May I share a dirty little secret that my spouse and I discovered over the past year? We realize it may be shocking and indecent to some, but it’s true— The world as we knew it is indeed over, but for the brave, resilient and willing, a new future is just dawning. The pandemic, while alarming and tragic, has served as a major catalyst for self-reflection, career change, and personal growth. More people than ever are questioning what truly matters, and a big part of finding those important answers involves the choices they make when it comes to their work.
That’s the inspiration for our new book, Tomorrow’s Jobs Today: Wisdom and Career Advice From Thought Leaders in AI, Big Data, Blockchain, The Internet of Things, Privacy and More, available from John Hunt Publishers.
A perennial question: What you want to do with your career?
In our intimate investigation into how people are navigating this paradigm shift, we explore why today, in the Information Age, the perennial question of What do I want to do? isn’t just being raised by the new college graduate. People of all backgrounds, education, ages, and skill levels are taking a whole step back and reassessing their destiny and place in the digital workforce, a choppy and competitive landscape that can feel as unstable as a California fault line or a footbridge girding a Chinese cliff— one you might teeter on while capturing a selfie.
Like most, my wife and I have often felt as if we’re peering over the side of a narrow, uneven path that seems to twist and turn like the tornado that kidnapped Dorothy and Toto. It’s easy to forget that life isn’t black and white and that, more often than not, tomorrow can bring rainbows. But even for optimists like us, our livelihoods haven’t always had that cinematic quality. Certainly not mine.
A few years back, I was strapped into a corporate straightjacket, struggling like Harry Houdini to escape from a padded conference room. From time to time, my employer would let me out of the asylum to attend a conference or two. On one occasion, I was lucky to hear a keynote by a charismatic executive on his use of blockchain technology to assist women farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. What impressed me about him, though, wasn’t the sophistication of his solution, or even its noble application, but the personal journey he shared. It took him from abject poverty to bonafide success. I began to think less about my career as a title and more about my purpose.
I decided to approach him after the talk and ask for an interview. The man, Ashish Gadnis of BanQu, agreed, and a month later, my wife and I published the first interview about walking a mile in the shoes of information age innovators. It went viral.
Since my background is in business and my wife is a lawyer, we weren’t quite sure how to proceed. Yet we discovered in researching his story and his technology that learning must be a lifelong endeavor in today’s digital age, not a fixed point of reference from your formative years. You can view this through a lens of fear and anxiety, or, as Ashish and our other friends in the book taught us, as a deep well of opportunity.
Three key strategies to keep up with never-ending transformation
As the world turns faster, we are forced to ask ourselves, “How on earth will I keep up with this never-ending transformation?” After all, the clear majority of us aren’t exactly on the cusp of engineering the next big thing in liquid AI or taking blockchain to the next level. Yet the reality is, those perceived “inadequacies” hardly matter to your career trajectory in the long run. There is enough opportunity to get started today, and the new vistas opening up tomorrow bring even more promise. And in the five emerging fields of AI, Big Data, Blockchain, Quantum Computing, and the Internet of Things, the job market is still in its infancy.
Learning must be a lifelong endeavor in today’s digital age, not a fixed point of reference from your formative years.From the new book Tomorrow’s Jobs Today
Yet these days, even amidst the Information Age’s abundant opportunities, folks of all skill levels continue to struggle with the best approach to a happy and successful vocation. Business models are transforming the job market so rapidly that even the most accomplished executives and educated employees suffer from anxiety over the stability of their roles. They must routinely prove their intrinsic value to their superiors and define their personal brand within their organization. For new graduates and those looking to make a big career transition, the reality of a continually shifting corporate landscape can feel almost paralyzing. The emergence of impersonal human resource tools like artificial intelligence in hiring practices has compounded traditional fears underlying the search for our rightful place in the new digital workplace.
The business leaders profiled in this book share something in common. It’s an insatiable curiosity and appreciation for what their peers and colleagues do.From the new book Tomorrow’s Jobs Today
With a new generation always clipping at our heels, it’s easy to feel left behind or worry that our education and experience aren’t quite enough. Luckily, there is wisdom to be found in the words of the trailblazers we’ve profiled in our book. They recognize that alarm, but they also share something in common that helps combat it. It’s an insatiable curiosity and appreciation for what their peers and colleagues do. In these chapters and industry stories, we reveal the origins of those crafted insights and three strategic themes common to each of these visionary leaders: One – How gaps (weaknesses) can become opportunities; Two – How less is often more; and Three – Why, above all else, our Relationships Matter now as much as our credentials.
Run in the direction of your fear
Tomorrow’s leaders will be brave enough to scale the dangerous peaks of an increasingly competitive and ethically challenging mountain range. They will drive the tough conversations that illuminate the valleys in between. As we march together through the upheaval of the Information Age, our hopes for the workforce outnumber our worries and concerns. We are an intricate species whose faults are well documented but whose many inspired gifts and evergreen qualities are yet to be tapped.
Do you have a story to share about how you are using Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, or Privacy to shape tomorrow’s jobs? We’d love to share it with our readers!
The following excerpt is based on the book Tomorrow’s Jobs Today, available at fine booksellers from John Hunt Publishers.
Mainstream Interviews with business leaders are generally puff pieces designed to amplify the subject’s success or advertise the company’s product. How boring! We went a different route with Tomorrow’s Jobs Today. We drilled down to discover exactly what made dozens of accomplished and forward-thinking industry leaders and innovators brave enough to harness the very technology that was disrupting their own field- and possibly eliminating their very own job. Their shared perspectives and experiences are so real, so inspiring, that when you read them, you begin to realize you can use the same tricks to start-up your own life.
Chapter 1 of Tomorrow’s Jobs Today is an interview with Ashish Gadnis, a recognized visionary in the burgeoning blockchain community. He chairs the Financial Inclusion Working Committee for the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance and travels the world, explaining how this revolutionary new technology is transforming the way we contemplate supply chain economics.
The following excerpt is from Tomorrow’s Jobs Today.
Q: Ashish, we first learned about your life’s work at a conference exploring how technology impacts the human condition. You shared the story of selling your firm, Forward Hindsight, and soon after founding BanQu to fight extreme poverty by leveraging blockchain. How did you choose this path?
A: It was a means to an end. I was born and raised in a slum in India 50 years ago. And I grew up hating being poor. Pretty much all my life growing up, I was poor. When I moved to the US and started building my life, and got my own deal and started building Forward Hindsight, I always asked myself, “If somebody will buy this thing, and if it all works out, I could walk away and try to help address the extreme poverty situation in the world.” So, it wasn’t exactly like other entrepreneurs who have that itch to do the next big thing.
For me, it was pretty organized. I sold my company, and I just started volunteering in the Congo for a couple of years and then had some experiences that forced me to reflect even further. That’s when I realized I could volunteer for the rest of my life, or I could actually start something like BanQu and make a dent in the universe. So, the selling of my company was just a means to my end. I knew my calling was around the corner, so I sold it and ultimately just walked away.
Q: With BanQu, people ensure their economic identity with an immutable record of their transactions in a system benefiting the entire supply chain. How does the company go about realizing those goals?
A: Over the last two and a half years, we’ve determined that 2.7 billion people, including refugees displaced and those in extreme poverty zones, participate in some sort of a supply chain. That can mean you’re the most impoverished farmer in Congo growing coffee, cacao, or shea butter, you know, the ingredients that go into cosmetics, and your contributions show up in brands like eight dollar lattes and expensive body lotions. And in examining their participation, we realized that current models for getting people out of poverty have failed.
Old economic models have failed because they look at the ability to help people out of poverty separate from enabling people in poverty to take part in the supply chain. We took another route. Nobody had ever done it. We said, “What if the people who are absolutely in that last mile get to participate equally?” Then the value for the brand is suddenly more relevant.
Let’s use a simple example. If you’re buying cacao in Ghana and you’re a large chocolate company, there’s a good chance today that your last mile farmers are extremely poor and also invisible. No matter how much traceability, transparency, or fair trade you implement, until and unless that farmer can participate in his data, to know, for example, “I’m selling 40 kilos every other week to this big brand,” then that farmer will continue to live in poverty. That poor farmer today has everything stacked against him or her, especially if conditions are rough.
I was just in Zambia a week and a half ago, and I saw a first-hand example of this problem, which was that women farmers have to borrow at a higher price point. Women farmers are often finding themselves on the short end of the stick because they’re not able, in a multitude of cases, to prove their history. What happens if she is selling 40 kilos upstream, and there are seven middlemen? After she sells her coffee, somebody picks it up, then brings it to somebody else, the next one goes to the warehouse, and eventually she’s lost the ability to track her product. You see, while the internet has come to people in poverty, it hasn’t actually pulled people out of extreme poverty, let alone permanently. There’s mobile money, there’s big data, AI, etc., but none of those models have ever allowed that mother, that farmer, to participate equally.
When I say participate equally, it’s very basic. To me, participate equally means that one, she has a physical, digitally stored copy of that transaction that nobody can ever steal or manipulate. Two, she can prove her transaction history, which legitimizes her existence in that supply chain. Three, it allows her to now leverage that data in a way that reduces her cost of borrowing. It allows her to be portable. That’s how we decided to look at blockchain. Nobody has ever done this. People keep talking about how they’re going to use blockchain for good, but we’re one of the only ones doing it every day, taking a commercial approach while being simultaneously profoundly purpose-driven.
We started a for-profit, for-purpose software company, and now the largest brands are coming to us because it solves two sides of the problem for them. One side is that the supply chain now becomes more cost-effective and efficient. They get better visibility into the supply chain in terms of quality, market access, and forecasting, which enables an ecosystem for crop insurance, climate protection, education. The other side of the coin is that they can start addressing issues like gender equality and labor rights.
Q: In your model, BanQu offers a software-as-a-service software (SaaS) platform that supports six key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) out-of-the-box. Together, this “Economic Identity Passport” is used by corporations, governments, and International Non-Government Organizations (INGO’s) looking to meet their UN-SDG goals and other commitments. Since launching, what have you found are the most utilized of the tools?
A: They’re intertwined. This is why we took a platform approach and why it’s software as a service. A lot of companies are going to focus on water, healthcare, or gender. We looked at these six UN-SDG’s and realized that they should always be looked at together. Let’s look at an example. We’re live in eight countries. As I mentioned, I was recently in one in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we’re talking the bottom of the pyramid. No running water, no sanitation, no paved roads, high malnutrition. Tough as it gets. Yet their farmers (especially the women) are knowledgeable and resilient, and they grow crops because there is a market. BanQu gives them confidence and dignity because their harvest can be sold with full traceability and transparency. At the end of the day, it’s a circular economy, and now the woman farmer has an economic identity.
Q: Can you explain that concept, economic identity, in detail?
A: For us, economic identity is the ability to prove our identity in those types of transactions. So, if I sold you 40 kilos every three weeks, you pay me money for the quality and the quantity, and now it’s history. But one aspect of identity alone is useless. If you just show up at a bank and say, “Hey, I’m so-and-so, this is my driver’s license, and you should give me a good interest rate on a car loan….” Well, they’re[RM1] going to ask you to take a hike. Whereas if you showed up with your social security card and your education, you’re taken seriously. It’s just the way the world works. If I know a little more about you, I’m going to treat you with a bit more dignity, and that’s what our solution supports.
Q: For organizations applying this private blockchain solution, are there some modules or some components more useful than others in the immediate term?
A: The most pressing one is the supply chain connection. For example, some of the largest brands in the food business will sign up with us for immediate traceability and transparency into their existing crop flows. Just like they’re buying Salesforce.com or Oracle or SAP. They subscribe to our platform. We configure for things like language, currency, workflow, asset classes. We also have a meta-data framework that our clients can now create themselves for KPIs and metrics in real-time. We go live, and it gets deployed to the farmer who doesn’t have a smartphone, just via SMS, and now the last mile is connected in real-time. Traceable, transparent, and the farmer participates equally.
So, when a transaction happens, they bring a bag of cacao or coffee or whatever to market, you, as the farmer get an SMS message confirming the transaction, and the location and an authentication token. We don’t mess with cryptocurrencies. We use pure blockchain. Now you have a copy that says you dropped off 40 kilos, plus here’s the quality, plus here’s the payout and it’s secured and private.
The key empowering impact is that you have permanent digital proof of that asset from tree-to-cup or mine-to-battery. As the transaction progresses, you have a record of the payout, which is a big deal in emerging markets, especially around security and in terms of building your credibility in that crop flow. If you were dropping 40 kilos every two weeks and a broker was taking it off of your hands, you cannot prove that you have been growing a good crop. So, as the weeks go by, now the farmer can see her entire history, and it’s validated in the ledger, which makes her bankable. It benefits both the brand and the farmer as well as the entire supply chain.
Q: Have you begun to tap the big data aspect of it? If so, what challenges will that bring in terms of our evolving regulatory climate?
A: Yes and No. We have an open API, and that lets banks, mobile operators, and others integrate with BanQu. Also, we integrate with backend accounting systems, ERP’s, inventory management, record-keeping systems, and so forth. So, when these steps are happening, clients are already starting to do their analysis because they can say, hey, we’re starting to see a good quality crop in this region. We’ve had cases where the fraud detection piece, because of blockchain, is already showing results because everybody entering the supply chain is known and wants to be known. Everybody is now getting a copy of the transaction they participate in and its improving transparency.
From a data analytics perspective, the big brands like us because now it gives them the visibility into their last mile that they never had. Especially from a cash flow perspective, from a standpoint of trying to reduce fluctuation around receivables, supply chain insurance, and production planning. In a lot of these markets, it’s all cash-based and manual 90-day reconciliation process to complete.
Having said all that, we don’t own anybody’s data, which is a key piece. We will never own anybody’s data because that would then defeat the purpose of creating a blockchain application. So, the data ownership is with the brand in terms of the transactions that they are participating in, but the data ownership is also with the farmer or the homeless person or the refugees. They now have a copy of their data that they can use.
The way we built it, the end-user can now prove their existence or the right to be forgotten. So, we have this permission-based ledger where the farmer can say, “I want to be able to show a bank my data.” And he can give permission to the bank. Or she could say, “I don’t want to participate anymore, and I have the right to go dark.” Because at the end of the day, that last mile farmer in BanQu has the ability to own, access, monetize, and permission their data. So, the analytics applies but not at the last mile.
Q: One of the goals in conducting these interviews is gaining a better understanding of the evolving role of data and its impact on society and governance. You’ve lived and worked with people on all levels of the pyramid. What role is blockchain playing here?
A: Occasionally, people push back on the work we do and say, you know, farmers aren’t literate. And I take offense to that because I’ve never met a farmer or any person in poverty who said, “Don’t tell me how much crop or garments or diamonds I sold you,” or “don’t tell me the price or confirmation of the payout.” So actually farmers, miners, garment workers, they’re very literate and brilliant. Here’s the data issue there. And it has a big implication for governance. In my past life, I worked in Sarbanes-Oxley, in compliance and audit, on segregation of duties. I was deep into the compliance framework and familiar with all those kinds of issues. In the example of the farmer I’ve given, what happens is that the world takes for granted that the farmer’s data rights don’t exist. The rights for poor women that are growing your coffee are compromised every day. We took a different approach and found that distributed ledger blockchain technology empowers the poorest while strengthening the largest global brands.
If you decouple the currency side, blockchain is immutability, consensus. Currency is currency. The real value is consensus and immutability. And that’s where a lot of people miss the true value of blockchain. We took an approach saying the farmer, the slave labor that’s making the jeans, and also the refugee, should have bleed control over all the data that he or she is either forced to participate or is willing to participate in. And that has kind of solved part of the confusion around the General Data Protection Requirement and data privacy because at the end of the day, if you implement it the right way, which we’ve proven in the last 18 months, the farmer owns their data, right?
So, if the farmer is selling to the coffee company, but the coffee company says, “Hey, I don’t want to buy your coffee from now on,” in today’s world, that coffee company is just going to walk away with all this amazing data on the farmer. That’s the way the world works today. Yet if you use blockchain, yes, the farmer and the coffee company relationship changes. The company walks away with all this data, but the farmer now has a copy of the data that nobody can ever take away. That’s how we implement it. And that’s why we’re upfront. BanQu doesn’t own anybody’s data. And at the end of the day, if my bank customer goes away, in my last mile, because we have a B to B to C model, the customer never loses access to that data because we have the proper safeguards.
Q: This all seems like the ideal career track for those who want to use their education to advance a good cause. What is your advice for a young person just starting their journey? How do they even begin to think about getting into something like blockchain?
A: For one, you’ll probably have to fail a million times. That’s the easiest answer. But from a career standpoint, I would definitely get into computer science or some technology stack. The big five – the internet of things, blockchain, big data, artificial and quantum computing. Those five technologies will transform every aspect of our lives, good or bad. If you want to start the next charity or the next big thing, you’d better be knowledgeable about these areas because although you might end up being a brain surgeon, you’re still probably going to need to understand one of these five. That would be number one.
Number two would be just jump in, get a good startup going, and be willing to fail. Only have an expectation that you’ll fail. A lot of young people make the mistake of joining a large company just for a safety net or join a startup because they want to make a million dollars overnight. Both of those motivations can result in the wrong approaches to success, in my mind.
In my opinion, if you’re in your 20’s until you’re 35, you’ve got to say, “I’m going to live in eight different countries, fail 15 different times and be completely broke.” But then, after that, you might just have a much better chance of hitting it big.
The following excerpt is based on the book Tomorrow’s Jobs Today, available at fine booksellers from John Hunt Publishers.
“If there’s one thing I admire the most among the younger members of our field, it is their dedication to recognizing the path that is the worthiest… to their colleagues, to the collections, to the world they work and live in.”Andrea Kalas of Paramount Pictures
“If there’s one thing I admire the most among the younger members of our field, it is their dedication to recognizing the path that is the worthiest… to their colleagues, to the collections, to the world they work and live in.” ~Andrea Kalas
Andrea Kalas is a former President of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Before her current role as SVP of Archives at Paramount Pictures, she led the preservation program at the British Film Institute. She received her bachelor’s in film from Temple University and finished her master’s in film at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Q: Andrea, we now exist in a world of accessible digital archives, but this new paradigm has ushered in an entirely new set of preservation challenges. You’ve spoken and taught at length about one of them, bit loss, and how it affects the race to preserve not just America’s rich film history, but the cinematic treasures around the world. How does a global team like yours prioritize its goals as it races against the clock?
A: Digital preservation has the basic goal of avoiding bit loss, technically. However, the work that requires technologists and archivists to collaborate effectively involves the treatment of files as valuable records, art, or artifacts. This goes against so much of how basic information technology systems work. For example, the word “archive” has been used as a term to mean data written off-line and put on removable media on a shelf, never to be touched again. This is a sure path to bit loss. For an archivist, this definition is counterproductive. It as much about communication and clear technical requirements from archivists as it is building technical solutions.
What we’ve developed is an infrastructure that makes sure there are multiple copies of our feature films, and that each file that makes up that film is checked annually. We’ve also worked hard at making sure that we’ve architected things so that as hardware and software change, which they inevitably do, the files and metadata that make up that film can survive. This keeps us on track with what we have to preserve. That and the incredibly brilliant archivists who work with me and bring innovation to the process as it evolves.
Q: Beyond the importance of posterity in the arts, what are the benefits of preservation for large intellectual property firms like those in the entertainment business?
A: Entertainment companies base their business plans on the ability to distribute films and television programs over the long-term and benefit from the preservation of their intellectual property both financially and culturally. The cultural aspect is often called in business terms, “branding,” or the public recognition of the value of that company. A film studio that demonstrates it cares as much about a film that has excellent public and cultural appreciation as it has financial benefit enhances its brand. These two reasons are why those who own intellectual property have a duty of care. We have some titles we distribute for a short period and others for which we have long-term rights. It is the latter we preserve.
Q: Much of the credit for modern advances in artificial intelligence goes to academics like Fei-Fei Li at Stanford, who built large image data sets. Now we’re seeing software vendors developing tools for visual asset management that integrate machine learning to auto-classify large volumes of assets. Are solutions like this on the horizon for organizations like yours?
A: I’m excited about the tools that are available to archivists based on the incredible advances in this field. One of the quotes I use from Fei Li is “human values define machine values.” To me that not only reminds me of her guidance on how to include all types of humans in interpretation, it also points to the phenomenal work of so many in the field of library science who have spent over a century on concepts like classification and subject headings which address the same challenge: how to bring structure to a collection of knowledge.
Perhaps it is happening somewhere, but I have yet to see an AI demonstration from the companies who are selling this service say, “and we’ve incorporated the Library of Congress standards on motion picture genres.” We can and should continue to argue about the way a definition is assigned to any one object, but why haven’t the machines learned from the humans who have already done a lot of research around these kinds of definitions? I’d love to see that.
Q: As we welcome a new generation of librarians, archivists, and data professionals, what are you observing in terms of their attitudes towards these roles given their upbringing in a wholly digital world? What positive qualities are we seeing in these individuals that separate them from the pack?
A: Maybe the cliché millennial is not attracted to archiving, but those who I have worked with in that age group have only taught me how to be open to new ideas; how to collaborate; how to use algorithms to solve mundane problems so we can all concentrate on the more significant issues. I feel lucky to be challenged by intelligent people, no matter their age or demographic designation. If there’s one thing I admire the most among the younger members of our field, it is their dedication to recognizing the path that is the worthiest, to their colleagues, to the collections, to the world they work and live in.
Q: One of our goals here is to identify common themes that run across all cultures and shared disciplines. Is there one concept or rule you feel is ubiquitous across the records, data, and archives landscape?
A: I think for the past 25 years, or so our heads have been down as we’ve been trying to bridge an analog-to-digital transition. That’s given us an incredible perspective on legacy approaches, legacy systems, and legacy decisions against how new technologies and techniques can completely change our work. It’s time to lift our heads and look around and talk to each other. I’m so glad you are doing this through this series of interviews. Although we need to be experts in our corner of the field – legal, entertainment, historical records, corporate governance, we need each other now more than ever to discover where our collective wisdom can turn into a strength.
Q: What guidance would you give a person just beginning their career in library science, archiving, and data governance or thinking about a career transition?
A: I have a very tired joke about what it takes to work in the Paramount Archives. Study Sunset Boulevard as hard as you study Unix. The point is to start with the collection and the work you have in front of you. Find what it is about it that is fascinating. Is it silent films from India? Is it how systems can work together better because you see connections others don’t? My too-often repeated piece of advice is to make sure this is the field you want to work in because of the people working in it. I’ve been able to meet some fair-minded, innovative people who think a little like me. Many are long-time friends. I’m grateful for that.
To read more about incredible careers like Andrea’s and change your life in the information age, buy the book today!
The following excerpt is based on the book Tomorrow’s Jobs Today, available at fine booksellers from John Hunt Publishers.
It’s every job seeker’s dream to land both a financially and intellectually rewarding position doing something that they love. Or at least like! Yet these days, even amidst the abundant opportunities of the Information Age, folks of all skill levels continue to struggle with the best approach to a happy and successful vocation.
Business models are transforming the job market so rapidly that even the most accomplished executives and educated employees suffer from anxiety over the stability of their roles. They must routinely prove their intrinsic value to their superiors and define their personal brand within their organization. For new graduates and those looking to make a big career transition, the reality of a continually shifting corporate landscape can feel almost paralyzing. It’s a universal issue that we find throughout the globe, including Africa, where men like Amb-Dr. Oyedokun Ayodeji Oyewole are working to helping young people succeed.
“Having a society where quality records and information can be easily accessed must be a priority.”Amb-Dr. Oyedokun Ayodeji Oyewole
Amb-Dr. Oyedokun Ayodeji Oyewole, FIIM, ERMS, RMEM, FIRMS is the Chairman of the Board at the Institute of Information Management based in Nigeria. Before leading the institute, he served in senior IT roles for Swedish firms and consulted on cybersecurity needs for the oil and gas industry. He received his BSc in Computer Science from Lagos State University.
Q: Amb-Dr. Oyedokun, your work developing new practitioners in Records and Computer Science fields in Africa is substantial and encouraging. You have empowered your students to harness their analytical skills, engage in professional development, and seize opportunity. What inspired you to start building a community of skilled practitioners that could make a difference in their communities?
A: My journey started in 2004 with a tremendous vision and mission. This was at a time when only a few organizations in Africa were implementing data science and information management technology. With the vast opportunities in those areas coupled with the societal challenges faced by the continent, I saw the need for us to bolster the demand for proper management and security of records in both public and private organizations. A huge chunk of organizations was still struggling with managing physical records and certainly not prepared for electronic documents. Poverty, corruption, and a lack of employment opportunities were crippling.
In analyzing all of this, I felt the only meaningful solution to both alleviating suffering and empowering people was through the advancement of this industry, information management, neglected for decades in Africa. Having a society where quality records and information can be easily accessed must be a priority in the face of several challenges ranging from lack of government support, inadequate legislation, poorly trained professionals and practitioners, to the absence of standards and necessary tools for adequate data governance.
Q: Most people around the world don’t realize that many parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, finally have sophisticated infrastructures despite being considered developing nations. The history of Africa is varied and rich, with much of its potential still yet to be unlocked. What if anything do you feel is unique to African nations that you might not find in places like the United Kingdom or the United States?
A: Opportunities in Nigeria are still blossoming, and there is a lot of potential and talent yet to be tapped. I think what we see in Nigeria, especially, but other parts of Africa as well, reflects a belief by young people that it’s becoming very possible to pursue success in a professional capacity. They carry a deep resolve to take their careers to the next level and make their lives better, despite a myriad of social and economic challenges less prevalent in the West. That’s what inspires me the most.
Q: You spent quite some time working for Chevron Nigeria Limited on its Agura Independent Power Project designing IT systems. Nigeria’s oil reserves are substantial, and as this sector develops, just like in the United States, there are social and environmental issues impacted by this progress. How much are projects such as those affected by laws and regulations in African nations, and what trends do you expect in the African regulatory landscape over the next five or ten years?
A: The regulatory environment in Nigeria is complex, creating challenges even for companies that strive hard to be compliant! There’s legislation to regulate almost every area of economic activity. The pro-transparency, anti-corruption inclination of present administrations are seen as helping ensure accountability and good governance. That means empowered regulators are comfortable with coming down hard on breaches of local regulation. However, there hasn’t been as much impact compared to other financial, telecommunications, and energy sectors operating in other parts of the world.
Yet amidst the mix of regulatory change and remaining instability, we do see opportunities for organizations to advance their local positioning and risk management approach. Performing necessary compliance audits and investing and internal capacity-building around compliance issues is being achieved. In Africa, I believe companies should learn to prioritize engagement and seek to build long-lasting interaction not only with regulators but across a broader base of public sector stakeholders. Engagement will intensify the understanding of regulators’ priorities and facilitate dialogue that will ultimately improve policy formulation, and consequently help organizations to shape the ethical business environment around their operations.
Q: You have hosted a plethora of international business leaders at your conferences to bring new ideas to Africa. What kinds of contributions are Information Age professionals in the rest of the world making to support the development of these professions in Africa?
A: A lot is happening in terms of development in the global information management space, which I think Africa is yet to integrate into, realize, or benefit from fully. Nevertheless, some professionals and organizations like the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS), the International Records Management Trust (IRMT), and the Information Governance Initiative (IGI) have been of tremendous inspiration and support to the development of our industry and job seekers in Africa. There are lots of opportunities for international professionals who might be interested in exploring, including business and consultancy services here. The records and information management profession of the 21st century is one for the brave-hearted, exciting, and with further potential than ever before.
To read more about incredible careers like Amb-Dr. Oyedokun Ayodeji Oyewole and change your life in the information age, buy the book today!
Mark Patrick, CIP, leads the Joint Staff’s Information Management Team at the United States Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. He is a recognized thought leader in digital transformation, intelligent information, cybersecurity and knowledge management. He earned his bachelor’s in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and his master’s from Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He shared his insights on information management in our new book Tomorrow’s Jobs Today.
Q: Mark, you’ve served your country as a sailor, helicopter flight instructor, and now as a national security executive. What initially piqued your interest in a career in government, and why did you ultimately gravitate toward leadership roles in its knowledge management divisions?
A: I am the son of a career Air Force officer who went on to a second career in municipal government following his military service. So, I am following in my father’s footsteps to a large degree. After attending the University of Virginia on a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship, I enjoyed 21 years in the Navy, flying, doing various types of staff work, attending graduate school, living abroad and working with members of all the military services and with the interagency, allied military partners, and civilian members of allied ministries of defense.
While in the Navy, I served as the deputy to the civilian who led the Joint Staff’s Information Management Division, from 2000-2002, here at the Pentagon, the position I now hold. During that period, that civil servant retired, and I acted as the division chief for a period of months. I was part of the selection committee that hired his replacement. It was during those couple of years I was exposed to workflow, records management, business process, business intelligence, decision support, and a number of information and knowledge management practices. I developed a keen awareness of how important these were to the business of the Joint Staff, and any large organization in general, whether public or private sector. It was exciting to do these things for an organization with such significance for our Armed Forces and the nation as a whole. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal military advisor to the Secretary of Defense and the President. The Joint Staff is his staff.
When I retired from the Navy in 2007, the civilian leadership position in the Joint Staff’s Information Management Division was vacant again, and I decided to apply for it. I was selected, and 12 years later, I’m still here. Like my father before me, government civil service seemed like a natural follow-up choice to my military career. Leadership in information and knowledge management in a national security environment felt like a continuation of what I did in the Navy, building on everything I’d learned, but also providing a continued path to grow in a field that I found fascinating. The only downside: no flying anymore. One year later, the iPhone came out, and our digital world seemed to speed up. The information world has continued to pique my interest as things have changed rapidly, so I’ve stuck with it.
By the way, flying crewed aircraft and conducting a complex military mission involving multiple ships, aircraft, and submarines is one big information and knowledge management exercise—with a little hand-eye coordination thrown in! There is a direct relationship to where I am now.
Q: You’re actively involved in groups like AIIM, the Association for Intelligent Information Management, and have sat on its Board of Directors. How does business and technology insight gleaned from private industry think tanks like AIIM influence information governance practitioners in the public sector?
A: Information is information. Data is data. A business process is a business process. It doesn’t matter whether it occurs in the public or private sector. The fact is that most private sector businesses are smaller and more nimble than large government bureaucracies. Because of this, changes in the business technology environment have occurred much more rapidly there than in the public sector. It seemed obvious to me that if I wanted to learn the best way forward for public sector information and knowledge practices, I needed to familiarize myself with the innovation happening in the private sector.
AIIM has been around since 1943. I found it soon after taking my civilian job via my local chapter, the National Capital Chapter. It was there I met a very experienced group of vendors, consultants, and other end users that had spent their entire careers in the information management space. They were able to teach me about the evolution of enterprise content management systems across businesses — the pharmaceutical industry, oil and gas, finance, etc. SharePoint was becoming a big deal, along with other systems and vendors. I shared with my AIIM colleagues what I was learning in my organization as well (nothing classified, of course!). As my personal and professional relationships with these AIIM members grew, I felt grateful and volunteered to serve on the chapter board. After some time, my peers encouraged me to apply for a director’s position on AIIM’s national board. I was nominated, selected, and began serving in 2014. Normally a three-year position, I continued as Treasurer, Vice-Chair, Chair, and now I’m in my sixth and final year of service as the Immediate Past Chair.
AIIM has been my network. I’ve worked closely with folks from Microsoft, Box, Nuxeo, Gartner, OpenText, Alfresco, state government CIOs, private consultants, to name a few. It has been invigorating and rewarding, and I’ve always found that what I learn from my AIIM colleagues has direct or indirect application in the public sector. People, process, technology, and information innovation is transferable.
As I’ve attended AIIM’s annual conferences, there has always been a significant number of public sector attendees from across various levels of government. I’m clearly not the only one. Public sector practitioners mingling with their private sector counterparts creates mutual benefit. Like-minded end-users collaborate. Customer-client relationships are formed. Lessons learned and best practices are shared. Training is facilitated, and practitioners grow their skills and, consequently, their value to their organizations.
Q: The government is sometimes between a rock and a hard place in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. What does the public need to understand about the burden these requests place on a bureaucracy?
A: I can speak from my experience with the Department of Defense information, especially here in the Washington, D.C., area. Most of our information includes mixed classified equities of multiple agencies, both sub-agencies within DOD—say Department of the Army, Defense Intelligence Agency, a particular combatant command like US Central Command, or US European Command for example; and information originated by non-DOD agencies like the Department of State or the Intelligence Community.
When a request to search for or review information comes into the OSD FOIA office, after they determine the request is legal, bona fide, etc., they then have to send it to all elements within the department that have equity to conduct reviews or searches. They may determine at that point that other non-DOD agencies need to review the information as well. Sometimes this isn’t discovered initially, but the DOD sub-agency will come back with the recommendation that the material also be reviewed by one or more other agencies. Once all of the reviews are in, the OSD FOIA Office has to combine them, adjudicate them for consistency, etc. and then send out the consolidated reply to the requester. This can take time.
Within the Joint Staff, when we are given a case by the OSD FOIA office, we have to determine which sub-element of the staff has equity in the information so that it can be staffed by the correct Original Classification Authority. The work eventually will get from a FOIA caseworker into the hands of an action officer who has subject matter expertise to conduct the review or the search. Sometimes cases can be quite large and require considerable time to complete, and these action officers are doing them as a collateral duty. They have a “day job” that they also must do.
Sometimes there is controversy over some classified equities that may have to be worked through. All FOIA cases also will be reviewed by legal counsel’s office. In CY 2018, my declassification branch completed over 1,600 cases involving either the FOIA or mandatory declassification reviews and security reviews that are subject to the Executive Order on Classified National Security Information (EO 13526). These types of reviews have different sponsor offices within the DOD. We track each request meticulously from receipt to return to the proper DOD office that interacts directly with the requester.
I take it as my duty as a civil servant to ensure that whatever should be released to the public is released—or rather that we recommend to the OSD FOIA Office that it be released. However, I also am determined that anything that is properly classified should be withheld, which is also in the best interest of our citizens and our young men and women in harm’s way.
This case workload across the federal government continues to grow year to year as more and more of our citizens have discovered how easy it is to initiate requests from their home computers. Note one does not have to be a US citizen to use the FOIA. Not surprisingly, our human resources to work these cases have not kept pace, although we have increased the efficiency of this work by using electronic workflow tools and tracking. There are even private organizations that have built a business around helping individuals file FOIA cases. It is a hallmark of our democracy that these processes exist, but they are not free and to mismanage our properly protected national security information by incomplete processes would not only be illegal, it could end in tragedy. The resources required to do this work are always in competition with resources needed to do all the other things agencies must do. They are limited.
All of this is to say that what may appear like foot-dragging is really a patriotic attempt to serve both the public and our men and women in uniform. Could processes be improved? Always. Are some FOIA offices more efficient than others? Certainly. However, I am proud of the thousands and thousands of cases my division’s declassification branch has worked over the last 12 years, and if FOIA requesters knew the details, I believe they would be most appreciative.
Q: Cybersecurity is an essential component of our national defense, and threats from foreign actors are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Yet federal, state, and local governments have limited resources to assist private entities investigating breaches and ransomware attacks. Where does a business’s responsibility to protect its own IT infrastructure end and the government’s role in defending it begin?
A: Fundamentally, it’s about risk mitigation and resource management for businesses, governments, and individuals alike. Like many issues that have only recently come to be as technology has evolved rapidly in recent years, resolution may only come through testing in the courts, legislation, etc. This will take time. I expect there will ultimately be public/private partnerships that must emerge. US Cyber Command is very new, having acquired combatant command status this past May.
The public’s awareness of these issues is mixed, and some of the risks will be assumed by citizens. The populace must learn to be responsible with their personal data. As awareness increases among the public, all levels of government, and within the private sector, and as the cybersecurity sector matures and grows, things should improve, but like our physical defense, our cyber defense will never be a 100 percent assured. The only way to ensure zero risk is to live in a cave and stay off the web. Not likely for most of us, and even for those who would choose such a lifestyle, they’d likely be picked up via satellite as they went about their off-the-grid foraging activities!
The government will have to balance the resources spent to mitigate cyber risk with the resources required for all the other required tasks it must perform. Companies and individuals will have to do the same. Engagement and collaboration between these three groups will be continuously necessary.
Q: Following the 9/11 terrorist acts, the U.S. took steps to ensure its security agencies were better equipped to share information and communicate. Besides leveraging technology to support interoperability, what have we done from a training perspective to promote better control over the handling of, and compliance with, confidential records and official systems?
A: I can only answer this question from my local perspective. In short, a combination of training, automation, managed access to systems, and physical spaces are required. On the Joint Staff, training in the proper handling of classified or sensitive material is conducted during on-boarding for action officers. Refresher training is an annual requirement. As knowledge workers across the federal government create classified unstructured data, a human still must understand his/her agency’s classified equities and know how to mark or tag electronic documents accordingly.
Automation can assist with minimizing human error, but there will always be a training requirement to ensure that documents and data are properly managed by the originator and anyone who handles information across the enterprise. If artificial intelligence and machine learning are used, a human will still be required to “teach” or configure the machine so it can detect sensitive information and prompt appropriate action.
If spillages occur, processes must be in place to mitigate associated risks, assess and respond to damage, and revise procedures to prevent future similar occurrences. Security clearance vetting processes are in place at the point of hire to try and prevent nefarious mishandling. Throughout a federal employee’s time of service, continuous monitoring and/or periodic reviews of the individual’s fitness for a security clearance are conducted.
With the rise of “need to share” over “need to know,” the concomitant greater risk must be mitigated via system access controls, proper marking, and training. It will always be a balancing act when sensitive information must get to those who need it at “the speed of relevance.”
Q: With deep fakes, AI inherent bias, and misinformation campaigns capable of drastically impacting the way citizens process information, what role if any does government have in combatting the disruptive social impacts they may have on the citizenry?
A: I believe government has a role, but the specifics are complicated. There is some amount of “it depends” here. If another state or non-state actor is attempting to impact public opinion to affect a US election, this becomes a matter of national security at the federal level. State and municipal elections could be viewed differently. “Disruptive social impact” is somewhat vague, and I’d say government involvement should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Sowing the digital seeds of general social discord with the intent to create chaos, dysfunction, or further polarizing our society becomes tricky. It will need to be further analyzed, considered in the context of privacy laws, espionage laws, first amendment rights, and others. Legal precedents will need to be established in our courts, and perhaps legislation or national policies are required.
There are a number of novel legal issues at play with which government at all levels will need to contend. The digital commons, like international waters or space, can be leveraged for good or bad. International organizations may need to get involved, and the same sovereignty issues will come into play when those organizations address other issues. Coalitions of the willing have their limits. Governments at all levels can educate and work with their communities to raise awareness of the risks and mitigation strategies that should be considered.
Q: What’s the best advice you can suggest for a person considering a role in knowledge management and seeing the military as an avenue towards that ultimate goal?
A: Entering the military for knowledge management or any specialty requires research first. All branches of the Armed Forces and the civil service are doing knowledge management in some capacity. But each of these services has its own culture and subcultures with which one should become familiarized before enlisting or pursuing an officer’s commissioning program. Read military web sites, review USA Jobs, follow media in the knowledge and information management fields.
I believe that knowledge management, information and records management, information technology, cybersecurity, and data management are all different parts of the same information and data portfolio. More and more, collaboration among professionals that have these subspecialties will be paramount. You do none of these in a vacuum. In the end, this evolving workforce is serving the mission of the organization. What the organization’s leadership needs is the just-in-time data and information to make decisions or achieve situational awareness.
I have often described these overlapping fields of expertise as analogous to instruments in an orchestra. Each instrument is needed, but the instrumentalists must not only master their individual skill, they must understand their fellow musicians and be able to play in such a way as to create harmonious, beautiful music. There should be a conductor who knows how to put them all together with the wave of a baton—and likely lots of practice. Without this synergy, the only thing produced will be a cacophony of tuning noise.
The military is only one way to get there, but folks must count the cost of military service. It’s not for everyone. Note that both military members and federal civilians take similar oaths of office “to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If that oath resonates, military service appeals. and one has a keen interest in information, data, and knowledge management, I’d say full speed ahead!
“Public sector practitioners mingling with their private sector counterparts creates mutual benefit. Like-minded end-users collaborate. Customer-client relationships are formed. Lessons learned and best practices are shared.”Mark Patrick
Futurist Roy Amara says that “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” This book offers a solid perspective on where we are today with Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain, Privacy, and the Internet of Things, as well as a near-magical crystal ball into what tomorrow holds. We spoke with thought leader Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer about what this future means for us all in our new book, Tomorrow’s Jobs Today.
“With AI looming ahead, we may even have to redefine what work is. Man is no longer the scale, the ruler, the canon.”Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer of Project Consult
Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer is the Managing Director of Project Consult in Hamburg, Germany, and a renowned expert on digital transformations, business intelligence, and enterprise content management. He holds a master’s in archaeology and completed his Ph.D. in prehistory at the University of Göttingen.
Q: Ulrich, you write and teach about cultural and social changes in work environments that are a direct result of the emergence of digital transformations now that data is at everyone’s fingertips. What change has the business world experienced?
A: The pace of digital transformation accelerates day by day. Cloud technologies, artificial intelligence, IoT, and other developments are happening so fast that there is a danger they’ll get out of control. The mightier AI becomes, the larger the danger that it gets uncontrollable.
Consider Shoshana Zuboff, one of the first tenured women at Harvard Business School, and her three laws:
Neither our businesses nor society is currently prepared for those changes. Just have a look at the General Data Protection Regulation discussions on data protection as a general necessity, data safety as the requirement for continuity, data privacy by default, information governance to keep control, keep the value, keep information accessible, and so forth. These are basic requirements that should not be ignored like in the past. Future historians will call our era the dark age of the early information society.
Q: You spent quite a bit of time at the Fraunhofer Institute, developing imaging systems and processes to support archaeological studies. Given that images provide so much of the fuel for artificial intelligence engines, do you envision some of our older legacy systems and indexes providing value to future AI efforts?
A: In the mid-eighties, I worked on pattern recognition, image processing, database systems, and expert systems for archaeologists and prehistorians. Today, taking a computer, drones, and sensor systems to an excavation is standard. The capabilities of software, hardware, and self-learning algorithms are far more sophisticated than in those days. But let’s consider so-called old-fashioned methods of organizing information. You mentioned the terms “legacy” and “indexes.” Metadata is not legacy. It is a question of quality, control, and governance.
Controlled metadata, vocabularies and taxonomies are of special value to big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Controlled data sets work as guide poles to train new technologies with high-quality information. This is useful for automated indexing when capturing information, when sharpening enterprise search for qualified results, and managing your repositories with compliance requirements. Especially when it comes to compliance, straightly organized high-quality information is an asset. But, AI will change the game as well in the near future. Currently, classification schemes and file plans are developed manually by academic rules. In the future, software will analyze all information and organize itself by protection guidelines, user models, processes, value, retention.
Q: This series of interviews with global leaders in fields like information technology, risk, and compliance seeks to find common values and themes in these disciplines across disparate cultures. I know that you are an advocate of standardization. Are there any commonalities in the projects and people you’ve worked with that you believe should be universal goals?
A: Standardization is a necessity. Everywhere. We do it with our language, our terms, our grammar to enable understanding. We do it with hardware so that it supports interfaces and operating systems. We do it with software so that it can interact with other software and systems. We do this with the retention rules for documents in our records management systems. Standardization is everywhere; that’s no question. The real question is, what has to be standardized and for which purpose? And is standardization something to prohibit innovation? Is standardization regarding streamlining and controlling data in opposition to the culture of a group of people or an organization?
The larger and more distributed an organization is, the harder the job of implementation of change and change culture. Old behavior, language barriers, time zones, cultural differences can sometimes make common values hard to define. Processes to keep values and make businesses run smoothly need, as well, a kind of standardization. This might all change in the future with artificial intelligence. Less work for humans means that human-driven use models and respect for human work will decrease. It’s a major social challenge because people often define their status through their work. So, this is a common thread in all projects. Who is to redefine processes, keep workers involved, try to help them overcome their fears of losing their jobs, and be responsible for implanting a new mindset for a new type of work environment? With AI looming ahead, we may even have to redefine what work is. Man is no longer the scale, the ruler, the canon.
Q: In being at the forefront of enterprise content management (ECM) and systems design, you learned plenty of lessons about development. We live in a far more regulated environment than existed 30 years ago. Our challenges today intersect with privacy and security. What are the types of risks and concerns you believe developers of content management systems should be thinking about when building the next Documentum, SharePoint, Alfresco, or Relativity?
A: There is no future for old dinosaur architectures and big enterprise solutions. Modern solutions have to care for every type and technical format of information available. The basic strategy for products is automation. Not only to get rid of human work and to speed it up but to improve quality control and establish new areas of business opportunity. Integration is still a major issue. We are no longer talking about traditional records management systems for records managers but the integration of ECM functionality into other software. Interfacing and application programming interfaces (APIs) are crucial. And like the world of mobile apps, we will see services come up, which integrate and configure automatically into other environments.
Complex systems will only be manageable by AI-based administration software. So not only end-user relevant processes will be transformed but also the configuration, administration, and management of these solutions. The IT services concept will make sure that ECM functionality is available in the same way as Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, and on-premise. A change will be that end-users no longer see an ECM client because the functionality is integrated into the standard desktop environment. ECM loses visibility on the desktop and becomes standard infrastructure. All of these developments change the paradigm of the traditional ECM software architecture and functionality. They require new dev-ops, new development tools, listening to the user, faster testing and roll-out, easier configuration, pre-configured business solutions, and easy to use end-user interfaces. It’s a big challenge for all companies developing any type of software.
Q: There has been a lot of noise around the General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR), specifically the “right to be forgotten” and stringent privacy and data retention safeguards, but we haven’t seen much intellectual discussion around the broader social benefits the law intends to support. How do you see this “return to privacy” improving society when it seems that much of the younger generation not only dismiss the value of privacy but, as Simon Sinek has noted, see themselves through the lens of the over-sharing social media community?
A: The GDPR has been in place for some time and is only now being enforced. It is not a return to privacy. Privacy requirements and regulations always have been here. But nobody really cared. We were careless with information and information sharing. And now we are complaining that internet giants are using our data. The new quality of the GDPR is twofold: on the one hand, it is for all of Europe and organizations dealing with European personal data and transacting business in Europe. So, it intends to become a worldwide standard. On the other hand, it threatens high fines for infringement.
This is a tool for enforcement we missed in the past, and that’s why everybody started to care about it. But the other side is this, small businesses, associations, and others may come under threat of the GDPR. Where big companies can hire teams of lawyers and establish a data protection regiment, small businesses are overwhelmed by bureaucracy. Information management software is a necessary tool for larger companies to manage all data. They need the equivalent of a data map to identify what information is stored and it’s quality, value, and legal character plus how it is processed. Smaller businesses struggle with these requirements because of their size, larger business because of the complexity and the sheer amount of data involved.
The social communities have a different view on the requirements. On the one hand, they have to care more about privacy. They must be able to deliver reports where they store data and what they do with it. On the other hand, the GDPR strengthens them because small forums, blogs, communities, groups, and businesses give up on complying and move their communities to Facebook, LinkedIn, or somewhere else. Communities like Facebook even use the necessary declaration of agreement to implement new technology like face recognition, which inflicts directly with privacy.
Privacy by design and privacy by default will be significant concepts of the future information society. But in reality, people choose the lazy options, and we don’t invest serious efforts into the future of our information society. We leave this to science fiction authors and films, to CEOs of internet companies, and politicians. Privacy is not only about rights but obligations as well. These obligations tangle not only companies and public administrations. They apply to everybody of us, you and me.
Everybody has to take care of his own data and to respect the data privacy of all others. We cannot claim any right of being forgotten when we actively upload our directory of addresses to a social platform. In my opinion, data privacy and privacy rights is primarily a task for education, which has to start even before school. It is a task for developing a mindset about the value and the risks of information. Data Privacy has to begin in our heads.
Q: Predictive coding was introduced almost two decades ago, and while the technology has advanced, the barrier to adoption is still cost and complexity. Will advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning help make these tools accessible to smaller firms?
A: First of all, we have crossed the magic border of AI. AI is now not only self-learning and self-optimizing but like evolution, self-replication, and self-expanding. An example is the “Neural Network Quine.” AI software is programming AI software, and AI software is managing AI environments controlled by AI administration tools. Machine learning will be standard in this new virtual world. This AI is different from our traditional perception of intelligence. It goes its own ways, inventing different methods, and is becoming transparent to human perception and intellect. It is here, waiting around the corner. We see a big war being fought by Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and others for the leadership role.
Today, AI is even free for end-users or comes with consumer products. The longer it learns, the more sophisticated it will become. AI will become part of every piece of software. The future of IoT with billions of devices will only be manageable by AI. Yes, it will become part of every cloud offering and will reach smaller firms. The only delaying factor is legacy software, legacy management, legacy behavior, legacy business models.
The overlapping, entailing, reverse-causing, accelerating innovation processes will encompass everybody. This is why I mentioned that our old ideas of information-driven society with well-informed citizens having control over information and machines would become overturned by dystopian models of a science fiction nature. Predictive analytics with artificial intelligence will play a role in our fight to keep control because software and systems will naturally anticipate what we will be doing better. Complete industries will change. First, those who deal with information only, like banks or insurances. Then manufacturing and others will follow.
Q: Based on your years of experience as a practitioner, lecturer, and consultant, what sage advice can you offer to a young person just entering the field of information management and information technology?
A: Well, education on information management is lagging behind the technology and information revolution. Learn to think by yourself, learn languages, learn how to communicate, learn methodologies, learn philosophy, learn to adopt change, learn not to stop learning throughout your life! Study something which is of real interest to you, what you love, which gives you intellectual satisfaction.
Dr. Katrina Miller Parrish is a physician, researcher, author, and Chief Quality and Information Executive for L.A. Care Health Plan. In her distinguished career, she has held leadership roles in prominent health organizations, received noted fellowships, and lectured at institutions, including USC’s Keck School of Medicine. She received her bachelor’s in biology from Reed College and MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School.
Q: Dr. Miller Parrish, a hotly contested provision in the 21st Century Cures Act aims to increase IT interoperability and information sharing amongst healthcare groups. Yet those rules have met pushback over privacy and security concerns. How do health organizations and executives manage regulatory pressures, and how do they impact a workforce’s overall tactical capacity?
A: A health organization like ours is beholden to regulations. LA Care Health Plan is a public health entity, and we receive our authority directly from the State of California and the County of Los Angeles. That means while a board approves everything we do, it can also be reviewed by the LA City Council or the state. Every day is spent making sure we’re adhering to all of the rules. Those could even come from the federal government or a line of business serving the Medicaid population or perhaps Medi-Cal in California.
We’re regularly audited by the Department of Healthcare Services (DHS), and so we have to adhere to regulations, or we wouldn’t exist. During an audit, if they raise an issue, we’ll get a finding and sometimes have to develop a corrective action plan for it. We can fix it, but we have to commit to a resolution that takes time. It affects our capacity, and in contrast to for-profit organizations and how fast they can move, we have a few more hoops to jump through.
It can take years to get initiatives to implementation because of all the necessary steps we have to take. I think part of working with a public health authority or a government entity is just knowing that’s the case. You understand that you have certain requirements. Part of what my world is all about is figuring out how to go through all of those processes as quickly and efficiently as possible. Asking what can we do in parallel? What has to be contingent upon something previously done? Then trying to make it happen as quickly as possible.
Q: Does that imply you’re in favor of legislation like the 21st Century Cures Act?
A: I’m in favor of interoperability as much as reasonably possible because, for us, we want to get as much data in our door as we can, especially for population health management. The more we get, the more we understand about our population, our members, and about our providers and network too. We’re interested in having access to as much data as feasible. So basically, anything that comes along that safely decreases information blocking for a public health benefit, we can get behind.
Q: In the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the actual standards defining the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) were debated and delayed. How do you adapt to waiting for regulatory specifics? Do you drive forward with your technology initiatives and hope they’re agile enough to adjust to the final regulations?
A: In our network, we work with eight different EMR’s. The top five systems represent a majority of the population, but we have to try to figure out how we potentially work with the rest, which is why we lean on the health information exchanges. We work with three of those. It’s still not enough, and we’re very early in making that work. But what our “Health Information Ecosystem” strategy is partly about right now is working with whomever we can, getting as much good data in as we can for our population health purposes, and processing it efficiently and on time.
That takes a little initiative until you discover where your barriers are, and it hasn’t been so much the regulatory barriers. It’s technical barriers that challenge us. When we’re talking about regulatory barriers, they have to do with the type of data. For example, when we’re talking about mental health data, substance abuse data, there are some carve-outs that the state Medicaid programs will insist on treating and protecting differently.
The exchanges need to speak to each other, and they’re getting there, but the ACA legislation didn’t adequately address them, and that’s been a challenge. If considerations had been put into the ACA in a meaningful way, we might be much further down the line, but they didn’t make it about true interoperability, and they didn’t give enough incentive to the vendors to do anything about it.
Q: Health informatics leverages AI and big data strategies to analyze health populations to improve overall outcomes, but the quality of the data sets used carries the potential to influence and produce unintended results. We already see inherent bias in other industries, but what’s it mean for the medical world?
A: One of the things that we try to do, for example, in the case of claims, encounter, and population data, is to develop risk stratification or other adjustments. Because what we’re trying to do is say, “This person or this group has a higher risk or higher severity of illness.” Or, “Here is some potential for a higher cost. How can we address them differently than in a lower risk population?” So, yes, we do assign quality control resources and monitor those analytics to make sure we’re understanding the data correctly.
All of our groups come to us frequently and say, “You’re not calculating the risk adjustment or the risk stratification correctly. We think our population is higher risk than what you’re representing.” But there’s not a lot we can do with that anecdotal response right now. All we can do is grab all the data we can find.
Of course, a lot of data isn’t perfect. It may be a spectrum of corrupt to bad data entry. If we’re talking about the kinds of codes that we’ll get representing a claim or encounter, the quality of that data will vary. A claim is when you’re asking for reimbursement for services, so it’s a fee for service scenario, like an invoice. An encounter is when services are under a capitated payment where we’re already paying that entity a monthly amount to take care of a certain number of people. We get data in the door about the services they received, but they’ve already been paid for it. Therefore, the incentive to send us good encounter data is far less than the claim data.
Q: As the quality assurance professional in your organization, even though you’re primarily responsible for population health care, are you also possibly catching some fraud?
A: Yes, in some cases. We have a special investigations unit, SIU, and I’m the chair of the Credentialing and Peer Review Committee. That’s where we look at those kinds of issues, and we work very closely with our SIU unit. For example, when they identify providers who are just writing tons of prescriptions for one particular medication and we find out that these patients whose names are on the prescriptions never received them (and don’t even have a diagnosis matching them), it raises a flag. We can identify them through algorithms, through data from payment integrity or our pharmacy data.
Q: Do you develop your systems and tools for this kind of data mining and analytics, or is there software already available?
A: It’s a mix. There are software tools out there where you can do that first pass at running the data and finding trends, but I think that we still are learning how to set those algorithms up. It’s another place where bias could come into play. We could identify the wrong people, and so we have to review the first pass of the data carefully. If it doesn’t make sense, we try to confirm it. If we see a trend, we have to ask, “Okay, is there a good reason for that trend?” Let’s say we have a provider identified for tons of prescriptions of one type, like risky or expensive, but then we go and find out that that’s a neurologist who is dealing with kids with intractable epilepsy. Okay, well, then that makes good rational sense.
Q: Do you have to prioritize who you put under the microscope, especially with the SIU, because you can’t go after every single problem or person?
A: Yes, and we have ten thousand providers! In this committee, we’re focused on the providers’ side of things a little bit more than the member side of the equation, but the numbers are so huge you have to use whatever is available. This is what we do with population management, as well. We’ve got to figure out what that spectrum is, then decide where to put resources.
Q: In response to technology’s effect on litigation, most states require attorneys to demonstrate technical competence. With the growth of Informatics, do you expect medical professionals to be held to similar education requirements?
A: I hope so. I’ve got a family medicine background, but I also have a clinical informatics background, and there are maintenance certification requirements for both of them. Again, we’re all working with EMRs, and if you have folks who could do so much better with that knowledge, even with just basic EMR wisdom, like knowing about pre-checked order sets or templates for notes or ways to find different orders, it would be advantageous.
Q: Would that type of education be as relevant for an oncologist as opposed to a podiatrist?
A: It depends. Everybody needs to have some level of experience to enter and pull information out of an EMR. There are some specific tricks to be able to do that well, and it’s not just about how to make sure the information gets in appropriately. Successive folks are going to be seeing those patients and have to understand what happened to the patient. If you have a medical assistant or office staff, and they’re trying to find a report on a patient, how easily can they get to that data, and in how many ways?
Q: We now have changes to board structures where Chief Information Security Officers are no longer reporting to a Chief Information Officer. They’re going directly to the CEO because cybersecurity is so paramount. Is that now the case with medical organizations? Does the Chief Medical Information Officer sit in the boardroom?
A: Generally speaking, I think the C-Suite remains similar to what it has looked like for a while. In our case, we have a Chief Medical Officer, and then you have some others reporting up and transitioning all of the time. We have a Chief of Enterprise Integration, and I’m Chief of Quality and Information. I think the reporting structure itself can be a little bit different sometimes depending on the organization and the people. If you have a COO who is better at overseeing some areas of medical operations, then it’s appropriate for some of those administrative medical staff to report up through that person. It depends. The technology efforts that we have here are just ever-present and constantly changing, and of necessity must be as efficient and flexible as possible at all times. The reporting structure almost doesn’t have to matter so much as long as you have the affected stakeholders making sure the right things are being done for projects and initiatives to succeed.
Q: So, what exactly made you choose the field of Informatics?
A: I went into Informatics because I liked the combination of clinical with data and with business. I think it’s part of being a family physician. I like being able to have my hands in a lot of things and understanding a lot about data, which is the informatics side. I like having that variety. When I was doing family medicine, I felt like I could do way more than taking care of one person at a time. I loved my patients, and we had great relationships. I learned a lot, they learned a lot, but I really love population health because I can make an impact on millions of people with huge programs that can not only affect a community in Los Angeles but conceivably far beyond that.
Q: As a trained physician, you have a perspective on the stresses of data-driven life on the body and mind. Society is just beginning to understand the side effects of excessive dependence on our devices. How do we address infringements of technology on work-life balance?
A: I have a department of about 90 people, and I try to make sure they understand their priority is themselves, their second priority is their family, their third priority is work. I try to reiterate that all of the time for my department, and when it comes to individual people with their own issues, I try to make sure they’re focused on the right things. They’ve got to have their priorities in order and believe if they come to me and have to take some days of PTO that I’m going to understand and put that before the demands of an audit.
Audits will happen; work will happen; L.A. Care will continue to exist. The most immediate thing is that these people take care of themselves and their families. Maybe that comes from me being a family physician or being a family person, but it’s in there. It’s ingrained in me that I need to make sure everybody knows that.
That said, I have to try to model the behavior. That part is not as easy. I do get complaints from colleagues that tell me I’m not always practicing what I preach. So, every day I too have to work on that. What time do I have to be at work? What time can I leave work? Do I need to be here seven to seven? Do I need to be the one taking care of editing and reviewing all of the documentation that comes in and out of my department? I want to do a little better with that, but I think it’s a familiar challenge.
Q: We now have this concept of social media as a prism through which people begin to see themselves, where every person must have their brand. This is an incredible pressure that I don’t think anybody ever expected. How is that affecting people’s work life?
A: Well, millennials are a whole generation that has grown up with these devices attached to their hands, and even more so the later generation. One example of my own sort of experience with that was when I was on call. I had a beeper at the time, and I started to have a physiologic reaction to every time that sound would go off. You knew you were going to deliver a baby, or you had to go to the ICU or the ED, or something was going to be an intense situation to deal with. And what I progressed to is now I rarely, if ever, have my phone actually on a ring. I always have it on vibrate at this point. I don’t pay attention to it sometimes. I put it away, and, in the evening time, I might not pay attention to it for the whole night.
You have to do what works for you. Some people are workaholics, and they want to work every day of the week. That’s fine, but I do want to try to espouse and motivate for a better type of balance.
Q: You’ve achieved success in medicine, and now you’re immersed in informatics and business optimization. How has your medical training informed your approach to solving the business piece of it?
A: I think first of all, in medicine, we learn to assess a situation, take in the data, try to figure out what a differential diagnosis would be. You’re never trying to go right to a solution. You want to see what all of the possible solutions are in all relevant scenarios. I kind of think of differential diagnosis in a way, like a root cause analysis, where you’re trying to look at all of the possibilities before you get to your final answer. And then, when you get to your top three, top two, or even the only one it could be, based on the data you have available, then you move into your solution. You could look at your solution as a project, as an initiative that follows a particular process.
We use the System Development Lifecycle process and others. And it’s interesting how much my medical training set me up for being able to assess data in a way that falls in line with almost any kind of stepwise assessment.
Q: Your work has taken you from the L.A. marathon to as far as Tanzania. What’s the best lesson you learned going out into those communities and abroad that you’ve been able to bring back into your work and professional life?
A: It’s a simple answer, but it’s to listen. And if we’re talking about the Los Angeles marathon, you’ve got five seconds to listen to that person and see what their exact issue is and try to figure out what to do about it because they’re running and they’re going to come in for a few seconds, and you’ve got to get them out on the road again.
In Tanzania, it is so foreign to western allopathic medicine physicians as to what could be going on with a patient, that you’ve got to listen to what their story is to understand that, number one you may be looking at something like malaria or something unusual in the United States, but it could also be something totally different. For example, we had issues in one particular area where there was a myth that if you had AIDS and you had sex with a virgin that you would be cured. And so, we had to deal with that situation and those who truly believed. We had to listen and think about what we could do with the population there to try to redirect them to the right people who could change that perception. But we had to listen to those folks to understand where to focus our efforts.
That being said, with medical care, the minute the patient walks in the door, you’ve got to let them tell their story. You got to give them the time because you can’t assume by looking at a person or looking at the data that you know what’s going on. Not only that, you don’t know what their priority is. If you’re not working with them on their priorities, then they’re not going to trust you in terms of how you’re working with them.
The same thing is true in business. If I don’t listen to what my direct boss, my CMO, is telling me about his preference or his opinion or priority, I’m going to go the wrong direction completely. I’ve got to listen to what he’s saying, to listen to what the CEO is saying, and put it all together to make sure that I strike the right balance. The same thing can be said for my department. If I’m not listening to them and or understanding what their real issues are, then we could have problems in terms of employee engagement.
On his latest podcast, “Reinventing Professional Services,” host Ari Kaplan spoke with Rafael Moscatel, the Director of Privacy Compliance for CAPP, a privacy consultancy, and the co-author of Tomorrow’s Jobs Today: Wisdom And Career Advice From Thought Leaders In Ai, Big Data, Blockchain, The Internet Of Things, Privacy, And More. They discussed the impact of technology on a variety of careers and how individuals can prepare for that change. Listen to the whole podcast here: https://www.reinventingprofessionals.com/tomorrows-jobs/
A groundswell of buzz and support has led to the debut of Tomorrow’s Jobs Today as the #1 New Release in Big Data books on Amazon!
This collection of in-depth profiles featuring Smart City CIOs, Data Protection Officers, Blockchain CEO’s, Informatics Doctors and other diverse, skilled professionals gives readers first-hand insight into what tomorrow’s jobs look like today. The hands-on experiences, subject matter expertise, and measured job advice shared within these pages demonstrate how identifying opportunities, setting the right cadence, and building strong relationships are the essential ingredients to unlocking your future’s potential.
Mainstream Interviews with business leaders are generally puff pieces designed to amplify the subject’s success or advertise the company’s product. How boring! We went a different route. We drilled down to discover exactly what made dozens of accomplished and forward-thinking industry leaders and innovators brave enough to harness the very technology that was disrupting their own field- and possibly eliminating their very own job. Their shared perspectives and experiences are so real, so inspiring, that when you read them, you begin to realize you can use the same tricks to start-up your own life.
One of the biggest myths about tomorrow’s jobs is that unless you have a tech background, you are as doomed as the dinosaur. Forget that! Futurist Michael Jay Moon breaks down why a growth mindset eclipses both work history and formal education. Every single person alive has this completely unique perspective. And, as you read this book, you are going to see opportunities that are right in front of you, in this very moment. You will realize that no matter how technology changes life, the world is still going to be powered by the people who value fairness, discernment, decency, and flexibility. What are you waiting for?
We spoke with Erick Swaine about what recruiters and employers look for in our new book Tomorrow’s Jobs Today.
“Employers need to be able to ask specific questions, drill-down, and recover the root causes of problems and fill those gaps. We do not minimize skill sets by any stretch, but we have also learned that the ‘intangible’ side of the equation gives both sides a better shot at a long-term fit.”Erick Swaine
Erick, do we have enough of the right types of candidates? For example, insurance companies can’t seem to find enough people who understand telematics because the technology is so new in and of itself.
That’s certainly the case in some respects. You take machine learning, deep learning, or natural language processing. There’s certainly a limited talent pool there. AI is a field that’s just a few years old, and so to go in and ask someone for three to five years’ experience is very tough. As a result, organizations have grown these capabilities internally and certified their own people around those programs. Yet, there remains an absolute shortage in many different related areas.
Good data scientists, for example, can be hard to find. Certain developers are moving away from traditional skillsets, and into the open-source world, so we see a shortage of talent there. Employers need to be able to ask specific questions, drill-down, and recover the root causes of problems and fill those gaps. We do not minimize skill sets by any stretch, but we have also learned that the ‘intangible’ side of the equation (i.e., personality, culture, management style, etc.) gives both sides a better shot at a long-term fit.
Tomorrow’s leaders will be brave enough to scale the dangerous peaks of an increasingly competitive and ethically challenged mountain range. They will drive the problematic conversations that illuminate the valleys in between. One of those leaders is Miguel Mairlot, an attorney and Data Protection Officer (DPO) with Ethikos Lawyers. He has a breadth of compliance experience advising wealth management and insurance businesses, has written and spoken extensively about compliance topics and teaches financial law in Brussels, Belgium. We spoke with him about compliance and ethics for our new book, Tomorrow’s Jobs Today.
“To build a strong compliance program, it is of utmost importance to work towards good communication with regulators.”Miguel Mairlot of Ethikos Lawyers
Miguel, what is your advice for young professionals, millennials, entering, and trying to succeed in the fields of privacy, risk, and compliance?
I would advise them first to question their ethics. What is your take on issues like money laundering, sanctions, the fight against terrorism, or data protection, for instance? Compliance offers the opportunity to perform a job in a more preventive and efficient way than ever before. Within an organization, your decisions will often be challenged by the sales or product department, which does not always understand the underlying issues that can be raised by certain unethical or illegal behaviors. For these reasons, it is healthy to keep a long-term vision to achieve sustainability while ensuring business growth. If you have and believe in that vision, embrace the challenges and opportunities that come.
Mainstream Interviews with business leaders are generally puff pieces designed to amplify the subject’s success or advertise the company’s product. How boring! We went a different route with Tomorrow’s Jobs Today. We drilled down to discover exactly what made dozens of accomplished and forward-thinking industry leaders and innovators brave enough to harness the very technology that was disrupting their own field- and possibly eliminating their very own job. One of them was Patrick “PC” Sweeney of EveryLibrary, a public affairs group.
“When you think about the fact that libraries are about information and not simply about books, you begin to see where the value is.“Patrick Sweeney of EveryLibrary
Patrick, your advocacy work helps libraries become successful in securing funding, expanding influence within communities, and staying relevant in the digital age. With information at everybody’s fingertips, how have librarian’s challenges evolved, and why is supporting them so key to the health of our citizenry?
Well, when you think about the fact that libraries are about information and not simply about books, you begin to see where the value is. What it means is that people are visiting libraries and seeking much more complex information, and they’re looking for guidance in navigating all of it. These are the same tasks that libraries performed when information was only found in books.
Librarians are helping people find the right websites to answer their questions, but there’s also a ton of services. They’re working closely with the public through informative and collaborative programming. For example, you can go to the library if you want to learn about starting your small business. You can attend one of their training programs or visit one of their business centers. You can find a lot of your information for starting your small business and how to navigate everything legally. So, the role of the library hasn’t changed within society. It’s just how we access information within the library that has changed.
Douglas C. Williams is CEO of Williams Data Management and Chairman of the Board for the Vernon Chamber of Commerce. He has over 30 years of experience helping Fortune 500 clients with their document storage, destruction, and data security needs. We had an opportunity to discuss data protection and more in an interview with Doug Williams in Tomorrow’s Job’s Today, an excerpt of which is printed below.
“The future belongs to the fleet of foot. So, guess what, those with a fixed mindset will be passed over by those with a growth mindset.”Douglas C. Williams of Williams Data
Doug, your family has been involved in the data management business for the better part of a century, and you’ve seen a lot of players come and go. How do small businesses like Williams remain resilient in the disruptive world of digital transformation, and what should executives be thinking about in terms of their long-term information management strategies?
Commercial records management, the holistic approach at 30,000 feet includes the digital component, as well as the legacy hard copy component. Our transition in the early 1980s into the commercial records center business from industrial freight warehousing and distribution witnessed similar disruptions. Those disruptions had mostly to do with the shift to the service economy from the industrial and manufacturing economies. Our client base includes enterprise size businesses as well as small and medium-sized businesses.
Executives in charge of information assets need to recognize the holistic scope of those information assets, whether they are structured or unstructured, and apply the information governance and regulatory guidelines to each equally. Knowing that digital technologies will change at light-speed, CEOs and their executive teams need to be knowledgeable and ready for changes in forensic discovery and see the impact of retention milestones for each type of information asset. We all know that text messages, email, and all social media posts have a permanent residency somewhere. Every business, large or small, has to accept a contingent liability regarding them. They need to recognize the action of maintaining a strict policy regarding their information management policies, irrespective of the resident media.