Kerala: This village boy is a distinguished engineer with Dell – Times of India


Shibi Panikkar

Shibi Panikkar had little guidance when it came to making career choices, having grown up in Mangad, a village in Kannur, Kerala. Such was his naivety that when he got through engineering at the University of Calicut, he opted for the electrical and electronics branch, simply because he thought he’d get to learn two topics. “Every other engineering stream like mechanical, chemical, came with just one prefix,” laughs Shibi.
This was over two decades ago. In the years between, Shibi worked with five organisations and even briefly dabbled in entrepreneurship. Today, he is a distinguished engineer and senior enterprise architect with Dell Technologies.
His early years were often a struggle. Shibi did his schooling in Malayalam medium. After class 10, he switched to English. It took six months for him to become somewhat comfortable
with the language. Shibi believed if one knows the subject, language is not a barrier. That helped him ride through.
Shibi had developed an early interest in music and badminton and would shuttle 18km from his village to Kannur, the nearest city, to practise the sport twice a week. “My father worked as a welder in the Middle East and we weren’t that well off. But my mother managed family finances beautifully and supported me,” recalls the state-level badminton player.
Once out of college, Shibi wanted to be the best electrical engineer. At Hindustan Organic Chemicals, his maiden job, he received the Best Innovator award in the very first year. “It was in recognition of my paper on saving 5% of steam from chemical columns. I was sent to Saudi Arabia for a project, where, apart from my electrical job, I started helping with C++ programming in surveillance security. There I realised software development is my future,” says Shibi.
Soon, he packed his bags and returned to India. He and his friends started a venture in Mumbai, offering an ERP software solution for firefighting and a jewellery account management system. “I also came up with a voice-based solution for a dental clinic and we developed our first online IT academy for schools, which we couldn’t market due to limited internet speed at the time,” says Shibi, adding: “I think we were a bit ahead of time.”
Shibi went on to work with Sapient and Oracle. At Dell, where he is now, one of the things Shibi worked on turned into a big initiative known today as the Dell Digital Supply Chain. Shibi holds multiple patents. He won Zinnov’s Technical Role Model award last year. He says he is now in the midst of his most enjoyable stint as a technologist, innovator and mentor.

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