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  • 03/27/2024 10:48 AM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    Embracing AI in Leadership

    In November 2023, I presented to and spoke with a group of technologists on the topic of “Embracing AI in Leadership.” The mission was to open people’s eyes to the possibilities of enhancing their own growth potential in their leadership journey by utilizing Generative AI. This included real case studies, several Gen AI tools, and various prompting techniques. Where there were a few skeptics at the beginning of the presentation, in the end, they were converted into believers. Task completed? Well, I think this journey is and will be a work in progress for the foreseeable future.

    My decision to delve into this topic was driven by multiple inspirations. First among them was witnessing the widening divide between the technologically empowered and the underserved. My journey from blue-collar sectors to the forefront of the tech industry has confirmed and validated the idea that there are boundless opportunities that technology can offer. Yet, it has also highlighted a stark reality: as technology progresses, the chasm deepens between those who continuously evolve with technology and those who remain disconnected. This disparity, especially with the advent of easily accessible Generative AI, is set to expand even more rapidly, distinguishing between the adopters of AI and those left behind.

    Setting AI aside for the moment, Scott Klososky points out that we have an existing problem. Even amongst well-established organizations, there are digital skills gaps that incur massive hidden costs. I have witnessed this myself at multiple organizations over the past several years. For instance, many individuals remain reliant on their mapped network drives for accessing and managing shared content. Mapped network drives have been around for a very long time. At the risk of opening myself up to rebuke, I’ll go ahead and say it, this is old-school technology, pre-cloud, pre-OneDrive, and pre-modern-tech.

    On one hand, some IT departments have invested heavily to ensure access to their mapped drives and shared content is seamless. On the other hand, many users experience frustration with the less-than-optimal method of working with their content, especially when on the move. What makes this worse is these same organizations have also invested in Microsoft 365 (M365), a comprehensive digital workplace. Yet 80% or more of users are still locked in their old-school processes that revolve around their mapped drives (these are my unofficial stats).

    This scenario underscores a missed opportunity to leverage existing resources more effectively and highlights the pressing need to address the digital skills gap within the organization. As Scott points out, the organization is responsible for closing the digital skills gap or suffer the resulting cost of a lack of efficiency and effectiveness.

    Get Your Digital House in Order

    Switching back to the AI topic. If your organization already has a detrimental digital skills gap, you have some work to do as a technology leader. Embracing AI in Leadership is based on the idea that, conceptually, you can use generative AI to improve your leadership capabilities, including strategic thinking, future-scenario simulations, enhanced research capabilities, and potentially help you devise a strategy and plan for closing the digital skills gap in your organization. I took a few minutes working with ChatGPT to generate the following high-level strategy as a good starting point to consider.

    Strategy Component

    Action Items

    Expected Outcomes

    Baseline Digital Skills Assessment

    - Assess to identify skills gaps.
    - Benchmark against industry.

    - Clear understanding of skills gaps.
    - Identified improvement areas.

    Customized Learning Pathways

    - Develop role-specific pathways.
    - Utilize AI for personalized learning.

    - Role-relevant skills improvement.
    - Higher engagement.

    Leverage Existing Technologies

    - Train with Microsoft 365.
    - Workshops for new tech adoption.

    - Improved tool utilization.
    - Reduced outdated tech reliance.

    Promote a Culture of Continuous Learning

    - Reward learning achievements.
    - Foster knowledge sharing and mentoring.

    - Learning as a core value.
    - Supportive learning environment.

    Generative AI in Leadership Development

    - Integrate AI for planning and simulations.
    - AI training for leaders.

    - Enhanced leadership skills.
    - Better planning capabilities.

    Continuous Feedback and Adaptation

    - Feedback loops for learning effectiveness.
    - Update materials based on feedback.

    - Agile adaptation to tech changes.
    - Skills aligned with goals.

    Beyond the Skills Gap: Paving the Way for AI and Digital Innovation

    This strategy lays the foundation for AI adoption and other technological advancements, while addressing the digital skills gap is crucial, it’s just one aspect. Organizations are embarking on extensive digital transformation, adopting advanced ERP systems, shifting to cloud-based development, enhancing cybersecurity, and establishing robust disaster recovery plans. Amidst these transformations, businesses strive to excel, balancing multiple initiatives seamlessly in their dynamic operations.

    As a technology leader, prioritize delivering high-quality digital transformations, using AI judiciously to augment your leadership and ensure initiatives remain focused and effective, without diluting quality or mission clarity. At some point, your organization might consider tackling AI head-on. For example, evaluating viable use cases, considering deploying your own Large Language Model (LLM) internally, training or fine-tuning your models using your own proprietary data, and then figuring out how to production-ize AI solutions. As you prepare for this new initiative, find the right partner and hire or train the right leaders who can devote 100% of their effort to AI. You will need leadership, experience, and a team to tackle this new space.

    In Conclusion

    As we explore “Embracing AI in Leadership” and tackle the digital skills gap alongside our digital transformation efforts, the journey is both challenging and filled with opportunities. Fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptability is key to not just bridging the digital divide but thriving in the era of rapid technological advancement. Our ongoing endeavor is to leverage technology to enhance our leadership, improve operations, and drive organizational growth in a world where technology continuously reshapes our landscape.

    Bio: Kalen Howell has a master's degree in computer science from Franklin University and an MBA from the University of Dayton and has worked in the software development industry for over 20 years. Today, as CIO, Kalen leads a technology team, IT OPS, and Software Development, with huge digital initiatives rolling out to organizations across the US, Canada, and Mexico.

  • 03/27/2024 10:44 AM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    My youngest son has no fear of technology and, until recently, no programming experience. That dramatically changed when his logistics professor asked his business school students to build an interactive digital map of the world depicting the sourcing, manufacturing, shipping, and receiving patterns for a fictitious, complex supply chain case study.

    My son, in a few days, used an Excel data file and OpenAI’s GPT-4 to create and edit code in RStudio and build the interactive model. This exemplifies the democratization of skills previously accessible only to a subset of the population.

    As a result, we are going to see an explosion of innovation as creative people around the globe tap into this power.

    Applying AI to Solve Healthcare Problems

    In healthcare, we've leveraged algorithm-based machine learning for years. Our primary applications in imaging studies have quickly identified tissue abnormalities, genetic assessments to understand the future risk of cancer, and predictive models to catch infections early so they can be treated before becoming life-threatening.

    Generative AI is going to positively impact healthcare, and Kettering Health will see initial benefits in three areas: 

    • Provider workload: Chart summaries can be automatically prepared to share with the patient or referring provider. Inbox assistants help the clinician quickly reply to patient questions.
    • Rare disease management: Analytics assistants will help clinicians find other patients with rare symptoms like the ones they are treating and help the clinician connect with that care team so a treatment plan can be developed.
    • Revenue cycle efficiency: Existing automation opportunities will be enhanced to increase the efficiency of burdensome diagnostic coding and billing processes.

    Most healthcare organizations don't have the deep pockets needed to invest in this technology to be on the cutting edge. But the good news is that Epic (our electronic healthcare record systems partner) and Microsoft are making huge investments in generative AI.

    Because of that, we can partner with our providers to prototype features in the three areas I listed to determine which are the most valuable, integrate them into their workflows, and then continue to learn as more practical applications are developed.

    Our first serious venture into generative AI is to use it to assist our physicians to select the appropriate diagnosis codes while charting, saving time and increasing accuracy. We are piloting a solution in one of our hospitals—with plans to scale throughout our system’s acute locations.

    It’s More Than Hype

    This technology is exciting, and no one is completely sure of its future benefits. We’ve seen careless accelerated approaches to adopting AI lead many organizations, across all industries, into the troubled waters of IP law, copyright infringement, plagiarism, and even moral calamity.

    However, as my son’s experience illustrates, the potential value is real.

    I look forward to when more of us adopt these skills and move beyond generative AI applications that save time or reduce the burden of repetitive tasks to truly life-enhancing innovations for our community.

    Bio: Eric Crouch serves as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Vice President for Information Services at Kettering Health. He oversees the strategic planning, implementation, and management of information technology and digital transformation initiatives. The people at Kettering Health serve in medical centers and outpatient locations throughout western Ohio and are dedicated to elevating the health, healing, and hope of the community.

  • 03/27/2024 10:36 AM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    Quantum computing is a massive leap forward in computational capabilities potentially revolutionizing whole industries and solving previously intractable problems. Quantum computing relies on highly specialized technology (hardware and algorithms) that takes advantage of quantum mechanics to process information in ways that would have been considered science fiction not long ago. Quantum computers can solve extraordinarily complex problems that even supercomputers can’t solve in a reasonable amount of time, like before the sun burns out. Let’s take a deeper look at quantum computing.

    What is quantum computing?

    Quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, as basic informational units. Unlike traditional bits which can represent either 0 or 1, a qubit can exist in a state of 0, 1, or both at the same time thanks to the quantum phenomenon known as superposition. This allows quantum computers to explore multiple possibilities simultaneously, and in conjunction with other quantum phenomena such as entanglement and interference, solve highly complex problems much faster than traditional computers.

    The quantum theory of physics was born in 1900 when physicist Max Planck published his study on the effect of radiation on a “blackbody” substance. As a subset of quantum physics, quantum computing is a relatively new field. It began to take off in 1994 when Peter Shor developed a quantum algorithm for factoring integers with the potential to crack public-key encryption schemes such as RSA or ECC. Astounding progress has been made in the decades since, major milestones include:

    • 1995: David Deutsch and Richard Jozsa demonstrate the first quantum algorithm that can outperform any traditional algorithm on a specific problem.
    • 1996: Lov Grover invents a quantum search algorithm that sports a quadratic performance improvement over traditional algorithms.
    • 2001: IBM builds the first quantum computer to execute Shor's algorithm.
    • 2007: D-Wave Systems demonstrated the first commercial quantum computer.
    • 2019: Google claims quantum supremacy by performing a random circuit sampling in 200 seconds versus 10,000 years on a state-of-the-art supercomputer.
    • 2020: IBM announces quantum advantage by performing a financial portfolio optimization task in 2 minutes versus 6 hours on a state-of-the-art supercomputer.
    • 2020: China achieves quantum supremacy by performing a Gaussian boson sampling task in 200 seconds versus 2.5 billion years on a state-of-the-art supercomputer.

    2023: IBM announces plans to build a 100,000-qubit machine that will work alongside traditional supercomputers to achieve breakthroughs in drug discovery and other advanced applications.

    Quantum computing technology continues to advance rapidly. Industry leaders such as IBM, Google, and D-Wave, as well as academic institutions and startups continue to push the boundaries of what's possible. Currently, most work in the field is focused on reducing error rates, developing error correcting algorithms, increasing the number of qubits, and improving qubit coherence times which is length of time a qubit can maintain quantum state.

    Common Benefits of Quantum Computing

    The advent of quantum computing brings a host of benefits including:

    • Speed: Quantum computers can solve certain problems exponentially faster than traditional computers. Shor's algorithm could factor a 2,048-bit number in about 10 minutes, versus billions of years on a traditional supercomputer. It’s worth noting that this has raised strong concerns about the future of encryption.
    • Efficiency: Quantum computers can solve certain complex problems with fewer resources than traditional computers.
    • Power: Quantum computers can manage more complex problems, even problems that were previously unsolvable.
    • Security: Quantum computing introduces new paradigms in encryption.
    • Innovation: Quantum computing enables breakthroughs by handling extraordinarily complex simulations and calculations that are impractical if not impossible for traditional computers.

    Common Challenges of Quantum Computing

    Quantum computing is not without challenges, including:

    • Hardware: Quantum computers are complex, expensive and difficult to build and operate. They currently require extreme cooling and specialized equipment to maintain the quantum states of qubits, making them impractical for widespread use.
    • Software: Quantum computing requires new programming languages, algorithms, and tools.
    • Threats: Quantum computing poses a significant threat to current cryptographic standards putting vast amounts of sensitive data at risk.
    • Technical Challenges: Quantum computing is an immature and rapidly advancing field. Error rates and qubit coherence must be overcome to fully realize quantum computing’s benefits.
    • Ethics: Quantum computing poses profound social and ethical implications. It creates the potential for new forms of power and influence, as well as new forms of harm, inequality, and conflict. For additional insights, check out this article from Deloitte Quantum computing may create ethical risks for businesses. It’s time to prepare”.

    How Quantum Computing Is Currently Used

    • Despite challenges and concerns, quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize industries including artificial intelligence, physics, medicine, chemistry, logistics, finance, cryptography and more. Current applications for quantum computing include:
    • Advanced simulations: Quantum computers could simulate the behavior of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles leading to breakthroughs in the design of new materials, drugs, and energy sources.
    • Optimization: Quantum computers could tackle complex optimization problems that require finding the best solution from a vast number of possibilities. Examples include scheduling, routing, and planning.
    • Accelerating machine learning: Quantum computers could enhance the performance and capabilities of machine learning models through faster training, better accuracy, and less complexity.
    • Cracking encryption: Quantum algorithms like Shor’s pose a significant threat to data secured by current encryption schemes. Cybersecurity experts have speculated that adversarial nation state actors (APTs) are collecting as much data as possible now knowing that quantum computing will soon make it feasible to crack current encryption schemes and unlock vast troves of stolen data.
    • Improving encryption: Quantum cryptography promises strong encryption that will be virtually unbreakable. NIST has announced four post-quantum resistant encryption algorithms designed to withstand quantum attacks.
    Conclusion: Facing Our Quantum Future

    Quantum computing is a new paradigm that transcends the limits of traditional computing by harnessing the power of quantum physics to perform calculations that are impractical if not impossible for traditional binary based computers. While still in its developmental stages, quantum computing shows the potential to radically transform our world.

    For technology professionals, quantum computing presents unprecedented opportunities and challenges. Understanding its principles, applications, benefits, and risks will allow us to play a pivotal role in shaping this technology, addressing ethical concerns raised by it, and developing secure, equitable access to quantum technologies.

    The journey into the quantum future is just beginning, and its impact on society, science and the economy will be profound. It’s an exciting time to be alive and to be in tech as we now have the opportunity to shape this future and ensure the power of quantum computing achieves its most beneficial potential.

    Bio: Dave Hatter – CISSP, CISA, CISM, CCSP, CSSLP, PMP, ITIL, is a cybersecurity consultant at Intrust IT. Dave has more than 30 years’ experience in technology as a software engineer and cybersecurity consultant and has served as an adjunct professor at Cincinnati State for nearly 20 years. He is a privacy advocate and an Advisory Board member of the Plunk Foundation. Follow Dave on X (@DaveHatter) for timely and helpful technology news and tips.

  • 02/27/2024 1:26 PM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    In the ever-evolving realm of technology, companies are beginning to realize that diversity and inclusion are critical factors for innovation and progress. Even with this new burgeoning era of understanding, it's clear that women, though brimming with potential, are still vastly underrepresented. Bridging this gender gap requires a concerted effort to empower, encourage, and lead women to pursue careers in technology. One impactful approach to this issue is through skill-based education, providing women with the tools and knowledge they need to excel in the world of tech.  

    The Gender Disparity in Tech  

    Historically, the tech industry has been male dominated, with women comprising a small percentage of the workforce. This disparity is not due to a lack of interest or capability of women but is often attributed to systemic barriers and societal stereotypes that discourage them from pursuing tech-related careers. From high school advanced math programs that historically target males to pop culture and media consistently showing only men as the tech guru sidekicks who help the heroes outwit the villains, the narrative to women and young girls has been, “technology is not the space for you.”  

    The Power of Skill-Based Education 

    Skill-based education serves as a powerful equalizer. By focusing on tangible skills and hands-on learning, women can build the confidence and competence needed to break through barriers in the tech industry. It allows women to equip themselves with coding prowess, data analytics finesse, and cybersecurity wizardry through online courses, coding bootcamps, and engaging workshops, with much less financial cost.  

    Creating Inclusive Learning Environments 

    Imagine this: vibrant communities, mentorship bonds, and initiatives celebrating the triumphs of women in tech. That's the environment we need to foster—one where diversity is not just acknowledged but celebrated. Educational institutions and organizations must actively break down biases within their curricula, ensuring that every woman feels seen and supported.  

    Overcoming Stereotypes 

    Let’s be candid; stereotypes often portray women as less suited for STEM fields, perpetuating the myth that certain professions are a man's world. But within the realm of skill-based education, we shatter these stereotypes, spotlighting the accomplishments of remarkable women who have not only excelled but thrived in tech.  

    Building Confidence Through Hands-On Experience 

    One of the key benefits of skill-based education is the emphasis on practical, hands-on experience. By working on real-world projects, women can gain the confidence and expertise necessary to navigate the tech industry. This approach not only equips them with technical skills but also develops problem-solving abilities and critical thinking—strong qualities for success in any role. Studies have long shown women hesitating to apply for tech roles, even when their skills rival their male counterparts. Skill-based education addresses this by providing a clear pathway for women to develop and showcase their abilities. As they witness the tangible results of their learning, barriers begin to break down, and confidence soars.  


    Let's dismantle the barriers, champion diversity, and celebrate the triumphs of women in tech. By investing in skill development and providing accessible learning opportunities, we aren't just shaping individual success stories; we're creating a platform for women to stand shoulder to shoulder, their brilliance resonating in every innovation and breakthrough. It’s time to make tech an inclusive space. It's time to harness the full potential of diverse talent and build a future where women are equally represented and celebrated in the world of technology, where their unique contributions produce of story of empowerment and achievement. 

  • 02/27/2024 12:59 PM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    In the dynamic world of technology, authenticity is not just a choice; it's a superpower that propels women forward in their journey through challenges and opportunities alike. As a woman in IT, I've found that embracing authenticity has been the key to navigating the twists and turns of my career with unwavering determination and a commitment to staying true to myself. In this blog, I invite you to join me on a transformative journey of self-discovery, resilience, and empowerment in the ever-evolving field of IT. 

    Authenticity is the key to success for women in IT. By embracing our true selves, we unlock our full potential, inspire others, and drive meaningful change in the industry. 

    Amidst the challenges of my journey in IT, one of the most profound experiences was my transition from India to the US. Moving to a new country brought with it a host of challenges, including language barriers and the longing for family back home. These challenges quickly led to negative self-talk and resulted in me diminishing my own skills that I had acquired and learning that I’d received till that point.  

    Despite these obstacles, I embraced the opportunity with courage and determination, seeking out entry-level positions in IT while simultaneously mastering US English. Through perseverance and resilience, I overcame these challenges, created a version of myself that was able to start over, while building on strengths I already had and achieving my goals regardless of what challenges I had to surmount. This proved to me and others that authenticity knows no boundaries and that embracing our true selves is the ultimate path to empowerment. 

    Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Embracing Opportunity and Change 

    "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else." - Judy Garland 

    I have held roles of Software Developer, Business Analyst, Technical Writer, Project Manager, Program Leader, IT Dev Team Manager, Agile Transformation Leader and PMO Director in various organizations in FinTech, Healthcare and Marketing industries. All this while organically growing by learning each skill at the most foundational level, by doing it myself.  

    As women in IT, we often face imposter syndrome, doubting our abilities and downplaying our achievements. But success comes from embracing opportunities and challenges, believing in us, and taking bold steps forward. Even if that means asking for the compensation we deserve, a promotion we have been eyeing, or applying for an opportunity we may have already talked ourselves out of, in our mind. 

    Along the way I found many mentors who I ingratiate myself to this day! For those reading this you know who you are, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart! 

    Continuous Learning, Mentoring, and Modern-Day Skills: 

    We find this world of IT constantly evolving and changing with rapid technical advancements. When we stop learning, we stop growing. In addition to the skills these roles have required, I have recently delved into the realms of Generative AI and Cloud Infrastructure Strategy. Continuously learning and adapting to modern-day technologies is essential in staying relevant and effective in the rapidly evolving field of IT. These skills have not only expanded my expertise but have also enabled me to contribute meaningfully to innovative projects and initiatives. 

    Along my journey in IT, I always look forward to giving back. I've had the privilege of mentoring four talented women in IT, guiding them on their paths while learning valuable lessons from their unique perspectives and experiences. This journey of mentorship has reinforced the importance of giving back and helping others achieve their goals. By lifting each other up and fostering a culture of support and collaboration, we can create a more inclusive and empowering environment for women in the tech industry. 

    A Leap of Faith: Balancing Education, Parenthood, and Career Ambitions 

    "The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them." - Michelle Obama 

    As a mother and a woman in IT, I faced a pivotal moment in my career journey when I decided to pursue higher education while juggling the demands of motherhood and a full-time job. With my first baby just 13 months old, I embarked on the challenging yet rewarding journey of earning an MBA. Balancing late-night study sessions with diaper changes and boardroom meetings, I learned the true meaning of resilience and determination. Despite the obstacles in my path, I refused to let anything hold me back from achieving my goals. Along the way I did turn some naysayers into believers and friends by achieving precisely what I was told ‘I can’t do’! 

    Practical Tips for Embracing Authenticity: 

    1. Stay True to Your Values: In a fast-paced industry like IT, it's easy to get swept up in trends and expectations. Stay grounded by reminding yourself of your core values and beliefs, and let them guide your decisions and actions. 

    2. Embrace Vulnerability:Don't be afraid to show your vulnerabilities and imperfections. It's okay to ask for help, admit when you don't have all the answers, and share your struggles with others. Vulnerability fosters connection and empathy, making you more relatable and approachable. 

    3. Seek Mentorship and Support: Surround yourself with mentors, colleagues, and friends who uplift and support you on your journey. Seek out opportunities for mentorship and peer support, and don't hesitate to reach out for guidance when you need it. 

    4. Celebrate Your Achievements: Take time to celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. Recognize your achievements, acknowledge your progress, and give yourself credit for your hard work and perseverance. 

    Seizing the Moment: Leading with Purpose and Passion 

    "Success is not about the destination but the journey of embracing opportunities and challenges along the way." - Angela Duckworth 

    Authenticity empowers us to lead with purpose and passion, embracing vulnerability and transparency in our interactions with others. By sharing our stories of growth and transformation, we inspire our colleagues and peers to embrace their authenticity, unleash their potential, and pursue their dreams with unwavering conviction. Bringing our whole self to work, being open and honest and leading with purpose and values has continuously proven to be the recipe for success in my career. 


    As I reflect on my journey of growth and empowerment in IT, I'm reminded of the incredible potential that lies within each of us. By embracing authenticity, seizing opportunities, and staying true to ourselves, we can overcome any obstacle and achieve our wildest dreams. Together, let's rewrite the narrative of women in IT, one story at a time. 

    Ashima Sharma works is Senior Director IT at CareSource. Her expertise is in the field of PMO leadership, digital transformation, Agile development business analysis and change management. Ashima has over 20 years of leadership and strategy experience in the IT industry.

  • 01/30/2024 10:45 AM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    Why attend conferences? 

    In our current state of virtual interactions, overwhelmed by Zoom meetings and conference calls, the allure of in-person conferences may seem diminished. The hesitations around handshakes, proximity, and shared spaces are understandable, especially considering the prevailing concerns about health and hygiene. However, it's crucial to reevaluate the significance of attending conferences and consider making them a priority, period. 

    Networking Extravaganza 

    One of the most apparent benefits of attending conferences is the unparalleled opportunity to network with individuals you might not encounter otherwise. Conferences serve as a melting pot of leaders in specific fields, subject matter experts, and peers facing similar challenges or operating within comparable environments. The importance lies in the exposure to diverse experiences within our own fields, offering fresh perspectives on problems that may have seemed insurmountable. This exposure broadens our horizons, enabling us to learn new approaches and ideas that we might never have encountered in our routine professional circles. 

    The chance encounters, often referred to as "drive-byes," present themselves in the hallways, between sessions, and even during meal breaks. Some of my most enriching conversations and discussions on various topics have unfolded spontaneously during these breaks and lunches at conferences. These unplanned interactions have provided invaluable opportunities to broaden my network. Remarkably, the connections made in such informal settings have proven to be exceptionally beneficial over the years, even in situations where I hadn't anticipated needing that resource. These connections have evolved into some of my most trusted professional relationships, with whom I remain closely connected to this day. 

    Meeting Influential Leaders and Your Heroes 

    Conferences offer a unique opportunity to rub shoulders with influential leaders, industry titans, and even your professional heroes. Whether it's participating in a panel discussion, attending keynote addresses, or simply engaging in networking sessions, the chance encounters with individuals who have shaped your industry can be transformative and inspiring. The individuals you encounter at conferences are often considered experts and influencers within the conference's subject matter, and sometimes, even beyond. Reflecting on an experience at the BoxWorks conference, I found myself in the front row listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson. The impact of his wisdom, shared amidst the excitement of the crowd, resonated with me on a personal level. This profound experience would not have been as impactful had I not been physically present, feeling the collective energy in the room. Simultaneously, during the Women in IT sessions, I had the privilege of hearing Jill Biden speak. Her insights, especially on navigating personal challenges, deeply affected me. Engaging with her one-on-one after the session was an opportunity, I might have missed had I not attended the conference. 

    Continuous Professional Development 

    Conferences are veritable gold mines of knowledge, providing a unique platform to expand your expertise, learn from industry experts, and improve your skill set. Workshops, presentations, and interactive sessions offer hands-on experiences that go beyond the theoretical realm, fostering a continuous learning environment that can significantly contribute to your professional growth. The smaller group settings can allow for more interpersonal conversation and provide more opportunities for questions to be heard and discussions to be more conclusive. More than once, I have learned a different approach, a new application, or even a new technology I was not aware of that solves a problem my organization had been facing. Attending a conference allowed me to have an impromptu conversation with a vendor, another attendee, or a technology expert that I would not have even known to have sought out. 

    Insights into the Latest Trends 

    Staying ahead of the curve is essential in any industry, and conferences are the hotspots for unveiling the latest trends, innovations, and technological advancements. Engaging with thought leaders and industry pioneers provides a front-row seat to the future landscape of your field. These events serve as dynamic forums where groundbreaking ideas are discussed, emerging technologies are showcased, and visionary strategies are unveiled. 

    Conferences offer a unique opportunity to gain a deep understanding of the current market dynamics and where it's headed. Attendees often have the privilege of participating in discussions and sessions that delve into cutting-edge concepts, disruptive technologies, and transformative industry shifts. Keynote speakers, who are often influential figures with their finger on the industry's pulse, share invaluable insights into the direction of the market, helping attendees anticipate changes and adapt their strategies accordingly. 

    Moreover, these gatherings facilitate direct interactions with industry experts and innovators who are driving the latest trends. Networking sessions, panel discussions, and collaborative workshops create an environment where professionals can engage in meaningful conversations about the challenges and opportunities posed by emerging trends. These interactions not only provide theoretical knowledge but also offer practical insights on how to implement and leverage these trends in your specific professional context. 

    Conferences act as accelerators for staying informed about the newest methodologies, tools, and best practices that are reshaping the industry landscape. Whether it's the integration of artificial intelligence, the evolution of sustainable practices, or the latest advancements in digital transformation, conferences offer a comprehensive and firsthand view of the trends that will define the future of your profession. 

    Enhancing Your Professional Profile 

    Attending conferences isn't just about accumulating knowledge; it's about showcasing your commitment to professional development. Including conference participation on your resume demonstrates your proactive approach to staying informed, engaged, and connected within your industry. It signals to potential employers that you are dedicated to continuous improvement and staying abreast of the latest industry trends.  It may also lead to topical conversation within an interview conversation that sets you apart from other candidates! 

    By immersing yourself in the immense opportunity of insights presented at conferences, you not only gain a competitive edge but also position yourself as a forward-thinking professional. These events empower you to become a trendsetter within your organization, bringing back actionable knowledge that can shape strategies, influence decision-making, and contribute to the success of your team or business. In essence, attending conferences becomes a strategic investment in your professional acumen, ensuring that you are not just keeping up with the latest trends but actively shaping and leading the way forward. 

    Jill Campbell is a seasoned IT leader known for her successful track record in crafting clear and compelling IT and Digital strategies. She is an expert in developing detailed transformation IT roadmaps, aligning IT organizational models, and optimizing business systems. She has excelled in leadership roles within both commercial and defense sectors and currently enjoys consulting in both higher education and non-profits.

  • 01/30/2024 9:46 AM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    Navigating the ever-evolving landscape of cyber insurance is something that we cannot rest on. As the year begins, most of us are looking into what this year holds. As we know, the rapidly changing landscape of IT is evolving and will always be presenting a myriad of challenges and opportunities. Among these, one significant change that is poised to shape the future is the transformation of cyber insurance. We will touch on the changing dynamics of cyber insurance and how the effects of these changes will impact organizations of all sizes.

    As we are gearing up for this new year and moving 2023 to our rear-view mirror, some interesting things are occurring in all facets of IT. One factor that will become more and more prevalent in 2024 and beyond is what Cyber Insurance will cover and what will be changing in this space. One of the cornerstones of the insurance world, Lloyds of London announced in 2023 that they have a significant exclusion. They will refuse to cover “nation state attacks” and this move has caused a ripple effect that is impacting organizations seeking cyber insurance. Additionally, we have even seen certain clients denied cyber insurance which raises concerns about the sustainability of the cyber insurance landscape.

    As we gaze into the future, it is becoming increasing evident that cyber insurance will fall into one of these distinct buckets:

    1. Pricey Proposition- Premiums will soar past what they are currently with the number of cyber threats growing, the complexity of the threats, and ransoms increasing. Cyber Insurance companies are facing the risks and are likely to place the burden onto those getting insured, making this a costly investment.
    2. Denial Dilemma- With the scope of coverage shrinking, organizations may face getting denied cyber insurance as criteria for approval will become more stringent.
    3. Condensed Coverage- With cyber insurance coverage being reduced and some attacks not being covered from the get-go, some organizations will wonder what is point of being insured at all.
    4. Independently Self- Insured- Facing expensive premiums, denials, condensed coverage, some organizations will consider self-insuring and taking on the risks of what those entails.

    A recent cyber insurance policy, seen below, that took effect on January 1st, 2024, shows exactly what organizations are up against when looking into cyber insurance.

    If we are being honest what DOESN’T constitute “cyber warfare”? As the lines of cyber warfare are blurred, cyber insurance organizations will have to narrow down what they will and will not cover. As cyber insurance companies grapple with these nuances, organizations are left navigating a complex landscape where the terms and conditions are constantly under review.  This will greatly impact both costs to the end-user, and at some point, users will have to decide IF they will choose to continue insurance coverage or not.

    In conclusion, the shifting of cyber insurance in 2024 demands that organizations are informed of the changes and proactively looking at what the cyber insurance companies are doing. The trends indicate that higher costs, increased denials, and reduced coverage are coming. Navigating this requires a deep understanding of the evolving landscape, a commitment to robust cybersecurity practices, and a readiness to adapt to the changing norms within the insurance industry.

    As we start the new year, organizations must critically evaluate their cyber insurance needs, reassess their risk tolerance, and chart a course that aligns with the evolving realities of the digital age. The journey ahead is complex, but with informed decision-making and a resilient cybersecurity strategy, organizations can navigate the challenges and uncertainties that lie on the horizon.

    Seth Marsh is a security specialist with over 30 years of experience in the IT industry. Before leading Sales & Marketing at TMG, Seth led sales for a global full-service security provider and served as a VAR rep focusing on security during his last 12+ years specifically while working with Cisco. This breadth of experience allows him to understand clients’ needs and the ins and outs of the supplier and distribution side.

  • 12/20/2023 2:27 PM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    • Whether an individual, a small business, or an enterprise – cybercrime doesn’t discriminate. All things “cyber” continue to grow, unfortunately including cybercrime (cyberattacks, cyberthreats, hacking, phishing, etc.). Follow along to learn what cyber challenges we are anticipating in 2024 and how you can manage.

      Growth in Cybercrime

      Cybercrime has been on a steep rise over the past several years. With ransomware and “data extortion” breaches making the news almost daily, attackers have turned these activities into profitable revenue streams that are unlikely to stop soon. While risks are at an all-time high, the task of protecting networks is becoming harder for businesses of all sizes. As we migrate to de-centralized cloud-based applications, the traditional “castle” method of defense with building walls around our most valued assets will no longer work.

      The number of applications used by a typical organization has rapidly grown in the last few years. According to recent reports, organizations use 130 SaaS apps, which is up from just 16 five years ago. The problem is then compounded by bringing more and more of our devices online, which creates additional “attack vectors” for cybercriminal to target within our environments. Forecasts say there will be 41.6 billion IoT (Internet of Things) * devices by 2025. These include POS and entertainment systems, cell phones and computers, digital signage, printers and more. Not to mention, the software and firmware running these systems sit atop increasingly complex codebases.

      So, what can you do?

      Business size plays little part in who is or is not attacked. As the “business of cybercrime” has grown, there are now attackers that fit victims of every size. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for this complicated problem.

      Individuals and small businesses have limited financial resources dedicated to cybersecurity, making it crucial to prioritize and allocate resources effectively. As businesses grow and become more valuable, it is critical that they continue to increase their security posture at the same rate to address new risks and prevent increasing potential losses.

      The Federal Trade Commission lists five principles of sound data security:

    1.     Take stock: Inventory the office and know what information you have – where is it stored and who has access? What do those people or businesses do with the information they have access to?
    2.     Scale down: Retain only what you need. The more information you hold the greater the risk that personal information will get exposed.
    3.     Lock it: Providing the minimal amount of access needed to people and devices generally leads to better overall security. On your network, two things you can do are:
    a.    Using advanced firewall with security features like intrusion detection, content filtering and built-in malware scanning. This will help prevent customers and your team from mistakenly navigating to malicious websites and help stop already malicious devices from connecting back to their servers.
    b.    Segment your network to reduce the impact if there is a breach. Create smaller “Virtual Networks” (VLANs) in your environment to virtually split up which devices can communicate with each other. A common setup for small to midsize businesses might be to build four “virtual networks” like…
    • Network for devices that fall under compliance, like your POS systems.
    • Network for normal business devices, like a desktop computer or a laptop.
    • Network for your customers.
    • Network for all your IoT devices that don’t fall into one of the other categories.
    4.     Pitch it: If you don’t need it, get rid of it securely. Create a retention schedule and have appropriate disposal processes and devices.
    5.     Plan ahead: Create a policy and procedure regarding cybersecurity and invest in the correct technologies and partners if it’s not your expertise. Use reputable vendors for purchasing hardware and services, and stick with trusted brands – especially when it comes to internet connected devices. Many IoT devices found online are made by fly-by-night manufacturers and have been found to come with “backdoors” built in, but even those not compromised from the start are often not supported long term by the makers and become security risks.
    • And finally, never neglect your people. Even a perfect fence can’t work if someone accidentally leaves the gate open. So, invest in employee training and security awareness.

      A few key practices to highlight: **

      • Secure personal devices like laptops and phones, especially when in public places. Be sure to lock your screen if your computer is unattended, and don’t install software that isn’t authorized on work devices.
      • Educate employees on the signs of a cyberattack, especially phishing, and the laws that apply to data they may handle.
      • Make sure employees know who to turn to and feel they can come to you if an issue arises, it takes the whole team to fight these threats.
      • Remove employee access if they are no longer with the company even if you don’t think the person is a risk. User accounts no one is using leaves the door cracked open for attackers.

    As we approach 2024, individuals and businesses must be prepared to tackle the evolving cyberthreat landscape. Understanding the seriousness of cybersecurity, identifying your unique needs, and addressing the practices above are great ways to start.

    *Stats found in Harvard Business Review:  

    **Principles and practices found from Protecting the Unprotected: Data Breach Prevention and Response – A Guide for Businesses and Charities by Dave Yost

    Jordan is a Senior Manager of Security and Cloud Services at Hawaiian Telcom, a company under altafiber’s family of companies. He has spent nearly two decades helping organizations implement technology to solve business challenges. Jordan has a Master of Science in Leadership and Management and has earned CSSP, C|CISO, and GCFA certifications. He will happily talk your ear off regarding anything with technology, organizational culture, or the best ways to cook meat with fire!

  • 12/20/2023 2:11 PM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    The Crisis We Are In

    The pandemic changed a lot!!   Trust and confidence in IT have increased as a result of the support the organization received from IT when the pandemic was at the most volatile stage. Expectations for IT are also higher now as a result.  While worker productivity was proven to reach, or even surpass, pre-pandemic levels for IT performance, attitudes and expectations of IT staff have also shifted as a result. 

    The "great resignation" emerged - and continues to some extent.  IT staffing functions (both recruiting and retention) are in a state of "crisis" - whether it involves bringing talent in through the front door or preventing them from wanting to leave.  While many organizations have adjusted as a result of living through the pandemic, many more have not - with some that are even still waiting for the "right time" to move back to old practices.

    The staffing crisis is acute enough to put business goals and objectives at serious risk.  While seemingly not a glamorous technology "trending" topic, it continues to rank as one of the highest areas of impact to IT organizations as we move into 2024 - certainly one of the top three across the majority of the 30+ CIO clients I work with and advise.  Many CIOs are battling against antiquated HR-related policy and an organizational culture that works to their disadvantage.  My repeated advice to my clients is not to get caught in the "victim" mentality - but to do more to lead the changes that might be necessary. 

    Staffing (recruiting and retention) as a Core Competence

    Staffing is a multi-dimensional function - encompassing attracting, hiring, and retaining resources.  Too many IT leaders are focused almost exclusively on the hiring function and ignore what it takes to attract and to retain the talent they need. 

    At the same time, workers’ expectations have shifted - whether as a part of living through the pandemic or as a function of the shifting norms and nuances of different generations - work-life balance is higher on the list of important considerations than ever.  The CIO needs to have a strong partner in the CHRO (and support from above) to tackle some of the foundational elements that can positively impact the CIO's staffing functions.

    IT leaders also need to better understand what factors influence the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) of the candidates and employees who are making decisions every day whether to join, stay, or leave.

    Sourcing IT Candidates

    Traditional recruiting channels do not continue to deliver as in the past while direct recruiting of experienced workers is more competitive than ever before.  College Internships as a way of "sourcing" inexperienced candidates continues to change - with candidates entering internship programs earlier in their college years and receiving offers from potential employers much earlier than before.  It's not unusual to see internships attracting sophomores and freshmen while organizations try to lock in earlier on students with potential.

    As a result, non-traditional sourcing channels are gaining attention and interest.  IT Apprenticeship programs have been growing in popularity - targeting "2nd career" candidates in their 30's and 40's as a way of introducing them to more entry-level IT functions such as help desk, deskside support, security monitoring, testing, and even early data analytics. 

    Also, focusing more broadly across all employee demographic categories is important.   More formalized Women in IT programs with specific attention is needed to address the unique needs and interests of women as that demographic continues to see less candidates entering college IT curriculums.  Also, DEI programs are getting more attention to address areas of interest that will help in attracting and retaining talent.


    The economics and benefits of focusing more on retention efforts are clear.  It is easier, less expensive, and less risky to retain a skilled employee who is performing well than to find a new one.  Especially given that much of the job-at-hand is unique to the organization regardless of the core functions that underly the position (and are considered "transferable" skills).

    Understanding what factors drive retention is often a gap for many managers.  Putting too much emphasis on compensation is a common problem. 

    Likewise, assuming that certain retention factors are the same across all workers is another problem.  While trends may seem to emerge across certain demographic dimensions (age, gender, nationality, etc.) knowing your employees well is the best way to know what factors are important to each one.

    Some popular targets in the area of staff retention include developing programs and adjusting policy to:

    o   Allow for flexible work arrangements (location as well as time of day) based on the position 

    o   Accelerate opportunities and timelines for career advancement

    o   Expose employees to other technical (or functional) areas of interest that they aren't currently exposed to - and provide more opportunities for education that can be leveraged

    o   Strengthen performance measurement programs in order to more accurately reward high performers, improve marginal performers, and remove non-performers

    o   Reskill employees and business technologists to fill gaps created by the shift from legacy technologies to emerging ones

    Bottom Line

    The organization relies on the ability of the IT function, more than any other, to achieve its bottom line and to accomplish its goals and objectives - whether it's strategically transforming itself or operating in a business-as-usual mode of operations.   IT leaders need to continually articulate the direct correlation between their ability to perform and "deliver" - and the business outcomes that their IT services are expected to enable or influence.   

    It should be a pretty straightforward value proposition when it comes to getting the attention (and at times the additional investment) needed to address the necessary changes or enhancement. 

    As IT leaders we need to take greater interest, control, and influence over something that is so impactful and influential to our success - and ultimately the success of the organization.

    Paul Stoddard is an Executive Partner with Gartner’s Executive Programs. He works to provide expertise and guidance to his CIO clients as a trusted advisor to help them realize their strategic goals and achieve their business objectives. Paul brings 35+ years of a very broad IT background as both a technology consultant and former CIO at several large-scale firms.

  • 11/29/2023 7:41 AM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    Technology First Was the Place to Be in 2023!

    As the year draws to a close, let’s reflect on how our members lived up to Technology First’s mission to connect, strengthen, and champion the best-connected technology community in the Dayton region.


    Our Peer Resource Groups began the year strong with our Annual CIO Forecast Panel. Board Chair Treg Gilstorf, the Chief Operating Officer for Smart Data and CNBS Software moderated a discussion with J.D. Whitlock, the Chief Operating Officer for Dayton Children’s Hospital, Jon Scruggs, Director of IT for Hobart Service, and Matt Coatney, Chief Information Officer for Thompson Hine LLP. Here is how you can get involved in a Peer Resource Group in 2024.


    Our Digital Mixer was a big hit! We brought education and industry together to meet workforce needs. Many thanks to Partner Wright State University for hosting. Technology First Executive Director, Melissa Cutcher, was a guest on the podcast A Greater Dayton and shared why events like the Digital Mixer make Technology First such a relevant trade association. Here is how you can participate in the 2024 Digital Mixer.


    If it’s March, then it’s time for our Ohio Information Security Conference. Over 300 attendees enjoyed two keynotes, six learning tracks, one CISO panel and over 30 exhibitors ready to help solve their biggest cybersecurity challenges. Here is how you can attend #OISC24.


    Technology First members love to give back and a local Girls Who Code field trip to the GRILL (Gaming Research Integration for Learning Lab) was a fun way to do it. Featuring our mosaic mural, Technology First volunteers helped the chapter learn about systems engineering. Technology First members volunteer for a variety of events throughout the year. If you’d like to join us, here is where you find opportunities for 2024.


    Speaking of volunteers, our Volunteer Appreciation Night at Poelking Lanes was a strike! The VIP Suite was the perfect place to eat, drink, bowl, and network. Thank you again to everyone who gives their time and energy to strengthen our community. Thanks also to the Technology First Board members who were able to attend and thank our volunteers in person. Here are your current Technology First Board of Directors for 2024.


    Executive Director, Melissa Cutcher, was invited to participate in a panel discussion for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Gen D Ignite program. For their Personal Strength and Profession Growth program day, Melissa coached emerging young professional leaders on how to build their networks. If you are interested in helping further Technology First’s mission to build for the future, here is how you can help in 2024.


    We had an amazingly positive response to our Summer Networking Series, #UniteDaytonTech. Our first happy hour event was at Off Par Golf & Social in June and the tickets sold out. It was so much fun, we did it again. This time at Warped Wing Springboro and we packed the house. These events are free to members and are a great way to connect. Here is how you can become a member in 2024.


    Workforce continues to top the list of concerns for our technology community, so we invited Partner, TEKsystems, to present on the State of talent at our Tech Forum. We have several articles regarding the workforce on our TECH NEWS page. Here is where you can read them in 2024.  


    This was a busy month for the community. The Women 4 Technology Peer Resource Group held their first conference, Own IT! Over 125 women gathered to network and champion empowerment. Also in September, you raised $8000 for the Technology First Scholarship Fund at our annual Scramble for Scholarship Golf Outing. Here is how you can contribute to the Technology First Scholarship Fund in 2024.


    We kicked off the regular quarterly meetings of our newest Peer Resource Group, Workforce Development. We had a very interactive panel discussion on alternative recruiting channels. Everyone is welcome to participate in this group. Here is how you can attend discussions in 2024.


    The 17th Annual Taste of IT Conference sold out again this year. We met 470 of our closest friends at the intersection of tactics and trends and shared our knowledge and networks. We enjoyed a great morning keynote from Gary Sorrentino, Global CIO of Zoom, an engaging lunch panel discussion around Industrial AI, 24 breakout sessions, and solutions from 36 providers. Capping off the conference, we recognized technology talent from the Dayton region at our 10th Annual Technology First Leadership Awards. Here is information for the conference in 2024.

    Thank you to our Board, Committees, Partners, Sponsors, and Members for connecting, strengthening, and championing your community this year! We are already looking forward to what 2024 will bring!

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