In Memory of Sushmito Ghosh

[Please see below for update on memorial services.]

It is with terrible sadness that I must share the news about my good friend and colleague, Sushmito Ghosh, who passed away on Wednesday evening, in his adopted home town of Providence, Rhode Island.  Ghosh, as he was simply known to most of the world, was the leader of a business unit in our company and one of the brightest people that I ever had the pleasure of meeting.  I first met him when we acquired the financial services division of Nestor Commerce back in 2002, where he served as the President of that company for many years.   A trained naval architect, he was best known as one of the world’s foremost experts in areas related to credit card fraud detection for banks, particularly when it came to systems that used neural networks technologies.   To put it simply, he taught me pretty much everything I know about that business.

I’m not qualified, nor is it appropriate for me, to write the obituary of a man who had so many friends in so many different parts of the world for many years longer than I knew him.  But what I can share is that, regardless of whether a person knew him for thirty minutes or thirty years, he will be greatly missed.  Albeit a great business and scientific mind, what he was known best for was his wicked sense of humor and his ability to treat everyone he knew with tremendous respect and decency.  He never, for a moment, forgot about the people who helped contribute to his own success.   After I quietly received the Infoweek CTO 25 Award in 2007, he phoned to congratulate me and told me that I was being too humble about my accomplishments.  This was irony at its best, as he had made a career out of redirecting the spotlight away from himself, always ensuring that credit was given to others before accepting an ounce of accomplishment of his own.

Over the past six year, I probably traveled around the globe with him more than I did with any of my friends, family or colleagues.   There were the countless nights singing drunken Karaoke in London’s Chinatown restaurants after sucking down far too much booze.  He invited me and two colleagues to a late-season Yankess/Red Sox game at Fenway Park – even though we were all lifelong Yankees fans.  He introduced me to Jameson, Kingfisher beer and “Chinese Wine”, a horrific moonshine-like concoction that he had first discovered while doing business in Shanghai and Beijing.  We enjoyed a fine opening weekend ruby double-header in London, many great meals in top restaurants back home and countless nights in boring cities with even more-boring hotels.  He was a great person to spend time with.

To those he was close to, or those who he shared a drink with – which was a majority of the world’s population – he was well known for his encyclopedic knowledge of jokes.  Often dirty, and usually tasteless, he told them in a way that would even get Mother Teresa laughing after the second or third attempt.   He had a skill of making an off-color joke seem not-so-bad.   Among the compendium of jokes was one that I fondly remember, simply known as “The Monkey Joke”.  It goes something like this:

    A man walks past a shop and sees a sign that says “Monkey For Sale: $300”.
    The shopkeeper asks if the man wants to buy the monkey and the man declines. “What am I going to do with a monkey?”, he says.
    The shopkeeper then says, “Well sir, this monkey has been trained to give the best blo*jo* you’ve ever experienced.”
    The man thinks for a minute and replies, “Hmmm…sorry, how much did you say the monkey was?”…
    Two hours later, the man is sprawled out naked on his bed with a huge smile on his face, cigarette in one hand, his other arm around the monkey and, at least, 30 cookbooks spread all over the bed.
    The man’s wife comes home, goes into the bedroom and screams, “What the hell is going on?”
    The man replies, “Honey, if I can teach this monkey to cook, you’re getting yourself the hell out of here!”

You have to excuse me for the off-color nature of the joke, particularly while writing an entry of such a somber nature.  However, I doubt that his real obituary will include anything similar to this and, as many of us remember, things like that were a part of Ghosh…and he didn’t make any apologies about it.

Ghosh’s life was one big cliché, and I do not mean that in a derogatory way.  When people pass away, you often hear things like, “He was larger than life.” or “He would light up a room…” or “He was the type of person that everyone liked.”  These may be kind and polite things to say about someone who just left us, but, in Ghosh’s case, they were all true.   To the people who worked with him, he was a mentor, a leader, a friend, a family member, a trusted advisor and, undoubtedly, someone who can never be replaced.

We’ll miss you, buddy.

Note on Memorial Service:   Services will be held on June 4th, 2009 at Boston’s Fenway Park.  All are welcome, but you must RSVP.   Please contact me directly if you would like further details.

We have also started a photo pool with some pictures of Ghosh on Flickr.  If you would like to view them, or add to the group yourself, simply click here.

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Two Speaking Engagments Next Week in Las Vegas

Just a quick note about two speaking gigs I have in Las Vegas next week.

On Tuesday, March 10, I will be part of session titled “Data Breaches: Cause, Impact, Next Steps” as part of the Merchant Risk Council Platinum Sessions.   The session will examine a number of issues related to major credit card data breaches over the last couple of years.  I will be joined on the panel by the Chief Compliance Officer at Chase Paymentech, the Chief Marketing Officer at Trustwave and an agent from the United States Secret Service.

Then, on Thursday, I will be co-presenting with GuoDong Zhoa, the CEO of China Bank Payment in Beijing.  The session, titled “Understanding the Dynamic Chinese Market”, will examine the unique aspects of the Chinese e-Commerce market from a payments and consumer perspective.

The annual MRC conference is March 10-12 at the Wynn Las Vegas and is attended by, pretty much, every major retailer, e-tailer, major bank and processor in the US.

Cool Hotels, Volume 1: The James, Chicago

One of the most common questions I get asked about my travels is “Where do you stay when you visit [insert city here]?”   As a result, I figured that I’d start documenting some of the more interesting hotels that I stay at.  This is installment Number 1.

The James Hotel
55 East Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Web: http://www.jameshotels.com/Chicago.aspx

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The James is one of those hotels which, on the surface, might seem too trendy for its own good.  It is a design hotel with a sleek interior, clean, well-designed rooms and a young, good-looking staff.  But the service it provides goes well beyond its good looks – it is a comfortable hotel which excels at accommodating the most serious business traveler.

The rooms are spacious and comfortable with great bedding, a beautiful bathroom, shower or tub and interesting furniture in the seating areas.  There are little things, however, which really make the stay comfortable and enjoyable:  Massive 47-inch plasma TVs (multiple of them if you get a larger room), comfortable couches, an abundance electrical sockets for you to plug in your laptop, Tivoli Audio radios with iPod inputs, a (kind of) full bar in each room with full bottle of vodka, gin, champagne, etc., Keils products in the bathroom and a great variety of interesting snacks stocked within your in-room bar.  Room Service is great, as it’s supplied by David Burke’s Primehouse restaurant downstairs, which makes great breakfast and dinner.    The gym is quite well-equipped for a hotel of this size.

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It’s location makes is a good choice for the business traveler or tourist alike and the rates tend t0 vary greatly by the season.  Last year, someone put me up there in the spring in a standard King room for almost $400 a night, but on a recent trip in January, I paid only $209 a night for a studio apartment suite.