Ishan Verma ’11 helps build the future, sometimes right on your phone
by Tony Moore
"If you want to drive a Honda Odyssey into a wall with four dummies in it to do crash testing, that's a lot of money," says Ishan Verma '11, explaining one arm of the graphics-engine octopus that is San Francisco's Autodesk.
"You're losing most of the parts of a real car, over and over," he adds. "With simulation tools that we build, you can get wind speed to torque to pressure and any amount of specific data points and get a 3D movie back at the end of it all."
James Cameron is in the building
Speaking of 3D movies, Verma explains that clients use the design software Autodesk sells to "create the future," and the future comes in many forms—one of the more famous is that of thin, blue aliens seen on movie screens around the world.
"Your vision runs at the equivalent to 24 film frames per second," Verma says. "A movie like Avatar requires 60 frames per minute to give you that 3D environment of a place that doesn't exist. The high-end film software we make, like MotionBuilder, helps people like James Cameron render images in a way that was never possible before and make a movie like Avatar."
All mobile, all international, all the time
Verma, however, is in Autodesk's consumer group, which caters to a wider audience—from photographers to soccer moms—with such mobile-based products as Pixlr-O-Matic, 123D and SocialCam, all aimed at editing and creating images on the go. Verma's job as a business analyst is to take a hard look at who is using Autodesk's apps, how they are using them and how these usage patterns can be turned into revenue down the road—the essential metrics at the heart of the app revolution.
Within the mobile world, Verma notes that global is the word of the day, and it brings him back to his days at Dickinson.
"Our entire Android team is in Shanghai," he says. "And here in San Francisco we've got people from Brazil, Israel, Sweden, India, and the list goes on." Explaining Autodesk's international employee, partner and user base, Verma says, "Anytime we release something, our localization team comes in and translates it into at least seven different languages. Or we localize the product from top to bottom for certain audiences, right down to customizing our Web sites to fit how different cultures read. I learned a lot of that stuff in classes like Organizational Behavior and Marketing with Professor Poulton at Dickinson."
High tech meets bare bones
"There are two things from my Dickinson days that have really carried over," Verma says. "It's the classes like how to write a good paper or just communicate in e-mail properly. And then it comes down to the bare-bones math. In the tech world, you need to be able to hit the ground running, and you can't do that without a solid foundation of math and Excel."
Verma also cites as a key to his success his internships with Autodesk, which started after his first year at Dickinson.
"The first internship is what changed it," he says. "I got my foot through the door, and it was an eight-week intensive analysis project that rivaled a semester's worth of coursework." And then he went back after his sophomore year, and then after his junior year. After he graduated, a full-time job opened up, and it seems he's come full circle.
"Now I'm a business/mobile monetization analyst," he says. "And this summer I'll have interns."
Alumni in Action
Published July 8, 2013