PLYMOUTH, Mich. - The growing influence of Information Technology in business and in the larger world was a major theme at the 2013 Executives in Technology Leadership Exchange. Over 500 people attended the half-day program which featured CIOs from Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Group LLC, General Motors, Boeing, Walmart, State of Michigan, IBM and Cisco IT.
The Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) hosted the event, which was jointly sponsored by Ford, Chrysler, and GM, on April 22, 2013, at the Inn at St. Johns, in Plymouth, Michigan.
In her opening remarks, Ford IT’s Maru Flores, MCWT president, summarized the organization’s mission as providing leadership, mentoring, career development, networking and educational opportunities to professional women and girls within the Michigan technology community.
In addition to advocating that IT recruiters have a stronger presence on college campuses, Flores stressed the need to motivate girls and young women to develop an early interest in IT through programs like the MCWT’s Girls Exploring Together Information Technology (GET-IT) Program, Camp Infinity, Web Design Competition and Robotics Grants.
“Technology is pervasive – it touches every part of our lives and the company in which we work. Technology today is very different than it was 10 years ago. It is critical that we attract a workforce that sustains and builds upon what we have accomplished so far. The demand for technical skills will only increase as the global economy gets stronger,” said Ford CIO, Nick Smither.
InformationWeek Editor, Chris Murphy led Smither, GM CIO Randy Mott, and Chrysler CIO Scott Sandschafert in a panel discussion about IT in the automotive business and how it has taken on a more customer-facing role in business.
When the discussion touched upon the need for a workforce trained in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, Smither added, “More is being invested in technology. This will drive career choices – increasing the demand for those with STEM degrees. We need to build a pipeline of potential talent, which is currently under represented in the U.S., especially in regard to the number of women in the workforce.”
Keynote speaker, Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of global business services, spoke to the future of IT and how the world will be transformed by big data and analytics. She described a future in which the Chief Information Officer will also become the Innovation and Acceleration Officer and the IT focus will shift from ‘What’s the problem?’ to ‘What’s the possibility?’ - with the end result being driven by users and their clients.
A second leadership panel, moderated by InformationWeek.com Editor-in-Chief, Laurie McLaughlin, included David Behen, CIO, State of Michigan; Kim Hammonds, CIO Boeing; Shelia Jordon, senior vice president, Communication and Collaboration IT Cisco; Karenann Terrell, executive vice president and CIO Walmart; Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President, Global Business Services, IBM.
Much of their discussion centered on the challenges that women face in pursuing careers in IT, which the panel of one man and five women agreed, are different than those of men.
They observed that the idea of work/life balance is changing as a result of the expectations of the most recent generation to enter the workforce and because of greater flexibility in work arrangements made possible by technology and necessitated by the 24/7 work schedules of a global workforce. It was suggested that work/life ‘integration’ be used to describe managing personal and professional time going forward.
The panel also talked about the importance of risk taking, networking with like-minded individuals (regardless of the industry), and of finding a mentor/sponsor who can aid in career advancement. It was noted that women tend to downplay their contributions while men are not as reluctant to talk about their accomplishments. The panel agreed that a person who can say “here is what I am really proud of" creates a more confident and capable impression during job interviews and assessments than one who defers credit to others.
The program closed with a question and answer session facilitated by Chris Murphy and including Randy Mott, Nick Smither, Scott Sandchafer and Maru Flores. When panel members were asked about breaking barriers, re-entering the workforce, moving a career to the next step and bringing jobs back to Michigan, Smither responded: “Workplace expectations are changing. We need to address the change to sustain and build capabilities in the workplace.”
“If you have been away from the workplace, find out what skills are most needed and apply yourself. IT is a career where learning is constant – you must continue to learn new skills.”
“Seek out challenging assignments. You learn more when working on new assignments. Take risks rather than staying within areas where you are an expert.”
“Build the muscle that gives opportunity. Increase your knowledge and skills, constantly learning IT. Take advantage of training opportunities - of learning new technical applications and being involved in their deployments. At Ford, we use social media internally (Yammer, Digital Worker). We have groups to lead career development (Learning and Development).”
“We need to be more proactive in communicating that Detroit and SE Michigan is a center for technology. This area has the fifth largest tech workforce in the U.S.”