From NASA Pioneers to New Collar IBMers

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The Ever-Changing Face of Technology

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a movie screening at the White House. In front of a small group of guests, including middle and high school students, she spoke with the stars of the upcoming movie Hidden Figures about how the three African American women they portrayed made possible one of the most pivotal moments in manned space flight.

The movie tells how Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – through brilliance, determination and courage – became central figures in the NASA flight that made John Glenn the first American to orbit the earth. The women not only broke through racial and social barriers, they opened the fields of science, engineering and mathematics to a new generation of innovators whose diversity, ingenuity and talent would yield innovations that would have been hard to imagine in 1962.

More than 50 years later, the face of American innovation is changing yet again. The world’s best and brightest, following in the footsteps of NASA’s Hidden Figures, have put a man on the moon, interconnected the world and forever changed the way people share information. The incredible pace of technological advancement is changing the way work gets done and, in turn, creating new career opportunities. Not “blue collar” or “white collar” jobs, but “New Collar” roles in some of technology’s hottest growth areas, and roles that prioritize the right skills over having a specific college degree.

Joshua_Kramer

Joshua Kramer, a New Collar IBMer from Austin, Texas.

Consider Joshua Kramer, who feels liberated. “People always used to give me a sideways look when they found out I did not have a 4-year college degree. And I admit it made me a little uncomfortable. But when I read [IBM CEO] Ginni Rometty’s recent comments on ‘new collar’ jobs, I felt proud to be a part of a company that places ability above credentials and embraces the notion that talent comes from all different places.”

At the urging of his dad, an art teacher, Joshua enrolled in a 2-year visual communications program at Austin Community College in Texas. After graduating in 2004, Joshua took a succession of jobs in small local graphic design shops, designing logos, mailers and magazine layouts.

IBM has a long-standing presence in Austin and when the company crossed his mind, Joshua said, “I saw a company that’s bringing in people with different types of backgrounds and education levels. The training, support and responsibilities I have been given say to me, ‘We can learn with you, we trust you, and we know you can do it.’”

Joshua first joined IBM’s Security division in 2013, and put his design skills to work on bridging the gap between the product and marketing teams, eventually leading to a total re-branding of the unit. Today, he is an IBM Advisory Designer working to improve the ways users around the world interact with the analytic capabilities of IBM Watson, the world’s first cognitive computing platform.

Technology has changed a lot since the frantic days of America’s race to the moon. But what hasn’t changed is our ability to drive progress and create new opportunities. And what a journey it has been, from three African American Woman at NASA to a young designer in Texas helping more people tap the power of artificial intelligence. Helping more people like Joshua Kramer build the skills they need for New Collar careers is one important way Congress and the new administration can help empower the next generation of American innovators.

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Media Contact:
Adam R. Pratt
Ph: (202) 551-9625
arpratt@us.ibm.com

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