Thursday, October 22, 2015

Meet artist Benjamin Burkard

My love for street art took me to Mannheim Jungbusch a place that I would not have bothered about too much otherwise. This is where I met the artist Benjamin Burkard. Actually it was such a pleasant accident to be able to brush shoulders with such a talented person. I am used to walking for kilometres trying to locate an interesting piece of street art, remember there is so much of vandalism around that you really need to look hard to be able to identify the good from the bad.

Benjamin was actually painting the largest mural in the Rhein Neckar area when I saw him for the first time. I could not believe my eyes that I was actually seeing an artist in action. But he was so far away in this cordoned off industrial area where he was at work that it was tough to get his attention. That was when I decided to walk all the way around the bridge to the other side of the Neckar hoping that there would be a path to get closer to him. But after walking for quite some time I realised that the whole area was literally not accessible.



Disappointed but not ready to give up I decided to go across the bridge on the opposite side and vigorously waived my hands hoping to distract him. For a split second Benjamin got up to walk back and observe his latest strokes that’s when his eyes caught me waving out.

I could not believe my stars when he waived back smiling. With a lot of frantic hand movements I told him that it was amazing what I was seeing and his work. I could see that he was smiling and showing me the thumbs up sign. I gestured asking if I could somehow come across and actually see it up close. After a bit of reluctance he actually put down his brushes and started walking towards the fenced barriers. My heart was beating fast and I quickly started walking towards the fence. We shook hands through the fence, I almost could not believe that this was happening feeling like a little girl all over again. My parents and my mother-in-law were part of the adventure and they followed suit.
Benjamin told me that he was not allowed to let us across the barrier as there was construction going on and it was dangerous for people like us. I think it was the sad disappointed face that made Benjamin change his mind. He told us that we need to be extremely careful. He pulled out a bunch of keys from his pocket and to our biggest surprise opened the lock of the fence and actually let us all in!!

I quickly explained to him that I was in love with street art and his work looked very unique to me from all what I have seen. He told me that he also liked Herakut very much. I showed him pictures of a recent Herakut I had discovered in Mannheim and also in Hamburg. He told me he studied art in Landau and this was one of his biggest projects. This is when I met Petra Stamm who appeared literally from nowhere and when she found out that I intended to write about Benjamin’s work she told me that I would have to mention that this was a project sponsored by the Gallery Stoffwechsel in Mannheim. Petra if you are reading this I am keeping my promise J



Benjamin exuded such humility. He let me take pictures of him in action and also take pictures with all of us. I told him I was in Amsterdam the previous weekend and also saw some amazing pieces of art. He told me about his upcoming exhibition in Amsterdam. He also showed me how he was taking a picture of every 13 cms of his work and this was transmitted live intohis website.  He intends to make a video of the finished work. Now I know why he turned back to look at what he did as every 13 cms was measured to precision on the floor and photographed. You can imagine the attention to detail this translates into. His project is titled 'Ecosystem' and the mural is close to 900 square meters!!





Benjamin told me like any other piece of street art his also faced the danger of vandalism.

We thanked him profusely for his kindness and also for letting us interrupt his work. I told him I am going to be back to see the completed work on the 24th of October when it will be opened up to the public. In case you are in Mannheim and you would like to check out Benjamin’s beautiful work make sure to go to Jungbusch and across the bridge from the river Neckar you can enjoy his beautiful art work.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Speaking at the Grace Hopper Conference 2015 in Houston

This time the Grace Hopper conference in Houston had more than 12,000 women participating. The George R Brown convention center seemed to be at times filled to its brim with women technologists from all over the world. A great experience just like last year in so many ways.

I spoke about security in the cloud especially when it comes to the topic of integration. I mainly focussed on how you secure information, secure interaction and secure identities in the cloud. It was good to have my session followed up by Katharine Krieger an analyst from Goldman Sachs talk about how Goldman’s journey to the cloud and their strategy when it comes to developing and deploying applications that operate in the cloud. A lot of aspects from my talk covered in real usage at Goldman.

Brian Chess SVP of Infrastructure and Security of NetSuite took an inside out view of cloud security and how the risks around cloud security can be compared to other aspects of business. Brian was the only male speaker in the cloud security track. I told him that this is usually the other way around in other conferences :-)

Yasmine Kandissounon from Rackspace concluded by talking about the impact of Distributed Denial of Service and its impact on performance in Cloud Environments.


It was overwhelming to see the number of mails that were sent asking in depth questions and also some of the bloggers already writing about their key takeaways from the session. Valerie who has more than 10 years of experience on cloud security shared her experiences here http://bubbva.blogspot.com/2015/10/ghc15-cloud-security-presentations.html


I was so thankful to Miruna Stratan from Goldman who took some cool pictures of the session and also the audience.



On a side note I was thrilled to see a replica of  the colorful mural 'Houston is inspired' from acclaimed graffiti artist GONZO247. I had to take a picture and I am definitely going to look out for the original on Market Square Park.




Sunday, October 11, 2015

Keeping The Cloud Safe


This week I will be joining thousands of talented and successful women in Houston at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the largest gathering of women technologists in the world.  This time I am absolutely thrilled to be invited to share my research and experience in a presentation titled “Security in Cloud Based Integration Solutions” in the Security/Privacy track.
In this presentation, attendees will understand how to build security and compliance aspects into a Cloud based integration solution. I am excited to share my knowledge while learning from all the brilliant #WomenInTech at #GHC15 this October. #GHCSpeaks #OurTimeToLead
Last year I had shared my learnings from the conference here.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

10 things you can learn from Street Art

If I did manage to get your attention you must be wondering 'Really? Something to learn from street art...hmm...sounds interesting...' Yes actually there is so much to learn from street art. Lets start with 10 that come to my mind:


  1. Fall in Love  again– Yes I think I am seriously in love with street art, one of the purest forms of artistic expression that exists! I am looking for them EVERYWHERE while on vacation, travelling on work, go on a drive, go running..you name it
  2.  How about a little bit of adventure – The thrill of discovery that I get when I discover a new piece of street art, the little rush of adrenaline, the pleasure and smile of of admiration that follows keeps me wanting for more
  3.  Identify the good from the bad – Like in all streams of your life I believe you can quickly sort out the good apples from the bad ones. There is a difference between street art and vandalism from my perspective. Actually there is quite some vandalism in many parts of the world which results in defacement of beautiful structures. So when you start looking for street art you will know what I mean. Focus on the good ones and ignore the rest.
  4. Attempt massive Reach – everybody has access to street art. You don’t need to be in a museum or pay a fee to see them. You don’t need to be an established art critic to appreciate a piece of art J
  5.  Cultivate a risk taking attitude – These artists have managed to produce some amazing pieces of art probably braving all odds. Some of the pieces are in such locations that you wonder how they even managed to get up there and how did they manage such intricacy in a very short span of time. I learnt that sometimes you have to finish up in less than 5 minutes!  And some even claim that if it takes more than 5 minutes, it does not qualify as street art. That’s why I guess there is a lot of tagging you can find in so many places.
  6.  Be curious - Explore the unexplored – Usually you end up in places in a city or town where nobody usually go. You realise that you are in some unexplored places but someone was also there making a statement or trying to convey a message
  7.  Don’t shy away from voicing your opinion – Yes street art is an open forum to get your views across. Like the famous artist Banksy once said ‘If graffiti changed anything, it would be illegal’ One of my favorite songs from Paul Simon and Garfunkel  ‘The Sounds of Silence’ talk about ‘the words of the prophets were written on the subway halls and the tenement halls’
  8.    Don’t let failure deter you – A street artist has to be open to the fact that if somebody else does not agree with his message there is a high chance that if you go back there tomorrow its already covered up. Like someone said: 'I was here but now I am gone, I left my name to carry on, Those who liked me, liked me well, Those who didn't can go to hell'
  9. Embrace technology – Like  I mentioned in point 6 some unique pieces of street art is found in places where many people don’t have access. That’s where technology comes to the rescue. Like the graffiti on the West Bank Wall in Palestine is used by artists to draw attention to their struggles and using the internet and social media channels to get a wider audience. I even learnt that you can get your own message put on the wall, see I caught your curiosity now.
  10.  Stop asking for permission – Street artists have legal walls for sure. But all those places  where you find street art are definitely not all open for artists.  I loved it when I read that the artist David Choe whopainted Facebook’s 1st office took stock instead of cash and now he is worth 200$ million!!
1         


Some people think of dreams as a waste of time, we have  a different tradition
A beautiful mural by the artist duo Herakut at Sankt Pauli Millerntorgallery in Hamburg
Palestinian protest art on the separation barrier running througBethlehem

Monday, August 31, 2015

Quotas for women in leadership??


Recently I was interviewed by Susan Galer from SAP News and among many things we talked about we also touched upon how we can close the gender gap for women in leadership. Though couple of years back I was completely against quotas for women I have to admit I do think differently today. The fundamental reason for this thinking is because things have not really changed that much for women in senior leadership positions compared to the last 15 years. The number of female leaders on corporate boards worldwide remain stubbornly low! If change really needs to happen then something has to be changed as compared to the status quo of how things are dealt with at present.
However this resulted in some very passionate and emotional discussions among multiple people. Several women wrote to me privately thanking me for being bold and not making it all sound very hunky dory. Some men got really vocal and some even emotional and wrote back to me that this would be seen as inequality from their perspective. Some even got super worked up and tried to link the existence of caste based quotas in India to quotas for women in leadership!! Atrocious, I think  they somehow missed the whole train in the discussion and I was thankful that they were in the fewer minority of those who wrote back showing their support and encouragement.
SAP clearly has the goal to increase the percentage of women in management from 18% in 2010 to 25% in 2017 (a goal common to other players in the IT industry). You can read more here in the integrated report.http://sapintegratedreport.com/2014/en/performance/social-performance/employees-and-social-investment.html
There is also a new German law on gender quotas (30 percent of women) in Supervisory Boards.  You can read more about it here Women in supervisory board in Germany.
So in summary the train has already left the station. The debates can continue to rage but we will all see where we stand in 2017. I  think that will be the real test with real results and figures to prove that change is possible. I would really like to hear your opinion and also share your experiences from the workplace. Would really appreciate if you write back!
For those of you who would prefer reading the interview in German you can find it here http://news.sap.com/germany/2015/08/28/frauen-sap-fuhrungspositionen-sindhu-gangadharan/
P.S. The picture was taken with my friend Coco who works in the SAP Durban office as part of the facilities team there. She shared her dreams with me on how one day she plans to move to Johannesburg and maybe even some day move to Germany. Its all about following your dreams!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

10 random thoughts on my mind today



1) Wish I did not have that damn paper submission deadline for the October conference coming up tomorrow – another night out!

2) What is the right answer to my daughter’s question from today morning – Mama why is skirt spelled with ‘sk’ and scarf with ‘sc’….arrrrgh

3) When will some people realise that the real competition is not within the organization but actually outside the organization!

4) Why do some people have to reject their performance review document because of a minor grammatical correction in my feedback statements

5) How do the mothers dropping off their kids in the morning at school look so prim, proper and put together every day…every single day!!!

6) Why did I not buy those glasses which would have actually helped the kids actually see the solar eclipse tomorrow in Germany

7) Why did I wake up in the morning with the bizzare idea to add rosemary sprigs into my smoothie – it tasted pretty good  though


8) How come some of the Apple watch models cost so much more in Europe than in the United States

9)Would we able to compensate for the lack of direct interaction with participants with the excellent content on the upcoming MOOC we are planning


10) Was I getting too aggressive on Wednesday morning  at work when I asked him to challenge the status quo? The optimist in me thinks he did not understand what I meant :-)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ten important things I learnt at the Grace Hopper Conference

Was in Phoenix Arizona last week attending the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference. I have been to a lot of conferences in the last decade but this was special because this was the world's largest gathering of women in computing. You actually did not stand out in a sea of men if you know what I mean J

Many of my learnings were not really ground breaking or brand new. However this time, I was able to talk to a lot of other women and validate that many of these findings are real and apply to a lot of women out there in the technology workforce. To keep it simple I am listing the 10 points that stick out in my mind. It is also not in any particular order of importance. Here you go:

1)   Don’t become the best kept secret in your organization. You might be doing great in your sphere of influence but when change happens and we all know that change happens in large organizations make sure that you have an influential network within and beyond your organization.

2) It is not always about getting mentored. Mentors give you feedback based on your performance and usually after a particular growth level you end up with the feedback ‘I think what you need is another great mentor’.  
But the new buzz word is to find a SPONSOR. Yes a sponsor who is willing to make your case behind those close doors when promotions are being discussed, when a raise is being considered etc. Find out your potential sponsor/s and map them within your organization, they need to be people who truly believe and understand your true potential. You need to of course build up a network of more than one sponsor if possible, even people whom you know very well from outside your organization.




3) Satya Nadella the current CEO of Microsoft was in discussion with Maria Klawe about women in technology. This is a discussion which is definitely worth listening to. But pay attention to what Maria is saying in this conversation and see how she naturally navigates the whole conversation and touches upon all the sore points that exist for women in the workforce. I particularly liked the point where Maria actually disagrees with Nadella about relying on your good karma to get a pay hike!!

4) When you are having a difficult conversation at work don’t try to ease a topic of concern into a conversation you are having. As women we tend to start a conversation where everything is fine at the beginning, in between we quickly bring in the uncomfortable bits and then at the end quickly make sure that the conversation is ending on a positive note. 
In this scenario the person on the other end of the conversation assumes that everything is fine, of course he/she is a little bit amiss but you tend to give the impression that you have found peace with the situation at hand. So again, have those difficult conversations with the right amount of focus and calm. It is important.

5) My highlight for you is a new word in your vocabulary – all of you who hate being part of the office politics, think of it now as ‘organizational awareness’. See how the whole negativity is gone out of the window when you consider it as ‘Organizational awareness’.  You have to be aware of the networks that exist and remember that avoiding this completely altogether can be deadly for your career.

6) Also important don’t continue to work in an area where you already know that you are going to regret having done this later on in your life. Trust your experience to move on at the right time!

7) Ok here’s the thing ‘What’s the simplest way to get a promotion?’ Ask for one! But before doing that ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how capable you are of performing the job today? What you need to be aware, based on an internal survey @ HP is the following:
a.   Women will apply to a job when they believe they meet 100% of the job requirements.
b.   Men on the other hand will apply if they meet 60% of the requirements.
c.   So the learning for me was: If you are 60% ready for the next job you want to have – GO FOR IT!!

8)  Make sure that you are being judged by your potential and not be experience only. I learnt that often men are promoted based on their potential and women are often evaluated for promotions primarily on performance. 
For this to happen your management needs to be aware of your accomplishments. Like I mentioned in point 2 you also need the full backing of your sponsors and also help in building a corporate culture where career accomplishments are recognized.

9) Ok this is one is key too – if somebody does a good job let them know about it. If that somebody is a woman make an extra effort to explicitly mention that, promote that in discussions. Help other women in their journey in navigating the complex boundaries at work.

10) A tiny data point related to point 4 – ‘Don’t avoid difficult conversations’ Have you noticed that difficult conversations taken between five and fifteen minutes and often actually a lot less. This short and uncomfortable conversation can be far less stressful than a long period of bearing with the situation at hand.
Don't avoid the difficult conversations!
Hope you took something out of my learnings from the Grace Hopper conference. If any of you would like to discuss any of the points above in detail with me, send me a note and I will be happy to have that conversation with you.