Tech Job Creation and the Spirit of Innovation

Earlier this month, The Montana High Tech Jobs Summit brought together some of the nation’s tech leaders to discuss the topic of tech job creation in Montana. The event was held at the University of Montana and was co-hosted by U.S. Senator Steve Daines (MT) and the Montana Chamber of Commerce Foundation. VMware COO Sanjay Poonen was invited to keynote the summit and provide his perspective on tech, cybersecurity and opportunities for tech job creation within the state of Montana. (Watch the full keynote here: Montana High Tech Summit.)

Digital Transformation: A Look Back Informs the Future

VMware COO Sanjay Poonen talks about tech job creation at the Montana High Tech Summit

VMware COO Sanjay Poonen talks about digital transformation, cybersecurity and tech job creation at the Montana High Tech Summit.

To set the stage for the audience, Sanjay reminded the crowd that a hundred years ago, steel, oil and mining comprised the major industries in the U.S. As recently as five decades ago, oil and gas dominated the country’s economy. Fast forward to 2017, and technology is the dominant sector, followed by financial services and healthcare. Not only is the technology sector itself a major industry, but it’s also driving major change in the majority of other industries as well. As Marc Andreessen famously said, “Software is eating the world.”

But just as in the past, those who do not evolve risk becoming obsolete, and VMware is not immune to these changes. Poonen explained VMware’s own adaptation process: “We had to then ask ourselves, ‘How are we going to take advantage of the cloud as opposed to having it disrupt us?’” According to Poonen, partnerships with Amazon Web Services (AWS) in combination with VMware’s recent acquisitions have allowed VMware to transform its offerings to meet the ever-changing needs of CIOs and seize cloud opportunity in the face of disruption.

As the world continues to grow and change as a result of today’s industry shifts, it’s become apparent that tech, combined with globalization, has become the great equalizer: driving innovation across the globe. CIOs know this. For the enterprise, that means prioritizing cloud, mobility, and security.

Cybersecurity: Room for Improvement

As with all major economic shifts, the ripple effect of change can be fast-moving and far reaching, creating new challenges that need to be solved. “The problem with the security industry is that it’s really complex,” said Poonen. He acknowledged the hard reality that CEOs are constantly worried about cybersecurity incidents. No one wants to be in the news for a breach.

But new challenges bring the opportunity for new solutions and VMware, and Poonen in particular, have identified cybersecurity as one of the main areas for growth in the tech industry, with regard to both tech job creation and investment. “Security is going to unleash billions of dollars of spending and I expect students and entrepreneurs to take advantage of this.” The three essential areas of concentration for cybersecurity identified by VMware include; securing infrastructure, integrating ecosystems and maintaining proper cyber hygiene. Taken together, these steps increase the likelihood of avoiding serious cybersecurity threats.

Poonen drew parallels between cyber hygiene and personal hygiene. In order to maintain good health, you must have a proper diet and take vitamins and supplements as needed. When sick, you might take antibiotics. Healthy grooming habits help ward off bacteria, germs and various other health threats. So what does a DDoS attack have to do with flossing?

These same principles apply to ensuring the security of your enterprise. Poonen highlighted the five key steps to implementing cybersecurity:

Core Principles of Cyber Hygiene In a World of Cloud and Mobility:

  1. Least Privilege: Users should be allowed nothing more than the minimum access required to perform their job
  2. Micro-segmentation: Divide your IT environment into smaller parts in order to make protection more manageable and to contain damage in the event that an individual part of the environment gets compromised
  3. Encryption: In the event of a data breach, encryption protects critical files, even if they’ve been stolen
  4. Multi-factor Authentication: The identity of users and system components should be verified using multiple factors (not just simple passwords)
  5. Patching: Systems should be kept up to date and consistently maintained

TECH JOB CREATION: Building Opportunity Outside of Silicon Valley

It’s clear that various areas of tech, including cybersecurity, offer substantial employment opportunities that will only continue to grow. But as other industries shift out of the spotlight, will geographies outside of Silicon Valley reap the benefits of this new economy? As Sanjay pointed out, places like Atlanta and Missoula, Montana are ripe for development due to their proximity to universities and the resultant growth potential. This, in combination with rising costs in traditional tech hubs, explained Poonen, is driving a less centralized approach to tech growth.

Take VMware’s acquisition of AirWatch, for example. As VMware looked to expand and grow to meet new needs in technology, the company was faced with a choice: should VMware stay in Silicon Valley or look elsewhere? Growth potential in Atlanta was a major factor in VMware’s decision to acquire AirWatch in 2014. Additionally, digital transformation and globalization allow the best talent to collaborate regardless of physical location. As a result, VMware was able to acquire and effectively integrate the number one player in the mobility industry, although AirWatch’s physical offices were thousands of miles away from the VMware headquarters in Palo Alto.

Since the acquisition, AirWatch has grown to be a VMware success story in many ways, but particularly with regard to tech job creation. The company has brought more jobs to Atlanta and employees have gone on to start their own companies within the city. According to Poonen, VMware’s acquisition of AirWatch illustrates a trend he anticipates to continue: “We believe that when you can get academia and industry working closely together you get innovations that are going to help shape where the world is going.”