Teaching Our Kids to Code

There’s no denying it. We are failing our kids. Estimates suggests that total global IT spending will hit $3.5 trillion this year alone. And that over the next five years, the use of digital technologies will expand the global GDP by $1.36 trillion.

Given these statistics, it’s shocking to realize that learning how to code and program isn’t compulsory. As a matter of fact, most students need to seek out specific programs, workshops or after-school sessions in order to get introduced to the concept of coding.

While this lack of coding or support to encourage this as a mandatory skill isn’t impossible, the real problem is in the discrepancy between the need for developer jobs and the lack of qualified candidates.

These numbers are staggering, and only begin to hint at the skills necessary to survive in the workforce of the not so distant future.

However, before we panic, about the lack of infrastructure set up to support teaching children how to learn how to code in the classroom, there are a number of sources that enable parents to help teach their kids these concepts and skills from a fairly early age.

Code Kids is a great film that addresses the issue, and is worth watching in full. See the trailer below or watch the film in its entirety.

Code Kids, The Documentary Trailer from Hemmings House on Vimeo.

The Rise of the CFO

Firoz PatelIn recent years, much has been made of the role of the Chief Information Officer. This position gained notoriety and visibility over the past decade or so, as the potential for data analytics swelled to be virtually limitless. With the improvement of our tools and capabilities, naturally this role grew in stature owing to the insight that that this person could uncover when given access to so much information. To this day, the CIO still plays a critical part in the healthy functioning of any company and in harnessing and understanding the data surrounding how the company itself is or is not working. The CIO can help identify where there is room for improvement and find innovative ways to problem solve. This role is still important because data and data analysis plays in integral role in how companies operate. However, the role of the CFO is undergoing an elevated role, owing to the ability to combine data and finance. By leveraging data and analytics to come up with new ideas for revenue streams or optimizing those that already exist, the modern CFO is becoming an executive to watch, and creating a new talent pool for potential CEOs.

Although the change has been gradual, throughout the last decade, the role of the CFO has expanded to include greater responsibility and authority. This marks a significant departure from the traditional role that focused solely on crunching numbers all day. As the decisions made in the boardroom become more and more driven by real time data and insights, the role of the CFO becomes more dependent on data analytics and integral to the decision-making process. The ability to not only provide numbers, but analysis in a very immediate way requires that the CFO exercise a broader set of skills than those of the past.

Although generating and managing revenue has always been a central component to operations and the role of the CFO, we have never had access to so much data. This increase in available data tied to spending, earning and potential earnings means that in many cases the CFO acts more as the CIO in practice. Through identifying and interpreting this data, the CFO is exposed to the same information normally associated with the CIO. However, the CFO is looking at this information with a very specific intention, in line with the financial objectives of the company.
In practice, Chief Financial Officers must be highly analytical, well-versed in the technical aspects of running a company and have an intricate understanding of how to interpret data in a way that makes sense within the context of their company. With this rise in visibility and responsibility, it’s no surprise that we are seeing a spike in the trend of hiring former CFOs as CEOs. To learn more about some of the most successful CFOs in the tech sector today, please see my presentation here.

What Makes a Great Leader in the Digital Era?

firoz patelWhat makes a great leader? This question has been both asked and answered time and time again. However, perhaps the more relevant question now is, what makes a good leader, today? Of course the recommended character traits and suggested identifiers of great leadership vary by context. However, when looking specifically at the changing landscape of the technology sector, certain qualities tend to be encouraged. Below are the top qualities that make for an excellent leader in today’s digital landscape:

  1. Vision: A leader must have vision, otherwise there is no innovation or true direction.
  2. Self-Awareness: Being clear about one’s strengths and weaknesses, means that a true leader can compensate for his or her weaknesses by hiring others that are better equipped in those areas.
  3. Results-Driven: Although one can implement various metrics for success, focusing on quantifiable results and more specifically how to translate successes into quantifiable results is critical. Start-up and tech cultures at large are known to be constantly in flux – particularly in the beginning. This means that traditional markers of “success” may not indicate the true progress and wins of the organization. Therefore a true leader must be capable of finding the appropriate metrics for this environment.
  4. Life-long learners: There is an insatiable curiosity that comes from those who are constantly learning and see the value in this sort of growth. This quality is critical for those who want to be truly innovative.
  5. Create a Safe-to-fail environment : Creating this kind of environment encourages imagination,  problem-solving, creativity and gives employees a vote of confidence. By allowing employees the space to fail you are effectively creating a place for them to learn, to improve and to take risks. All of these things are what lead to eventual successes.
  6. Encourage a collaborative environment: Similar to the thought process behind creating a space that is safe to fail, by nurturing a collaborative environment, you are pooling together resources that together have the potential to be greater than the sum of their parts. Encouraging a collaborative as opposed to strictly competitive environment is beneficial when problem-solving. This point of collaboration is also important when considering the kinds of people that you want working for your company. Do they have the capacity to work well with others? Are they different enough from each other to have varying perspectives and opinions, but still capable of creating a pleasant and engaging working environment? These are all standards set by leaders.
  7. Problem-solver : In addition to having a vision, a great leader needs superior problem solving skills. Having a vision means little if you have no concrete steps for getting there. A leader who can easily try on different approaches to solving problems is well-equipped to face the challenges en route to attaining the vision.
  8. Great Communication Skills: While this may seem like a fairly obvious skill for anyone who is a great leader, it can be a pitfall for those that don’t naturally possess an ability to communicate. Within the context of an organization or group setting, a leader needs to be able to express things so that others understand the mission, their role and how things work. This means speaking clearly with confidence and purpose.
  9. Passion: A true leader needs to have passion as a driving force behind his or her work. It’s obvious when this is lacking. And how can a leader inspire others if he or she isn’t fully committed to the cause?
  10. Mentorship: As an established leader, mentorship is a great way to pay your own success forward. Sharing what you’ve learned and offering advice to up and comers is beneficial for all-involved. Most successful leaders point to specific people in their lives who helped shape them in some way when they were just starting out. As an inspiring leader, seek out someone who is more experienced in your field that you respect and connect with, and as an established leader, offer your insight to someone that you believe in.