Tag Archives: IT education

The Inevitability of Change

In a recent article in the MIT Technology Review, author David Rotman quotes assertions by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee revealing that “impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years.” My initial reaction was one of concern but, at the same time, if their assumptions are correct, I would not want to throttle technological advancement to keep the status quo. For me, it comes down to the fact that the information technology world is changing and jobs are changing. The questions that I ask myself are these: “Am I changing, and am I in a position to take advantage of this changing world?”


Information has traditionally been tangential to main business processes but has never been the process itself. It is either used as an input to a business process or becomes an output. Now, there are whole companies and whole industries built solely on the brokering, storage, and exchange of information. Information now is the business process. Information is the product. While it is true that technology, and, more specifically, information technology has replaced some traditional jobs and careers, it has also created brand new fields and opportunities.

New Beginnings

I am just starting a new course today in Information Systems and Management; this new start always spurs my thinking about the changing landscape of information technology. I also think about the inevitability of change, especially in the IT field. We can either view change as an opportunity or a threat. We can either fear change or embrace it.

Fear of Change

As the information technology field changes, information professionals need to change also. This is a fast-paced field, and we need to keep abreast of the latest offerings, technologies, and breakthroughs. To be afraid of change is to be afraid of opportunities. A number of years ago, I had a colleague who was a computer operator (I go back a long ways). As the world transitioned away from central computing to personal computing, the computer room and the computer operator position disappeared. Unfortunately, my colleague did not keep up with the changes, mainly due to fear and apathy, and he eventually lost his job. It was unfortunate but inevitable.

The Next Chapter

The struggle today is how to deal with mobile devices and how to sort out and analyze increasing amounts of information. The challenge is to make sense of all of the data that we are generating and make intelligent decisions based on those findings. There are abundant opportunities out there if we are willing to stretch and learn and apply our skills. Are we learning all we can to meet the challenges? Do we have the right skill set to sort out the thorniest problems? What do we need to do to upgrade our skills and retool?


What are you doing today to prepare for the next chapter? What are your long-term plans? Are you ready? Let me know your thoughts.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.

Maintaining Our Technology Lead


Recently, there was an article published in Information Week in which author and former Department of Transportation CIO Nitin Pradhan posed the question: “Do we need a U.S. Department of Technology?” Pradhan lays out his argument for a U.S. cabinet level department of technology to promote technology education and technology jobs in the U.S. I disagree and would like to offer an alternate view on how we can address the same issue.

The Issue

Mr. Pradhan argues that we need a centralized coordination point to retain our global technology lead and that we should combine current technology departments for efficiency and to have one strong voice. He writes, “Tech industries grow because of the availability of research and development dollars, a high-quality education system, a tech-savvy workforce, a large local technology marketplace and government incentives.” I agree with all except the last point, and that is where our thoughts diverge.

Early Education

A business maintains competitive advantage by investing in superior research and by hiring superior people that can carry out that research. I believe the key to developing those superior people lies in early education. The key lies in providing an engaging and compelling education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). If young people are excited about these fields, then they will be excited about finding new ways to use technology. This is what will lead them to maintain our technological edge. Since early education in the U.S. is largely a public function, then I agree with Mr. Pradhan that we need some governmental coordination. However, this needs to be done in lockstep with private industry that are the beneficiaries of this new talent, and I would argue that the push should be led by private industry. Larger government programs would only hinder the progress.


Here is my early intervention proposal for increasing interest in technology and working to maintain our lead in the world:

  • Bring real world technology applications and research into the classroom. This benefits the school by raising the awareness and interest of the students. It benefits the business by increasing their exposure to future employees and by garnering ideas from a broader audience. Crowdsourcing ideas from a middle school? Why not?
  • Encourage post secondary education in STEM by providing high school job shadowing opportunities with people who are creating the future. These could be in information technology, bioinformatics, or technology research.
  • The technology industry can step up to take the lead on creating this future. There are already several consortiums and associations formed to address various intercompany and interindustry problems. This education lead could be housed through one of the existing associations, to be co-led by an existing government agency.


The need exists and the desire exists to maintain our technology lead. The key is partnering to make technology exciting and fulfilling so that we can attract brilliant minds to help create our future. Do you agree? Are there other ways to reach this future state? Let me know your thoughts.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.