When I started this blog, I registered for Google AdWords. I wasn't expecting to make any money out of it but figured it would do no harm. That is, I felt comfortable allowing Google advertisements since I understood they would be targetted to match the content of my blog.
And so, to date, it has proved.
When I post about my investment antics or muse on economics, then adverts for stock brokers appear. When I comment on WebSphere then adverts for WebSphere training appear. It's really quite uncanny.
A particular advert caught my attention today: it mentioned Siebel. It took me a while to remember that I had commented briefly on Oracle's acquisition. As I say, it's most impressive. However, the act of thinking about Siebel (and my inability to figure out how Google seemingly knew so much about one of my recent engagements!) reminded me that I never answered the question of "what is it that I actually do?"
My job title is Senior IT Specialist. However, that simply means that I have reached a particular level in the IBM IT Specialist Profession (and have gained the right to become a chartered member of the British Computer Society and a Member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers). It does not, you will note, explain what I do.
To explain that, we need to dig a little deeper.
I work for an organisation known as IBM Software Services for WebSphere.
It is our job to help WebSphere customers be successful. Now that could mean a lot of things - and it does.
Within this broad remit, I work in the Process Integration space. That means I worry about how to help customers model their business processes, how to monitor them and how to optimise them. That is: a typical engagement may involve sitting down with somebody in a client's line of business (i.e. not necessarily in the IT department) and figure out what, exactly, it is that they do. The idea is to understand how an organisation performs a particular behaviour. Once we have done this, we can model it, automate it where it makes sense and then seek to optimise it.
What would an example of this be?
I recently did some work for an auto manufacturer who, like most, builds long-term relationships with customers through finance deals. A customer will perhaps pay a deposit, a regular monthly payment and then perhaps a sum to own the car (or simply hand it back). A tricky question for auto companies is that some of these customers will turn out to be fantastic (they pay on time, in full, bought lots of optional extras) and some of them will be terrible (missed payments, abandoned vehicles, ...) and there will be some in the middle.
How do we encourage the good customers to stay loyal (e.g. by inviting them to evening drinks and other special events as their renewal date approaches) whilst avoiding continuing a relationship with the degenerates? Furthermore, how can we automate this and how do we deal with the "middling" customers who may have a special case. The solution lies in a mixture of business and technical considerations.
My role is to walk clients through the business questions right down into the deep technical implementation details. These details can include installing our software, architecting solutions, developing solutions and debugging them (my background is mathematics, computer science and I started my career in the IBM Hursley Lab so the deep techy is always trying to jump out of its box ;-) )
It is in this intersection of business savvy and technological expertise that I am able to add value and it makes for some fascinating engagements.