP truly believes in and the values that we pick up from each other's diverse backgrounds. I even remember overhearing that our 37-year old MD takes hours and hours in recruiting people, just to ensure that there is minimum duplication and repetitiveness in terms of similar people joining SAP etc. I guess, that just showed in DKOM as well. And yes, I got to meet the MD for a few minutes and it was nice to say hello to him! Imagine, a 37-year old MD of the second biggest R & D centre (India), of the world’s no.1 applications software company! Incidentally, he was just voted as a Youth World Leader by the World Economic Forum 10 days ago…! Inspirational!!
For me, the 3 highlights of DKOM were as follows - the keynote session by Prof. N.S. Raghavan (the founder of IIM-B), Vishal Sikka's keynote address as the CTO of SAP, and the incredible DEMOJAM. Prof. Ramaswamy is 87 years' old, a Padmabhushan winner. Incredible speech, fantastic control of the mind at that age, amazing clarity of thought, very obvious awareness of the world, and well-rounded knowledge of the modern generation thinks. He talked of world affairs, animal welfare, technology, sports, IT, BT, Shilpa Shetty, Indian history, Indian culture, why we are relevant in this modern age when many countries are disintegrating, how politics and sports are killing our country's growth, why karma and doing your job to the best of your ability is the fundamental thing in life, why commitment is important, how he has come to admire SAP and its numerous initiatives outside of software etc.
Incredible speech, that had all of us in splits almost throughout the 40 minutes that he spoke. And he received a very automatic standing ovation....and very well-deserved too. The man sure did demonstrate that his knowledge and experience was immensely worthy as far as his winning the Padmabhushan goes. Most of all, he talked about intelligence - inspiration and why it is important to have inspiration in life!
Coming to Vishal Sikka, SAP’s CTO. I think the man evokes respect, admiration and inspiration for all of us and his success has clearly demonstrated that it is possible for every Indian to reach global heights in professional life. His ability to very easily disintegrate complex, technical things into very simple English, is what has endeared to me to him the most, in the 4 years that I have been with SAP. For such a complex software that is challenged by emerging technologies and competitors, I am amazed to see how he is able to talk so simplistically about the newer paradigms in the software world and why/how SAP is driving that change. Incredible man, who is admired even by foreigners for his ability to explain SAP's technology to all and sundry, in the manner that they need to understand it. And remember, he is a geek (holds a P.hd in Computer Science from Stanford University!).
Perhaps, I had no expectation from K.V. Kamath and that is why I did not find him particularly insightful or inspiring. Maybe, also because, I know a lot about the man, given my upbringing in a banking family! Yet, KVK told all of us about how the technological revolution in ICICI Bank helped create the kind of financial services giant that ICICI Bank is today.
And then, it was DEMOJAM. While I have heard speeches from eminent people in SAP in the past, I had never seen DEMOJAM before. It was a very interesting experience to see new ideas in software development and how they are relevant in the modern world. This was a competition, where 6 carefully selected teams get to present in front of the entire SAP house in India about their ideas on innovation, new areas of product development and practical application of such ideas. There is a panel of judges that comments on the technical viability and business value of these ideas along with a very noisy crowd that votes for the best ideas in a chorus! The higher the chorus, the better chance a team has to win the contest!
Some of the ideas were incredibly unique.
The ideas that I saw were - creating mobile help alerts for delayed flights (Khelfish), how to find out the best deal in the market (deal dashboard), Genii (an expert system to solve customer queries in maintenance teams, real-time), translating customer queries and software code (including comments) in multiple languages, location based services (how much revenues and quantity n LA for a specific product vs. other regions etc). I found the concept of the DEMOJAM unique, with excitable crowd participation, a great platform to showcase fantastic ideas, a very interesting host, a super buoyant crowd and a fine winner (Genii!).
Last, but not the least, it was Chetan Bhagat, as a part of the Leadership Talk Series. I guess it is quite easy for all of us in this age group to relate to his story, given that he is from our generation and has spent his time in the competitive education market and then in the corporate world. Perhaps, my takeaway from his interview was one big line he made in between a bunch of jokes, when he said, 'Somewhere down the line, I started believing in myself'. I think that is a tremendous virtue and something I keep telling myself again and again, because, that is the fundamental thing for professional success. Everything else is external.
In all, a great experience in DKOM. Of course, I spent almost an entire day with a fun-loving German, as much of an oxymoron as it may sound. It was good to spend quality time with him and exchange ideas on our respective cultures and also learn about his experiences in India. He knew the existence of Holi and has visited far more places in India than any Indian would have. Had some very sensible conversations with him as well! I should try and meet more people from different walks of life, more often...it is a sure way of shaping my personality and improving my perspective in life.