IN-NW Day 1: Exploring Technology Futures with Google, PwC, and Artefact

How can we increase the representation of women in tech? How can organizations effectively make big ideas a reality, and how can design technology help? Ninety-minute Dig-In sessions across Seattle asked big questions of speakers and attendees on day one of this year’s IN-NW conference. Sessions included technology demos, panel discussions, and group collaboration activities, all geared at re-examining and changing the status quo in communication and technology.

Check out wrap-ups of day one Dig-In sessions at Google, PwC, and Artefact below, and check out our companion coverage of day one’s additional Dig-In sessions at Theo Chocolate, DWT, and K2, here.

PwC – The Art of the Possible

By Samantha Hautea – @mannerminded

“The purpose is to suspend all disbelief ,” explained customer journey specialist Scott Seear at the dig-in session with PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), titled “The Art of the Possible.” “We want people to start thinking about the next five years and what that might look like.”

PwC IN-NW Scott Seear

Scott Seear presents at PwC at Tuesday’s Dig-In session: Image by Samantha Hautea

PwC focuses on helping organizations “find their way in the digital age,” and how to take seemingly impossible ideas and turn them into real, implemented solutions. The session focused on various aspects of how businesses can enhance the consumer experience and gain valuable insight to inform their own decisions. As an example, PwC presented a concept video of what the future of shopping might look like, in which customers receive a highly personalized experience based on their preferences. This experience would also result in a change of the roles, training, and education of the customer service staff, who will be working with access to much more information about who comes into their store.

PwC In-NW Dig In

Breakout teams at PwC’s Dig-In Session: Image by Kavya Parthasarathy

In the second half of the session, PwC’s speakers invited guests to put themselves in the position of customer journey specialists. Groups were challenged to take an existing industry — healthcare, transportation, banking, and media — and apply some of the ideas from the video to envision how disruptive technologies could be applied in various other sectors. Some of the ideas suggested were the ability to personalize the airline experience down to selecting your seatmate based on preference, and storing health information in a way that could be accessed by responders in an emergency.

After brainstorming these “impossible” ideas, groups were challenged to envision how its design and implementation could be realized. In the process, they found that making an idea reality is much more difficult than coming up with one — but that it doesn’t hurt to dream big, because one day that idea could take flight.

Google – Women in Tech and Gaming

By Shefali Sain – @shefalisain

At perhaps the most buzzed about Dig-In session of the day, IN-NW attendees packed Google’s Fremont campus to hear prominent women in technology talk about their careers and experiences in technology and gaming. The panel included Yvette Nameth, test engineer at Google; Linda Breneman, managing editor for Pixelkin; Kathie Flood, managing director for Cascade Game Foundry; and Alice Steinglass, vice president of product and marketing at Code.org.

Google Women Tech

The panel at the Women in Tech and Gaming Dig-In session: Image by Shefali Sain

The group emphasized the importance of learning computer science and talked about the disproportionately low representation of women in the technology and gaming industry. Without beating around the bush, the panel jumped straight to the solution – helping girls realize the enormous opportunity in the field of technology and gaming as a career path.

Google Women Technology

The crowed at the Women in Tech & Gaming session at Google: Image by Shefali Sain

With unanimous agreement that interest could only be built and sustained among girls if computer science education was introduced early, discussion turned to changing the narrative around computer science and exposing women to coding at elementary school. “There are careers in Computer Science, we’re not on the grid all the time,” said Flood.  And stressing the need to start early, Steinglass gave attendees some serious food for thought when she pointed to the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by 2020 there will be more than 1.4 million computing-related job openings. At current rates, however, we can only fill about 30% of those jobs with U.S. computer science bachelors grads, which only further emphasizes the need for more women in tech and gaming.

Artefact – Innovation in the Workplace

By Lance Trueb – @lancetrueb

When you step through the doors of the restored brick building that houses Artefact Group in downtown Seattle, you really don’t know what to expect. Dim lighting and modern architecture inside leads to an unmarked elevator. The elevator stops on the 5th floor and doors open to a beautiful open-layout office space that instantly makes a bold statement about the importance of design.

Aretefact Ankur Patel IN-NW

The afternoon Dig-In session at Artefact with Ankur Patel: Image by Shelly Ngo

“Designers don’t ship products. But here at Artefact, we’re beginning to,” said Ankur Patel, director of product management for Artefact, as he kicked off the conversation in front of a small but diverse group of IN-NW digital media fans. A quick round of intros revealed folks ranging from communication directors to consultants and event professionals.

“It’s gotten easier to build things, harder to build the right things.” With this statement, Patel articulated why Project Helium, a design tool to help users move from ideas to decisions, should be considered one of the “right” things. In Patel’s words, Project Helium seeks to empower people with a tool that enables them to:

  1. Amplify the quality of insights;
  2. Accelerate the time to converge on insights and decisions;
  3. Augment the human and team decision-making processes.

Patel encouraged the group to think of the tool as “Pinterest for Business.” Project Helium is still in beta, but currently there are 500 users, spanning 37 countries, and it’s set to debut in June 2015. For more information on Project Helium, check out the Artefact website.

Check back through the week for more coverage of IN-NW 2015!

 

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