The Web's Master Builders

FRAMINGHAM (03/13/2000) - Who: Shailja Dhruva-KhatriCompany: Teleremote.com, a health care business-to-business e-commerce startup in ChicagoPrevious title: E-commerce project lead, independent consultantReports to: Chief technology officerKey skill: Thoroughly understand business objectives and match those to the optimum technology path. And once you've completed that analysis, don't shy away from telling executives the most efficient path to take. After about five years of Internet integration and Web work, Shailja Dhruva-Khatri amassed the right combination of vertical industry and bleeding-edge skills to tackle the position of senior Internet architect at an e-commerce start-up.

Fully aware of the rigors, she accepted a full-time position in January at Teleremote.com for three reasons: challenge, potential and the promise of working in wireless and other cutting-edge technologies down the road.

Web marketing is giving way to true, transactional e-commerce. Leaders of these e-commerce projects will be responsible for the underpinnings of the e-commerce strategy itself.

For nine years, Dhruva-Khatri has been evolving her skills to get to this point. And now, as senior Internet architect, she's heading an ambitious project in the health care industry.

Her skills mirror those of many technologists who make a point of staying on the frontier of technology. In 1991, she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a master's degree in computer engineering. Her first job was building user-friendly graphical user interfaces for an aeronautics firm.

A Different View

Later, as a consultant, Dhruva-Khatri learned to look at computer systems from a business point of view.

"I got my grounding in life cycle systems - from business analysis, system requirements, testing, pilot testing and production," Dhruva-Khatri says.

She also gained important vertical industry knowledge in finance and other sectors, along with vital Web, enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation and relational database skills. Together, these skills make her what she is today.

Biggest challenge: "At this point early in the project, a lot of information is being thrown at me. It's a challenge to get my arms around all of this and put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together," says Dhruva-Khatri. "But I love this part."

Dhruva-Khatri currently is conducting business analysis through regular meetings with Teleremote's chief technology officer and the businesspeople from outside organizations who will tap into the new system.

"I'm setting a baseline," she says. "I'm asking our customers ‘What are your current processes? What do you envision the Web doing for you? And how would our application redefine some of those processes?'"Diplomacy: To best answer those questions, Adam Workman, a senior Internet architect at Sprint Network Enterprises Inc., a consulting firm in Houston, says it helps to tell the client how the process change will make them more efficient.

One client, a large publisher, wanted to put its material on the Web, Workman says. That couldn't be done unless the publisher switched from flat files to a relational database system.

"This client, a publisher, was printing out of a flat-file database system, physically laying out, cutting and pasting these documents, then sending them to the printer, who was digitizing them all over again," Workman explains. "We identified a SQL server through which they could electronically send documents to a printer - and draw that same data to a Web site. They were ecstatic."

Keeping current: While Dhruva-Khatri researches in what little free time she has, she gains most of her training on the job.

Her motto: Utilize 90% of her current skills and gain 10% for every new job she takes on. She also looks for work where she isn't pigeonholed into project management but can stay somewhat hands-on.

Career outlook: In spite of the nomadic images this type of work conjures, don't count on building an Internet architecture and moving on. After all, upgrading to cutting-edge technologies is what's keeping electronic businesses like Amazon.com Inc. and Santa Clara, Calif.-based Yahoo Inc. on top.

"It's not like building a house and moving away," Dhruva-Khatri says. "You will always have to look at performance, reliability and other architectural upgrades to stay successful."

Radcliff is a contributing writer in Northern California. She can be reached at DeRad@aol.com.

Sidebar: Just the Facts

Responsibilities:

Development of customer applications, Web servers and back-office infrastructure linkage; management of project deliverables, cross-unit communication and training, says Peter O'Keefe, a staffing specialist at Romac Information Technology, a consulting firm in Tampa, Fla.

Skills:

-- High-level e-commerce project management-- Business analysis-- Database managementsystems; Visual Basic andVB Script-- Back-office system integration (including legacy work)-- ERP implementation-- Java, JavaBean, C++, Perl, Common Object Request Broker Architecture, Component Object Model/Distributed Component Object Model, HTML, Unix, Linux and Windows NT-- Understanding of telecommunications networking-- Understanding of Web security infrastructureCareer path:

Most gain their skills through consulting on bleeding-edge projects. Typical employers are consulting and e-commerce start-ups, according to Kent Brown, a recruiter at Pencom Systems Inc.'s Chicago office.

Salary range:

$85,000 to $125,000, based on experience, seniority and the type of company, says Brown.

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