One of the great pleasures of connecting with our team is hearing about the endeavors and ideas people explore when they’re not at work. With Peter Plachta, that was a special treat. Peter’s interests range across physics, rock climbing, behavioral psychology, and the leadership that makes teams successful — at IBM and elsewhere.
Many of you know that my foundational philosophy is People First, and Peter’s worked with enough different teams, companies, and institutions to know how important that foundation is. He got his start at IBM in Toronto, worked at some of the largest tech companies in the world, and has recently arrived again at IBM, now in San Jose.
I’m curious to hear what you’re working on, but first tell me what you’re doing for fun these days.
I read about behavioral psychology. I just became interested in the subject about six years ago, and it’s almost become more interesting than science. As it turns out, human beings are deeply fascinating creatures! I find behavioral psychology helps me understand the way people are — and the way that I am — which helps all my relationships. And I find that my job is all about relationships and is shaped by the imperfection of human beings. I recommend any book by Melody Beatty and Dwayne Dyer. Carl Jung is always a great read.
For a direct relationship to our jobs: Google spent 2 years doing research on ‘successful teams’ and found 'psychological safety' to be one of the key factors. It's pretty hard to understand what 'psychological safety' is and isn't without at least some understanding of behavioral psychology.
You’re back at IBM after a long detour. How long have you been back?
It’s actually been eight weeks. I kid you not, it’s only been eight weeks!
And what have we got you working on?
Db2 Event Store, which is a database designed for massive data volumes and real-time analytics. My first project was backup and restore. I have experience with immutable data, so I started by rearchitecting how we do our internals to make sure our data is truly immutable.
Where were you before?
I’m a physicist, and I got to IBM by total accident. I was taking a break between my Master’s and PhD, working in a physics lab. I had a friend who was hassling me—IBM was hiring at the time, about 17 years ago. And I thought, ‘Going to a big company? I just don’t see this happening.’ But I went to the Toronto lab, and I just loved it. They were great about making use of my talents for research. I was working with researchers doing really interesting projects. I did seven years in Toronto, but I wanted a lifestyle change. I got into rock climbing and extreme sports, so naturally I moved down here to the Valley, and I was here for four years, doing different things, mainly working on the Db2 engine. I think I was here for another four years and I wanted a change.
So, then I went to Salesforce for four years, first in Canada then to their office in San Francisco… and that was really interesting. Then two different startups, then Amazon.
Why did you choose to return to IBM?
After Amazon, I wanted a place where I could get some quiet thinking time and do deep research. And from being here before and talking to the team, I knew I’d get along with the people. Because I knew who I’d be working with and because I’d maintained my friendships from my time in Toronto, it feels like no time has passed.
Home Town: Krakow
Currently Working On: Event Store
Currently Reading: Climbing books!
Top Five Climbing Destinations:
1. Chamonix, France
2. Tuolomne Meadows, CA
3. Joshua Tree, CA
4. Smith Rock, OR
5. Krabi Beach, Thailand
Dinesh Nirmal – Vice President, IBM Analytics Development
Follow me on Twitter: @dineshknirmal