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February 13, 2014

Educational Reform:
In 1880s when Sun Yat-sen was forming his philosophy of Nationalist China he tried to preach to his contemporaries that the secret of Western success does not lie in the advanced weapons but in the value system that focuses on development of human resource to its maximum potential. His view was that focus on human development is the key lesson that China needs to learn from West in order to emerge as a nation equal to other advanced nations in the new world order. Today we need to re-learn this lesson back in America from the father of the nation of China. I intend to chart out key pillars that US education system has to focus on in rebuilding our competitive workforce and emerge as a leading nation in the emerging new world order.

It is a common practice in contemporary America to assume that quality of our public educational system is a result of a single variable of the amount of government spending education. This article intends to dispel this perception and lay out the four key pillars needed in a nation to build a strong education system and world class workforce. These four pillars include (1) Family Values (2) Cultural Values (3) Education policies and (4) Government funding.

Family Values:
Thomas Alva Edison, the most successful and well known inventor of all times, also know as “Wizard of Menlo Park, never graduated from College however deep family value of love of learning and his personal ambitions drove him to learn in the proverbial street lights at night which led him to most successful technology enterprise of his time…a key morale of Edison’s life or many others from Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and others is that it is the personal desire of learning and doing far exceeds the learning capabilities that any formal school system can inculcate in our next generation.

I believe lack of strong engagement of parents in highlighting the importance of education at home is at the core of declining rates at which American children are pursuing higher education and especially a dramatic decline in percentage of American children pursuing education in mathematics, science and technology — educational pillars necessary for building the competitive workforce of tomorrow. In addition to formal education, today’s working parents have delegated to schools the responsibility of playing educational games with kids at the dinner, doing weekend field trips to zoo, factories and other learning opportunities. The house parties are now controlled by automated iTunes streamed music and MTV reality shows as opposed to education focused board games (remember pictionary?) and math and memory games.

The first and foremost focus of a nation in building a strong educational system needs to start at home with parents actively engaged with their kids in making learning a part of every day life and enforcing the importance of education early in life. No amount of government funding or high quality education system will replace the burning desire and love of learning that can be kindled at home under the loving care and upbringing of parents. Remember that mind is not a vessel to be filled but a light to be kindled and it can only be kindled at home.

2 Cultural Values:
In his 2004 book, World is Flat, Thomas Friedman recites a story about his visit to China and how young teenagers in China were falling over themselves to get into a public speech by Bill Gates; hoping to learn about his experiences as a world renowned technology leader. Friedman noted that the difference between contemporary Chinese and American youths is that for Chinese kids Bill Gates is like Brittany Spears and for American youths Brittany Spears is Brittany Spears!
I thought the above anecdote highlights very well the decline in cultural values on what the society considers important. In the 19th and early 20th century our scientist and business men were the national heroes (Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Neil Arm Strong) but over the last few decades national fascination has shifted to Rap stars and pop stars as the idols that our young people want to follow. More recently these ideals have further gone away from nation building heroes to stars of reality TV shows. It is not a surprise that as our children spend most of the time watching Jersey Shore and Real housewives of New Jersey they dream about becoming Snooki or Mike Sorrentino of Jersey Shore, instead of becoming Edison, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of tomorrow.

I believe it is the responsibility of the society (media, family, government and school system) to build value system where nation builders (engineers, doctors, businessmen, scientists, teachers and public servants) are revered and idolized. When such value systems decline in a society, the next generation will follows the decline.

As a society we need to build back our fascination with the true heroes that made this nation great, and not let our children be fascinated with people who are only famous for just being famous!

Educational Policies:
Educational policies that adopts learnings from free market systems can be successfully applied to government supported institutions like public education. A simple model of reward for performance can help rebuild our educational system from entitlement based expectation of union workers who are now in charge of educating our children to a merit based system where best teachers and schools are rewarded with higher funding.

There are numerous policies under debate today and I do not intend to comment on all possible policies, however I want to give an example of a sample policy to illustrate how minor changes in funding mechanism can help improve the schools without even increasing a single dollar in educational funding or massively impacting the current benefits or incomes that our current educators receive. Imagine that instead of public schools getting the funding for children they are educating, we assign/attach the funding to the child. Let Parents have the freedom to take their child to any school they like. And as long as child is in a particular school, that school will receive the funding for that child. So if a school is not doing a good job in educating that student, parent has the flexibility of taking that child out of that school and put her in a better school and the associated funding will transfer to the new school.

Above model will create an instant competition for educators, school administrators and teachers to do their best to retain the funding within their institution. While there are numerous administrative and logistical challenges to implement a model described above, the intent of this example is to show that even without exorbitant increase in public funding, we can improve our policies for public funding to nurture merit based educational system as opposed to today’s entitlement based system. I am not against the teacher unions but I am advocating smart policies that will reward competency and disadvantage incompetency.

Government Funding:
As a nation we talk about the government funding as the sole variable in improving the educational system in America. I believe our focus needs to be balanced on all four pillars of building a strong educational system in a nation.
However in addition to a balanced approach to improvements in educational system, it is imperative for any advanced nation to regard its spending on education and basic research and development and core responsibility of the public sector.
Sun Yat-Sen’s insight mentioned at the beginning of this article that the core advantage of Western world is not in their weapons but in their dedication for development of their citizens to their full potential remains true in the second decade of the 21st century as it was true in the late 19th century. Today we need a Sun Yat-Sen of America to recognize that core of nation building is development of its citizens to their highest potential.

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  • 2017 -Present

    Global CIO - Consumer Bank Citi
    • Responsible for leading technology and digital globally for Citi's consumers with operations in 19 countries.
  • 2014 - '17

    Head of Digital Products at JPMorgan Chase
  • 2012 - '14

    Chief Digital Officer at Barclays Group
    • Responsible for creation of the digital bank for Barclays Retail, Card, corporate bank, investment bank and Wealth business.
    • Responsible for commercial and technical development of new products, including software development, operations, design, technology roadmap.
    • Management and evolution of digital and internet channels for the bank.
    • Management of technology and operations staff across UK, US, India, Lithuania and Singapore.
    • Led Many industry awards winning mobile solutions of the bank including PingIt (numerous industry awards for best financial app in UK) and Barclays Mobile Banking.
  • 2009 – ’12

    Senior Vice President – Product Development

    Responsible for global communications and entertainment products for Verizon Business, Telecom and Wireless.

  • 2006 – ’09

    CIO – Chief Information Officer
    • Chief Information Officer for Verizon telecom, responsible for all technology operations.
    • Responsibilities included software development, operations, maintenance, vendor management, technology purchasing and technology roadmap.
    • Management of engineering staff across India, US, Argentina, Manila and UK.
    • Provided all systems and operations ecommerce, mobile, network management, ordering, billing and operations.
  • 2000 – ’02


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Shadman Zafar, CIO, Verizon Telecom

Shadman Zafar, CIO of Verizon Telecom talks to ZDNet correspondent Sumi Das about the company’s promise to deliver the Internet to television with its new Fios platform. The service will include social media widgets like Facebook and Twitter. Zafar describes the company’s approach to innovating in an economic downturn and where he stands on the net neutrality debate in Washington.

What's Hot in Tech for 2012

In 2012, technology will continue to make consumers' lives easier and more productive -- at home and at work. And consumers themselves will be a major force behind technology's direction and continued advancements. In its annual review of the top consumer-technology trends for 2012, Verizon sees consumers getting much more involved not only in the process of evaluating new products and technologies but in helping to create them as well.

"It used to be that business and government created technology that eventually made it to the masses. Email, the Internet, and personal computers are three examples of how technology used to evolve," said Shadman Zafar, senior vice president for product development at Verizon. "Today, technological advancement is no longer driven from a 'push-through' model where consumers are simply on the receiving end. End users -- consumers -- are driving technological change and creating a world where what they want is always accessible to them."

Untethered TV

Shadman Zafar, Senior VP of Product Development, Verizon, demos the next-generation TV experiences, untethered from the home and living room, making every device a TV-set-top box.

Quick failures, generate quick learning

Shadman Zafar, CIO of Verizon Telecom, talks about how focusing on the growth of the company acts as a great incentive for employees to innovatively come up with ideas and create new business cases around those ideas.

What is Hot in Tech: Consumer are Creative Geniuses

Verizon's Shadman Zafar discusses what is on the horizon for technology in the upcoming year.

In 2012, technology will continue to make consumers' lives easier and more productive -- at home and at work. And consumers themselves will be a major force behind technology's direction and continued advancements.

Companies used to offer content, services and products and consumers would either buy in or not. Now, consumers are an integral part of the creative process, and this co-creation model is quickly becoming the new norm. That means more piano-playing cat videos, but it will also mean more meaningful user experiences

Verizon goes back to the workbench

To overcome its SOA roadblocks, Verizon had to build an entire SOA operational infrastructure virtually from scratch -- and it has the patents to prove it. "As a technology, Web services are great, but today's standards don't have nearly enough operational infrastructure around them," says Shadman Zafar, Verizon's senior vice president of architecture and e-services. "You can end up with a plethora of Web services but no awareness of which of them are where and provide what function -- and most important -- which have the right kind of capacity and SLA to be usable by what and whom. The result is that SOA risks simply becoming a toy for the developer."

As have many other SOA implementations, Verizon's started after a merger -- in this case, the GTE/Bell Atlantic merger that created Verizon.

"I was tasked to integrate the two IT departments to achieve strong synergy targets," Zafar says. "During our initial research, we found that many of our core business functions were implemented anywhere from five to 30 times across different applications."

"Drip-casting": Mobile's answer to network logjams

The wireless industry is looking at new ways to deliver mobile video services and charging consumers as it tries to boost usage without overloading networks, a top Verizon Wireless technology executive said.

The shift, which will happen as early as this year, involves a new concept the executive, Shadman Zafar, described- as drip-casting, where video is sent gradually to devices such as tablets.

This will come hand in hand with so-called smart charging, where operators would not charge for certain data downloads, Zafar said in an interview with Reuters at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

let it bleed

Verizon's Fiber Optic Service is one of the most anticipated and closely watched technology rollouts in telecom's modern era. However, what deserves an even closer look is the underlying software infrastructure for enabling the services that will make FiOS more than just another very fast network.

Hammering Out Web Services Links

The New York-based telecommunications company averages about 2.5 million to 3 million Web services transactions a day, anchored by its mostly homegrown service-oriented architecture (SOA), a platform that was two and a half years in the making. Dubbed the IT Workbench, the SOA supports the design, deployment and management of Web services. It went operational early last year and has helped the company slash its IT budget by 50% by eliminating redundant systems inherited from the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, which spawned Verizon.

Verizon has also tackled some of the most vexing hurdles associated with Web services as part of the IT Workbench project, such as managing and securing the services, charging for reuse and monitoring the performance of service-enabled transactions.


Shadman Zafar


A social psychologist and marketer, Jennifer Doe is the General Atlantic Professor of Marketing and Ormond Family Faculty at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Her research spans time, money and happiness. She focuses on questions such as: What actually makes people happy, as opposed to what they think makes them happy?

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