Klaus vom Hofe


How Suba from India joined the Connectivity team

Suba Rajan tinkers in Darmstadt with the "predictive router reboot" for customers. Her journey to Deutsche Telekom began in the Indian metropolis of Chennai. Find out in our portrait what role her cousins have in this, how much her heart beats for telecommunications and what stations it took to get there. 

 Subashini Rajan

Suba uses her expertise in data science at Deutsche Telekom in the "Telekom Connectivity" innovation program. The goal of this program is to bring customers online everywhere, as quickly as possible and at any time. ©  Dieth und Schröder

Mr. Rajan, a railway engineer in the south Indian megacity of Chennai, certainly never imagined it would be like this: That his daughter Suba would one day be traveling on Germany's rail network, with a lot of technology in her luggage. She set up measuring equipment in rail cars: Devices, cell phones, antennas. 

Suba smiles when she thinks back on it. Her first job in Germany: an internship with a company that measures the quality of cell phone connections. In cities, in the countryside, on the highways. And just on the train. "The other passengers eyed us with great irritation," the today's Deutsche Telekom employee looks back. "But we had a Deutsche Bahn document with us. That explained everything." 

Suba's first name is actually Subashini. But she prefers the short form and she offers everyone to call her by it. The 28-year-old is an electronics/telecommunications engineer with heart and soul. Her passion: data science, so working with data. And also machine learning. That's what she needs in the connectivity team at Deutsche Telekom in Darmstadt. For her, everything revolves around routers. In the Predictive Router Reboots project, the aim is to remotely reboot customers' devices in a predictive manner.

Suba trains the algorithm 

Deutsche Telekom is rebooting customers' routers? Suba’s eyes light up when she talks about it: The team wants to solve an everyday problem for customers whose Internet connection is not working. Because a simple restart is often the solution. The reasons are manifold. Duplicate IP addresses for identifying the device someone is on the network with can be the cause, for example. A reboot also clears up a full cache or helps to reselect a channel less frequented by neighbors for better connections. "Not everyone knows that taking the router off the network for a minute usually helps," Suba says. "And we don't want customers to have to do that, nor do we want the service team to solve that." She knows: about 30 percent of the requests that come in to the service department in the first level of support can be solved with reboots.     

Suba with her colleague Hatem Mousselly-Sergieh

Self-taught machine learning: Suba with her colleague Hatem Mousselly-Sergieh at the blackboard in her office. ©  Dieth und Schröder

The "predictive reboots" are already up and running at Deutsche Telekom subsidiary Hrvatski Telekom in Croatia. Via data. Suba evaluates data from technical properties of tens of thousands of routers, which - with the customers’consent - are transmitted via the so-called TR-069 protocol. "We don't get sensitive information like passwords or MAC addresses. The router ID is completely pseudonymized," she emphasizes. 

Suba uses the data to train an algorithm that recognizes when and where outages will occur again. With this knowledge, it restarts the affected routers in the early morning hours. The networks remain stable. This should reduce the number of calls to the service department, and initial tests show good results.  

Setting the course early

"I love working with data - it can help us improve quality so well," Suba says. "And it never gets boring." Anyone who visits Suba in her office in Darmstadt can see right away: Her working world takes place in the computer. It's all quite plain, with only a blackboard with barely legible formulas reflecting some of it into the physical world: "A concept for machine learning," she smiles. "I needed that big in my eyes when I taught myself how to do it."   

 Subashini Rajan

"I love working with data - it can help us improve quality so well. And it never gets boring." ©  Dieth und Schröder

What was Suba’s path from Chennai to Deutsche Telekom in Darmstadt? The course was set early on. As a teenager, she was impressed by her older cousins who work as engineers at big brands in the software industry. "In India, that has a very high status. I was fascinated when they told me about their working world." But which engineering field should she choose? "Telecommunications is an 'evergreen,' the basic principles always remain the same - I thought, and I liked the idea." So she enrolled in a corresponding bachelor's degree program in Chennai. 

In India, a lot of talent is flocking to engineering: half men, half women. Mostly they end up developing software, Suba reports, "At some point, you realize you need to stand out with something special." Experience abroad is very suitable for that. Very many are already orienting themselves toward the U.S. or Great Britain. Suba’s spark was ignited in a German language course. The teacher, a native speaker, aroused her great interest in the country. Suba decided to pursue her Master of Science degree in Darmstadt. Eleven and a half hours away by plane.

Matthias Weidmann, Johann Sahling, Subashini Rajan and Andy Wittmann.

With colleagues in the Darmstadt office worlds (from left): Matthias Weidmann, Johann Sahling, Suba Rajan and Andy Wittmann. ©  Dieth und Schröder

Less hierarchical

That was in 2015. In the meantime, Suba has learned a lot, completed her studies and promptly joined Deutsche Telekom. Thanks to her colleagues in Darmstadt, she has gained a lot of new experience, also in terms of the corporate culture. Experience she can also share with the new Indian Deutsche Telekom teams in Pune and Bangalore, who are now involved in many innovation projects.

When she compares the working worlds, what are her most important impressions? Suba Rajan: "In India, the work-life balance concept is just starting to develop. Deutsche Telekom here is more advanced, less hierarchical, and employees can question things more," she summarizes. "On the other hand, we sometimes stick very closely to schedules here, although a lot of this can often be done quite easily earlier - from my point of view, that works more flexibly in India." Mr. and Mrs. Rajan hear about these and countless other impressions and experiences every evening in remote Chennai. Live, via video conference with their daughter Suba..

 Subashini Rajan

Suba at her location: Darmstadt, Deutsche-Telekom-Allee. ©  Dieth und Schröder




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