IBM Fellows

Fellows are the standard-bearers for IBM’s technical and scientific leadership

Shankar Kalyana

  • CTO, Cloud
  • IBM Global Business Services
  • BS Math & Physics, Madura College, Madurai
  • MS Information Science, Penn State University

Shankar has worked for IBM in the US and India, where he has driven billions of dollars in impact in solutions for cities, banks, automotive and other industries. The Personalized Learning on Cloud solution his team built is now delivering cognitive-computing-generated education for students.

In his own words

Shankar Kalyana

… on almost joining IBM in 1985

Due to political upheaval in 1970s India, “multinational companies” (called MNCs then), including IBM, picked up and left the country. So, in 1985, my first IT job as a systems analyst was with Computer Maintenance Company (CMC), a company formed from the remnants of IBM in India. The three years I worked at CMC were my most formative years in IT. But in a strange twist, on that first day in 1985, I met the person who would eventually point me to IBM. Ram Viswanathan also interviewed with CMC, and was leaving his interview as I was coming in for mine.

Ram and I worked together for some time in CMC. And we kept up with each other over the years. Fast-forward to the year 2000 when Ram, who had left CMC years before and is an IBM Distinguished Engineer now, encouraged me to join IBM in the Architecture & Technology Practice, a part of Global Business Services. I’ve been at IBM since. But in a way, I’ve been around IBMers and inculcated in IBM culture for longer.

… on bringing cognitive to education — via the cloud

In 2014, one of our large clients saw an opportunity to drive a new market after watching a demonstration of our Personalized Learning technology. The solution, targeted toward Tier-2 school districts, gives teachers a content and data hub to develop personalized learning roadmaps, and targeted improvement options for students, based on their individual performance.

We created the first-of-a-kind solution offering as a scalable cloud solution called Personalized Learning on Cloud (PLoC), in an as-a-service model. I led the development of the technical and delivery models for translating the personalized learning assets into a solution that teachers in the classroom can use. To date, hundreds of students in Texas and Florida use this service.

… on motivating and mentoring his colleagues, newly hired or veteran

I like to understand people’s motivations, aspirations and aptitudes first — and above all, what they are really passionate about. With fresher or young talent, my message is to learn everything, don’t try to get too focused too soon. You never know what you may actually end up developing a passion for. With experienced professionals, there is an opportunity to be more specific and tailor a path for them.

With some of my mentees, I like to have them work with me in client settings — which are always the best labs to learn in, on the planet — so I can better guide them in applying nuanced and contextual problem solving.

… on good advice he still follows today

One bit of advice I follow is from Tom Mowery, a consultant I worked with in one of my early projects (which happened to be another education effort, this time with the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency). He always told me: “Don’t chase specific technologies, but instead look for the value each brings and how that can be applied for business and societal use.”

My wife has also taught me the value of focus and being decisive when the rest of the world is nebulous.

… on what he’s reading right now

I just started Sam Newman’s Building Microservices. But for leisure, I’m reading David Baldacci’s latest, The Guilty.

Share this page: