American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) hosted its 33rd Annual National Convention focusing on Global Engineering & Technologies (GET-2020). This virtual convention was held on December 5th and 6th, 2020. While the speakers and participants were on the Zoom platform, it was livestreamed worldwide through YouTube. Attended by scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders across the USA, the two-day event featured keynotes and multiple interactive sessions with prominent business and technology leaders, scientists and engineering entrepreneurs. At the Finale session on the second day, ASEI recognized four engineering achievers and four service excellence and contributors to ASEI.
The convention started with a welcome by ASEI President Jwalant Lakhia. It was emceed by Anu Gopalakrishnan. The first keynote speaker Deval Desai, VP Magna Int. spoke about Contributions of Indian Technologists and weaved the storyline from mythology to history to modern era in a very short span of time. From making the best steel in the world to teaching the world to count, India was actively contributing to the field of science and technology long before the modern world evolved. One of the oldest civilizations in the world, India has a strong tradition of science and technology. Many theories and techniques discovered by the ancient Indians have created and strengthened the fundamentals of modern science and technology. While some of these groundbreaking contributions have been acknowledged, some are still unknown to most, and he shared some of the profound inventions that have and will continue to shape the future of humankind. It was heartening to see the contribution of Indian women scientists and engineers highlighted in a field typically dominated by men. There were so many factoids about things and achievements of unsung engineering heroes that would make anyone hailing from the Indian subcontinent proud!
The first technical session Quantum computing by Dancing with Qubits was a keynote by Dr Robert Sutor, VP Quantum, IBM Research. Quantum computing aims to solve complex problems the world’s most powerful supercomputers cannot solve. Leading the race in this field is IBM, though Google, Microsoft, Amazon and lot of others are all putting heavy investment bets in Quantum as well. Considering application in life sciences, an example was presented as follows: On average, it takes 10 to13 years and more than $2.5 billion to bring a new medical therapy from the discovery bench to the patient. The odds of success are overwhelmingly weighted in favor of failure. Harnessing the power of quantum computing can deliver the potential to significantly accelerate the timelines for, and enhance the quality of various stages of pharmaceutical research and development processes. That was very futuristic and sounded exciting.
According to Dr. Sutor, Quantum promises to tackle classically challenging problems across a variety of industries, from optimizing traffic control to refining supply chain logistics, and from discovering new drugs to detecting fraud more rapidly. Also, anyone can now try out the power of quantum on the IBM cloud for free with toolkits and resources available freely!
The next speaker was Prof Solomon Darwin, often known as the “Father of Smart Village Movement.” Dr, Darwin spoke on Agritech innovations for a Smarter Village. Dr Darwin shared how UC Berkeley Haas School defines the concept and after that shared about his books and publications in addition to the agricultural innovations that have the potential to make villages smarter with minimal resources.
The next session was on User Experience Design (UXD), which is a design process whose sole objective is to design a system that offers a great experience to its users. Thus, UXD embraces the theories of a number of disciplines such as user interface design, usability, accessibility, information architecture, and Human Computer Interaction. The first speaker Urmila Kashyap, Senior User Experience Designer with VMware, talked about UX design systems for enterprise products based on her 10+ years of UXD experience working with large companies like Moody’s & VMware. Surbhi Kaul, GM and Head of Product at Juniper Networks, built on it and shared from her own experience of building and launching products over two decades at Netflix, Cisco, YouTube, Google and Juniper Networks covering why UXD is critical to a product’s success and highlighted design systems using examples of AIML products she has helped launch.
An engineering and technology conference can’t be complete without covering Artificial Intelligence (AI). One might imagine that artificial intelligence is only something the big tech giants are focused on, and that AI doesn’t impact your everyday life. In reality, Artificial Intelligence is increasingly penetrating both our work and personal lives. Yet, many organizations in traditional industries are still grappling with justifying the ROI beyond proof-of-concept stage and struggling with operationalizing AI/ML. From a research to engineering to business perspective, a complete CXO view is needed which was provided by an IBM Fellow and Master Inventor with over 45 patents to her name – Rama Akkiraju, CTO AIOps addressing this daunting challenge and shared some best practices in this session on Artificial Intelligence in the Enterprise.
Autonomous Vehicles and Future Transportation is an interesting topic in which Jeff Hannah, Director, NA SBD Automotive & Akshay Desai, Associate Partner, McKinsey presented their POVs and tried separating fact from fiction about autonomous cars. Whether you are an automotive expert or newbie, one could gain valuable insights into the future of mobility and learn exciting ways to participate in this growing industry. Desai focussed on the future for autonomous vehicle adoption and the changing AV mobility market. The session was moderated by Convention Co-Chair Bhavesh Joshi.
The first day conference session ended with some amazing Youth Technology Exposition (YTE) finalist students, from high school to undergrad, showcasing their work. The objective of the YTE was to provide a forum for young engineers, students and budding scientists to showcase their projects in science, engineering and technology topics that can have an impact on our world. The finalist students faced a barrage of questions from the judges Amrish Chopra and Mutthu Sivanathan. This competition and session was conceived and coordinated by the Conference Content Chair and President of ASEI-Silicon Valley Piyush Malik.
It was a tight race to pick winners based on combining scores from responses to judges’ questions, audience poll and quality and depth of engineering and research in their submissions from prior rounds. Finally, the top 3 winners declared were: (1) Nidhi Mathihali (2) Jyoti Rani and (3) Isha Jagadish
The second day started with ASEI President Jwalant Lakhia welcoming the audience back and laying out the plan for the day. At the outset it became pretty clear to the audience that they would hear some high-powered content led by industry leaders lined up for the day.
Opening keynote on Leadership in turbulent times was delivered by Dr. Satyam Priyadarshy, Chief Data Scientist & Technology Fellow, Haliburton. Leadership in turbulent times is a critically important topic and pertinent considering the current socio-geo-politico-economic scenario in the COVID era. Dr. Priyadarshy, is a globally recognized leader for his expertise in leveraging disruptive technologies, strategies and talent transformation to increase business value. He applied ancient Indian wisdom from Hanuman Chalisa to talk about a framework to face disruption in tumultuous times. According to Dr. Priyadarshy, every challenge from the past looks smaller. Paradigm shifts, Leading the transformation with a mnemonic “Karma Matters” and putting the essence of all management texts with 20 words from the religious prayer, he beautifully showed the audience some leadership lessons that have helped him as well as the teams he has led from academics to corporate life.
The next keynote session Career Management in a Disrupted Economy was delivered by Dilip Saraf who is an IIT Alumnus and has reinvented himself 5 times to be a Career and Life Coach besides being an Author and speaker. Dilip very succinctly brought out the problem and solution pertinent to those facing career challenges during this Covid-19 pandemic which has jolted us into action with a career wake-up call with uncertainty about how future jobs will emerge. Using examples from his own career shifts as well as couple of his high-profile clients, Saraf’s talk on career management was about strategies available to all of us to better manage our career and to develop resilient options for us to deal with this uncertainty and to stay in control of our own destinies.
The next session was an inspiring fireside chat conducted by Piyush Malik, SVP SpringML, with Naveen Jain, CEO Viome & Founder/Chairman – Moon Express on Exponential Technologies for Humanity’s Grand Challenges. The session saw both engaged in a high energy conversation on exponential technologies and life sciences. For the uninitiated, exponential technologies are those which are rapidly accelerating and shaping major industries and all aspects of our lives. For a technology to be “exponential,” the power and/or speed doubles each year, and/or the cost drops by half. As in Moore’s law!
Exponential technologies include artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR, VR), data science, digital biology and biotech, medicine, nanotech and digital fabrication, networks and computing systems, robotics, and autonomous vehicles. Solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges lie at the intersection of these exponential technologies.
In the next session Cybersecurity: Opportunity of Threat? the audience learned about the latest trends in cybersecurity from Anand Oswal, SVP and GM at PaloAlto Networks and was joined in conversation with popular cybersecurity strategist and influencer Matthew Rosenquist who is currently the Chief Information Security Officer at Eclipz
Cybersecurity has taken center stage in the enterprise executive mind as cases of ransomware and denial of services attacks and data breaches have kept the CISOs of the nation occupied. However, currently the biggest threats are often also the biggest opportunities. Cybersecurity is imperative for enterprises as well as nations today. Projections are that cybercrime will exceed $6 trillion annually by 2021 from $3 trillion in 2015, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. Probably the most significant factor driving this acceleration is the increasing efficiency of cybercriminals. The dark web has become a thriving black market where criminals of all means can gain the capabilities necessary to launch sophisticated cyberattacks.
Anand talked about the 3 concurrent mega transitions in enterprise IT that are impacting network security viz. Rise of a mobile workforce, Shift to hybrid cloud and Direct to app architectures. The fireside chat drew a number of interesting questions from the audience which kept the session flow lively.
The enterprise technology landscape has increasingly become difficult to manage for a CIO whose role has evolved from a Chief Information Officer to a Chief Innovation Officer in the past few years. With digital transformation mandate becoming table stakes, rapid adoption of Cloud and work-from -anywhere becoming a norm, the technology woes of an enterprise CTO or a CIO seem to be unending and may have been exacerbated due to the current pandemic.
Next session was the powerful CXO fireside chat focusing on Innovation in the Enterprise with Manoj Prasad, VP & Global CTO, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Prakash Kota, CIO Autodesk, moderated by Rakesh Guliani. What does a CTO of a public company worry about? How does the CIO become indispensable in M&A decisions? How will this pandemic change the pace of innovation in enterprise technology? These and many more topics were central to this conversation where we also found how Thermofisher Scientific is at the forefront of fight against COVID!
“Space – the final frontier” these words from Star Trek can hardly be erased from memory of those who grew up watching the science fiction TV series. Many of the innovations shown have transcended from fiction into reality as commercial space tourism is set to start and our exploratory missions to either colonizing the moon or to become a multi planetary species have been progressing well with many successful missions with robots to Mars and beyond in the past decade thanks to NASA, ISRO, European Space Agency, SpaceX and other commercial aerospace companies. The next session speaker was a super smart NASA/BAERI Space scientist Dr Sreeja Nag who also happened to be a Robotist at Nuro. Speaking on Robotics and Space, she shared her experiences on autonomous robots that work on earth as well as in the space.
The last session of the Convention was the ASEI Awards which was anchored by ASEI Board Member Dr Thomas Abraham, Chair Awards Committee. Chief Guest was Ambassador Amit Kumar, Consul General India in Chicago. Consul General Kumar emphasized the importance of Indian American engineers and scientists pooling their talents to help India. He also presided over the function where 8 industry and ASEI awards were given out and each recipient gave a brief acceptance speech. The awardees are as follows:
ASEI Lifetime Achievement -Naveen Jain
ASEI Entrepreneur of The Year – Jyoti Bansal
ASEI Engineer of The Year (Mech/Solar) – Dr Yogi Goswami
ASEI Engineer pf The Year (Industrial Operations and Product Management) – Deval Desai
ASEI Service Excellence Award – Rakesh Patel
Hari Bindal ASEI Founders Award – Vatsala Upadhyay
Leadership and Contribution to ASEI – Rakesh Guliani and Sunita Dublish
Dr Neeraj Bindal, son of ASEI Founder the Late Dr. Hari Bindal gave a moving tribute to his father as he presented the Founder’s award to Vatsala.
The convention was put together by ASEI President Jwalant Lakhia along with Convention Co-chairs Rakesh Patel and Bhavesh Joshi. The Program chair was ASEI Michigan Chapter President Vatsala Upadhyay. ASEI Silicon Valley Chapter President Piyush Malik served as Convention Content Chair.
The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement, community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals, students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guided by several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, and transparent organization; providing positive role models, awarding scholarships, and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan by a handful of visionaries. Today, the organization also has chapters in Michigan, Southern California, Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Washington, DC. For more information, visit: www.aseiusa.org.