What I Learned at the First CTWS Roundtable

Sep 4, 2018 BY Tom Galvin
Group from first round table event

My name is Thomas Galvin, I am a student at the University of Maryland. I have been an intern for the Center for Technology & Workforce Solutions (CTWS) for the past two months. I come to this position without much prior knowledge of the tech industry and as a marketing major, do not come from a tech background. But at the same time, I think I am drawn to CTWS for the same reason many people are attracted to the tech industry. I want to be part of something new and exciting. I want to help “create” something, and like many my age, I want to work for an organization that makes a difference.

Over the last two months, through research, I’ve learned so much about the tech industry: from connecting people all over the world to advancements in healthcare to autonomous vehicles. Even with all the positive contributions tech has made, it is not without issues. For example, women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in the tech industry, despite evidence that organizations with above average diversity numbers consistently outperform those that don’t. Another issue in tech is the skills gap that is a cause for the hundreds of thousands of unfilled job listings every year. CTWS is an organization that aims to provide solutions to these and other problems this industry is facing.

The more I learned about the tech industry, the more I realized how essential organizations like CTWS are and this only intensified my desire to be involved. The problem is, there are so many issues, so where do we start? On July 11, CTWS convened a roundtable discussion that brought together educators, industry professionals, policy makers, and many more, all tasked with setting CTWS on a course to deal with the issues facing tech and to find the right solutions.

The discussion focused on three distinct topics: the pipeline into tech, equity in the industry, and jobs of the future. Each topic had its own issues. Fortunately, there were so many great conversations focused on each of the subjects. Before the roundtable, one thing that kept sticking out to me in my research is there is so much work to do. But beyond that, it wasn’t entirely clear to me where to begin. There needs to be less importance assigned to 4-year college degrees, but most parents want their children to go to college. There may be a good workforce program in New York City, but who says that will work in Utah? There are resources in place for women and minorities to get into tech, but who says they will feel comfortable once they’re in? What this event was able to do was paint a clearer picture of not only what we need to do, but also who we need to connect with and influence.

Something that struck me about this event was how many incredibly intelligent people were there and were willing to give up their day to help find solutions to these issues. To me, this not only highlights how significant the problems we are trying to tackle are but also that we have people who are willing and able to donate their time to help us.

On a more personal note, while the intelligence of the participants was extremely promising for CTWS, it also scared the hell out of me. It made me realize I’m included in one of the many problems the tech industry is facing, which is the confidence gap. Their expertise made me realize how little I know and had me questioning if this is an industry I shouldn’t enter. I know I’m just an intern now, but I graduate college in a year. Am I just going to be left in the dust by more knowledgeable coworkers? I understand that many of these people have decades of experience in this industry, but feelings and logic are often disconnected. So, if anything, now that I personally have felt the effects of a major problem in the tech industry, I feel as if I am better equipped to dig deeper into this issue.

In the end, the roundtable showed me that we have our work cut out for us, but also there are so many people willing and able to help along the way. The participants provided much-needed expertise and experience on a variety of topics, giving CTWS a path to success. There were so many valuable insights brought to the table that gave us, and everyone else present, a greater understanding of exactly what the issues are and what could be done about them. Beyond this, it created a network capable of keeping this conversation going because these problems are not going away overnight.

Tom Galvin is the intern for the Center for Technology & Workforce Solutions (CTWS)