Thursday, March 17, 2011

From Oracle India to SDM

By Cody Ned Romano
Photo by Kathy Tarantola Photography

Farrah Tazyeen grew up in Hyderabad, India, a city that Lonely Planet dubbed "Cyberabad" because of its booming IT industry. "My state, Andhra Pradesh, has seen tremendous growth in the previous decade because of technology. I myself have been part of that growth, working in and benefiting from India's booming IT sector," said Tazyeen.

Before she joined MIT's System Design and Management Program (SDM), she worked as a technical consultant for Oracle, helping to develop a system that monitored the disassembly, disposition and reassembly of parts during the overhaul process of aircrafts on the runway. Thanks to the module developed by her team, air marshals were able to reduce the time they spent in the position monitoring from seven days down to just five minutes by seamless integration of various modules into a single user interface.

To organize this and other complex projects, Tazyeen leveraged systems thinking. When starting to develop software, she separated code into sections according to functionality, starting with the largest and most complex parts. Within each part, she identified various interconnected subsystems. Often in this view, the concerns of business and engineering overlapped: how would each line of code impact, for example, the company's overall business flow?

"I had been looking for a master's program that would allow me to continue my involvement on the technical front, while expanding my knowledge of management," Tazyeen said. "SDM is unique because it offers students a hybrid combination of technical and strategic challenges."

In 2006, she earned her B. Eng. with honors in electronics and instrumentation from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani, which became a national university in 1964 with MIT's technical assistance. Shortly after graduating from BITS, Tazyeen went to work for Oracle.

Technical consulting challenged her to multitask. Although Tazyeen worked principally for one consulting project, she needed to make herself available to respond to service requests at any time; day and night, her cell phone rang. As Tazyeen became more senior, she coordinated multiple projects simultaneously, guiding clients in areas such as accounting, taxation and supply chain management.

While consulting work often drew upon Tazyeen's technical background and expertise in the IT industry, it also leveraged her passion for public speaking. When she addressed clients from countries like Korea, she used translators, many of whom had little technical knowledge and sometimes struggled to echo back her speeches. Nevertheless, Tazyeen welcomed these meetings as a chance to find new ways of communicating, and even involved her colleagues in this pursuit by organizing Toastmasters sessions at Oracle.

Coming from the software industry, Tazyeen says that SDM courses have introduced her to peers from different fields whose experiences in system architecting correlate to her own. Lectures on product development and innovation encourage her to ask the question: how can we make innovations in technology more widely accessible?

After graduating from SDM, Tazyeen will use her enhanced systems thinking perspective to develop better IT products, and she hopes to make these products more widely accessible to consumers, particularly in developing regions of India.

"Technology has not yet benefited everyone — but it can. I would like to contribute somehow to India's grassroots technologies."

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