On October 24th, students from Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems visited the IBM TJ Watson Research Center for an eye-opening field trip into the world of research and tech.
The audience in attendance included faculty, undergraduate and graduate students. One of these students attending was Charlotte Coffin, a senior majoring in computer science, who is currently working on her honors thesis titled, “An Introduction to Quantum Computing using the Number Guessing Game on QISKit.” QISKit is IBM’s open source platform for quantum computing, so the trip was particularly useful for Charlotte!
During the trip, students learned about the types of research taking place at IBM and identified potential research collaboration opportunities. IBM’s researchers discussed technological topics including quantum computing, blockchain, IoT wearables, artificial intelligence, and big data analytics.
Students spent the day in Thinklabs, research rooms, and with IBM professionals who introduced them to the real-world version of what they are studying at Pace University. For many students, getting an inside look at a company like IBM was a glimpse at the future.
Tianyu Wang, a PhD Computer Science student nearing graduation, noted that the trip was “a really great experience.”
“The researchers at the Research Center work on speech recognition, machine learning, natural language understanding, and information retrieval products, among others,” said Tianyu. “I particularly appreciated witnessing the collaborative working environment. The company supports various researchers that work in both small and large teams. I can see the researchers had a great time doing their work; most [of] them were absolutely top-notch and super-accessible and friendly.”
Tianyu, along with the rest of the group in attendance, also had the chance to see an innovative project in the works by IBM: artificial intelligence generating movie trailers.
“An example of a recent artificial intelligence research project is generating movie trailers automatically using machine learning algorithms,” Tianyu explained. “After training a couple of movies with label data, the program can generate a trailer automatically, within one day. This approach saves the cost of producing a trailer. Through this example, I could certainly see the real implementation of supervised learning solutions, and how artificial intelligence can impact the business.”
Andreea Cotoranu, Assistant Dean of Academic Innovation at Pace University, highlighted how grateful she and her students were for the field trip opportunity.
“The Seidenberg School is grateful for its dedicated adjunct faculty, especially Professor Stephan Barabasi, as well as for the passionate and generous team at the IBM Research Center for continuing to facilitate collaboration and discussion on key research topics and promote continued learning within the Seidenberg faculty and student body,” she said.
The IBM trip was another fantastic learning experience provided by the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. Keep your eyes peeled for future events with major technology companies!
The fall semester may be coming to an end but the Seidenberg Tech Leadership Series is showing no sign of slowing down! Events are already being scheduled for the spring, but for the tail end of the fall semester we had a fantastic guest: Daniel Barchi, SEM, SVP, and CIO of Newyork-Presbyterian.
Testament to Daniel’s career and expertise was a great turnout of students who came to the Seidenberg School’s NYC campus the day before finals week. Despite escalating stress levels, around a hundred students stopped by to learn from our guest.
As with previous events, Daniel spent around an hour talking tech and leadership in conversation with Seidenberg Dean Jonathan Hill. Dean Hill quizzed the CIO about various aspects of his work, including the importance of technology in the healthcare industry, strategy, telemedicine and remote healthcare, and more.
One of the interesting remarks Daniel had was about technology’s importance regarding running a business. He said that he believed that running Newyork-Presbyterian – and other industries – successfully was built from a blend of “80% people, 15% process, 5% technology.”
“That 5% technology is important,” Daniel added, telling a story of how just that morning there had been a tech blackout in one of the locations his department serves. Despite technology just being a small part of the entire ecosystem, if that 5% goes down, the whole system fails – which is why Daniel and his staff work hard to get everything back up and running as quickly as possible. The people and process enable responses like that to happen.
“Technology is like an iceberg,” Daniel continued. “There’s only a tiny bit of an iceberg poking up out of the surface . . . as a technologist I need to make sure that bottom part is working well, out of sight and out of mind.”
As users, we tend to just care about the parts we interact with. “Everybody is focused on that 5% that’s above the surface,” Daniel said. Maintaining the larger 95% is what allows users to interact with systems without worry.
Dean Hill then asked about Daniel’s technology strategy.
“My job as the CIO is not about talking about the bits and bytes . . . it’s the strategy side of it . . . where do we invest our dollars, our resources, and our people.”
Part of the strategy is also developing new tech advancements. Daniel spoke at length about the cool things Newyork-Presbyterian was doing for medical staff and patients alike, including telemedicine initiatives like having physicians interact with patients over video calls and asking questions that got them to self-diagnose and allow the doctor to give treatment without being there in person.
Through this technology, Daniel revealed that physicians had “diagnosed three instances of appendicitis this month alone.”
Did he think computers would replace the need for human doctors entirely? “We think that the physician or nurse PLUS the computer is better.” Although artificial intelligence is getting to the stage where using computers to diagnose and treat medical issues is becoming more and more possible, the nuance of the human mind is a crucial aspect to identifying and understanding the small distinctions that differentiate between similarly presenting issues.
AI is a field with plenty of potential, not just in terms of technologically and career-wise, but financially too. “Artificial intelligence right now is like the gold rush in California was in 1849,” Daniel said. The key was to position oneself in the best place to capitalize from the technology. “Who made the money in the gold rush? The people who sold the picks and shovels.”
“What should these students be doing to prepare themselves for a career in this area,” Dean Hill asked.
“I’m a fan of people moving in their careers,” Daniel said. “If you think about your professors here who might have had a career in business and moved on to come here – people who have had training in one area can use their skills to move into another area.”
At the Seidenberg School and at Pace University, we always encourage our students to diversify what they learn. Knowing more than one area, and learning how to apply skills from one field into another, is what helps get jobs across different areas. Daniel affirmed that this was key to working in the tech sector today.
One area that is expected to remain current for the foreseeable future is cybersecurity.
“I’m always concerned about information security,” Daniel said. “We have about 8.5 million patient records . . . we have to keep it safe. There are always people that are trying to hack into our networks. You know better than most audiences that while we’ve been talking here we’ve probably had three penetration attempts into our systems.”
Daniel revealed that on the past weekend he had been in a long phone call when a hacker had attempted to penetrate their system with a version of the Wannacry virus – seven attempts in all – but the team managed to take care of it.
One of the last things Dr. Hill asked Daniel about was also related to security, but along a different vein. “Is privacy possible?” Dean Hill asked, “Or is the way the internet was built so open that perfect security is a pipe dream?”
Daniel replied with insights that many Pace students and internet users should pay attention to. “People make choices about what they put online . . . if going on vacation and posting where I am and pictures of myself is one end of the spectrum . . . banking online . . . is another end of the spectrum too.”
As users, we choose what we put online, whether it’s vacation location tagging on social media (that indicates our homes are currently empty) or our personal information on banking websites, investment accounts, and more.
“We can all make choices to make ourselves safer,” Daniel remarked.
But the truth is that the more we engage with the internet the more we put ourselves at risk.
The conversation closed up with a few final thoughts from Daniel. He encouraged students to go into careers doing things they loved, but if they could find ways to apply those passions to other areas, they could potentially excel. “If you love coding . . . for those of you who want to use it as a platform to do other things, I would encourage you to push the boundaries.”
Sharing one of his favorite quotes, Daniel illustrated his point.
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage
We’d like to thank Daniel Barchi for his stellar appearance at the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University. The Seidenberg Tech Leadership series is one of our top event series that puts our students in front of exceptional leaders in the industry, and Daniel’s genial presence was perfect for bringing calm before the end of the semester.
This year marks 35 years of the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems being an independent school at Pace University. Originally called the School of Computer Science and Information Systems, the school gained the Seidenberg name in 2005, when Ivan Seidenberg made a record-breaking donation to Pace University in support of his strong belief that all students should receive a tech education.
It’s only natural that, now, whenever Mr. Seidenberg stops by his namesake school, there’s a hint of celebrity in the air. As a top executive for much of his career, Ivan already cuts an impressive figure. However, his 2005 gift to Pace University has been hugely significant for many of our students, enabling them to attend the Seidenberg School as part of the Seidenberg Scholars program – so there is also a sense of gratitude among the excited whispers that there’s a famous celeb at Pace.
So it was no surprise that on Thursday, November 8, 2018, the Seidenberg Lounge at 163 William Street was packed. Students, faculty, and staff turned up in force to meet and hear Ivan speak about his fascinating career, his leadership, and his advice for the next generation of technology executives.
Not only was Mr. Seidenberg on campus to share his wisdom with the community, but we had a crate of volumes of his new book, Verizon Untethered: An Insider’s Story of Innovation and Disruption ready to be signed and shared with our students.
Our guest sat down with Jonathan Hill, Dean of the Seidenberg School, for a fascinating conversation before an audience that was bursting at the seams. After the introductions, the pair cut swiftly to the chase with Dean Hill’s first question – what can our students do to succeed in the workplace?
Ivan’s response was refreshingly honest. “When you go out in this world and you’re high maintenance, people will get rid of you,” Mr. Seidenberg said. “If you’re not a good teammate – you’re gone. Be a good teammate, be collaborative, be nice to work with . . . together you can do great things.”
One point our visiting tech leaders often make is the importance of working well with others, and here was Ivan Seidenberg himself iterating the same idea. He continued with a caution about letting one’s ambitions get in the way of relationships: “Even if you have great ambition, your ambition should not dominate those around you,” he said. “Realize that people are watching you all the time.”
He summed everything up with a list of his top three tips:
Know your stuff
Don’t be a pain (you are always being watched)
Don’t be afraid to take risks
“It’s okay to win, and it’s okay to fail,” he added, noting that he had always found that the harder the work was, the more engaged he got and the more engaged the people around him became.
“There’s a transition that folks do early in their career where they’re called upon to lead,” said Dean Hill. “In the book, you make the statement that leadership has less to do with the individual and more to do with the cultural norms . . . what should people do to cultivate leadership?”
Ivan replied: “I have one word that starts the whole process – accountability. When you’re personally accountable, you accept the responsibility of whatever you’re doing. It shows up in your language . . . accountability starts with your personal willingness to take control of the things you can control.”
He continued, listing two other crucial aspects of leadership: “Leadership is all about standards . . . those people who watch you . . . they watch how you do your work. Do you cut corners?” This was followed by the third facet, respect. “Leadership is also about respect – how you treat other people. Do you treat others as equal?”
And even when you’re in a position of power, what you think is right and correct doesn’t always mean it’s right and correct. To earn respect and trust, a good leader performs the job according to the needs of the people around them, rather than their own ideas. “It wasn’t what I thought was a good job, it was what the people around me thought was a good job.”
Leading by serving the needs of others may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s an effective technique.
Dealing with crises
“How do you deal with crises?” was Dean Hill’s next question.
“Never think it’s about you,” Ivan said. “You don’t face any challenges solo. Particularly in business, it’s got to be about partners. If you embrace that, you have the power of four eyes instead of two, four ears instead of two, two brains . . . and especially for you [students], you understand the power of scale.”
One of the keys in dealing with crises is coming at it head on: “It’s never a case of backing away from it, it’s about embracing it.”
Dean Hill brought up the next topic: mentorship. “In the book, you mention a lot of people who mentored you . . . how did you forge these relationships?”
Ivan responded with a story. He explained about how, when he retired in 2011, lots of people told him he should write a book. After thinking about it and deciding he’d like to give it a try, he spent a lot of time talking to people who influenced his life and his career, and listening to their stories. Those stories became the chapters of his book. “It’s an example of how the power of more than one creates a story,” he remarked.
He was then asked to define what a ‘win’ meant for him. “A win wasn’t necessarily more money, it was having a higher purpose,” he said, and continued with an example from his time at Verizon. Verizon wanted to provide unlimited bandwidth to its customers but was constrained by the capabilities at the time. The company still wanted to do something good for its customers, so they shifted perspective and came up with the goal of becoming the ‘best network’. Once they agreed on their higher purpose, they were able to start acting to make it happen.
It was a good time for Dean Hill’s next question: what are you most proud of?
“Beside my family?” Ivan quipped, smiling at his wife in the front row. “I think in business it’s very simple. When I retired, that was the first question I was asked. The most important contribution to me is that I look back at the company now and see that Verizon is stronger, more independent and more in control of its future. And that’s all I could ever ask for.”
Mr. Seidenberg went on to explain his belief that Verizon is in the position it’s in today because of the people. When he was CEO there, he made sure to manage and mentor the people who would maintain the quality of work that he believed in, even if they employ different styles. “That is the most important thing: to produce people who can achieve things their way.”
He also shared an anecdote offering an interesting perspective on 9/11. One of the less talked-about consequences of the events on that day included a huge hit to cellular service, which affected not only the stock market but individuals and emergency services who were desperately trying to get in touch with one another. Ivan, alongside his team at Verizon, set to reconnecting the country, working diligently to fix the service problems that were preventing people from finding out if their loved ones were okay and services like the fire service from communicating. “9/11 was one of our greatest services,” he told students, “not just for getting the stock market back up and running, but for getting the country back up and running.”
Looking to the future: it’s all about that 5G
“We’re entering the fourth industrial revolution,” said Dean Hill. “What excites you in technology right now?”
“In our industry, all roads lead to 5G. When you think of 5G from where you sit, it’s very cool – latency (the speed of the network) will soon be 50 times what it is today. 5G, coupled with sharper engineering, systems integration, and with IT capability across institutions, will completely change everything. Whatever component of this industry you’re interested in . . . connectivity, network, software systems, and applications – there’s no component holding back all the others. In the next 40 years, what will happen with all of this technology is that it’ll probably get even faster . . . the ability to make the world smaller and provide utility and good, it’s incomprehensible the kind of things that can be done.”
He added: “And I love where you are, you’re getting the kind of education that’ll put you right there.”
On that note, Dr. Hill asked: “what advice do you have for our students to maximize the opportunity of being in school now?”
“If I were the HR department and I was hiring people, I’d assume you’ll have a degree like everybody else. It’ll be a good degree coming out of Pace, but I’d want to know a few other things . . . I’d like the idea that you’ll have done a few collaboration projects for other people . . . I’d like to know that you fixed some programs for other people – having activity that isn’t part of your program.”
Having extracurricular work on one’s resume, especially that demonstrates hands-on experience, is never a bad thing. “Coming in with a resume of activity that fits what you do – it doesn’t have to be scientific, it can be that you like to work with others, you like to work with the scientific community . . . we love good grades, obviously, but we also like to know that you’re worthy of taking a risk on; someone’s got to invest in you.”
Finally, one should never underestimate the power of a smile, according to Ivan Seidenberg! “I love when you walk in the door and you smile . . . smiling is good, it can disarm people.”
Over to you
As time was trickling away too quickly, the Dean turned to the audience for questions. Here are a few of them with Ivan’s responses.
Q: What do you do now that you’re retired?
A: Lots! I participate on boards, invest in companies – including startups. I like investing in helping people to succeed
Q: If you were a college graduate today, would you pursue the same career or something different?
A: I’m only going tell you this cos you shouldn’t do what I did . . . I ended up leaving day school and going to night school. I ended up in the army because of that. I ended up overseas, somewhere I didn’t want to be, because I dropped out of day school. Then I ended up working at the phone company because I dropped out of day school . . . obviously it worked out! But I realized that over that time that I had to fit in, that I couldn’t be an outcast. I had to realize that the sun and the moon and the starts didn’t revolve around me. Sound familiar? What I would not change is the lessons I learned and how I applied them. But whether they would lead me down the same career could be different.
Q: What big risks did you take?
A: I came home and told my wife “we’re moving to Washington!” . . . that was the hardest sale I’ve ever had to make! The other one was when I chose to give up my job as CEO and become co-CEO. Most of the risks you take are personal. They’re not business risks.
Following the Q&A session, the event moved to the renovated collaboration space where a table had been set up for the book signing. Students lined all the way down the hallway for their chance to meet and shake hands with the Seidenberg School’s benefactor. A small celebration took place as the Seidenberg community thanked Mr. Seidenberg for the visit and for his honesty and depth during the discussion. Pace University President Marvin Krislov and Provost Vanya Quiñones also stopped by to greet our guest, and we were happy to see quite a few alumni return to their old stomping grounds for the occasion.
The festival of Diwali originates from India, where it is commonly called the “Festival of Lights”. On the day of Diwali every house is decorated with lots of lights and lanterns. “Laxmi,” the goddess of strength, prosperity, love and wealth, is worshiped on Diwali. People wear traditional Indian clothes and enjoy Diwali night with delicious food and beautiful fireworks.
The Seidenberg Diwali celebration was held at the Seidenberg Lounge, located at 163 William Street. The entrance was decorated with a colorful Rangoli—an art form originating from India, in which patterns are created on the floor or ground using colored sand or flower petals. Rangoli is thought to bring good luck.
Students, faculty, and staff attended the event wearing traditional Indian attire. Even the Dean of the Seidenberg School, Dr. Jonathan Hill, as well as Director of Development Deth Sao wore colorful Indian clothes they had purchased on trips to India to meet with prospective Seidenberg students.
The event started with lantern decorations. Everyone was provided with lanterns, diyas (candles decorated in Indian style), and all the decoration materials. Dean Hill, staff members Katie Todd, Deth Sao, Stephanie Elson, and Melanie Madera sat down with a crowd of students to color in, add glitter to, and otherwise decorate their lanterns.
Every design was inventive and unique, enabling our students to show off their creative flair. All of these lanterns and diyas were displayed at the Seidenberg lounge.
After all the decorations were done, it was time for the diya lighting ceremony. It’s an Indian tradition that the first diya must be lit by the head of the family. Dr. Hill did the honors of lighting the first diya in front of goddess, Laxmi, and wished everyone a very happy and prosperous Diwali.
With the ritual done, it was time for food! On this auspicious occasion of Diwali, everyone enjoyed delicious authentic Indian food with lots of chit chatting.
Everyone there shared thoughts about significance of Diwali and exchanged ideas about how Diwali is celebrated in India. It was a good time for all, especially when everyone got to explore lots of ideas regarding this festival.
Our annual Diwali celebration is always one of our favorites – we are glad that everyone had an amazing time and we look forward to celebrating again next year!
Ready for winter vacation? Celebrate the last few days of the semester with the Seidenberg community at one (or both!) of our holiday parties! Whether you’re finished with finals or still experiencing the struggle, take some time for self-care and spend a couple of hours with friends, food, and festivities.
I grew up in rural Northern California and am a hippie at heart. I never thought I’d find myself working for a large corporate bank, but life is strange and full of surprises. Last summer I spent ten weeks working for one of the largest banks in the world. When I told my friends and neighbors back home that I was going to work for a bank, I kept hearing, “What?! Banks are EVIL!” and “Are you selling out to corporate America?!” Not entirely funny, because that is how I was feeling as well. In spite of this, I went into the experience with hope that it would be something new and entirely different. I decided that since it was something so foreign to me, it was something that I had to try, and so I did. While in some respects, the internship was exactly what me and my neighbors back home and I thought it was going to be, I still gained invaluable skills.
Pace Career Services introduced me to JP Morgan through a scheduled visit. I was impressed with JP Morgan’s solid dedication for technology improvements, and I decided to, at least, apply for the job. Svetlana (awesome Seidenberg career counselor) helped me, and I sent in an application. A couple of weeks later, I got a call asking me to schedule two back-to-back phone interviews: one behavioral and one technical. Each was half an hour, and fairly straightforward. After that, I didn’t hear much for a while, but I was eventually offered the job, and I accepted.
The semester ended and soon the 10 week internship began. I learned it was to be team-based project work. Each team of interns was assigned to a manager within a specific division of JP Morgan. Next each manager gave his or her team a project to complete over the course of the ten weeks. In addition to a manager, each intern was matched with a mentor: a recent college graduate working full time within the firm.
Throughout the summer there were various speakers, workshops, networking events, and even a firm-wide hackathon designed for the interns. I got to go to a talk about quantum computing in FinTech, as well as other talks about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. I also got to speak to all sorts of people about why they like working at JP Morgan. All of this was intended to help us get a feel for what it would be like to work at JP Morgan. At the end of the ten weeks, we presented our work in. and people from within the firm came to hear about it. We set up booths with demonstrations of our work, and people came up to us to ask questions. We explained what we had been working on over the past 10 weeks.
I was on a team of four interns working with big data in the back office. Our job was to speed up data aggregation on an internal company application designed only for JP Morgan employees to use. Using big data technologies such as Hadoop, Apache Spark, Hbase, and Hive, we migrated an oracle database into a Hadoop environment. Next we used software called Apache Kylin to pre-aggregate the data in an OLAP cube so that queries would run faster. After extensive testing, we demonstrated a 99% speed up. This solution worked because the relevant data rarely changed, and was mostly just read, not written to.
Overall, I learned a lot about what it was like to be at one of the largest corporations in the world. I like that I was able to network with so many people, and understand more about how banking works. I also liked really knowing what it is like to work a full day, every day, 9-5, Monday through Friday. I learned how important it is to me to work for a company where I believe in the mission. (Very! -no matter how nice the pay is!), and I learned that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life sitting in a corner coding. I like interacting with people and collaborating and really learning about the world around me. I also want to feel like the work I do matters and affects people positively. My summer at JP Morgan was enlightening; I learned a bit about banking and quite a bit about myself, the world, and what I want in the future.