Sunday, April 29, 2007

I'd Rather Be Lucky than Good

This isn't my usual type of post because it talks not about concepts or competence but about a stroke of unusually good professional luck.

I was one of 4700 IBMers attending the Technical Leadership Exchange in Anaheim, California. I had just gotten a new assignment to create the canonical data model for my client's new enterprise service bus (ESB). I think of this as the superset of all the many possible data attributes of the major business objects that flow across the ESB. Examples would include purchase order, order acknowledgement, invoice, advance shipping notice, and more. The back end system for all of these transactions is SAP.

There was some training on Sunday before the conference started on Monday. At dinner Sunday night I sat down at a table of strangers and made some IBM smalltalk with my new acquaintances. A few minutes later some other guys sat down. The guy who sat to my immediate left asked me who I was, where I was from, what I was doing, etc.

When I mentioned I was working on a project to create a canonical data model for an ESB, he casually told me "Oh, I've been working on IBM's canonical data model for IBM's ESB for two years. I'm the lead architect." At this point I just about fell out of my chair. I could not believe my good fortune.

I told him I would pick up his dry cleaning and wash his car if he'd tell me everything he knew about canonical data models. He laughed and offered to help me.

To make a long story short, he wound up showing me the canonical data model for IBM's own ESB and pointed me to where I could download XML schemas off the IBM intranet. Incidentally, IBM uses SAP for many of its back end functions. One valuable tidbit of information included was a spreadsheet linking attributes in the canonical form with specific SAP IDOC segments and fields.

In the consulting business we call this "intellectual capital" and wonderful intellectual capital it is. Obviously, this has really jumpstarted my work. I wish I could say that I was really good but in this case I must confess being really lucky (or have I been living right?... that's another discussion).

He never did make me wash his car either. As we said playing basketball after someone said we were just lucky to make a difficult shot. Luck counts!

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