Monday, June 22, 2009

Inspire Innovation: No Ivory Tower at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley

"At work, my colleagues began to see very vivid changes in me almost immedi- ately, at work I was manifest- ing what I learned ..." Alok Rishi, Class of 2009

No Ivory Tower at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley

By Richard Power

In his presentation on “Transformative Professional Education for Silicon Valley,”
Ray Bareiss, Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley’s Director of Educational Programs and Professor of Practice of Software Engineering and Software Management, shared some outcomes on Silicon Valley’s 375 graduates:

87% of alumni believe their Carnegie Mellon education has provided a competitive advantage
Virtually all have received salary increases; 45% of those were greater than 20%
65% were promoted during the program or after immediately graduation

In articulating the Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley program’s approach, Bareiss stressed lessons learned from cognitive science research:

Active problem solving promotes acquisition of “knowledge to be used”
Realistic learning contexts promote transfer
Knowledge and skills should be taught holistically
Teaching should be “just in time”

Bareiss’ Software Product Definition course exemplifies the approach.

Students are divided into faculty-coached teams, given a half-baked idea from “management” and tasked to develop it, using real-world techniques and processes, including:

Conduct Contextual Inquiry interviews
Model user and customer behavior
Perform persona- and scenario-based design
Derive high-level requirements and define the “whole product’
Document the result in a product vision document

To provide the audience with flesh and blood testimony to the strengths of the program, Bareiss turned the microphone over to one of campus’ 144 current students Alok Rishi, who will soon be graduating with an M.S. in Software Management.

“I had Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, I wasn’t particularly looking to get an MBA, but I heard about this program, which is to me like an accelerated BA tailored for Silicon Valley, and more specifically for the software industry. It gives you a complete end to end view of conceiving a software product or technology idea, innovating it, bringing that innovation to the market, building a company out of it, and running and growing that company, with all the people dynamics and technology dynamics around it. But the ongoing experience was not, ‘Wait until I graduate and then apply it.’

"At work, my colleagues began to see very vivid changes in me almost immediately, at work I was manifesting what I learned, in two forms: I was assuming more of a leadership role, being much more comfortable in a larger people dynamics type of way, and also I had moved away from being sort of being in a silo and spreading out to harness innovation more broadly within Sun and from the industry. So it lead to profound transformative changes within, but it also resulted in my career taking off like a hockey puck. So I progressed from Software Engineer to Senior Engineer in the last year and a half to Principle Engineer, Chief Technologist and Director at Sun. A couple of months ago, I left Sun and started my own company.”

Rishi’s company, Megha Software, is an early stage software technology start-up that accelerates the adoption of cloud computing by Enterprises. It enables thousands of existing enterprise applications to move seamlessly into private/public clouds as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), radically changing software distribution, use, management, and economics for the Enterprise.