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2019 ECC: 4 Keynotes and a Student Panel

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:26 PM


For the fifth year in a row, I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Enterprise Computing Community (ECC) ConferenceThis conference has four keynote talks during the morning and afternoon of both days, which take place in the main hall with up to 300 attendees. The conference also has concurrent sessions, three or four at a time, from which you choose one to attend. Top speakers presented the keynote talks and the topics are designed to stretch your thinking. The conference closed with an interesting panel with students from five different schools. What did I learn?

HIPPAASOXamus: Network Security for Regulated Organizations

In the morning of the first day, keynote speaker Joshua Matheus, managing director and global head of networks at Goldman Sachs presented “HIPPAASOXamus: Network Security for Regulated Organizations.” The immense challenges of modern computing for highly regulated businesses were evident from the start of the presentation. Thinking back to 1989 when I first embraced networking, the corporate world’s networking technology has completely changed and is at the epicenter of applications, security and rapid business change providing essential connectivity services.

Three Key Takeaways

1. Most compelling idea:
I was struck by the transformation of Goldman Sachs in just the last decade and how human capital is now utilized. We were shown how the role of software has grown significantly and transformed the way work like “making markets in U.S. stocks” has changed.

2. Most unexpected notion: I especially appreciated all of the discussion around firewall rule management and how intent-driven device management doesn’t allow old rules to “just lay around.” Matheus commented extensively on their automated firewall manager system, which handles 20 to 30 thousand changes per month.  

3. How this information can influence your future: It is eye opening to see how a well-funded and staffed organization with more than 8,000 engineers can innovate and comply with tough financial regulations at the same time.

Look for Helpers: Creating and Maintaining a Culture of Allyship in Computing and Tech

After lunch on the first day, the keynote speaker was Dr. Nicki Washington, author and associate professor, Winthrop University, with a presentation titled “Look for Helpers: Creating and Maintaining a Culture of Allyship in Computing and Tech.” The presentation was a hard-hitting look at the challenges faced by minority students and faculty at universities and in the work force. Washington questioned: What happens when minority students matriculate? Who is helping them? Who are their allies? What about if they pursue a graduate degree?

Key Takeaways

1. Most compelling ideas:
Washington made us think about when and how the reality for minority students might change as the majority still dominates enrollment and faculty. She reminded us that students within the majority graduate and enter the workforce dominated by the majority and this perpetuates the cycle.

2. Most unexpected notion: Allersary (noun)—A person who believes that he/she is an ally but has toxic traits and beliefs that qualify as adversarial—just not as adversarial as others.

3. How this information can influence your future: In staffing situations, we should behave as allies to minorities and greet them with equal opportunities in every way as it is the fair thing to do.

For more, please see her presentation.

Computational Methods for Next Generation Healthcare

The Tuesday morning keynote speaker was Jianying Hu, Ph.D and an IBM Fellow. She is the global science leader for Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Healthcare from IBM Research. Her presentation was titled “Computational Methods for Next Generation Healthcare.”

Hu’s message was about precision in medicine by taking account of the individual variability. Data has a big impact because, if you have the data, it is the way to identify and understand that individual variability. AI has a special role in helping to understand variability because it can be the basis for novel AI algorithms for learning and reasoning that can lead the way to better outcomes.

Key Takeaways

1. Most compelling ideas:
Precision medicine is prevention and treatment strategies that take individual variability into account. Hu made it easy to see the potential role of computing, data and AI to instrument more precise medical treatment. 

2. Most unexpected notion: I was unaware that IBM had placed a significant focus on both data from the health ecosystem and computational methods and models involving diabetes, hypertension, schizophrenia and heart disease, which are just a few examples from the presentation.

3. How this information can influence your future: This two-part approach—data gathering and AI methods—applies to many disciplines other than medicine. Hu did not hint at them but almost any human endeavor can be segmented in this manner with the goal of better outcomes.

For more, please see her presentation. 

Can a Single Source of Truth Be a Single Point of Failure?

After lunch on Tuesday, keynote speaker Gabriel Bell, a senior manager of Data and Analytics at Unigroup gave a talk titled “Can a Single Source of Truth be a Single Point of Failure?” His talk focused on data and data science. He discussed that data science needs to be a more flexible discipline and that data itself is not a problem but is, however, growing too fast to manage. He spoke of the need of data scientists to embrace change and of the need for frequent communication within the community interested in making use of the data. 

Key Takeaways

1. Most compelling ideas:
With a focus on the need to support change, Bell indicated that change should be business as usual for a data scientist—a constant.

2. Most unexpected notion: Data scientists spend 80% of their time scrubbing data.

3. How this information can influence your future: Working with a mindset of flexibility and embracing change is the main takeaway I got from the talk.

Afternoon Student Panel

Just before the end of the conference on Tuesday, there was a student panel focused on sharing of student success stories including a discussion to increase awareness of the needs and challenges of underrepresented student groups in technology. Ron Coleman from Marist College moderated the session. The panel included six students:

1.     Delroy Mathieson, Marist College

2.     Kaylin Moss, Marist College

3.     Maria Khalitov, Bergen Community College

4.     Juan F. Rueda, Central New Mexico Community College

5.     Bria Bynum, North Carolina A&T State University

6.     Emery Sutherland, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

This was one of the more compelling sessions of the conference because we got to relive the challenges we once had of transitioning from school to a job. The students were asked a total of 11 open-ended questions. Here are four examples with a few answers.

Q: What has been your response to failure?

A: Learning more, just keep trying; Prepare yourself to fail understanding that it is OK, you will get better at it.

Q: What will you look for in a job?

A: I try to use career fairs, as meeting people is better than online sites as you want employers to look into your face and see your curiosity and interest; I am looking for a job with a clear mission that I can get behind.

Q: What can be done to prepare you for ways to find a job?

A: Have a center at the university with that clear focus as we need a way to help discover our strengths; A course would be helpful—how to dress, talk, build a resume, etc.

Q: What is your dream job?

A: I am looking for a place with a diverse environment with people like me where they accept my real self; Looking for a job where problem solving is the focus; Looking for a job that has a positive impact on people.