What does it really mean to inspire?

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Author: Mike Smith, Managing Director, IBM New Zealand

Last week, I was honoured to represent IBM as a finalist for an NZ Hi-Tech Award in recognition of our contribution to the NZ Hi-Tech sector. I was also thrilled to present the Hi-Tech Inspiring Individual of the Year Award to Peter Beck, Founder and CEO, Rocket Lab.

Mike Smith congratulates the winner of the Hi-Tech Inspiring Individual of the Year Award, Peter Beck

Mike Smith (right) congratulates the winner of the Hi-Tech Inspiring Individual of the Year Award, Peter Beck (left)

There are 57,000 industry professionals working in New Zealand’s technology sector – a sector that’s growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole. There’s no doubt we’re in an industry that demands a lot from us; the ability to be agile, respond to change and offer creative solutions to complex problems. These are just some of the symptoms of digital reinvention – a process that is ongoing for every organisation. It means we’re competing at an unprecedented rate and we’re reinventing our skillsets more so than ever before.

To inspire people under these conditions is an inspiration in itself – but what does it really mean to inspire, and why is this so important in our work? Inspiration gives us encouragement, confidence and a new perspective. It sparks new ideas and helps us to grow and learn.

Inspiring individuals often have a unique view of the world, they have multiple areas of focus at any one time, and they’re not afraid to take the path less travelled. In the fast-paced and ever-changing world we now operate in, these qualities and skills are essential in equipping teams and organisations to respond to change.

One area that’s played a big role in our contribution to NZ’s high-tech industry is our engagement in developing NZ’s skills for the new digital economy – one of the greatest challenges of our time is the well-publicised skills gap. I’m proud that IBM is helping address that by bringing P-Tech (or Pathways in Technology) to NZ.

We’re building a bridge between what industry needs and what tertiary education provides with a three-way partnership between industry, high schools and further education, with all three entities working together to ensure work readiness. It’s a way of building an onramp for kids to come straight into really good quality jobs in the tech sector.

P-TECH begins in New Zealand in term three at Aorere College and Manurewa High School in partnership with The Warehouse Group and Manukau Institute of Technology.

Today, technology is often grounded in a higher purpose; underpinned by data, trust and agility – among other things.  At IBM, this higher purpose is seen in our use of blockchain to help solve the problem of ocean pollution or in our use of AI to help curb issues such as human trafficking.

As I reflect on all these changes, I’d characterise them as a shift from experimentation into reinvention, and this has had a significant impact on what IBM sets out to achieve with technology and in turn, what our clients hope to achieve too.


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