Full Name: KK Kailasam
Job Title: VP, Engineering Fellow
Employer: Cerner
Graduation Year: 1992
Degree: MS Computer Science
Current City: Kansas City, KS (Work); Olathe (Home)
Hometown: Originally from Chennai, India; living in Olathe, KS

Tell me about an average day at your job.
I lead a team of talented software engineers in Cerner’s decision support organization designing and implementing solutions that provide cross-venue care. Our solution suite includes data transformation services, clinical ontologies, and software agents to implement Cerner Math developed models that predict outcomes. The transformation services handle large volumes of data in a big data environment, and process unstructured clinical documentation using natural language processing techniques. The ontology services enable specification of a clinical program in a consistent and standards-based approach. The software agents use the data transformation services and clinical ontologies to execute mathematical models and predict outcomes such as hospital readmissions, risk of suicide etc.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
One aspect that I remember very well to this day, is the faculty’s interest in staying connected with the industry. The assignments and projects often simulated real-world situations. And several decades later, as a member of the advisory committee, I see the same enthusiasm and excitement among the faculty. The committee is represented by leaders from many different industries and there is always a good dialog in terms of the types of courses and projects that will help prepare students to connect theory with practice.

How did you decide what area you wanted to work in?
In all honesty, I was lucky. In the early 1990s, the hype was mostly around networking and telecommunications. The only certainty was my interest in developing application software. It was after joining Cerner that I learned the potential for software in the field of health care. It started with solutions related to digitizing records and assisting care providers with timely interventions. And the journey continues. If you are trying to decide, the intersection of Heath Care and Information Technology is a great place. The complexity and hence the challenges are significant. There is a sense of personal satisfaction in this area. Whether it is about making it safer or more efficient or using data to derive new knowledge, the opportunities are plenty.

How do you keep up with the rapidly changing field of technology?
Early in my career I learned from my leadership about the importance of continuously expanding one’s boundaries. I follow many great minds on Twitter to learn what they are reading and talking about. Colleges like Stanford offer many courses online; I take them, especially the ones without a timeline.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
1) Learn to write code and continue to improve upon it.
2) Learn to write code in more than one language.
3) The real world is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary in nature. Take classes from other areas like Math, Linguistics, Biology etc.

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