By Rahul Thakkar, Chief Cloud Architect
It was late February 2016, a week or so after the announcement that I won an Academy Award® for creating the DreamWorks Media Review System. A reporter asked me a simple question: “So you’ve won an Oscar®. What next?” It made me stop and think and I ultimately said I would keep doing what I love.
The interview brought back a flood of juxtaposed memories and questions, from the past and the present. How did I end up owning the Media Review System? What led me to Pacific Data Images/DreamWorks? What brought me to Insitu?
I’d now like to share a few parallels from the journeys that brought me to where I am today as Insitu’s Chief Cloud Architect.
The beginnings of both journeys seem rather plain: An event, a conversation, and a decision from the heart.
In late 1989 in Mumbai, I watched Terminator 2: Judgment Day and The Abyss back to back. The liquid metal and water tentacle special effects made me realize what I wanted to do with my life. That evening after dinner, I informed my mom and dad that after getting my Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, I wanted to work in Hollywood and make movies with computers. They said, “Okay, but we don’t have money to send you there”.
By early 1992, I was able to raise the funds and move to Utah to study computer science and computer graphics for my Master’s degree. In July 1996, I landed a job in the research and development team of a studio named PDI .
Richard Chuang (PDI co-founder and a mentor) had prototyped what would eventually become the DreamWorks Media Review System, but it wasn’t there yet. Soon after I joined PDI, during a weekly team meeting, Richard looked in my direction and asked the team for a volunteer to “create tools for reviewing shots, takes and sequences as playlists of any duration, for use by anyone anywhere all the time”. Since he was looking at me, everyone else in the 10-member research and development team did as well. I volunteered.
As a result, what started out as a glorified media player became a flagship product, which is still in use across all of DreamWorks Animation globally and has changed the way animated films are made – at least 40 of them. I am proud of it. Alternatively, it’s called “Rahul’s mov-tools”. Why? So the artists using it could know who to go to if it malfunctioned or ask for a new feature for a buck (Yes! We had a tip jar).
A few years later in early 2015, I was catching up with friends and began chatting with a man named Jon Damush, who is currently the Vice President and General Manager of Insitu’s Commercial Division, but at the time was president and CEO of a company called 2d3 Sensing, which I had been a customer of in the past. I had great respect for him and his team. We talked about next steps in life and I said I was planning to start my job search soon. In June we reconnected and he mentioned that 2d3 Sensing had been acquired by Insitu. He then immediately followed up with “Dude, wanna sign up?” as is his typical style. Needless to say, by August 2015 I had joined the team.
It’s been a fast year and we have quite a team. We are a collection of fantastic cloud software developers, architects, UX designers, and specialists – all artists in technology. The INEXA Cloud products and platform will enable our customers to enhance their captured data and glean knowledge from it. This enriched situational awareness combined with the tools included in our software will directly contribute to decision-making superiority delivered for our customers.
We are having a blast enhancing the reach and capability of our current products and creating an ecosystem of new products that solve precise problems of our broadening customer base. We are listening to our customers. We are hiring. We are continuing our journey as a premier commercial information and aviation services provider.
I look back on the day I volunteered to take on the project that would eventually lead to the development of the DreamWorks Media Review System at PDI and feel I am at a similar point here at Insitu; this time with the company’s Commercial Cloud offering. I did what I loved doing at PDI and DreamWorks Animation. I lived a creative technologist’s life. I looked around me each day and saw the whole team doing the same. It was a good run.
I am now doing what I love doing at Insitu and I regularly reflect on the journey that led me here. It is especially rewarding as I look around me and see a thousand others at Insitu doing the same.
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