IBM Executive Interview, Susan Puglia [Biz Leader Latte]

IBM-Susan Puglia

“People from different disciplines must communicate with each other and pool their expertise effectively” – Susan Puglia, IBM VP of Global University Programs

Leslieanne John, P-TECH student and IBM CAI intern, is conducting a series of executive interview posts exploring topics such as the technical skills necessary for business today and preparing students for the future.  She’ll also be looking into technical skills gaps and how technology integrates with education.  Her first interview was with Susan Puglia, IBM Vice President of Global University Programs & Vice Chair of the IBM Academy of Technology Board of Governors.

bizleaderlattebannerThe year 2014. We are living in an era where traditional education (reading, writing, and arithmetic) is seemingly as outdated as bellbottom jeans. Although these things are fundamental, are they enough? Since we live in a technology driven world, we are expected to learn technology simply through its usage. But will the young professionals of the future be able to thrive in the tech industry especially with technology evolving so rapidly? I was given the opportunity to interview fellow Brooklynite Susan Puglia, who is the Vice President of University Programs at IBM and the Vice Chair of IBM’s Academy of Technology. She provided me with a plethora of information and some great answers.

Too many educated young people enter the workforce lacking the skills necessary to succeed in the rapidly changing technology industry. Now I know we all want to know how to close the gap, but to fully understand how to fix the gap we must first understand what is driving it. According to Puglia the problem is “the speed of technological change” coupled with “the complexity of real world challenges”.

If the gap doesn’t begin to close, a McKinsey Global Study predicts that by 2018 the U.S. alone could face a shortage of 140,000-190,000 people with deeply analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the ability to process an analysis of big data and make a decision.

The problem has been diagnosed; all that’s left to do is troubleshoot. And according to Susan Puglia we already have the tools needed to do so.

Puglia says that “people from different disciplines must communicate with each other and pool their expertise effectively.”  In addition, “faculty and schools need to continually update their curriculum to bring the latest technologies into courses and degrees” Puglia concedes that keeping up with this pace of change is hard but “forging a stronger collaboration between academia and industry” can make the difference. These partnerships can “create the kinds of experiential learning that fosters collaborative and communications skills” enabling the kind of expertise pooling we need. IBM has already begun implementing these ideas in over 50 universities by aiding these universities in creating curriculums that can enable the skills needed for the rapid evolution of technology.

The gap between the tech industry needs and the skills available will continue to grow rapidly unless we attempt to implement different solutions starting ASAP. Susan Puglia and I have only described a small portion of the solution. But there are so many more parts of the solution waiting to be uncovered.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” –Albert Einstein

IBM CAI intern Leslieanne John interviewing IBM VP Susan Puglia
IBM CAI intern Leslieanne John interviewing IBM VP Susan Puglia


About Susan Puglia

As the Vice Chair of the IBM Academy of Technology’s Board of Governors, Susan provides direction to members and the Academy Leadership Team who dedicate time to leading the innovative projects and initiatives of the Academy.  The IBM Academy of Technology is a society of the top IBM technical leaders organized to advance innovation and thought leadership in key technical areas, improve the development of IBM’s global technical community, and engage clients in technical pursuits that create business value.  In her University Programs role, Susan leads a global team that works across IBM to build relationships of mutual value with targeted universities in areas of collaborative research, skills readiness, recruiting, community responsibility and regional economic development.  Susan is committed to developing technical and business talent, and has established and leads three IBM-wide global programs that aim to attract, develop and progress women in technical career paths.

About the IBM Center for Applied Insights

The IBM Center for Applied Insights introduces new ways of thinking, working and leading. Through evidence-based research, the Center arms leaders with pragmatic guidance and the case for change.


–Additional Contributors:  Alison Fetherstonhaugh, Associate Consultant, and Julie Yamamoto, Social Media Strategist, IBM Center for Applied Insights

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