Can We Make Tech Cool & Security Thoughtful

July 11, 2017

ARA Seattle Starts the 2017 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey Conversation
The best part of my annual CIO Survey tour–I cross the country sharing the findings of the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey–is the questions I get. Surprising, challenging, thorough, spontaneous, bold and smart, the audience questions take the discussion to unpredicted places every time. My recent Seattle 2017 CIO Survey kickoff is the perfect example.

I had the chance to share key findings of the survey at a recent ARA event in Seattle, which was hosted by Expedia and focused on exploring data transformation and automation in the “journey to the cloud.” As I shared how the priorities of CIOs are changing, along with survey insights into skill shortages, the rise of robotics and the challenges of increasing diversity in IT, I could feel the audience ready to jump in and add their experience and thoughts. To give you a taste of the kind of thoughtful, bold inquiry strong survey data and a smart audience will generate, I am going to share some of Seattle’s questions and insights.
Can Tech Be Cool Again?
The tech skill shortage data from the survey sparked interesting conversation and questions from the audience. As I wondered how we can compete with countries like Vietnam where 85% of degrees achieved right now are in STEM fields, I said “we need to make IT cool again.” One member of the audience challenged me: “What makes you think tech was ever cool?” And she was right. The benefits offered and workplaces of tech companies may have tried hard to bring the “cool factor” to the workplace but the work itself, coding, testing, developing, doesn’t feel cool when you are in it. Some of the wonder of taking something apart and finding how it works is lost as technology advances and we see less and less of what’s behind it. We need to get back to the wonder. Her point made me think of the stories we read today of people wanting to get back to hands-on work (building bespoke furniture, opening hobby farms, attending a Maker Faire) and wonder how we as a tech industry might work together to capture this passion for discovery, experimentation and tinkering in our own workplaces.
Do We Really Think Cyber Threats Are Coming from Bad Guys?
As we talked about rising cyber security threats, one audience member pointed out the fact that the IT industry needs to consider that security breaches and risks are not only coming from outside entities. Her point was that rapidly changing regulations are reshaping the tech and business landscape. As we rush to catch up, security flaws and gaps are increasing. The challenge for us as an IT community was to go beyond one dimensional thinking when it comes to cyber-attacks and threats. Yes, there are outside and nefarious threats but we can’t create blind spots for ourselves as an industry by only looking outwards. Security issues arise if we don’t examine all the ways security flaws, gaps and breeches come to be.
Diversity Hopes and the Challenge of Inclusion
As I shared both some of the frustrating diversity data from the survey as well as my favorite women in tech anecdote of the summer (my two-year-old granddaughter Lexi is in a STEM class at preschool), the Seattle audience shared how their communities are working to make tech more diverse. One woman shared data from a study that revealed how girls who are not introduced to STEM between the ages of six and eight (just prior to a large confidence drop in most young girls), the chances of getting them into STEM studies and careers down the road drops precipitously. I think it’s safe to say it was a keen reminder of how important early STEM exposure is for our entire workforce.
As time ran down, we also talked about the challenges of defining diversity and inclusion as a team when diversity can mean so much (race, religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). What is a truly diverse workforce? How do you make sure diversity is something that adds value and is not something a company is doing to check a box?
Did we answer all the questions that arose in Seattle? No, but we started important conversations about issues that are shaping our industry. We will be asking even more questions at CIO Survey and ARA events, this summer and fall across the U.S. Please join Harvey Nash, KMPG and me for a discussion near you. I can’t wait to hear your questions.