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Friday, November 24, 2017

For Digital Success, Look Beyond STEM Skills, Computer Scientists Urge | Forbes

Photo: Joe McKendrick
"We want products and solutions and technologies that appeal to the dancer and the linguist, not just the engineer. So we have to bring them in" argues Joe McKendrick, author, independent researcher and speaker exploring innovation, information technology trends and markets.  
It takes many minds to run a digital business.
Photo: Joe McKendrick

Organizations seeking to get ahead in the digital game and fend off disruption will need to be creative with technology – and this is going to require a diversity of skills and viewpoints beyond traditional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) expertise. Even some leading computer engineers state that it's going to take more than technology skills to move things forward.

Some of these computer scientists shared their observations on the digital skills gap at a panel discussion at the recent CA World confab in Las Vegas. Otto Berkes, chief technology officer for CA Technologies and moderator, asked about the skills needed for today's and tomorrow's digital businesses. STEM skills development needs to be introduced and encouraged earlier in children's education, the panelists agreed. However, success in the digital economy requires more than ramping up STEM capabilities -- it requires participation from people with a variety of backgrounds, skillsets, and perspectives. (Note: the panel discussion portion starts at the 60-minute mark in the recording.)

"We over-rotate on finding and developing STEM only as the solution," said Debra Danielson, distinguished engineer and senior VP for CA Technologies. "I think as we evolve, we're going to be bringing in more people who don't need to have that deep analytical coding technologist-type capabilities. Because they're going to be focused on the no-code, low-code on driving AI to solve business problems. We want products and solutions and technologies that appeal to the dancer and the linguist, not just the engineer. So we have to bring them in." 

There's a strong business case to be made for diversity as well. “If you were to try and solve one of your top technical or business challenges you could stick some white middle-aged men with aerospace engineering degrees in a room, and we would definitely find an answer,” said Howard Abrams, distinguished engineer and senior VP of engineering at CA Technologies. “Not necessarily the right one, not necessarily the best one, but we will find an answer quickly.”

Rather than confine innovation the way it has always been, “what you really need to do is get people with diverse opinions in a room with diverse education and skills in a room to brainstorm, and figure out how to best solve the problem and be creative," said Abrams. "If you're gonna get diverse skills and interests and backgrounds that ultimately means diverse people need to be in that room. That's a key challenge.”

Diversity is a real business enabler -- "it's not a fashion statement it's how you get the best outcome,” Berker agreed. “We have to make sure that we're really developing you multidisciplinary cross-disciplinary problem solvers you know for next-generation challenges."

Source: Forbes