The Sawyer CIO at Home in the Field
Raj Kamachee is the Team Rubicon technology wizard who gets software, and sawing, done.
Raj Kamachee’s parents migrated from India to Southeast Asia before he was born. Growing up all over Southeast Asia—Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia included—he became fluent in Bahasa and Tamil and speaks a little Chinese Hokkien. Just to get accepted to college in the U.S. Kamachee did extensive pre-course college acceptance testing, English language work, and more. It worked. In 1995, he arrived in the U.S. to attend the University of Louisiana, where he studied computer science and mathematics. “My dream was to come to college here, and then go back home and just make my parents’ lives better,” says Kamachee.
With the internet just coming into full bloom, Kamachee quickly realized skills such as his were in huge demand, and that he could stay in the U.S. and still make his parents’ life much better.
By 2005, Kamachee was working with the Department of Defense developing software. “As an immigrant, everyone says ‘you come here, and if you work hard, you will be rewarded,’ and I’m one of those perfect examples,” says Kamachee. “I mean honestly, I can’t complain. Successful as a father, as a husband, and career-wise. I’m living the dream—look at me, I’m at Team Rubicon.”
Kamachee joined Team Rubicon in 2017, right before Hurricane Harvey. Today, he’s the TRibe’s Chief Information Officer, responsible for overseeing all of the organization’s technology and tech innovation.
How, and why, did you end up at Team Rubicon?
I spent several years working at startups, and 12 years at the Department of Defense. There, I worked a lot with veterans and servicemen and women. Those were the times I really enjoyed; I had a pretty good relationship with them. I also wanted to, someday, help improve technology career and educational opportunities for veterans.
Eventually, I got burned out. I wanted to do something that contributed to the common good. I was working on a fintech startup idea when the Team Rubicon opportunity came along. In fact, it was my wife, who was already volunteering as a Greyshirt, who mentioned that the CIO position was open and I might want to give it a shot. The more I read, the more I realized that I could be more impactful by joining this organization.
Have you deployed much as a Greyshirt?
I have. I’ve deployed doing core services, wraparound services, delivering food, mucking houses … I even became a sawyer last year.
Deploying on Team Rubicon’s disaster relief operations is the only way I build systems and learn the business. That’s what gives me the bottom-up approach. I don’t come up with stuff, I let people build what they want; we build systems in the field. When you think about the customers we serve, that’s when you really know what’s needed and what the pain points are. You can’t be at the top in the office, trying to figure things out, you’ve got to get down there and get dirty and just see the Greyshirt experience. That’s where I get into my problem-solving. It’s all about solving problems and making life easier, making it better. The more we do it, the more efficient we get, the more automated we get, the more meaningful work we can do, and then we can serve many more people.
Is there something you especially want to achieve at, with, or for Team Rubicon in the next year?
We always have this strategic roadmap and we’ve been good at completing things, finishing build-outs, and doing what we set out to do. Like everyone, COVID-19 threw a wrench in some of that, so we’re strategizing a bit.
As to some of the things I’d like to see Team Rubicon achieve: I want to further scale up the tech build to support the ground. There’s Team Rubicon’s international expansion and the international organization that we’re trying to set up, as well as ironing out international deployments. And, there are domestic changes—branch changes—and all the system needs to support that. How can we get to a decentralized distributed method in a way where people at the local level are empowered to use the same data as national and just go, rapidly respond, without having to depend on national, all the time?
There’s a new technology revolution underway with the cloud, machine learning, and artificial intelligence and we want to be at the forefront of it. We want to always be using the best technology; we want to take advantage of AI and machine learning and build those solutions into our structure.
Fundamentally, though, we want to leave a legacy where Team Rubicon is considered one of the best emergency management systems ever built.