Monday, June 27, 2016

CXO Forum: Designing the Future in an Age of Disruption

Designing the Future in an Age of Disruption

Last Tuesday over 50 CXOs from the tech community joined together for Designing the Future in an Age of Disruption. MassTLC’s CEO, Tom Hopcroft began the discussion with some key findings from MassTLC’s State of the Tech Economy report, highlighting the large role of tech on the Massachusetts economy, the need for more talent, and the need to focus on women and minorities as critical components of the tech workforce.

Following Tom, economist and co-editor of MassBenchmarks, Michael Goodman presented his state of the state. Michael walked through a number of factors that, in spite of the State’s economic forecast being strong, will affect growth of the Massachusetts economy including global markets, global conflict, huge demographic shifts, and even climate change.

Michael’s presentation dovetailed into our panel where members shared their stories and their insights on how regulatory and public policy agencies must work faster to move the regulatory processes in line with tech and enable innovation. Panelists included Sarah Biller of State Street Global Exchange, Jim Noga of Partners Healthcare, Tom Ryden of MassRobotics, Brian Tilzer of CVS Health, and Cathy Zhou of Uber.

Sarah spoke of the huge opportunities that have continued to evolve due to the massive data - both structured and unstructured - that have allowed corporate and individual investors to make substantially smarter decisions.

Jim and Brian also spoke of using data to deliver more individualized healthcare in a much more efficient and effective manner. Examples from Jim included having the ability to see multiple specialists who all have access to your health record, allowing your care to become more tailored to you. While Brian spoke of providing care on demand coupled with pharmaceutical care.

Tom and Cathy focused most on transportation citing autonomous vehicles and ridesharing respectively. Yet both warned of the negative impact that the current regulatory framework could have on moving Massachusetts to the forefront, not only as an economic development opportunity but also the ability to combat our ever increasing infrastructure and mass transit issues.

This conversation has only just begun, we will be continuing the discussion and taking a deep dive into these topics on November 18 at MassTLC’s TRANSFORM, an initiative in which the tech industry, along with academia and policy makers come together to talk about how we embrace the new opportunities coming about through our technology oriented, data driven, and on-demand economy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Robotica 2016 – June 7-9 2016

Many MassTLC community members participated in the AUVSI 3 day Robotica event at Devens MA, 7-9 June.

The event featured several presentations, panels and discussions including technical, regulatory and policy on autonomous vehicles (land, air and sea).  There was a medical track featuring presentations and discussion on Surgical Robotics, Exoskeletons and Assistive and Rehabilitation Robotics, as well as robotic application discussions focusing on e-commerce/warehousing/logistics, collaborative robotics and Robotic/IoT in the future connected home.

Thanks to all of our MassTLC members who made the event a success!

E-commerce, Warehousing and Logistics Panel moderated by Vik Gopalakrishnan, Senior Supply Chain Manager at Staples Inc.  Panel members left to right: Mary Ellen Sparrow (NextShift), Gino Stone (Wynright), Rob Sullivan (Symbotic), Bruce Welty (Locus), Yaro Tenzer (Right Hand Robotics)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Talking Talent with Tech Execs in Cambridge

By: Mike Johnson, Director of Communities, MassTLC

As the Director of Communities at MassTLC, I hear about a lot of issues and trends happening within our tech ecosystem. The most common theme of late is tech talent in the region. Where is it, where is it going, and why is it so hard to fill seats. 

Our 2016 State of Tech Report scratches the surface of what’s happening in the region but we wanted to dig a little deeper and bring together leaders in our community that are either growing their organizations or have successfully grown in Massachusetts.  

Tuesday June 7th, MassTLC hosted a dinner at Catalyst in Cambridge that was graciously sponsored by Digital Realty. This event set the stage for 11 of the smartest tech executives ranging from startups to household names to share their experiences, strategies, and some hilarious stories with each other. 

Below are the common problems/excuses organizations have and how our attendees overcame some of these hurdles. 

Only 27% of students are staying in Massachusetts after graduation from college. 

Yes, this is true, but many of that 73% weren’t Massachusetts residents before school so we can’t expect them to be locked in. We have one of the highest concentrations of higher education institutions in the country so this high percentage is a standard that we can’t do much about. 

It’s really hard to compete against the big tech players with recognizable names for talent, even if you are an enterprise level company. 

We found funding labs or research projects was a good way to get students to become aware of who we are and build an affinity towards our organization. This helps with recruiting them at the end of their education. 

We have a hard time getting people to apply or accept offers. 

Sometimes you need to look at the top. If the right leadership isn’t in place your organization can become a no-go zone no matter how much you’re paying, and if people are accepting offers to work in a place that’s not great just because the money is good, they’re not going to work out in the long run. 

How do we get marketing to allow us to use our social channels as a recruiting platform? 

This needs to come from the top and from HR. It’s a little more difficult when you’re a B2C but you need to sell that supporters of the organization often make the best employees and that marketing works for everyone in the organization, not just sales. 

It takes so much longer to fill the mid and senior level roles but it feels like we spend all of our time reviewing or interviewing entry level candidates. 

Create higher hurdles for the entry level gigs. Homework before the application can even be submitted so you know the people submitting are really interested and have some of the skills right from the start. This way you’re not wasting time and can spend more time working on mid and senior level roles. 

There is a huge mid-level gap. 

Separate management from mentorship and have all mid and senior level engineers mentoring lower level engineers. Too often its just left to managers when it needs to be a company-wide collaborative effort. 

Why is everyone asking for titles that they’re not qualified for yet? 

The talent crunch has changed the balance of power for some engineering specific jobs where the demand is so high that applicants shoot for the moon, and often times get it. The market is unfortunately growing faster than the skillsets. You need to be a little weary of these people. Yes, it’s great that they’re vocal about what they want which is a good asset to have on your team, but they also might be over confident and take on things which they are grossly underqualified for. This could be disastrous for your products or organization.  

I need to scale my teams hype-growth style. 

It’s said that doubling your teams in a year can’t/shouldn’t be done. When you try to scale too quickly you often make poor hiring decisions which leads to you either cutting some of those new hires because they don’t work out, or losing some veterans because the team dynamic has changed. You had 10 to start, you hired 10 more, but you let 2 go and 3 left due to the mess that was created, so you’re really only +5. 

Where does culture fit into the importance level of applicants? 

Culture fit is the MOST important part of any hire. You can teach skills but if someone can’t acclimate to the culture, it’s impossible to work around that. Bad hires are almost always due to bad culture fit and the bad ones you make are always more costly than the good ones you miss.  

How big of a role does data play in your hiring? 

There are lots of data points to look at, such as testing scores, and quantitative feedback from interviewers. But at the end of the day, hiring is an emotional decision. Most people have panels that decide and some even involve an advocate for the minority opinion but numbers rarely, if ever, are a final decision maker. Although, earlier in the process, they could be. 

The take away from this dinner is that these leaders play a much larger role in their organization than their titles state. They are the #1 recruiters charged with thinking about how to fill the funnel and build the best team possible all while still being extremely productive in their day to day job functions. For them, their livelihoods are all about risk management, from the decisions they make on products and code to the people they hire to support them.