Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Diamonds, Guns, and a Database

This true life experience was one of my most exhilarating adventures. It was life threatening, it reminded me of a scene from Romancing the Stone (movie) and it was far more educational than any book I could ever imagine. I know this week I planned to write about how to contribute to others who share the same technology passion, and I plan to get to that very soon, but I hope you will forgive me as I take a short path down memory lane.

Around 2005 +/- a good friend of mine, we will call him Josh for this story, asked me if I was available to take on a new database project. It would involve assembling a team of architects, developers and alike and I would be managing several teams both in the private and public sectors. Josh didn’t give me too much detail at first. He simply wanted to know if I was open to taking on the task. Josh knew exactly how to sell me on something. How could I say no to a challenge of the unknown and an opportunity to create something from scratch?

My first task was to win the account. So Josh introduced me to his employer Jake. Jake was a tall, slender and wealthy go-between guy who traveled to Africa, Venezuela and other parts of the globe every week. Jake sat down with me and explained the plan to build a database that would house large data sets of information that pertained to the tracking and shipping of diamonds. I wasn’t entirely familiar with the business of the diamond trade industry, but to me it really didn’t matter what data they wanted to store, I just wanted the project! So Jake asked me to design a very basic layout of how the database could be developed along with the ability to access the database from anywhere in the world. It also needed to connect and communicate with various other sources (i.e. government, bio-metrics, and tracking systems). He dropped a stack of money on my desk and asked me to have the design ready by the end of the week.

After I completed the design I presented it to Jake. He in turn took the design to his inventors. A day later, Josh returned with the good news. I got the project! But there was a catch. I needed to take a plane to Venezuela with Josh so that I could see first-hand where and how diamonds originate. Two plane tickets and a day later we arrived in Venezuela. We took several small planes that would take us in and out of small villages until we finally arrived at our destination (a place on some map that I could never seem to remember). In any event, we arrived in a small village. The people were very nice. The food was amazing! We stayed for several days living in steel cargo holds that locked from the inside with a large metal bar. There was no running water in this village so our shower was a bucket of water that was poured on us from a group of hired help.

Meeting with a diamond trader is very different than meeting with your local baker. The diamond trader arrived by helicopter and was escorted by several armed men whose guns reminded me of a scene from the movie Rambo. Minutes after the diamond trader’s arrival Josh and I were escorted to his office. Josh sat with him and discussed details about the availability of diamonds. Seeing that I knew nothing about gems I just nodded my head when we said hello and again when we said good-bye.

When we returned back to the U.S. I began to reflect on the reality of danger that I was in. I clearly was oblivious to the actual events that took place to make that meeting come together. Thankfully I made it back in one piece. I brought back more than just an understanding of the project needs, I brought back a wisdom and business life skill that would be difficult to teach to others. Unfortunately, when we returned the project took a turn that stopped all the parts from moving forward. The permits and licenses required to give the project a green light needed more political leverage than the investors could muster. 

When you get an opportunity to take on an unknown project, do you jump at the opportunity or do you weigh the costs involved?

Author: Dr. Eduardo Diaz, helping you exceed expectations.

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