COVID-19 forced companies to adapt more quickly to emerging technologies and is fundamentally changing the way we work, Erica Amoako-Agyei told attendees of the Women in IT 2021 virtual conference. Sponsored by the University of Arkansas Walton Business College, the event was livestreamed on April 7 to a global audience, with Arkansas Money & Politics serving as a media sponsor.
Amoako-Agyei, the event’s keynote speaker, is an international business consultant and business coach at Stanford University’s Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (Seed). After starting her career at age 18 with IBM, she left the United States and moved to Ghana to help launch the company’s Africa division. In addition to her work with Stanford’s Seed program, Amoako-Agyei still works closely with IBM and other companies such as Thunderbird.
“Emphasis in the workplace is now being placed on your ability to do the things computers and machines cannot do,” she told virtual attendees, adding that companies want employees who can effectively coordinate with others, think critically, be creative, use good judgment, make good decisions and have an eye for detail. But the top skill, she stressed, is complex problem solving.
“As IT professionals, we need to see ourselves as more than designers. Rather, we need to see ourselves as changemakers,” she said. “To succeed globally, we need the skills of emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence. It is important to have the ability to work well with people.”
Breakout sessions at the conference, which was themed “Hack the Journey,” included tech ethics, cybersecurity and product management. Virtual attendees included top executives from Northwest Arkansas Fortune 500 firms Walmart, J.B. Hunt and Tyson Foods. Other speakers included Rebecca Wilson, Azure Director for Microsoft’s U.S. South Region, and Dr. Atty Mashatan, founder and director of the Cybersecurity Research Lab (CRL) at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Amoako-Agyei advised women just launching careers never to make assumptions about their abilities based on age.
“With age, you have to work harder to establish credibility through your work,” she said. “Over time, you will begin to build your internal reputation.” Amoako-Agyei noted that she once was the only woman in a room of developers and engineers, but she’s happiest when she feels the most challenged.
“As leaders of tomorrow, we have to be intentional of the people and the company we are a part of. The future of the job is not in the job, it is the one who holds the job.”