John Serri

Occupation: Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Manhattan Software Inc.

First Car: 1968 Chevy Impala, that was given to me by my father

Favorite Restaurant: I can honestly state I don’t have a favorite restaurant, or even a favorite food. I love all sorts of food, and unfortunately have consumed too much of it. 

1. What are three things most people don’t know about you?
a). I raise tropical fish
b). I play the piano and compose music
c). I teach astronomy and computer science at some US universities
2. What’s been your greatest adventure in life?
A week I spent in Nigeria in the 1990’s trying to develop some business. During a trip on the outskirts of Lagos we ran into some dubious characters carrying guns and asking for money; it was not easy talking our way out of that one. Strangely enough, the best seafood I have ever eaten was in Nigeria; life is full of surprises.
3. What’s your best childhood memory?
Christmas Time and getting a new set of electric trains
4. If you could have a conversation with a person of your choice, past, present or future, who would that person be and why?
Great question, I would want to talk to Albert Einstein and FDR. Both had a profound positive effect in the world we live in today.
5. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
Probably working on a PhD and being on the brink of losing my sponsorship and funding. The uncertainty coupled with the naivete of youth made this more difficult than it needed to be.
6. Tell us about your favorite hobby.
I kind of covered that before…. Music. I also enjoy photography. Both hobbies have been greatly enhanced by the digital / internet age.
7. What are you currently reading? What is your favorite book?
My favorite right now would have to be  It’s not Personal, It’s strictly Business- The Godfather Way of Surviving, Conniving, and Thriving in Corporate America  written by my brother Tony Serri, it serves up a funny and insightful perspective on surviving in the cutthroat culture of American business. It takes the lessons of The Godfather saga and analyzes the actions and outcomes of the Corleone family, drawing corollaries to real-life business challenges.
I have also been reading Limits to Growth, by Donella Meadows etal, and Beyond Growth, by Herman E. Daly. I have a growing interest in the question of global sustainability, taking it to a more generalized level to tackle such questions as: Why can’t the entire world have a higher standard of living than it does today? What’s holding us back? I firmly believe we can manage ourselves to substantially improve the quality of life for all humans and improve the global environment, hence my growing interest in economics and it’s intersection with physics, as the analysis to prove the case will require a big systems physics-like approach.

8. Is there a particular place or thing you want to see?
I want to spend more time in Africa, and visit for the first time India and Antarctica.
9.   If you could give $10,000 to a charity, what would that charity be and why?
Some charity to help innocent civilians who have survived the ravages of war.
10. If you weren’t on the professional services career track, what would you be doing?
Probably dabbling in science and economics
11. What is the path that led you to Professional Services/Consulting?
It is a long path. I started out as a physicist getting a PhD from MIT, worked at Bell Laboratories in basic research, eventually went into applied research at AT&T, and then into technical management. I found systems engineering coupled with a life-long interest in software to be very rewarding, I was involved in large development projects such as Globalstar. I eventually found myself in the latter stage of my career in SW / professional services consulting, some 25 years after my PhD.
12. What advice would you give to a recent graduate who just took a job in professional services?
Make sure you have a passion for what you are doing, for you will be on a road that will test your inner fortitude. Make sure you don’t get bogged down in the weeds and leaves, getting so busy with details that you miss the trees and the forest, as it is very easy for this to happen. A good Professional Services person needs to have a strategic perspective and deep knowledge of the area they are working in, without that your vision and eventually your opportunities will be limited.