I’m Speaking at IBM’s Smart Camp on May 18, 2011
May 15 2011

I speak on many panels and serve as a judge at many competitions, and I wish I had time to write more about them.  I just got back from a conference put on by one of the Austin Technology Incubators funders, the Economic Development Agency, held in Albuquerque.  I was on a panel and served as a discussion moderator at one of the round tables they held.   I’ll be writing about that one in the next week or so.  I recently wrote on the Austin Technology Incubator blog about an upcoming event I’m speaking on at IBM’s SmartCamp here in Austin, Texas.

I will be serving on a panel sponsored by SharpSkirts with other key executives from IBM and the Dachis Group on May 18, 2o11.  ATI will be offering  part of the University of Texas at Austin prize consisting of a package of strategic consulting services and office space to the winning team.

Scott Case, CEO of Startup America, will speak about Startup America and share his views for the Austin entrepreneurial community.  Scott will be joining from Washington DC via an interactive webcast.

Jim Corgel, IBM General Manager of ISV & Developer Relations, will speak about what IBM SmartCamp is doing for the local and global community and what the new IBM Global Entrepreneur initiative offers start-ups.

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Interesting Links and Fortunes
Nov 21 2010

These two links are interesting because I wrote the posts…well not just that, they also have some great entrepreneurial content related to my job at the Austin Technology Incubator.

IBM and ATI Announce Partnership On Novel Summer Internship Program
It took us a while to be able to talk about the above partnership that I helped coordinate, but just last week we were finally able to talk about the unique intern program we set up.  It’s pretty exciting news since we helped create three internships that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.  Click the link to read the full story including quotes from our executive director, Isaac Barchas, and a vice president at IBM, Manoj Saxena.

Human Resources Best Practices – Lunch & Learn
One of the many things I do at ATI is organize periodic Lunch & Learn’s with relevant topics/speakers for our companies.  The last one we did was on HR and we had some fantastic speakers (see below).  Check out the post for key questions asked and key takeaways from their talk as well as their full bios.

Fortune Cookies

It’s been almost six months since I’ve done a post on fortune cookies but I got one recently that seemed appropriate.  I was having lunch with Laura Benold, a former ATI marketing associate extraordinaire, last week and got the following fortune: “Impatience may be appropriate at this time.”  We both laughed and thought it was relevant given our conversation at the time.  Although I like to get things done and get them done quickly, I have been more than patient about some things (contrary to some people’s beliefs about me) in the last few years mostly because I was dealing with a personal tsunami of my own, but my patience on certain things has about run out.  So maybe I should be more visible with my impatience for a while. :-)

Another fortune (i.e., a statement, which seem to be the trend in fortune cookies these days) I got in the last couple of months is something like “Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.”  That is so true about people, products, markets, etc.  I have a blog post brewing in my head about that one.  I think entrepreneurs have an even greater imagination than most.  I can’t imagine living life without an active imagination.  Entrepreneurs (business people, scientists, writers, etc.) are sometimes crazy enough to attempt to try and make what they imagine real!

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Streets of Barcelona
Jun 6 2010

Pigeons in BarcelonaI just got back from Barcelona, Spain, and I don’t recall another time in my life where I’ve had the time to sit, think, write and let the words come without having some daily routine distraction.  I was in Barcelona visiting my cousin, Ashan Pillai (a true Outlier) on my way back from a business trip to Portugal.  After getting all the gifts for my kids (couldn’t forget the Spanish team soccer/futbal outfit), I sat in a plaza near the famous Ramblas shopping area in Barcelona with a notebook, listened to the people, listened to the street noises & pigeons, and waited for the words to appear.  I had a lofty goal of writing 7 song lyrics.  I should have gone with the goal of 3 that Brett Wintermeyer, our courier at work and also band member of The Sophisticates suggested, but I have an ‘eyes bigger than stomach’ tendency.  I wrote 3 lyrics and started 2 others.  I wrote 5 poems and started 2 others.  Many more started and swirled around my head but never made it to paper or computer.  I still have no idea if my lyrics are any good as I haven’t yet put them to actual music.

The thing with poetry that I’ve discovered over the past year or so is that sometimes its meaning is different between the writer and the reader.  Who or what the poem is about becomes about the readers personal experience or interpretation of the words.  As a writer I know that I often write things that have double meanings which are both true but the degree to which one is truer can only be fully known by the writer and possibly specific readers close to the writer.

The meaning can also slightly change depending on how it’s read out loud…the rhythm of the reading can affect someone in ways unknown.  If you are a poet, this is probably not news to you. I suppose that’s the point…if it can touch someone even if it’s different than intended then it would have served its purpose.  I wonder how many poems/lyrics go unread by others because there are so many writers out there who write for themselves as they struggle with their humanity.  I suppose the really famous writers have their poems discovered after their death and people are left to interpret them best they can, but for us mostly unknown writers they probably disappear into oblivion.

I have never shared my poetry on this blog…well not the serious ones anyway but after being inspired by Shaku letting me post her Icarus In Flight poem on my blog, I thought I’d share just one.  On a side note, in addition to me knowing Shaku through a non-profit organization, she also worked for an Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) company called Webify that was bought by IBM.  It’s a small world considering I work for ATI now.

I wrote the following poem in my cousin’s neighborhood (the day before I went to the Ramblas) after hearing a song in a video my aunt was playing for me that evoked many juxtaposing emotions that compelled me to escape outside.  Fortunately, the weather is gorgeous in Barcelona this time of year.   This poem is a mixture of recent stories…a little bit of mine, a little bit of his, a little bit of people who changed our lives.  He is in the middle (or shall I say the beginning) of an experience no new father should ever have to go through.  So without further ado…

Streets of Barcelona

On the streets of Barcelona
I wander with ancient tears in my eyes
Thinking of you and nights all alone
At Last the song with many sighs

A translucent marriage to a soul
Recently departed to a sully sea foam world
Because one could not wait to grow old
Afraid to take comfort in touches never know’d

The blustery city noises and a pigeon’s soft coo
Might wash out the pain of consequence ridden choices
And obliterate irrelevant, life altering feelings taken by you
While holes you exposed must be filled with clear voices

True sadness eludes me because fear
Overrules the quixotic, addictive emotion of love
But steely sharpness of knowledge shall bring forth to bear
Wavering courage to continue onward from Above

© May 30, 2010 Aruni S. Gunasegaram

Author: | Filed under: father, marriage, parenting, poetry, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Entrepreneurial Ledge
Nov 20 2008

I had to talk myself off the entrepreneurial ledge yesterday.  Of course there is the often publicized glamour of entrepreneurship and then there is the unsung story of the not so glamorous side.  I think most entrepreneurs are a little bit neurotic, myself included, so when I heard that the first company I was founding CEO of officially shut down recently, I entered a state of…well I still haven’t figured out what state that is.  

The company was alive for 11 years.  For 11 years it provided experience, salaries, products and services to employees and customers.  I left in 2001 and my husband, Erin, who was the CTO left in 2003, and we have had nothing to do with the day to day operations since.  But the profound affect it has had on me cannot be reduced to mere words.  In many ways, it was like my first child (without the diaper changing).  It was a difficult parting of ways for me both personally and professionally.  

I knew a few good people who were still there and through the years they have reached out to me to help them find another job or share their experiences about working there.  Good people came and went.  Some bad ones came and went and some bad ones stayed, but overwhelmingly greatness was among us.  I heard about the company shutting down a few weeks ago but just mentioned it to a group of college friends on an email group I’ve been a part of since 1995 (pre-social networking sites for people who love mushrooms, pre-blogging, pre-twitter).  I had convinced one of the guy’s in the group to join us for the journey and he replied by saying this: 

Aruni – I know I’ve poked at you and Isochron since I left but I have to say it was the best business class I could have taken. This piece of Oil Field Trash was polished quite a bit while in Austin. I do want to thank you and Erin for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it. From that trial I learned sooooo much. I’m not sure I ever put it together sufficiently for you guys to know what the experience meant for me. Thanks! You and Erin were a rock I could depend on during my time in Austin as well. It meant a lot.

When I read his note on my phone before going in to an invitation only IBM Women Entrepreneur’s Webcast event held at IBM, the flood gates cracked a little.  I was sitting in my car in the parking lot so I had to pull myself together and go in.  The rest of the day I was on edge and I still am. 

I had to walk into my day job after the IBM Webcast and deal with bureaucracy, with people wanting 5 approvals to get something done, with collections, with employee allocations, and with being extremely underpaid because I’m doing much more than I was hired to do.  I had to suspend reality to make it through the day.   I repeated to myself “floodgates don’t open at work” over and over.  If I was a man and punched the wall, it would be more acceptable.  I had a “What am I doing with my life?” moment.  I had a “I’m working for ‘the man,’ I have two kids, I’ve been married for 7 years, we have a house and car payment, I have to keep our insurance benefits, our savings have sunk due to the crazy economic situation, and I feel trapped” moment. 

I had already committed to guest lecture at an executive MBA class yesterday evening so I went in not knowing what would come out of my mouth.  I shared the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and received several questions about Babble Soft and my day job.  I was surprised at how calm I felt giving my talk given the emotional roller coaster I had been riding all day.  One of the students took my card and said he wanted to see if he could help me get introduced to someone for a possible opportunity for Babble Soft.

I also happened to receive an email through facebook from one of my former students (I taught entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Austin) who happens to be expecting a baby.  He sent me a link to a new book by Randy Komisar who wrote The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living (a book I made required reading in my class) called This I Believe.  Komisar writes about the Deferred Life Plan and how we make excuses about not doing what we want to do and putting off things until the time is right.

So despite all of that, I talked myself off the entrepreneurial ledge because I live in the real world.  The real world is where I have two beautiful children who smile and laugh.  A world where I tell my son after he ate a big dinner tonight that he was a ‘hungry hippo’ and he immediately replies and says in a comedian (trying to make his voice sound deep) tone “There’s a Hungry Hippo in the House!”  My daughter laughs, and I look at him with a smile on my face and know instantly he got his sense of humor from me. 8)

[Hippo photo by my friend Sandy Blanchard]

So I take solace from some words my day job boss told me the other day.  When I asked him why he wanted to hire me he said ‘because he heard I was a natural entrepreneur and he wanted one on staff.’  When I thought about those words later in the day, my soul said ‘thank you grandpa’ because he is who I gained my natural entrepreneurial tendencies from…I just happen to be a woman girl.

I hope both my children will be able to express themselves throughout their lives in ways I was never able to in the past but aspire to in the future.

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