Proud Dad

I once gave up pushing my kids into computer science, but my teenager son Adam insisted to stick with digital art design. I was skeptical at first, maybe because I am too much wired to computers as a science rather than as an art. But when I heard from my colleagues about my son’s creative work, which, by the way, he did not show us any of it and ultimately awarded him his first paying job as part of the Youth Advisory Board at my employer made me realize how I got the idea of technology passion all mixed. I know that our kids see the world differently then us parents, and that is particularly true between me, as a techie science dad, and my techie artistic son. Watching my son, and my daughter soon, finding their career path at an early stage and hearing others commending their first work are the very proudest moments for me and my wife Mayssaloun Tay When Adam got an email confirming his selection to the advisory board, his first words to us, his parents, were “guess what company has 2 Hoteits working for them:)”

Innovation @ Banfield

We do a great deal of innovative activities here Banfield. Like any innovation, some ideas become successful and would scale, while other ideas would get tested but may not necessarily see the light. But, more importantly, the meeting of minds and the energy of trying different things is a strong motivation for success and development. We at Banfield are seriously passionate innovators, drivers, supporters, and motivators that want to make a better world for the pets, for the clients, and for our fellow associates. We are the largest privately-held pet care business in the world, and we strive to be at our best to support all those that we care about. We have a great energetic president who inspires us all to be who we are, what we do, and what we can do. We have a great leadership team that embraces positive change. In my role as the senior director of growth and enablement, I am heading the IT innovation and strategy. Below is the 5 pillars of technology innovation that we put together to help communicate the various technology innovation initiatives at Banfield.

Our 5 pillars of innovation are 1. Research & Development lab, 2. CTS Ideas home brew club, 3. Core transformational initiatives, 4. Flagship hospital, and 5. Business & societal partnerships. Check the video below:

IT R&D Innovation Lab

The research and development innovation lab is a dedicated team that will be working on various proof of concept projects. The projects that this team will be focusing on is mainly in the artificial intelligence, machine learning, AR/VR, voice, and natural language processing. Specific posts in the future will highlight the work that will come out from the innovation lab.

CTS Ideas Home Brew PC Club

A shared place and time for Banfield associates to discuss, pitch, and develop their ideas. The club is open for anyone at Banfield, and the meetings are planned once a month for 2 hours at our Central Team Support HQ location in Vancouver, Washington. This is a space for associates to develop their own ideas, pitch it to others for feedback, and possibly work together to brew the idea into the real thing! The club will include special guests from the industry and the technology field, which should also help empower new ideas. The name “home brew pc club”, where PC stands for Pet Care, is a tribute to the home brew Personal Computers club of the 70s that lead to the personal computer revolution. In addition, brewing beer is a huge deal in Portland/Washington, where our Central Team Support (CTS) is located. Hence, the words CTS Idea Home Brew came to exist.

I would like to take the opportunity to recognize the committee members of the home brew club who took from their busy day to day schedule to plan and facilitate the club events.The committee members that we formed to plan and organize the club events are (from left to right) Carla Lerum, Asad Butt (Kinship), Tarek Hoteit, Lilian Wong, Nic Skopil, Tyler Thomson, Van Tran, Tracy Nutting, and Vanessa Herreid. The combined talent from the committee is phenomenal: doctors of vet medicine, project managers, business analysts, subject matter experts, digital product owners, startup advisor, and an extremely techie.

We kicked off our first home brew event earlier this week. We were honored to have our Banfield president, Brian Garish, kick off the 1st home brew event. Brian highlighted the importance of innovative thinking and how initiatives such as the home brew support our mission in making a better world for our pets. This includes the work by The Banfield Foundation in serving pets and the people that love them. Our CIO, Thiruvallur Srikanth, was there as well, and he always encouraged us all to think through the lens of not just big I innovation but also small i innovation. That means we should ingrain innovation in everything that we do no matter of how big or small the work is. Check Srikanth’s article “How Companies Can Encourage Creative Thinking in IT“.

Brewing ideas like entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs require a start-up thinking mentality, so Asad Butt from KinShip, our Mars-sister company, presented “I have an idea, now what?” to our club members. Kinship is the research and development arm for Mars Pet Care. It manages a start-up investment fund for startups in the field. KinShip experience with how entrepreneurs think and pitch ideas will be a learning experience for our intrapreneurs at Banfield as well.

The first session was, for a large part, an overall planning session for 2020 club activities. We spent the majority of the time capturing thoughts and goals from the members of the club. One cool thing we did is that we actually got a KEG of root beer! Since alcohol should not be served during work hours, we used root beer instead. Otherwise, how can a home brew club exist without some sort of “beer”?

It will be an exciting 2020 for the ideas home brew club!

Core Transformational Initiatives

This pillar encapsulates key transformational initiatives that Banfield is engaged in. For nda and confidentiality reasons we will not mention the initiatives here, but the outcomes will be disclosed when appropriate.

Flagship Hospital: Next Gen Experience

Team members experimenting with various ideas would need a real hospital environment to actually test. We plan to take some of the ideas and partner with our business partners to test them at actual hospitals. More to come about this in the near future.

Business & Societal Partnerships

Not all innovation projects need to be completely developed without business as well as societal partnerships. There are various opportunities that would partner within the industry. Banfield including Banfield Foundation are very active in the community. We plan to expand our technology ecosystem by partnering with educational institutions, organizations, shelters, and sister companies at Mars. Multiple events are already happening on this front and will be shared in future posts.

I am personally looking forward to great innovations at Banfield. I am thrilled to be part of such a great company with so many passionate and loving staff. As we continuously innovate and help transform the world of pet care, we will share our work and our passion. Let’s innovate in bits and bytes!

note: special thank you to Drawbridge Illustrations, founded by Nitya Wakhlu, for making the visual posters and the illustrations shown above. Thank you, Nikos, for your work on the video animation, and thank you, Suha Ardahan, for the ascii art in the “bIT” image. Thank you all Banfield leaders and associates for your passion and love in making a better world for pets through innovation!

Techie writing experience

Took forever to settle on a centralized writing experience until iOS 13 came with a revamped reminder app and an enhanced Apple Notes. It changed the game for me. Love the minimalist approach by Apple which aligns exactly with my style in technology life. Most of my work is now running through an Apple iPad Mini with a rugged case/backlight keyboard, an Apple Pencil sticking to the back of the case, multi screen on iOS, Azure terminal for Linux scripting, DropBox/iCloud for files, and iOS native mail/calendar. Love Apple #technology

Laying Plans

Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” chapter “Laying Plans” for a war, has two statements that perfectly aligns with successful project management strategies.

“17. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.” My notes: in our project management worlds, we need to be agile and adjust plans as factors changes. We cannot predict everything before hand.

“26. Now the general who wins a battle makes many

calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought.”

My notes: In our project management world, the more calculations we do upfront, hence waterfall, the better we are in winning. Failed projects are those that have little calculations done before execution. Hence if projects are labeled as war, then, in my opinion, hybrids of agile planning and waterfall calculations is what should make us win.