IOUG Member SpotlightJoin IOUG each month as we shine the spotlight on one of our members. Learn fun facts about what inspires our members, what they do for fun and how they got started in their careers.
September 2017 -John Kanagaraj
What's your current job and title?
I am a Senior Data Architect in PayPal’s Core Data Platform. My job involves a variety of tasks including formulating and materializing strategic database deployment architecture (Oracle and NoSQL), creating and sustaining database patterns for hosting scalable, secure and functional applications serving millions of PayPal users 24x7x365.
What is your favorite moment of your career so far?
There are too many favorite moments in my long career, but they invariably cluster around two activities: One set is the “aha” moments that I encounter personally that enable a breakthrough in tough fire-fights or solving complicated technical issues. (On further contemplation, I believe these moments are the result of applying both the depth and width of learning that comes from a curious and persistent nature, validating my firm belief that I need to remain curious and learn something every day!) The other type of moments occur when I mentor a colleague or friend and they encounter the same type of “aha” moment because I was able to guide them to realize it by themselves.
What was your childhood dream job?
I always wanted to be an Air Force fighter pilot but an early onset of short-sightedness put a quick end to that dream. I then focused my energies on becoming an Engineer and finally landed in a computer related job at a campus interview, and here I am 30+ years later!
How long have you been a member of IOUG? What's your best experience thus far?
I have been associated with IOUG for almost 20 years now – I first started out as an associate member in 1998 by signing up as a “Tip Miner” when I was working in Brunei Shell Petroleum on the exotic island of Borneo. We were provided with IOUG Live papers that we read and “mined” for standalone tips that were then published to members via various forums. Later, when I emigrated to the US in 2000, I spoke at IOUG Live 2002 and that paper was published as an article in the IOUG SELECT Journal. The then-Executive Editor Paul Dorsey offered me a position in the SELECT Journal board and I served on this board in various capacities until 2015. As for the best experience, it has been when I helped put together my first SELECT Journal as the Executive Editor and realized that I can reach and help all IOUG members (and beyond) with geeky Oracle stuff via this vehicle. I also look forward to the experiences at the yearly IOUG COLLABORATE conferences, meeting old friends and making new ones while learning new things at the conference all day.
What advice do you wish someone had given you when you first started your career as a technologist?
I wish someone prescient would warned me about the extensive role that technology (not just database technology) would play in the world and the rate at which it would change. Such a warning would have helped me prepare better to respond proactively rather than reactively.
What features or products are on your wish list and why?
My latest geek-out technology is “Machine Learning” (ML) which forms the basis for “Artificial Narrow Intelligence” (ANI). I used the word Narrow to differentiate it from Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) which is broad, comprehensive and human-like with the ability to learn and act beyond its scope (scary!). ANI currently powers Google Translate, self-driving cars, and Voice based systems such as Siri, Cortana and Amazon Dot/Echo and much more. At the same time, there are various initiatives such as Neuralink (Brain Machine Interface) and advances in Robotics and Exoskeletons that indicate the beginning of AGI. We would be wise to heed Elon Musk’s recent advice on understanding the implications of such technologies and creating appropriate regulations. The rate of change in this sector is accelerating rapidly and I am looking forward to AGI soon helping humanity in a positive way. (For a technology comparison, the first recorded and sustained flight in an aircraft was in 1903. Flight technology advanced rapidly, enabling humans to safely visit the moon in 1969, within a span of 66 years. Imagine how computing technology that really started in the late 70’s and early 80’s could change the future in the next 10, 20 or 30 years). Everything starts small though – In my case, I am trying to develop a ML based system to scan Oracle AWR data to learn patterns and correlate the hundreds of different Wait events and Statistics to predict when we need to pay attention to a particular vector or correlation.
What is the biggest technical and/or business challenge you have faced, and how did you overcome it?
There have been many micro-challenges along my journey but I would like to talk about a macro-challenge that I faced recently: For the past 4 years, I have been working with various NoSQL products and onboarding and maturing them within a large organization. I recently spoke on these challenges – both organizational and technical - at Couchbase Connect 2017 conference. This was recorded and is available on YouTube here.
How do you stay active? How did you discover that activity?
I believe firmly in “Mens sana in corpore sano” (i.e. "a healthy mind in a healthy body"). Physical exercise is an important or essential part of mental and psychological well-being – I regularly make time to exercise (keeps the blood flowing) and read widely and deeply on various topics (keeps the mind focused and active).
What's your favorite film? Any memorable moments? Any favorite quotes?
“Saving Private Ryan” is a favorite. On the surface, it is a gory war movie - for me though, it is a story of dedication, sacrifice, management, leadership, human failure, friendship and empathy. Memorable moments include the exchange between Gen. Marshall and his subordinates when they find out that three out of four brothers in one family died within a few days of each other and Marshall wants to rescue and return the last brother. There are too many good quotes from that movie to write down here!
What piques your passion in technology?
I firmly believe that technology is a major force in the world, and that we can (and should) harness it both effectively and efficiently for the benefit of all mankind as well as every other living thing in this world. My current job in PayPal is enabling just that – I am part of an organization that is changing the world of FinTech (Financial Technology), making it easier to pay and manage money for everyone. That realization and my determination to use my skills and knowledge and experience to make the world a better place is the force behind my passion for technology.