This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Professor K.K. Aggarwal, Founder Vice-Chancellor (1998-2008) G.G.S. Indraprastha University, SEARCC President (2008-2010), CSI President (2007-2009), President IETE (2002-2004).

Enjoy!
Stephen Ibaraki

Professor K.K. AggarwalProf. K.K. Aggarwal obtained his Engineering Degree from Punjab University and his Masters Degree from Kurukshetra University, securing First position in both. Later he did his Ph.D. in Reliability Evaluation and Optimization, also from Kurukshetra University. In 1975, he rose to the level of Professor at an age of 27½ years, and is considered the youngest person in the world to have achieved this level. Currently, he serves on the Board of Governors, I.I.T. Patna, a member of the UPSC Committee on restructuring I.A.S. (Preliminary) examination, also a member of the HRD Task Force on Faculty Availability in Higher Education Institutions and Performance Appraisal of Teachers. After having served at NIT, Kurukshetra, Prof. Aggarwal was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor, Guru Jambheshwar University (Technical University of Haryana), Hisar for a period of three years, and then in 1998 appointed as Founder Vice Chancellor of GGS Indraprastha University, Delhi. He continued on this position up to 30 November, 2008.

He has been President of the Institution of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers (IETE) for the period 2002-2004. During this period, this Institution witnessed an unprecedented growth and made a remarkable impact on society in general & IT professionals in particular. He also served as Sectional President (IT & CS Section) in the Indian Science Congress Association. He had been elected as President, Computer Society of India for the period 2007-2008 and re-elected for the year 2008-09. Prof. Aggarwal had also been elected as Vice President of South East Asia Regional Computer Confederation (SEARCC) for 2007-2008 and its President for the years 2008-10.

Prof. Aggarwal has extensively worked in various fields of Electronics and Computer Engineering. He has published 300 papers in reputed journals - more than 130 of these in international journals. He has been invited to deliver lectures in several Universities in India and abroad, such as the University of Berkley, USA; University of Cincinnati, USA; Florida State University, USA; University of Birmingham, UK; Technical University of Germany, etc.

Prof. Aggarwal did not confine his contribution to the academic field alone and has made a very strong impact in the industrial world. He delivered lectures in several industrial organizations and conducted programs for many important industrial houses such as Tata Consultancy Services, BHEL, TVS Electronics, DCM Data Systems, Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, Electronics Corporation of India, BEL, ISRO, Defense Research Labs, etc. He has been widely consulted by the industry, most notable being his contribution towards the Reliability Analysis for PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle). He delivered a talk on Reliable Automotive Electronics for Ford Motors, Detroit, USA and also conducted a full day program for Information Management Resources, Florida USA.

Prof. Aggarwal has written several books and many of his articles have appeared in several books published by IEEE of USA. He has also authored a book on Reliability Engineering which is published by Kluwer Academic, Netherland/USA/UK. His latest book on Software Engineering published in 2001 has already seen several reprints.

Prof. Aggarwal was honoured by the Reliability Society of IEEE, USA for his services as Guest Editor for the special issue on "State of Reliability Effort of the Indian Sub-Continent". He was declared as the Man of Decade, Man of the Century, and finally Man of the Millennium by American Bibliographical Institute, USA. He was conferred the L.C. Verman Award by the Institute of Electronics and Tele-Communication Engineers and he was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Medal by the India International Friendship Society. International Biographical Centre, England has published his biography in "The First Five Hundred - at the new millennium" published in July 2000. The Broadcast Engineering Society of India honoured him by conferring Honorary Fellowship on him in February, 2001, and the Computer Society of India conferred the Fellowship on him in 2003. All India Conference of Intellectuals conferred Delhi Ratan on him. Prof. Aggarwal has been conferred the "Rajkumar Varshney Award" in Systems theory for the year 2006 by the Systems Society of India for recognition of his excellent contributions towards Reliability Analysis of Engineering Systems. Prof. Aggarwal has been conferred "The Sir Thomas Ward Memorial Award" for his paper entitled Optimizing Handover Performance in Microcellular Systems by The Institution of Engineers.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

DISCUSSION:

Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:53:
Professor Aggarwal discusses his past and his recent top roles and significant contributions.
"....I was fortunate in many ways because I got assignments which enabled me to create things rather than to maintain things....I was given many opportunities whereby I could translate things into practice...."

:02:31:
How do you balance demanding concurrent assignments with your leadership roles?
"....Two attributes which I have developed over time are time management and getting into the habit of anticipating what will be required to be done in the next few weeks or months (so am able to plan well in advance when I have the time)...."

:04:25:
You are the recipient of so many honours for your continuing historical impact in many fields. Which ones stand out and why?
"....You feel that you are probably doing something relevant for the society and that keeps you going....I feel that the people have been good to me to honour me with these awards and I take this opportunity to thank all of them...."

:07:01:
What three pivotal lessons do you wish to share from your considerable history of international success?
"....Always be open to new ideas....Resources for any good project can always be managed....It is your responsibility as the originator of the idea to also be able to market it to those making the decisions because only then are you able to carry it forward...."

:09:15:
In your prior roles, what were the most difficult challenges that you were not able to overcome at that time? What would you do differently now?
"....Opportunities would be open to a large cross section if we could make the migration a little easier where people could do part of the course in a formal system and another part in a non-formal system....The academic institutions are still not as flexible as they can be....Being part of professional education (more relevant to the developing countries), we have to do much more to bring industry to the universities...."

:12:07:
What were the key disruptive forces driving change in your life and how can we learn from your experiences?
"....I have to accept that conservatism is a reality. Unfortunately I find more conservatism in the academic world than in the professional world because the question of survival becomes much more relevant in the professional world; therefore, sometimes universities are not that fast at changing as they should....For a person who is not very competent, status quo appears to be the safe haven....Sometimes your superiors are not appreciative of the change - so you have to market your proposals much better for you to succeed...."

:14:16:
Can you comment on regional and global Academic and Professional growth?
"....It has been well recognized all over that technological, academic and professional growth is not only desirable, but is required for the survival of any nation....People have realized that this growth is a must and various models are being evolved to expedite this ...."

:15:16:
What is the role of professional societies and why should professionals get involved?
"....The experience in professional societies is available at a very affordable cost....The bonding between various generations, seen among the membership of a professional society become stronger because you have the advantage of new ideas and experience coming together in one place. I've seen it give great dividends and feel this should be encouraged...."

:17:13:
What role do you see the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) and the International Professional Practice Partnership Program (IP3) playing regionally and globally?
"....IFIP is the largest society in Information Technology and whatever we have found around the world on the role of professional societies also applies to IFIP at the international level....When it comes to skills, the testing of those skills up to a level of certification with a global benchmark is not very easy. IP3 has certainly taken a lead in the world to establish benchmarks for skills certification for professional competency certification. In a subject like IT, where the mobility of IT professionals all over the world is very high, I as an individual am convinced that we have a great need of acceptable certification of skills and IP3 is seen as having a great role in the coming decades...."

:19:48:
Can you profile educational innovations in developing countries? How can all countries learn from this experience?
"....The public-private partnership has been accepted as a successful model all over the world. Although there may be some glitches in the implementation of this model at this time, we should be looking at removing the glitches versus not having the model....The cost effectiveness of innovations that we find in education in developing countries is shaping up....The synergy between education and training is becoming a reality - the distinction is becoming fuzzy and that is a positive thing...."

:22:21:
Can you explain the convergence between education and training?
"....Effort is now being made and I believe that the differences or demarcations between the education and training in the conventional sense have to go if you want to see that a subject like IT is to improve to a large cross section of society...."

:25:45:
Can you explain the convergence between formal and non-formal education?
"....If we have good convergence, credit transfer and migration, one may have the possibility of converting a four year program into one plus three, or two plus two, or three plus one - then maybe one can have the best of both worlds. Coupled with this, I know from my experience all over the world and particularly in developing countries, we have a huge shortage of good teaching faculties. Once you have a non-formal education system supporting you, then there is a great possibility of taking lessons from the best of the teachers in the world at an affordable cost (helped by domestic tutors or tutors in other countries). The model here that one eminent professor can reach a very large cross-section is possible in a non-formal education, particularly when ICT-enabled. I feel strongly that the need for that has come in the world...."

:28:45:
You choose the areas - provide your predictions of future trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....I believe the convergence of knowledge is going to become a reality and we should facilitate it as soon as possible....Without a strong sense of economics the technologies fail....I would say for the first time in the entire history of civilization, the technology is there and applications have to follow. Previously we always thought of the need of an application and then it was developed...."

:32:42:
Which are your top recommended resources for computing professionals and why?
"....All of us will be working in different environments within this decade. I feel that we'll all have to get accustomed to cloud computing....The next cost-effectiveness will be very high and that will lead to tremendous amounts of applications in the hands of everybody. I see a great many things happening, with the total environment shifting...."

:33:42:
Please share one or more stories (something surprising, unexpected, amazing, or humorous) from your work?
"....The lesson which I learned from this is that a simple thing could be a very important concept...."

:37:50:
If you were doing this interview, what 3 questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....'There are conflicting views on information technology - is it facilitating the digital divide or is it enabling a level playing field for all citizens?'....'You seem to live in the city all the time, are there any lessons for society which may not necessarily be technological?'....'There has always been some resistance in IT applications, but particularly in developing countries, why and how would you handle it?'...."