The Imperial Women’s Network teamed up with the Deloitte Women in Technology Network to host an interactive session on the topic: ‘Technology Predictions – Skill or Science?’. This session explored how understanding tech behaviours will help identify winning technology in the future. Over 60 alumni, students and guests enjoyed an evening of stimulating discussion at the Deloitte offices.
The event began with a keynote talk delivered by Aisling Teo, Deloitte Global Technology Chief of Staff. The initial straw poll of attendees confirmed that they thought predicting the future is hard. However Aisling challenged this: “Predicting the future is not that difficult when you get the basics, getting the timing right is the hard part.”
To demonstrate she highlighted six essential skills to achieving this:
- Be aware of bias: All human beings are victims of our own biases. We introduce subjectivity and blind spots in our assessments of the world. To avoid these pitfalls as much as possible, seek diversity of opinions to test against and question why you are making particular assumptions.
- Refer to reliable sources: Review the quantity and quality of data. In this current arena of ‘fake news’ make sure you don’t believe everything you read without checking first!
- Maintain a healthy scepticism: Critically challenge the information and play devil’s advocate to find if it still stands or if you find holes/angles not explored. This will help you create an edge in your understanding of a trend and prediction of outcomes.
- Read, listen and research: The more you read the more you widen your knowledge base and understanding of critical issues.
- Embrace other disciplines: Cognitive technologies will change the way we do business and people who possess a mix of business and technology skills have a big role to play. Ensure you have a blend of skills across different interests.
- Anthropology: Those that understand human behaviour will be able to instinctively know that a product will be successful and, importantly sniff out a trend ahead of the crowd.
"Technology is the future of business. As increasingly businesses and society continue to become more technology dependent, this skill actually transcends beyond business and becomes an essential skill for your personal toolkit to help you navigate your future. The evolution of technology is linked to the evolution of society. Technology doesn’t change people, people adapt to technology,"
A lively discussion then took place with panel members who included:
- Amy Fowler, Head of External Relations, Ada, the National College for Digital Skills
- Nity Dhayaa, Information Delivery Practice Lead, Deloitte
- Will Beech, Global Lead, CIO Programme and Technology Insights, Deloitte
- Paul Lee, Global Head of TMT Research, Deloitte
- Scott Campbell, Head of Deloitte External Ventures, Deloitte
Some of the highlights of the discussion included a focus on the skills people should invest in to stay current and the need to be agile. “This is a sector of constant change and therefore constant learning,” commented Amy Fowler, representing Ada who aim to empower women, BME students, and those from low income backgrounds to join the sector.
Paul Lee provided his view on the role governments should play in shaping tech careers and business. He commented that the UK government is currently investing in 5G, full-fibre, and AI. The communications space is a big area for growth and the government wants to make access to this easier and will invest in research to stimulate growth.
Taking risks verses watching and waiting was an interesting question centred on when to take the risk of investing in the first person to introduce a new technology. The panel agreed there was no easy answer to this, it would be on a case by case basis depending on the proposition, the nature of the risk and the appetite for the public to adopt new technologies. Things that sounds good on paper aren’t always assimilated by the public, which is why knowing your audience’s needs, doing your research and knowing the current market position is so important.
How to encourage more women into the technology sector
There was much debate as to how to encourage more women into the tech industry, a key focus for Deloitte which is already ahead of the curve on this. The panel spoke about the need for management to reflect diversity in men/women, but also in terms of backgrounds and skill-sets. It is essential to have an agile team, not simply one staffed with technologists. The panel also threw this back to the audience with a challenge about taking ownership of this – work for companies that are diverse and forward thinking. Look at the composition of the management tier, it is the type of company that reflects your personal values?
What is the next big thing in technology
Firstly the panel agreed that there needs to be a drive to address the huge skills gap in the market in order for it to develop. Amy Fowler talked about the 40,000 unfilled digital jobs in the UK, at a cost of £63bn to the UK economy, and what a huge opportunity this provides.
In terms of how to spot the next ‘big thing’ Will Beech talked about how technology trends tend to happen slowly and then suddenly burst on to the scene. For example Alexa took a long time to create and come to market, but then suddenly it was everywhere! Therefore, he suggested, look for the small things that are making changes now. The general consensus however was that AI will play a big part in the future, as will blockchain and user-interface technology.
Xia Chen (MSc Management 2015), committee member, Imperial Women’s Network, and Architecture and Integration Consultant at Deloitte who hosted this event commented: “This was the first technology related event that the Imperial Women’s Network have organised and we are delighted with how successful it has been. Our thanks to the excellent speakers who shared their experience and insights as well as engaging the audience to stimulate intellectual conversations. Our thanks also to Deloitte for their support in hosting this event. We now focus on driving this theme forward with another tech-related event on ‘Innovation in Banking and Finance’, which we will host in October at Oracle. We hope to see you there!”