Contributed by Subhash Verghese G‘01
Executive Director HR Technology and Information Strategy, Comcast Cable
I fell in love with SU sitting in the lounge at Schine looking out across University Place. It was a gorgeous spring day, and I was visiting a friend at SU. I was ready to take the next step in life but not quite sure what I wanted to do. Work? More school? Here I was, back in the West, a few years out of engineering school in India where I had lived for the last few decades and now on my way back to my Canadian birthplace. I knew I didn’t want to do more Electronics Engineering; I loved the technology, but it seemed too far away from the human side of things. Maybe a Master’s in Computer Science and an MBA? Then a dear friend of mine at SU mentioned a program that he’d heard about – “…it’s like a combination of technology and management”. Intriguing. Information management was well-established by then, but for me it was so novel — until then, I’d only thought of it in terms of computers.
A few fascinating conversations later, waiting in the lounge for my friend to finish class, I put down the brochure for the Information Resources Management program and looked out. I still remember how I felt. “This is it.”
When I started school in September, I found out how much more than just a combination of technology and management it was – it was about information. I loved the tech and the aspects of management and leadership, but the program showed me the core of what fascinated me: the data, the information and the knowledge that made our new economy run. Though computing was already well embedded in the household, it was really the early days of the consumerization of information at scale.
There couldn’t have been a more exciting time to work with some of the greatest thought leaders in the field at the (then) IRM program, to see so many of key events that defined how we shop and consume information today.
I saw the dawn of e-commerce and the boom and bust of the dotcoms – a friend and I spoke of starting a website JUST FOR SOCKS – socks.com was still available. (“Who’s going to buy socks on-line?”, “Pets.com? Great business model”)
I remember telling people about this new search engine called Google. (“Silly name and how are they going to make money?”)
I was one of the last generations of students to spend nights sifting through print copies of academic journals in the library. (“Man, I wish libraries could be open 24×7”)
I saw how we consumed digital content changed. (“I can download just a song? What’s Netflix?”)
It was at the iSchool that I had the fortune of meeting some of the people who had the biggest impacts on my life and my perspective on Information. From my very first class with Professor Garcia-Murillo (“Subhash, how long will you call me ‘Professor’”?– sorry Martha!) to my very last with Professor MacInnes (Ian!) and all the amazing guides in between, they shared wisdom that still holds true. Bob Heckman will laugh at how hard we opposed the “Economics of Information” course, but now in an information economy, it turned out to be one of the most valuable. We groaned under the of “Research Methods for Information,” but today, in an age of disinformation, I am armed with the tools to assess data. When today, in my position at one of the biggest media and telecom companies, I debate data privacy and information access rights, I still draw from Professor Muller’s policy class. And yes, though interfaces have wildly improved, the architectural fundamentals of information that Jeff Rubin taught me still haven’t.