Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Archive for July, 2013

There is no doubt that the job market is changing. In this great episode of TED Talks economist Andrew McAfee suggests that mobile humanoid robots might actually take some of our jobs. How is it good news to us? According to McAfee it is a good news, because:
1. Technological progress is what allows us to continue to increase volume and quality of goods while prices go down;
2. Once the androids start doing some jobs we get freed up from drudgery and toil which creates an entirely different society.
“A society where the creators and the discoverers and the performers and innovators come together with their financiers to talk about issues, enlighten and provoke each other”.

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We have amazing new possibilities but they also create some concerns because part of the society will not be able to keep their jobs. It can be solved by encouraging entrepreneurship and teaching students appropriate skills but what can you do in order to have a sustainable career in the Age of Machines?

In a recent article published by Harvard Business Review, Monique Valcour states  that “a sustainable career is dynamic and flexible; it features continuous learning , periodic renewal, the security that come from employability, and harmonious fit with your skills, interests, and values”. Moreover, “a sustainable career is built upon the ability to show that you can fill a need that someone is willing to pay for”.

In my interview with STG CTO for Public Sector Timothy Durniak, when I asked him how he managed to build a successful career with IBM for more than 31 years he said “I knew that it was important to be T- shaped as well as Comb-shaped, that is why I continuously improved my skills”. Along the way he has been a software developer, solution tester, information developer, solution architect, solution trainer, help desk leader, methodologist, process engineer, project manager, infrastructure architect and enterprise architect. Having seen all sides of what it takes to deliver uniquely positioned IT solutions, Timothy Durniak now serves as Chief Technology Officer for Public Sector of the Systems and Technology group focusing on government, smarter cities and education industries within that. He constantly develops new skills based on what value he can bring to the company. The secret of doing so successfully is the method he is using.  He takes an expertise in one set of “teeth” of his “comb” (enterprise architecture, infrastructure architecture, system thinking) and applies it to similar problems in another domain (modernizing social services) thus creating a new portion of the “comb”. which is the perfect example of the comb-shaped thinking.

comb-shaped person

Being Comb-shaped requires broad base with multiple expertise areas which gives the shape of a comb. Those skills are hard to maintain but they would help you to be in charge of your career.

If you would like to craft a sustainable career in the age of Technology and Information:

  • Think of yourself as your own career advisor.  Learn new skills to become specialist in many areas. Craft your career choices based on where technology is going. Don’t get stuck with one specific role;
  • Find ways you could add value to your employer and propose solutions;
  • Seek opportunities to work with people who can teach you something, seek for a mentor who would inspire and direct you the right way.


Guest Editor: Saule Simonaityte

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Since you are reading this on an IBM official blog, I bet you would remember Deep Blue, the amazing chess player ‘trained’ by IBM. And of course, since you are such an IBM-fanatic, you would also know that Deep Blue is no ordinary human. It’s actually a machine; a chess-playing computer that supposedly beat former world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Either he was a sore loser or his Russian senses were tingling, Garry accused IBM of cheating by allowing human intervention during gameplay which was against the rules. Nobody really knows if that was true or not since IBM later tore down the machine before any real investigation could be initiated (There’s always something between Americans and Russians it seems…).

Earlier on in the late 18th century, a machine known as the Mechanical Turk (a predecessor to Deep Blue) was invented by Wolfgang von Kempelen to impress the Empress of Austria. After beating numerous chess players, however, it was uncovered as a hoax: a real human chess master was actually hiding inside it and making it looked as if the Mechanical Turk had a life of its own and an intelligence unparalleled by any human being.

But why all this talk about getting humans to perform the task of machines in a time where machines are supposed to be legitimately doing the work for humans? Well it turns out that there are some tasks that computers couldn’t do (I think I heard a loud resonating “WHAT?” in the background), and has to be done manually by humans. And this is what the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is all about!

In essence, MTurk is an online crowdsourcing marketplace which allows job seekers (called workers) to earn money by doing tasks (posted by people known as requesters) that no computers can accomplish. These tasks usually include things like choosing the best picture for a particular theme or putting tags to pictures so that these pictures can show up when a person types in a particular keyword on Amazon (I believe this was how the MTurk was first conceived). Actually now you can also find tasks like transcribing or programming which may be accomplish-able by machines as well, but still seems to be have a better result if carried out by humans.

So just to give you an idea how much a task would pay from the perspective of a worker, copying text from a business card would be around $0.02 while answering a surveys would be like $0.16. Here’s a short list of tasks that may interest you:

Proofreading a real estate transaction: $0.10

Identifying companies from a photo: $0.01

Voicemail transcription: $30.00

Writing three 400-words articles about travelling: $12.00

Flagging pornographic content: $0.10 (this should be excellent for a lot of readers here)

No matter which tasks you choose, you can see that Service Thinking is applied at MTurk. Value is being co-created between the requesters and workers; a modular business structure is present where a requester can “outsource” tasks to a community of workers; a GLO-MO-SO platform is pretty obvious; you can refer to my earlier blog to think about how the other chevrons of Service Thinking is applied at MTurk.

As quoted from a reviewer who posted on Youtube, MTurk is not going to pay big bucks, but at the very least, it puts money in your pocket.

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Yup yet another legit money-making website for you guys out there looking to pay your rent while you look for a full-time job.



IBM Intern; Hult International Business School


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Most renewable energy technologies have one problem in common: they do not generate power in a constant and reliable way matching the consumers demand. For example, solar panels only generate electricity with sun light during the day and wind turbines only operate when wind is blowing strong. Therefore, with these new sustainable but intermitting technologies, power needs to be stored for times when electricity is not generated.

One possibility to store electricity are batteries. However batteries are expensive, making it financially unattractive to store clean energy. But this fact does not prevent T-shaped people to think about ways how to solve the problem. As described in a Technology Review online article, a possible solution could be smart software that enables batteries for various types of functions, such as regulating voltage levels or trading energy. These different functions generate multiple sources of revenue, making a business case possible.

I find it fascinating how people connect different service systems to create innovative solutions. In this case, the service system of software is used to make the service systems of batteries and renewable energy more competitive. Ultimately, this interdisciplinary thinking could help to make clean energy a success and the world a better place.

Guest Editor (AH)

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July 24th, 2013

If you have worked in the corporate world for a bit of a time, you would have understood, or at least have witnessed, the eternal animosity between the engineers (or techies) and the sales guys (or street-smarts). Now what is it that constantly fuels the acrimonious debate between these two polarized groups of homosapiens? Are the engineers’ criticisms about a product’s unrealistic specifications and the discouraging cost-benefit ratio too myopic? Or is it that the sales people never knew what the customers really want right from the beginning? Probably. The bad news is that similar incidences can be found in any place where one works for a paycheck, and the good news is that most of the time, such skirmishes usually stem from a lack of, what service science specialists would call, T-shapeness.

So what is this T-shapeness that is the new hype word poised to take over the world by storm? First of all, as one should know, the letter ‘T’ is formed by a horizontal line, followed by a vertical line drawn down from the center of the aforementioned horizontal line. The vertical line signifies a professional’s main skill or combined set of skills: for example, an electrical engineer could have an expertise in semiconductor microfabrication process, a doctor could have 10 years of experience in neurology, a realtor could have unparalleled foresights and insights in the real estate industry, and the list goes on. For the record, people who stopped here are often described as I-shaped.

To become truly T-shaped, a person would have to develop knowledge of other things going around them which are not directly related to his or her expertise; this is represented by the horizontal line in the ‘T’. Regardless of the profession a person is in, this broad knowledge could be knowledge of an industry as a whole, communication skills, collaborative team skills, networking skills, an understanding of another culture, linguistic abilities or the different functional units in a company. So why would inefficiencies in a company result from a lack of T-shaped professionals as implied at the beginning of this section? The straightforward answer would be that simply being an expert in one specialized field often results in myopic behavior and the inability to see the interconnectedness with other entities would form the basis of lopsided arguments and lead to ill-informed decisions. To be a productive member in the company, one would need a breath of knowledge and collect a great number of ‘dots’, as innovation experts would refer to. This would help to boost a professional’s T-shapeness, which is very much needed to promote collaborative behavior with team members and provide a breeding ground for creativity and innovation.

Don’t believe me? Just check out this interview with IDEO’s Duane Bray:
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IDEO is an international design and innovation consulting firm founded in Palo Alto, California, and has local offices in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston as well as overseas presence in London, Munich, Shanghai, Singapore, Mumbai, Seoul, and Tokyo.


IBM Intern; Hult International Business School

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dream job

Comic strip by Scott Adams,

We all know  a famous commencement speech by Steve Jobs where he said : “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

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Don’t settle is a great advice because it makes you reach for more and improve. Courage is a great motivator and doing what you love sounds right but there have been discussions regarding “follow your passion” approach. The contradicting opinion is that matching your job to a preexisting passion does not matter. In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love Cal Newport reveals that passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, how you do things is much more important than what you do.

And while there are about 370 000 000 results for “career advice” in Google:

1. Don’t settle for a job you are not passionate about.
2. Network and look for people who could mentor you.
3. Take risks. If you want something you never had do something you have never done because same actions will cause same outcomes.
4. Be visible and active on Social Media. Make your voice heard.
5. Adopt an Immigrant Attitude- drop the sense of entitlement.

As David McCullough has said: “Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion—and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special. Because everyone is”.

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Stay hungry, stay foolish, but don’t feel entitled.


Guest Editor: Saule Simonaityte

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