Innovators And Influencers 2003: Profiles

John Halamka: Triage For IT

CIOs need to know how to deal with a crisis. Successful health-care CIOs must also understand a clinician's point of view. John Halamka, CIO at CareGroup Healthcare System, an operator of five Boston-area hospitals, is perfectly suited for his job. As an emergency-room physician, he's intimately familiar with medical workflow and culture, triage situations, and surviving on three hours of sleep a day.


ON MEDICINE: Halamka developed Massachusetts Poison Control's antidote for poisonous mushrooms
Halamka needs to short-change his sleep, given how much he packs into his days. In addition to the CIO post at CareGroup, which he's held since 1998, he's an associate dean, professor, and CIO at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the New England EDI Network, a nonprofit consortium of health-care providers that have worked together to become compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Halamka's accomplishments at CareGroup include integrating IT systems, standardizing the processes of CareGroup's five hospitals, and implementing a Web order-entry system that replaced handwritten drug prescriptions at CareGroup's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. At his Harvard post, Halamka oversaw the implementation of, which gives Harvard medical and dental students and faculty wireless access to material for all courses. Halamka is also involved with a multidisciplinary group of professionals from several Harvard-affiliated hospitals who are studying medical informatics, or the use of IT in health care.

His duties don't stop there. Halamka teaches and lectures, and he travels frequently to consult with other CIOs, health-care officials, and experts in medical informatics on matters such as managing patient care via the Web. Among his recent travels was a meeting with the United Kingdom's minister of health, Lord Philip Hunt, to discuss issues related to electronic medical records and patient privacy.

Halamka manages to fit all this into his life, along with hobbies such as kayaking, biking, and hiking, without keeping a to-do list or a single piece of paper in his CareGroup office. His Blackberry PDA goes with him everywhere. Good thing, since he receives more than 400 E-mails a day. Halamka responds to a message as he reads it, so he never handles an E-mail more than once.

His time-efficient habits are manifested in his personal life as well. He married the first girl he dated, a fellow student at Stanford University. He and Kathy Halamka, a photographer and artist, have been married 22 years--more than half of John's life. He's only 40. The Halamkas' 9-year-old daughter often accompanies her dad on his overseas travels.

Halamka considers medicine and technology his "parallel interests," and both bit him at an early age. "I spent the summer when I was 10 working with biologists on Beaver Island, Mich., and developed a great interest in the natural world and biological systems," he says. It was around that same time that Halamka's interest in technology budded. His favorite after-school hobby was visiting the surplus stores of aircraft and electronic companies in California.

During the coming year, Halamka says he'll focus on providing Web order-entry access throughout CareGroup's other four hospitals and on implementing Web-based systems that let outpatients schedule procedures and appointments. "John has an unusual command of explaining very complex things and for teaching others," says Reed Gardner, chairman of the medical informatics department at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Gardner met Halamka eight years ago when Gardner was a professor and Halamka one of his informatics students. Above all, Gardner adds, "John has vision for what medical computing and informatics should be."

Halamka sees a lot of similarities in emergency medicine and technology. "I think of the human body in engineering terms--input/output failures, memory corruptions--and computers in medical terms," he says. "An IT problem is triage where the technology becomes the patient."
--Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Tom Davis: A Roll-Up-The-Sleeves Politician

U.S. Rep. Tom Davis was schooled in politics, literally.

One of the most influential lawmakers regarding federal IT policy, the Virginia Republican spent his teen-age years in the mid-'60s as a Senate page, where he was elected to his first political post: senior class president of the U.S. Capitol Page School. "While other kids collected baseball cards," Davis says, "I collected the cards of lobbyists."


ON POLITICS: Davis claims to know the career details of every congressional representative for the past 40 years
Testament to this lifelong obsession with politics--he claims to know career details of every congressional representative for the past 40 years--can be seen in framed black-and-white photos of an adolescent Davis with the legends of a bygone political era: Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Everett Dirksen, and Barry Goldwater. Davis proudly shows visitors these pictures mounted on the walls of his Capitol Hill office. Not seen, but implied, are the lessons learned by Davis, who turns 54 Jan. 5, in the cloakrooms from the likes of these leaders who helped provide the foundation to a successful congressional career.

Davis fined-tuned his political skills as a 12-year member and then chief executive of the board of supervisors in Fairfax County, Va., a coin's throw across the Potomac from Washington and a locus of tech businesses in northern Virginia. During that time, Davis served as VP and general counsel for PRC Inc., a federal IT integrator now part of Northrop Grumman Corp., where he began to grasp how IT can influence government policy and action.

Few on Capitol Hill possess Davis' amalgamation of political savoir faire and IT savvy because many of his colleagues just don't get technology and its vital role in running government. That combination has helped Davis, first elected to Congress in 1994, quickly ascend to the leadership of House Republicans. He sought and received assignments to key IT-influencing committees, including a seat on the Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. But his crowning achievement was being appointed to chair the Governmental Reform Committee's Subcommittee on IT and Procurement Policy, his perch to review administration action and proposed laws regarding federal IT matters. Among his achievements: sponsoring the Y2K Act (which shielded businesses from potential lawsuits resulting from fixing the dating problem) and shepherding the just-enacted E-Government Act through Congress. One section of that law includes a pet project in which government IT managers can be temporarily loaned to private businesses and vice versa so they can learn from each other's best practices.

Davis also played a vital role in molding key IT ingredients of the Homeland Security Act, including provisions that strengthen information security laws and encourage private-sector innovation to battle terrorists. Other provisions of the law provide antitrust, Freedom of Information Act, and civil-liability exemptions for businesses that share information about threats to the nation's critical infrastructure. "To fight the war on terrorism, we need the best and brightest minds around the table to figure out what we can do," Davis says. "We can't let liabilities laws to discourage those people from getting to the table."

In the coming year, Davis contends, Congress won't take a backseat to the Bush administration in defining IT policy. "We'll move ahead legislatively in January and February; we'll hit the ground running," he says. "The administration can react, but we know where we want to go." Davis' agenda includes initiatives to make procuring IT hardware, software, and services faster and easier. A key element of that plan is to provide procurement officers with the right education and tools to get the best deals for the government, which he estimates could save taxpayers billions. He'd like to expand use of share-in-savings contracts, in which vendors take on more risks in their contracts with the government but reap a greater share of the savings realized by the technologies and services. Davis also wants to explore using offshore workers to do some software coding, provided it doesn't compromise national security. "I see my job as an honest broker trying to get the best value for the country," he says.

Davis' clout on the Hill, especially among fellow Republicans, is on the rise, thanks to November's election, in which Republicans increased their majority in the House, a rarity in a midterm election when the same party holds the White House. Davis, as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee--the fund-raising arm for House GOP candidates--helped disperse $150 million to Republican candidates, and he sees it's time they return the favor, voting in favor of Davis' proposals.

"His stock is high," says David McClure, VP for E-government at the nonpartisan Council for Excellence In Government and former director of IT management issues for the General Accounting Office.

Davis isn't an ideologue, and McClure and others--including the Bush administration's point man on IT, Mark Forman--credit him with holding hearings that present a wide range of views, not just from federal officials but from local and state governments, business, and labor. "He's a thought leader for us and a key policy maker," says Forman, associate director for IT and E-government at the Office of Management and Budget. Forman lauds Davis for holding hearings that raised the government's awareness on the importance of enterprise architecture as a way, not only of linking federal programs and agencies, but of connecting with local and state governments and the private sector.

"Davis is very pragmatic," McClure says. "He's focused on getting results and getting government to operate better. He's not into huge policy debates that go on endlessly. He's just a roll-up-the-sleeves kind of guy."
--Eric Chabrow

Ling Chai: A Woman Of Conviction

Ling Chai, who was named a criminal by the Chinese government for her role in the Tiananmen Square protests, escaped from her homeland 13 years ago by huddling inside a crate that was nailed shut and shipped to Hong Kong. Chai says the 108-hour journey helped mold her into an effective business leader.

"I've overcome a lot of difficulties, and I've been in situations where I didn't know what was going to happen next," says Chai, president and chief operating officer at Jenzabar Inc., an education-software company. "My escape from China taught me patience, faith, and tenacity."


ON LIFE AT THE OFFICE: Chai, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, sometimes needs to be reminded to wear suits to important meetings
Chai is seeing the rewards of her belief system. While many software companies struggle, 4-year-old Jenzabar expects to close the year profitably, with a 20% rise in annual revenue, to $50 million. Jenzabar provides software to more than 700 educational institutions for running portals that give students access to class schedules and admissions, and for integrated back-end financial and human-resources systems.

Chai is petite, soft-spoken, and approachable, but has a tendency to take her convictions to extremes. She led a seven-day hunger strike in the pro-democracy demonstration in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and was one of the few leaders who stayed after soldiers tried to disperse the crowd with gunshots and tanks. "She's very passionate and believes in what she's doing, and you see that in all of her speeches and communications," says Sashi Parthasarathi, Jenzabar's VP of client services. "Her strength is her ability to think outside the box and to push the envelope with new ideas."

A graduate of Beijing University, Chai earned master's degrees from Princeton and Harvard. She started Jenzabar, which means "the best and the brightest" in Mandarin, in the basement of her home. The company employs 260 people and has completed several rounds of private financing. Still, Chai admits to rough spots along the way as a woman from a different culture. "What's good about this country, though, is the culture is a meritocracy," Chai says. "It's results driven. When investors see the results of a company, they start believing in it and forget about things like race and gender."

Some Chinese dissidents have accused Chai of using her past notoriety to draw attention to Jenzabar. Still, she hopes to visit China soon and says she's not willing to compromise her goals for changing her homeland in order to get back in. Says Chai, "I hope to have the opportunity to go back so we can bring enough experience to help restructure a new China."
--Mary Hayes

Charles Simonyi: Out On His Own

Charles Simonyi isn't your typical computer scientist. He's an aficionado of Jaguars and jets. A lifelong bachelor at 54, he lives in a 20,500-square-foot, high-tech house near Seattle and frequently makes magazines' richest-people lists. He's pals with Martha Stewart, worked at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in its heyday, and joined Microsoft when it had 40 employees. In his early days in the States, the Hungarian immigrant would show up for nighttime bug-fixing sessions in a black "debugging suit"--a net shirt and skin-tight, translucent pants.

"Charles is Charles," says Chuck Thacker, a distinguished engineer at Microsoft who's worked with Simonyi since 1968.

Bill Gates once called Simonyi "one of the great programmers of all time." He invented Microsoft Word and Excel, and before that PARC's pioneering Bravo word processor. As long as anyone can remember, he's been trying to close the gap between programmers' design intentions and the actual software code. Make code look like its design, he reasons, and programming becomes more accessible and quality goes up.


ON ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Simonyi called himself the 'messenger RNA of the PARC virus' when he joined Microsoft in 1981
In September, Simonyi left Microsoft after 21 years to start his own company, Intentional Software Corp., to do just that. Funded with Simonyi's personal fortune, Intentional employs programmers in Hungary and Bellevue, Wash. If Intentional's goal sounds esoteric, well, so was the idea of personal computers once.

Simonyi's intentional-programming tools, still under construction, transform code to make it more comprehensible to users. One view of a business system might show mathematical formulas that appeal to engineers. Click another view, and the underlying code shows up. That could make it easier for developers to turn business users' feedback into functioning systems. "The most carefully and expensively prepared Six Sigma Java source [code] isn't up to the expressive standards of even the poorest of everyday Web sites--not in its use of color, typography, logical arrangement of contents, or ability to search," he says. "This strikes me as a rich opportunity."

If anyone can make it work, it's Simonyi. "One thing that separates really good programmers from run-of-the-mill programmers is the ability to hold enormous complexity in their heads at one time about what a program is doing in relation to what it should be doing," Thacker says. "Charles can do that like no one else."

Simonyi learned programming as a teen-ager in Budapest working a night job in a government office where he had access to a Ural II, a room-sized, Soviet-made monster programmed by punching cash-register-style keys. After arriving in the United States, he earned a degree at Berkeley, a doctorate at Stanford, and worked for Berkeley Computer Corp. before joining PARC in 1972. In '81, Simonyi joined Microsoft.

Before Bravo and Word, Simonyi says, formatting was something done to text, rather than its property. That sounds like a subtle distinction, but it meant that changes to a document ruined its formatting. "Programming is somewhat in the same state today," he says. "Any changes to the program--and there are always changes--mess up the pattern."
--Aaron Ricadela

Joe Grano: Just A Regular Joe

He heads a major financial institution, and he leads one of President Bush's most important advisory committees, but Joe Grano still answers his own phone.

As chairman and president of UBS PaineWebber Inc., Grano has power and influence, but he hasn't lost his sense of being a regular Joe. "He's one of the most unique guys in the business world," says Bob Silver, president of UBS PaineWebber Services, which oversees the company's tech operations. "What I admire most about Joe is his respect for people regardless of their station in life--whether it's the mail-room guy or the CEO of a multinational, he'll treat them the same way."


ON PAST EXPERIENCE: Grano served as an officer in the Green Berets during the Vietnam War
Silver should know. He has worked with Grano since 1985 when they were at Merrill Lynch. Grano's calm style has served him well in crises, such as after Sept. 11, 2001, when the financial markets were closed for a week. It also helped get him picked to chair President Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council, which guides development of the Department of Homeland Security. That was an appointment he couldn't refuse. "I've learned that you can't say no to the president," he says.

Grano ran into "anxiety and anger" on the council because it took so long to get the department established. "Now that it's passed, the most important issue facing us is the ability to amalgamate and come up with best practices to help Tom Ridge get this done."

Grano is devoted to the financial-services industry. One of the lessons that has stayed with him since Sept. 11 is that disaster recovery isn't the same as business continuity. Disaster recovery entails having a hot site and data backup, he says, but business continuity needs to be addressed more broadly. His strategy for both, which includes spending an additional $30 million, is to ensure that UBS has plans for extra sites and parallel processes.

Grano also set up an innovative monitoring system that reviews trading activity in UBS branch offices to ensure regulatory compliance. UBS is willing to share information on the monitoring system with any company that wants to use it, Grano says. "And if anybody wanted to know what we're doing for disaster recovery, we'd tell them. A stronger Wall Street is better for everybody."
--Eileen Colkin Cuneo

Peter Bell: In It For The Long Haul

Building a technology startup is challenge enough. Changing its business model just two years later is even more daring. That's just what Peter Bell, chairman and founder of Storage Networks Inc., did to try to keep his company alive and profitable. He's burned through nearly $400 million, without a lot of success. But he's determined to prove he can help customers eliminate the complexity of data storage.


ON TRAVEL: Rather than fly, Bell travels from Boston to New York in a chauffeured car. The main benefit: Sleep.
Bell isn't afraid to take chances, or even ignore the advice of people he respects when he's sure he's right. Years ago, he walked away from an accounting career--in the middle of the certification exam. "I went to the rest room an hour into it and realized I didn't want to be an accountant," he says. "I walked out, picked up my girlfriend, and went away for the weekend." He took a job for less money with EMC Corp., which at the time made memory boards. "My father told me it was the dumbest thing I ever did," he says.

The jury's still out on his father's judgment. Bell left EMC, raised $650 million in capital, and launched Storage Networks in November 2000 as the first provider of storage as a service. "People were in a rush to implement Y2K protection and CRM apps," Bell says. "We gave them a way to do it all quicker."

It meant Bell had to spend loads of capital buying storage capacity. Yet companies were reluctant to hand their data to an unknown company, and Storage Networks struggled. "When we started, companies weren't getting efficiency out of their storage," Bell says. "Nobody's solved that yet." So Bell and his executive team spent the past year asking managers what they need to solve their storage problems, which led to the decision to transform the company into a storage-management software vendor. In the coming year, Bell hopes to expand the software to include infrastructure linked to storage devices such as servers and databases. "We must think broader than we have until now," he says. Storage Networks' 2002 revenue is expected to come in around $95 million.

William Weyand, retired chairman and CEO of SDRC, a product life-cycle management company acquired by EDS for $1 billion, joined Storage Networks' board in June. He believes Bell can successfully turn Storage Networks into "an ROI-driven software company."

Bell sticks with what he likes. The college sweetheart he spent the weekend with after bailing on the CPA exam is now his wife. And he's sticking with Storage Networks. "I've got my chance to run the show," he says. "I still have the dream and excitement that this will grow into something lasting."
--Martin J. Garvey

Sanjay Sarma: More Than Child's Play

The next revolution in commerce may have begun with a child's toy. Growing up in Delhi, India, Sanjay Sarma spent much of his time playing with building toys, constructing various gadgets. As the years passed, his projects got more complex, until eventually Sarma was experimenting with his home's electrical system. "I blew out the fuses a few times," he says. "I was a dangerous animal."

This nuclear physicist's son has come a long way. As research director of the Auto-ID Center, a business consortium that's the primary advocate of radio-frequency identification technology, he's helping define RFID systems, which may one day use tiny microchips to track everything from massive cargo containers to individual tubes of toothpaste.


ON HIS FAVORITE MOVIE: 'Monty Python And The Holy Grail' reminds Sarma of days 'the responsible side of my brain tries to forget'
"Sanjay is undoubtedly responsible for the vision of the Auto-ID Center and for the fact that it's becoming a reality," says Peter Cole, professor of RFID systems at Australia's University of Adelaide and director of the Auto-ID Center's Adelaide lab.

After earning a degree in mechanical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Sarma, 34, took a job as a field engineer for Schlumberger Oilfield Services, a British company that stationed him in the Arctic Circle as a drill-equipment operator. Sarma became intrigued by robots the company used for deep-sea exploration and decided to pursue a career in robotics.

Two degrees (a master's from Carnegie Mellon and a doctorate from U.C. Berkeley) later, Sarma was working as a mechanical engineering professor at MIT. He met David Brock, a researcher in MIT's artificial-intelligence lab, and one day they brainstormed in a hallway on how to get robots to recognize objects. "I wouldn't be in this field if I hadn't had that meeting," Sarma says. "He asked me, 'Why do you have to perceive objects to recognize them? Why not just put an RFID tag on it?'"

In 1999, the two engineers founded the Auto-ID Center.

But that doesn't mean the boy with the building toys has given up tinkering. "If this technology is deployed correctly, and it's designed with care, attention, and responsibility, it can have a huge impact on our lives in a positive way."
--David M. Ewalt

Steve Neiman: On The Grid

It's fitting that one of Wall Street's top computer jocks isn't considered a high-tech visionary. This isn't Silicon Valley, after all. It's New York.

Colleagues describe Steve Neiman, a VP who runs high-performance computing for investment banking at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., as "low key," "modest," and "probing." Neiman, who helped pioneer the use of grid computing on Wall Street, has a doctorate in physics, experience at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and "distinguished engineer" in his title. But "he's not chasing technology rainbows," says Songnian Zhou, chief technology officer at grid-computing software maker Platform Computing Inc., a key supplier. Neiman's a pragmatist at heart. (Hey, he lives on Staten Island, a lower-wattage alternative to Manhattan.)


ON READING: Neiman says he's one of the few on Wall Street who's read 13th-century German literature for fun
"We're not building the compute backbone because it's cool," Neiman says of the grid-computing project his group uses to manage complex trading and risk-management applications. The system culls data from across the company's investment-banking operations to help bankers execute trades that hedge against different types of business risk for clients.

Grid computing, which matches users over networks with the processing power and databases they need to complete specific jobs, isn't widely used in business, but Neiman says it lets his group get answers faster and keep costs down. The backbone separates the state of computations from the Linux servers that run them, and nodes that fail are rebooted or replaced--never fixed. The servers are "dirt cheap, dumb as dirt, and incredibly disposable," Neiman says.

J.P. Morgan Chase faces its share of challenges, including a slowdown in investment banking, vulnerability to credit risk, and more than $2 billion of exposure to Enron. But it's a leader in high-performance computing. The company won the NCSA's annual Industrial Grand Challenge award in 1997 for its work in data visualization. "It was a shock to a lot of people" that an investment bank was using supercomputers, says John Stevenson, marketing director for the center's private-sector program and Neiman's manager when he worked there in the '90s. But "Steve would never take credit," he says. "It's not his style."
--Aaron Ricadela

Jit Saxena: A Different Way Of Thinking

Common wisdom says that data-warehouse projects are complex, expensive, and can have failure rates as high as 90%. But Jit Saxena doesn't believe it has to be that way.

Saxena is co-founder and CEO of Netezza Corp., a startup that has developed what's best described as a preassembled data-warehouse appliance capable of tackling terabyte-scale business-intelligence applications at a lower cost than today's assemble-yourself data warehouses.

"The next phase of computing will be built around harnessing huge amounts of data and getting value out of it," Saxena says. "How this data is used for competitive advantage will determine how effective a business will be."

The idea of a preassembled data warehouse first came to Foster Hinshaw, a former consultant and now Netezza's chief technology officer. Hinshaw and Saxena founded Netezza in September 2000.

Born in Bina, India, in 1945, Saxena watched his three older brothers become doctors like their father. But he wanted to do something different. After graduating from St. John's College in Agra and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, Saxena moved to the United States and earned a master's degree in electrical engineering at Michigan State University in 1968.

Six months ago, Vibrant Solutions, a provider of software and services to telecom companies, installed a Netezza system on a trial basis. The upshot: It performed in three minutes data-analysis tasks that take up to eight hours with Vibrant's other data warehouses. Says Rick Mahuson, Vibrant's chief technology officer, "It dramatically changes the data-analysis paradigm."
--Rick Whiting

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