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The Data Driving IoT: Collaboration and Soft Skills

By   /  September 8, 2017  /  No Comments

Click to learn more about author P.K. Agarwal.

Northeastern University-Silicon Valley recently conducted a survey among approximately 600 members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Not surprisingly, the survey found that one of the biggest challenges of IoT was data aggregation and analysis. Many companies and universities are finding ways to weave in their Internet of Things (IoT) journey. However, Gartner recently estimated that through 2018 “80% of IoT implementations will squander transformational opportunities” and fail to monetize IoT data. And a new survey by Cisco found that one-third of all completed IoT projects were not considered a success.

We know that the essence of IoT is interconnectivity. Our survey respondents felt that IoT success will depend on more than just connections between devices — it will equally be about the connections between customers, partners, and suppliers. Because, IoT is driving a shift in business structures that depend heavily upon collaboration.

Supporting that idea, our survey found that communication (explaining ideas or concepts clearly and effectively) as the career strength believed to be the “make or break” hinge for IoT success. It makes sense—mobile devices have changed the way everyone lives. Most of our daily tasks can more easily be accomplished through use of some sort of technology. But at the end, the objective is not merely the interaction with technology—it is about easing the complicated process of communicating and collaborating.

In addition, graduating college students face uncertainty as headlines shout about automation and machine learning taking their jobs.  However, we’ve seen this movie before. If we rewind the clocks  just a tad back to 2015, we’ll find a study by Deloitte that looked at the impact of technology on the economy of work between 1871 and 2011. The research found that technology has broadly been a “job-creating machine.” Each development has not directly replaced human workers without finding new jobs for them. The study concluded that many industries have indeed lost jobs — most notably agriculture, which once employed close to a million people and 6.6 percent of the workforce.

More recently jobs such as typists, company secretaries and weavers have dropped markedly. However, the study demonstrates that other industries have experienced huge growth, enough to compensate for the loss of jobs elsewhere at every stage.

As the regional dean and CEO of Northeastern University’s Silicon Valley campus, I’m often asked what these disruptions mean for career planning. Since our University offers a wealth of Data Science and IoT programs students are often perplexed about which path to follow. Here are a few pieces of advice:

  • Your focus should be wide and narrow. Have your T and drink it too: Become more T shaped. Know a little bit about a lot of things, and specialize in one area, but don’t become too highly specialized.
  • Understand the personalities generating the data. Hone your people skills: Learn how to listen and learn how to talk. Understand that networking is important.
  • History tends to repeat itself: With each technological change, jobs have disappeared. However, many more jobs replace them. In the new age of automation, we can expect that same phenomena. Think about it: 1 million jobs in video game design were never even imaginable a few decades ago.

About the author

P.K. Agarwal serves as the Dean and CEO of Northeastern University–Silicon Valley. He also serves as the Chairman of Future 500, a Bay Area-based pioneer in the area of global sustainability. Formerly, he was the CEO of TiE Global, an organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship across 61 cities in 18 countries. Prior to TiE, P.K served as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Chief Technology Officer for the State of California. He has also been in executive and management roles with ACS (now Xerox), NIC Inc., and EDS (now HP).

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