Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior on STEM

Padmasree Warrior has a natural style about her, at once curious and knowledgeable as well as genuine and non-geeky.  Here, at the Forbes Women's Summit this year, she relates a few things about herself, her work, and her outlook.

From 10 billion connected devices now, to an estimated 50 billion by 2020, plus more in the future may exciting or it may all be worrisome.  Technologists focus on technology, and paint the rosiest possible picture for all of us to enjoy.  But I imagine that matters of privacy, security and humanity will temper the sort of advancements that Warrior speaks to and I hope give technologists cause to step back and reflect on the broader, ethical implications of their work.

Qualities such as curiosity and willingness to experiment, plus skills such as analyzing objects and problems and systematically investigating these things are hallmarks of a STEM education and a STEM professional (science | technology | engineering | mathematics).  A CEO may not have formal advanced education in any of these subjects, but they better possess the qualities and skills that make Warrior a good scientist and engineer.

It is impossible to know all the answers to every question, issue or challenge we may ever face.  But besides the importance of asking the right questions, as Warrior advises, knowing how best to understand the matter at hand, to search for the answers, and to arrive at working conclusions and decisions are crucial for leader.  Moreover, while many of us may hinge our view of things and people as predicated on control, predictability and information, the fact is that there is far greater ambiguity in our lives, work and environment than we'd like to admit.  So dealing with ambiguity effectively isn't just an option for leaders, but also an imperative.      

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