In the second part of our interview with Ann Sung Ruckstuhl, CMO at Unisys, she shared her thoughts on STEM education and career advice. If you missed part 1 of our interview, please find it here.
Ann gave some fantastic advice to people considering their career choices, which she set within the big picture of history. She said we are now in the third wave of innovation revolutions: The first was the agricultural revolution, the second the industrial revolution, and now the information revolution which started maybe 70 years ago. (Interestingly, as noted in the first post, Unisys was one of the first companies that started in computing and traces its history as far back as the industrial revolution.) She said we are living in a time of the perfect storm (or “perfect blessing”) of the marriage of many things: technology, digital transformation, the internet, mobile, AI and advanced analytics. These transformations are being “powered by Moore’s law which will hold until at least 2025-ish, depending on who you talk to.”
Ann said that if we are in the middle of this third wave of innovation, and “now it is not just about computing and data, but we are also getting tremendous insights and decision making intelligence in almost real time, why wouldn’t someone want to understand these enabling capabilities?” She said in this regard “STEM education is the promise for those of us that want to blaze new trials, and invent things that don’t even exist today.” She also noted that there is a need for more blending of knowledge from different disciplines than ever before: “We have the data, now we need people who can train the machines to make good decisions, even to have empathy. This is a combination of not just engineering, but also psychology and neuroscience.”
Ann gave another example, that of healthcare, where this blending of disciplines is leading to extraordinary advances. She said “I don’t know of that many surgeries today that are not augmented by a robotic assisted capability, like da Vinci from Intuitive Surgical. You are seeing the overlay of vitals such as heartbeat, blood pressure and other key information before you even commit a cut.” She talked about how technology is now being used for simulation before a surgery, for example, “if you have a bypass surgery, before any operation is done they can simulate that blood vessel to see how long it needs to be because they are using Bernoulli’s principle to simulate pressure on the walls to see what specific shape and configuration the bypass need to be in.” Ann said that “STEM is not just limited to technology, but technology plays such a big role, for people with dreams and aspirations, this is the place that will give you the highest acceleration, growth opportunity, and financial rewards – even though financial rewards shouldn’t be your primary motive, if you love what you do, the rewards typically follow.”
Advice for Women in STEM
Ann said that given all the above, women (as well as men) “need to seek this out! There are many organizations out there, some explicitly formed to help women: Girls Who Code, IEEE and Women in Technology, just to name a few.” She advises women to take advantage of these many opportunities and learn: “Once you make up your mind you want to do this, you have to be confident and not second guess yourself. Women do have some inherent uniqueness, I like to wear high heels, put on makeup and be feminine, and at the same time also be able to talk about the latest data science breakthrough with anyone else.” She continued: “We are biologically different. Women do need to pace ourselves, especially if we want to have a family, but we can be smart about it, surround ourselves with the infrastructure and the four types of mentors discussed earlier.” (see our first blog post with Ann) She continued with further advice for women, which she said is also good career advice for everyone: “At the end of the day, life is sometimes not fair, you can’t always blame other people or yourself, you need to have a smile on your face, the sun comes up the next day, have a sense of humor, and move forward.”