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" I still believe I am in school Today"
 

By:
Dr.Thomas J Mowbray
Chairman, iCMG

"Life is an adventure - that is how I have always viewed it. It's like climbing a mountain; the nearest ridge looks like the mountain top. You take some time to climb up, but when you get there you realize that this is only the first step. There is another slope you couldn't see earlier waiting to be crossed. You go up that slope, and when you get there you realize that there is another slope to climb and there is more to achieve.

I discovered at a very early age that I was interested in programming. In early high school, we had programming courses and I took up Fortran and Basic programming. This strong interest in programming continued during the four years in college. After that, I was fortunate enough to be accepted at Stanford University, where I pursued a master's degree in computer engineering. Here I was able to study with many of the top visionaries in Silicon Valley. I read about these people I studied with years later. Stanford is a small community, and though I was only there for a little over a year, professors still remember me. At Stanford, I felt like I had reached the ridge of programming and software knowledge, having studied with some of the founding fathers in the field.

The classes at Stanford were highly challenging. I was interested in meeting people from different parts of the world. Some of my best friends at Stanford were from countries like Japan, Chile and Brazil. We worked together on various assignments, and it was a very enjoyable experience.

While I was at Stanford, I realized that I had a very strong interest in parallel processing - a particular way of using software technology to tackle greater challenges such as artificial intelligence, image understanding, and robotics. Eventually, I got a job to work on an autonomous land vehicle, which was a visionary project in the mid-eighties. This period, in some sense, was the age of parallel processing.

At that time, we realized that many of the real challenges in computing have to deal with the basic infrastructure. How do you tie together different kinds of computers and different programming languages? We had to solve this problem in the autonomous land vehicle project where we had more than a dozen kind of computers and half-a-dozen different programming languages. We were doing this in the mid-80s, well before technology support like CORBA became available. We were tackling some of the hardest system integration challenges that anybody was working on at that time. Talented programmers form all over the world worked to bring various technologies together to do some of the most advanced test-bed demonstrations that have ever been done.

Here's an example of how revolutionary this was at that time. Before the autonomous land vehicle project, no computer image understanding group had ever analyzed more than one dozen pictures. Every time the autonomous land vehicle did a test of about halt-a-mile of autonomous navigation, we would process 700 pictures within a few minutes. This was hundreds of times more than that had ever been done in research projects for several years. This fundamentally changed the way people thought about image understanding and created a whole new wave of research in the late eighties.

We look our ideas into different domains or different kinds of projects after the autonomous land vehicle project. We were given other similar challenges that involved the integration of existing software with commercial software packages in workstation environments. Many of the problems we were working on had similar characteristics of different platforms, distributed computing, and trying to integrate these together without having to write the whole system from scratch. When we discovered the CORBA technology in December 1991, which came out of research projects at Sun Microsystems, we immediately saw the potential for solving these problems in a much more powerful and easier way. We could now reason at a higher level as to how to organize system architectures, and it gave us tremendous freedom to envision new solutions that were easier to realize. CORBA was a revolution that freed our abilities to tackle much more challenging application problems.

One of the most dramatic changes in my career has been in the way customer or user requirements have evolved. The expectations of users towards what it takes to build a reasonably useful software application have dramatically changed from very simple textual interfaces to Internet-based interfaces, which can access the system from any computer in the world, with as many users at the same time as possible.

I have grown up in the age of the Internet where people who share my vision and my way of thinking are all over the globe. I've been able to hook-up with these people, and we form our own kind of community. This is my family, in many ways, with people from India, Europe, the US, South America and other places around the globe. We are unified by common ideas, common vision, and common ways of thinking about who to make the world a better place. And we are actively engaged in realizing those visions. As an example, at iCMG (Internet Component Management Group) we have gone from a vision to the reality of our Component Academy Training Centers distributed throughout southeast Asia today.

I believe that most people who graduate form college have some kind of vision as to what they want to achieve in life. The longer you stay in education after graduating, the greater the chances you form an outlook on how you can make a difference. Those who reach doctorate levels almost always want to change the world or save the world from itself in some significant way. Deep down inside, many of us have gone through periods in our life where we think we have some fundamental answers that will help our own industry to advance. We try to translate our ideas into books, training courses and interviews to spread them around, trying to help other people understand the vision that led us to those conclusions. That is where we get our inner drive from.

I have been fortunate in having many mentors in my life. Certainly, my college professors have had a great influence on me. I've also had many personal friends who have helped me in various ways to understand how society works. But eventually you get to the point where you need to become your own mentor. The ideas are our there to be discovered. Every place you look you'll find clues as to how the world works and how it can be improved.

I think creativity is one of the important qualities needed to be successful. In order to solve problems, we need to identify various creative alternatives. From those alternatives we can analyze various criteria and find the right solutions.

The important things in life for me are related to the human community- the physical family, the professional family, and all those friendships and associations which really make life worthwhile, and a team experience where we can all work together to make the world a better place.

At every stage in life, there are challenges that each of us have. I am no exception. I have my own personal challenges working on real issues in life. Life should not be a day-to-day struggle of short-term problem solving. Life is much more about some deeper issues that take a long-term process to resolve. I see my life as involving day-to-day struggles, but that isn't the real meaning of life. I'd like to change that slowly.

"I think creativity is one of the important qualities needed to be successful."

A description of CORBA technology in layman's language by Dr. Thomas Mowbray

CORBA is a standard for software communication. It is standard way of defining how high-level language programs can communicate with other high-level language programs, across different kinds of systems, without having to be concerned with the d4etails of how the translations are made. As an example, we can take two different programming languages like COBOL and Java. With CORBA technology, they can come together in a language-neutral environment and define how the system will communicate, what is the emergent structure, and so on. CORBA technology takes that and compiles it in a distributed computing solution which performs all the hardware and software translations necessary to get information in Java and back to the COBOL environment, and vice-versa, CORBA is a revolution in software technology. It has taken some o the most difficult problems of heterogeneity and distributed computing, and made them easy to solve.

I greatly respect people with very strong sense of responsibility-people who can take on complicated challenges and take responsibility for resolving those challenges.

I've discovered through experience that scientific fields are based more on personal knowledge rather than objective knowledge. There are many ideas that individual scientists like myself have which are not necessarily accepted across-the-board, although there are many individuals who share my vision. For example, the idea that software architecture is the most important factor for the success of software projects. When I first started writing columns for some magazines, this was a topic that was rarely understood by individuals in professional and research fields. Today, there is an understanding of what it is but it is not clear to many people as to how to perform and execute this discipline. This is somewhat frustrating to me, given that we have been practicing and writing about these innovative practices for more than five years in the public domain. We realized that reading alone cannot change the world. We have to do more. We have to go out there and train people to think our way. That is why we have created institutions like Component Academy to promulgate these ideas and to produce results. We are continually working on ways to become more effective in getting our ideas into accessible forms. Currently, we are transforming our content into Internet, broadband television and public broadcast kinds of format, so that we can get it out to the greatest number of people in the most effective way.

I am very satisfied with my professional progress. My criteria for success in the past few years has been my ability to help my friends and my professional family to become mor successful. I am very satisfied with the results we have achieved together. In India, we had a vision two years ago to create a network of learning that can disseminate advanced IT concepts, practices and technologies. Working together as a non-profit institution, we've been able to realize that vision. We are now in a position to put these advanced IT training centers into every major city in south Asia. This is a wonderful feeling-we've been able to convert an idea into a reality in less than two years.

My family has been very supportive of my desire to work with my friend and colleagues on a global scale. We have made many sacrifices to get to the point that we are at today. We have made those sacrifices willingly and gladly, because that was the cost of being able to realize our vision on this grand scale. In some areas I am mentoring my family, but in most areas my family is mentoring me.

It makes me very happy when I see my friends and colleagues become more successful and more effective in their own businesses. That has been one of my greatest sources of joy - being able to help my friends in businesses in the US, in Europe and in Asia to become successful, and to have a significant positive impact on society through them.

I have always been interested in travelling and in having adventures. The most interesting adventure has been going all around the world, and conducting training seminars and meeting hundreds of people interested in the same technologies I have been working with. I have had the great fortune to provide inspiration in Japan, Australia, South Asia and many other places.

Speaking from my own experience, education has been one of the most important factors that has helped me achieve my goals. I continued beyond college into post-graduate work, and I still believe that I am in school (of the real world) today. The desire and the ability to continue learning is one of the most important factors for growth and people should nurture this quality.

"We all have to learn to be in a continual mode of self-improvement in order ot be more effective in realizing our visions."

People outside my family tend to rate me very highly-and its always a pleasant surprise for me. In Japan, a friend who had read my books, said on meeting me, "You are always right, Mowbray." My response to that was, "Obviously, you have not met my wife. She knows better!"

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