Ulf, chief scientist at a small start-up that is building the future of personal identification - through iris scanning. Fingerprinting is yesterday's technology, because it has a high error rate due to the human involved in making the prints. Iris scanning is unique and extremely accurate. Ulf's claim to fame - the identification of the afgan girl, the one with the green eyes on the National Geographic cover. The photos taken have very high resolution of the eyes, and he was able to prove that the woman they found ten years later was the same one by comparing her irisis. Other than that, his technology is used for security purposes in some airports and by arab governments.
Doug, the product manager for Campbell's Soup, explained that the high sodium contents of the canned soup is not at all for the preservation purposes, but rather for taste only. In fact, he claims that the soups we get in the restaurants contain more sodium than the canned version. Now, the home version - just add more salt?
Aravind, managing an outsourcing of call center functionality to India and the Far East for CapitalOne complained about the problems of outsourcing. There are many problems: they need to work during night hours (when it's day in the US); it's extremely difficult to make them understand the US culture; turnover is over 100% due to demotivating work; work ethic is poor, even though the pay is high by Indian standards. Due to all of the above quality suffers, customers are unhappy. And yet CapitalOne continues the practice, as the costs there are about 25% of the US, and they can send at least the low-importance customers there.
Neeraj, strategy development for call centers in MBNA countered that their outsourcing to India has been highly successful. They only outsource their telemarketing (advertising) functions to India and the Indian results were double that of US telemarketers. Well, not so easy... Turns out the Indian telemarketers were misrepresenting the offers, misleading the customers, so that the clients either left or were unhappy later on. And still, MBNA continues to increase its outsourcing effort.
How does the above translate to software development?
Tom, VP at Merck (a major pharmaceutical company), confirmed our morning econ lecture, describing how they sell exactly the same drugs for a fraction of the price in Canada. Why not? They are still making a profit there, because they still cover their per-pill costs.
I am starting to feel pretty self-conscious about the lack of stories of my own... And since I did end up talking about myself, after all, I'll mention one more thing - my Hawaiian dress was a rousing success at the pool party, I don't think I've ever gotten more compliments on it (is it me or is it the 20% female ratio?). In any case, it was a great conversation starter, too, giving me a chance to meet all these folks and practice my name-remembering and mingling skills. The most helpful skill so far? The tried and true "be yourself."