Tell me about yourself and what you're currently working on...
I am in my 40s and a bit of a geek - I love technology (I wish I was at CES last week), aircraft and cars. I've worked in the Retail, Automotive, Photographic, Military and Logistics industries before my career in IT - all of which I think helps me relate to customers better. These days, as part of the Industry Business Partner Technical Strategy Enablement (IBPTSE - yes, I am not a fan of the name either) team I am focused on three industries: Telecom, Media & Entertainment and Energy & Utilities although I spend most of my time on Telecom.
Our team is dedicated to making sure IBM's Business Partners in those target industries are successful with using IBM technology - predominantly the WebSphere family of software. We cover all types of partners, although usually they are:
Independent Software Vendors (ISV) - we are often called in to assist with enablement on WebSphere products, helping the partner to evaluate our software as a platform for their software and figuring out the right strategic direction for them with respect to our software products. Some that I have worked with include Soprano (who recently became a validated partner in our Telecom solution framework - Service Provider Delivery Environment - SPDE), eMagine and Digital Water.
System Integrators (SI) - I spend most of my time supporting these partners - if they're new to our software, I help them with the technical elements of selling the solution - that may even include doing the architecture, providing training, writing proposals in conjunction with the partner. At Globe Telecom, we partnered with Nokia Siemens Networks Consulting Services team and jNetX to win the business. Since this was the first time NSN had worked with IBM software I did a significant amount of work on the architecture and making sure that NSN got it right (technically). On subsequent projects with NSN, they have been much more self sufficient - which is really what we want to happen.
Network Equipment Providers (NEPs) - are a special category of business partner for us - they're quite different to IBM's typical partner and are very Telco specific. I personally have worked quite closely with Huawei in China to conduct interoperability tests between IBM's Telecom software and Huawei's components. This included testing WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Presence Server, WebSphere IMS Connector and XML Document Managers Interaction with Huawei's IMS Core components. Since we added a China based team member - Xie Tong - my involvement with NEPs has dropped off and Tong handles most of that work.
The whole ASEAN region seems to be a hotbed of Telco activity at the moment. I am working with customers and partners in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. That's occupying most of my time as well as some personal development tasks. Naturally, I need to spend some time on my internal and external blogs and mentoring activities (I have two mentees) .
How did you get started in IT?
I've been in the IT industry since 1994 but was a geek long before that - way back in 1983, I got my first computer, a Microbee (an Australian Z80 based computer with a whole 32K of memory!) which I used to write all my school essays and reports. In 1994 when I finally finished my degree part time at Monash University in Melbourne (Australia), I got a job with the Victorian Auditor General's Office - where I started using IBM technology. I deployed Lotus cc:Mail, Lotus Organizer Group Calendar and Lotus Notes 3.0. We were the first Notes 3.0 site in Australia using the Windows NT platform. I recall the server shipping on 16 floppy disks!
From there I moved into a local IBM Business partner doing Notes/Domino work, then into an international IBM Business Partner (Software Spectrum) continuing down the Notes/Domino path. While I was there, I established a close relationship with IBM locally and internationally becoming one of the leading experts in Asia Pacific on what was then SecureWay Host Integration products (Host on Demand, Host Publisher, Screen Customizer, PComm) - those products ended up under the WebSphere brand and when I joined IBM nearly 10 years ago, I was hired into the brand - forgoing all my Lotus history. Since joining IBM, I have had the pleasure of being closely involved in some bleeding edge products and projects. I established myself in the Australia/New Zealand WebSphere team as the guy that looked after all the non-core products. That meant I had to cover things like WebSphere Portal (from V1!), WebSphere speech products, pervasive computing products like WebSphere Everyplace and the WebSphere embedded technology.
Now that I think about it, I have been involved with a lot of significant IBM technology very early in its life.
WebSphere Portal - since V1
Eclipse - which stared out life as Edgelets within WEA in 2002
J9 JVM which stared out as our embedded JVM and is now the basis for all JVMs in IBM
WebSphere Application Server V3
Lotus Notes V3.0 (on a Win32 platform)
Not all of the technology I have worked with has been so significant for IBM. Some of these technologies live on, but plenty are now pushing up daisies. It's still been fun.
I think experiencing IBM from the point of view of a customer, a partner and as an IBMer has given me valuable insight into our partners and customers which has helped me on the way.
Tell me about one of your favorite IT projects you've worked on.
That's tricky - obviously successful projects figure highly when I think back, but there have been a few where we have been unsuccessful, but the challenges have been tougher and they rate quite highly too. If I put my sales hat on, I would probably say Globe Telecom's Service Delivery Platform has been very rewarding - I was the architect for that and it has proven really successful for Globe and for IBM. While I continue to be heavily involved at Globe and am very proud of what we have achieved there, probably my favourite project was from a few years ago - we were trying to win a deal with Telstra in Australia for a multi-channel portal. A project that lost its executive sponsor with a management reshuffle at Telstra, so the whole project just died. We were positioning WebSphere Portal, WebSphere Everyplace Mobile Portal, WebSphere Voice Application Access and WebSphere Voice Server to deliver Telstra's portal to all channels - Web, Mobile Phone (via phone browser) and Voice. It was bleeding edge stuff and I met some good friends in IBM from all corners of the world on that project. We were proposing the use of WVAA to deliver both a Voice Portal with a subset of the same content that visual users would access but also a statistical conversation model to enable a Natural Language interface. Our future plans also included support for a multi-modal interface (using X+V which we demonstrated to Telstra) that mixed voice and visual interfaces to deliver a truly unique user experience. It was a challenge to bring together all of these different technologies and demonstrate them let alone write the proposal. It was a shame to see all that effort go to waste after the Telstra management shuffle, but that is the way this sort of thing goes sometimes. I guess if I am honest, it is those sort of technical challenges that I really enjoy and why I work for IBM.
What's ahead for you in 2010? What new things do you plan on learning?
For now, from a job perspective, it's business as usual. We have some Telco classes coming up in Bangkok and Manila in February (pretty much the same classes that we ran in Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi last year with some small updates). The classes are free for Business Partners - if any partners would like to attend, feel free to contact me and I will let them know how to enroll. I hope to do a bit more work in the Energy & Utilities sector (which will hopefully be reflected in the blog), but that's dependent on the customers and our partners - if they need me or not.
On a more personal note, I plan to do my professional certification (as L2 IT Specialist) and I need to improve my skills with iLog, Telecom Content Pack and WebSphere Business Events, so I will be looking to pick up some deeper skills with those products. I expect the Telco and Energy & Utilities sectors to be quite active this year throughout Asia Pacific so I anticipate another busy year with lots of flying.
How do you use developerWorks?
I often search developerWorks for whitepapers and am often satisfied too! I find developerWorks a tremendous resource for both IBMers and Business Partners as well, so I recommend it often. I point partners to developerWorks downloads to get trial copies of software too. Of course, I also write on my team's blog on My developerWorks, but that is a relatively recent occurrence - I only created the blog at the end of October 2009 - but there are a number of bloggers here that I now regularly follow and I am seeing quite a bit of useful information cropping up within My developerWorks.
What's the most interesting, satisfying, or challenging thing about helping IBM Business Partners and ISVs?
It's funny that you ask that, because for me, job satisfaction and interest is all about the challenges. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be pulling my hair out all day long on ancillary stuff, but interesting technical challenges really does drive job satisfaction for me. I like to think of our business partners as part of my team - which is really the case when we're jointly in front of a customer anyway. I am a firm believer in the need to stretch myself so if I can work with a partner who is equally keen to solve those technical issues, then I am going to be a happy chappy.
What inspired you to start a blog for The Industry Business Partner Technical Strategy Enablement (IBPTSE) team?
I have been blogging internally at IBM for a few years quite erratically. When IBM launched Lotus Connections 2.5 beta through the Technology Access Program, I migrated my old blog to the new environment because it was much more reliable and more stable than the old connections 2.0 based blog central. At that time, within out team we were discussing how we could better share information to other IBMers around the world, so I started a community for our team - that was May 2009. That blog has been humming along with a small but regular readership. Given our team is targeted at Business Partners, it seemed to me a bit silly to only be sharing these blog posts, files bookmarks with IBMers so, I figured My developerWorks would be a good place to extend the reach of our team and provide information to partners that we deal with and those that we don't (but should). If anyone else is interested in what we share then that's a bonus. I have been looking at where the blog traffic is coming from and noticed a few from Google, mostly direct for from My developerWorks, but I did notice that it has been picked up by the smarterplanet team (Sam Palmisano's Smarter Planet speech on the 12th of January) so someone else finds it useful too. I am pretty chuffed about that. :-)
You seem to travel quite a bit. Any survival or productivity tips for fellow IT professionals who travel?
I do get about - lots of overnight or all day flights - that's the thing with living in Australia - the closest country I can go to is New Zealand and that is still three and a half hours flight time. The next closest that I visit is Singapore at seven and a half hours. Most of my work recently has been in ASEAN, although I have also spent quite a bit of time in China and South Korea as well in my current role.
Last year, I only had 60 flights, but was onboard aircraft for 11.7 days and flew 210,593 km. In the past five years, I have flown 1,046,148 km so I guess that classes me as a frequent flyer. The things that work for me (which may not work for everyone) that greatly assist my travel and my productivity are:
- I travel light - hand luggage only - being a Qantas Platinum (OneWorld Emerald) helps there as that gets me two pieces of carry-on instead of the normal one when traveling in economy.
- Shoes are the killer when traveling with only carry-on - I wear the same Bundstone dress boots for work, travel and after hours.
- I hold an APEC Business Traveler card which is effectively a three year visa for 18 of the 21 APEC member nations which gets me priority through most immigration checkpoints so I waste as little time as possible at airports.
- I try to fly on OneWorld airlines mainly so that all my miles are accumulated in a single account rather than having a number of small accounts, I have one large one with Qantas. It also means that come upgrade season (now!) you are more likely to get an operational upgrade (this happens for high status flyers when the economy cabin is full and spare seats in premium economy or business). Trust me, anything you can do to get out of a economy seat for overnight flights is worth doing...
- I depend on my Nokia e71 - enabled with Lotus Traveler, Lotus Mobile Connect, Lotus Sametime. Combined with the browser on the phone, I can get to almost all the IBM internal systems I need while I am out and about. That includes the IBM internal Lotus Connections implementation (I have three internal blogs including a travel blog from which I often post from my phone, then update with photos later).
- Toothpaste in the Philippines is available in 90g tubes - with the 100ml/g restriction for carry on, I now buy my toothpaste in Manila :-) (In Australia, the tubes step from 45g to 120g and 160g)
- I carry a set of Bose Noise canceling headphones - an expensive item, but given the flights I do, justifiable in my mind at least. They wash away all the background noise in a commercial airliner and make flights more bearable.
- I carry eye shades and ear plugs for overnight flights it is the only way I can sleep on a flight. Qantas will give them to you if you ask for them, but the ones I carry are a bit more comfortable - every little bit helps.
How are you using social networking today? What significance does it have in terms of the work you do?
I use a number of social networking tools, some internal to IBM such as Lotus Connections, Socialblue, Cattail and Fringe, but I also use a number of external tools too - including My developerWorks (naturally), Lotuslive Engage, LinkedIn, Facebook, FlightMemory, Tripit, Stumbleupon and Picasa.
Certainly the internal Connections and Catail tools are very important to the way I am able to do my job. The file sharing capability, the blogs, communities of interest, forums and activities all make me more effective at my job - I reckon it saves me four hours per week. Equally, My developerWorks and LotusLive Engage are important tools in collaborating externally with customers and partners on work matters. The other external tools, are not so related to IBM. LinkedIn is quite business and career focused, but I don't get a huge amount of business value out of it other than participating with other industry specialists in some discussions. The others are for my interest or purely social so they don't have any great significance for work.
What publications or websites do you read or visit?
I subscribe to Australian Aviation (been a regular reader since 1977) and (when I can get it) also read KitCar Magazine (UK) but you probably don't care too much about that. In the IT world, I follow:
A number of Fierce Industry newsletters (FierceWireless, FierceTelecom and FierceIPTV)
Plenty of IBM internal newsletters and sites
In your spare time, if you have any, what hobbies or activities interest you?
Spare time... hmmm. Not so much. Spending time with my family, work and travel - that's pretty much me at the moment. I would like to exercise my inner mechanic though and build a kit car - The Raw Striker is probably my ultimate dream machine, but customs duty in Australia make them really expensive :-(. Still, because it is a kit car; I could buy a few bits at a time and spread the cost out a bit more.
- Thanks Andrew!