Takeaways from the 2019 Iowa Tech Summit

Anders Sörman-Nilsson delivers the Keynote Address at the Iowa Technology Summit on Tuesday, October 1.

More than 500 members of Iowa’s tech community spent Tuesday at the Iowa Technology Summit hearing from other Iowans on security, innovation and leadership in the tech industry.

Here are a few highlights from the event:

First ever High School Tech Summit

The first ever took Iowa High School Tech Summit took place on Sept. 30, one day before the Iowa Technology Summit.

The High School Summit exposed high school students from around the state to technology companies and careers throughout Iowa.

Three Iowa leaders—Eddie Etsey, Ben Milne and Antoinette Stevens—spoke at the event and gave presentations designed to challenge stereotypes, demystify the industry and inspire the next generation of Iowa’s high-tech workforce.

Anders Sörman-Nilsson delivers Keynote Address

Customer-led transformation isn’t about ditching the physical in favor of digital, but instead about using both to connect with the analog hearts and digital minds of customers.

That’s the view of Anders Sörman-Nilsson, who delivered the Keynote Address to kick off the Tech Summit on Tuesday morning.

Sörman-Nilsson, a Swedish-Australian futurist, talked about the need for more seamless customer experiences in a world where every industry and brand is being digitally hacked.

He discussed how leaders can cope with changes, enthusiastically embrace the future and turn research into foresight that will impact their business.

“The battle lines of workplaces have shifted in terms of what defines work,” said Sörman-Nilsson. “It’s often said the digital world is dehumanizing but I would argue that courtesy of technology, we can in fact code for more humanity.”

Brad Dwyer discusses new innovations in AI

Brad Dwyer, founder of Roboflow.ai, shared his thoughts and learnings on recent innovation in the field of artificial intelligence.

Dwyer demonstrated how AI programming is now entering into fields that were previously human-only creative endeavors such as writing, painting, musical compositions and generating entirely new ideas.

“The questions I get a lot is are we heading towards artificial general intelligence,” said Dwyer. “And the answer is I don’t know. I would say that that’s a long ways away and we’re not even close. But I would have said the same thing about the creative stuff that’s happening now five years ago.”

Building company culture for today’s workforce panel

One of the morning’s breakout sessions was a panel that discussed the importance of having more diverse, inclusive and open workplaces.

The panel was moderated by Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant of Heartland Area Education Agency. The four panelists were:

  • Shea Daniels, Lead Software Engineer, Dwolla
  • Kirsten Bosch, Regional Delivery Manager, Accenture Industry X.0
  • Izaah JB Knox, Executive Director, Urban Dreams
  • Michele Palmer, HR Director, Microsoft

The panel addressed what the right policies are, how to implement them and how to communicate them to employees, providing attendees with tools and tips to help enable a more inclusive workplace.

“It’s important to realize that policies are hugely broad. The way I like to look at is the same way I look at our engineering problems,” said Shea Daniels. “We need to have an agile mindset. The people are more important than anything else and we need to try things as we go.”

Daniels recently started the Transition Forward Project, a project that helps organizations in developing guidance to support the gender expression of all employees, specifically those that are transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming and those who decide to transition in the workplace.