I Am Not a Guru

19 March 2014

shutterstock_160676156I am writing this as a sort of protest post. I'm airing some dirty laundry here, but so be it. The truth is this: I hate the fact that the link on our homepage—the one that brings you here to our blog—refers to us blog writers as "gurus."

I just don't like that word. I've sent notes to the powers that be (the people who send me the monthly "you are late with your blog post" email) and tried to explain that I think the word is overused and outdated. I even lied and said that I find it offensive. And yet the word remains.

Maybe I should suggest we change the word to "experts." But while that would accurately label my colleagues, it wouldn’t describe me. Maybe we can change it to "Visit our blog where our experts (and one other annoying guy who asks a lot of questions) share their thoughts.” It might not be as catchy, but it would be more accurate. I'm not really an expert. Sure, I know a thing or two about networking, but I'm still a rookie when it comes to all this defense and military stuff. I'm just lucky enough to be surrounded by real experts—especially our customers.

Asking questions is my thing. I ask a lot of questions—probably a lot of stupid ones. My apologies go out to all the customers I've visited in the last few years. I'm just so fascinated by our customers' applications, and I love to learn about the platforms our customers are building—the planes and tanks and ships that are truly awesome examples of technology.

So what have my stupid questions taught me? Well, one of our customers, upon sensing that I had no idea what the inside of a modern battle tank looked like, proceeded to take me on a tour inside the turret of such a fighting vehicle. He showed me how tight the space was, and I realized that a tank is not a place for the claustrophobic. With great enthusiasm he also showed me how soldiers load the gun or cannon (I have no idea what is the correct technical term), man-handling a highly explosive round—taking it from storage, flipping it over and sliding it into the barrel. Somehow I thought the whole procedure would be automated; I didn’t realize how manual the whole process is. I was also shown the relatively low-tech mechanism soldiers use to see outside the turret—essentially an old-fashioned periscope with lenses and mirrors and such. Soldiers continually look through the periscope to see outside, then down at their computers and then back up at the periscope. Such an environment would send the GE Occupational Safety and Hazard folks into fits—repetitive strain injury, anyone?

The whole experience gave me new insight into the rugged and SWaP requirements of our customers. It also gave me a new perspective into how our rugged computers and networking products should be designed.

Another customer walked me through the thought process behind the complex networks in autonomous aerial vehicles. I had somehow always envisioned a pilot on the ground controlling all aspects of the aircraft—and this is the case in many instances. However, the requirements are trending towards more autonomous operation with far more intelligence moving into the aerial vehicle. Such vehicles share information among themselves and, in some cases, even make decisions without human input. The vehicles may serve multiple clients or "masters" on the ground—maybe even multiple forces or agencies. The customer explained to me that this means much of the network services— services such as routing, traffic shaping and security that were once housed in ground stations—are now expected to be part of the network of systems in "the bird." The challenge was to take all the computers and networking gear that is traditionally rack-mounted in an air-conditioned closet and jam it into the ever-shrinking body of a modern UAV. Not an easy task.

My role here at GE Intelligent Platforms is to try to understand our customers' toughest challenges and feed this information into the product management and engineering groups so we can design products to address those challenges. It's a great job; I get to ask a lot of questions and spend time with some really smart people, brainstorming all sorts of ideas and products that might help them. And while we may not always get it right, you can be sure we are listening. We love the challenge that our customers present.

Now, back to this "guru" thing. I encourage you all to keep an eye on our home page to see if I am successful in getting it changed. If not, well, that will just give you a sense of how influential I am around here...


Rubin Dhillon

Rubin has spent over 20 years in the embedded computing world, in roles ranging from support to sales to product management and even garbage collector. He experienced the huge growth (and crash) of the telecom industry, and he's spent time dabbling in medical, industrial, transportation and military applications. Rubin figured he has so many stories to tell, he should get into marketing and so he is now our VP of Marketing. Connect with Rubin on LinkedIn and he'll explain the "garbage collector" story…