Disruption via technology

As technology’s presence continues to grow in everyday life, the question now is what will be the next great innovation that disrupts the way people live day-to-day.

A distinguished panel of three female tech industry leaders based in Silicon Valley discussed future trends of disruptive technology at Northeastern University’s Women who Inspire Speaker Series last month at the Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, California. They also offered advice for how women can become more involved in the technology and science fields.

More than 240 people attended the event including co-op students, alumni, parents, and professionals from 46 companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, eBay, VMware, Cisco, IBM, Evernote, Intel, Brocade, U.S. Army, Lookout, IDT, and Shutterfly.

In his welcoming remarks, Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun called for higher education institutions to improve opportunities for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, known as the STEM fields, and better prepare them for their post-undergraduate careers. The Women who Inspire Speaker Series, he noted, represents one way Northeastern is doing its part.

“These panelists are the models we want the students, people in the workplace, and people contemplating returning to the workplace to see as examples for how far they can go,” Aoun said.

The panel comprised Kim Stevenson, DMSB’85, corporate vice president and chief information officer for Intel, Michelle Dennedy, vice president and chief privacy officer for McAfee, and Seval Oz, CEO of Continental Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Stevenson, who worked on co-op at IBM while at Northeastern and was hired after graduation, said when it comes to disruptive technology there is as much risk in doing nothing as there is in doing something.

“Businesses are being decimated by others that are adopting disruptive technology and then bringing to market a new business model or a new market niche,” said Stevenson, who pointed to the downfall of music stores as an example.

Oz, who worked on Google’s self-driving-cars program, said the automobile is becoming the next generation communication platform because the “Internet of everything” is allowing more platforms to converse with each other.

“How cool is it if you leave your home and then 15 minutes later you get a display rendering message in your car that says ‘you have left the perimeter of the geo-fencing location, did you know you left your garage door open?’” said Oz.

The technology industry will face a shortfall of 230,000 workers requiring advanced STEM degrees by 2018, according to a 2012 study by the Partnership for A New American Economy and the Partnership for New York City. And Aoun noted that the majority of college students today are women, but females hold only 24 percent of jobs in STEM industries.

“An expanding and developing STEM workforce is a critical issue for industry and our country,” said moderator Jim Dolce, PNT’18, CEO of the cybersecurity company Lookout. “We need to churn out more graduates in the STEM fields and the effort needs to start with women.”