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SIOP 2019 Closing Keynote


by SIOP Administrative Office

SIOP members traveled to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington DC/National Harbor for the #SIOP19 April 4-6.

To close out the 34th Annual SIOP Conference, Megan Smith, CEO of Shift7, gave the keynote address during the closing plenary on Saturday, April 7.

Smith was vice president at Google for 11 years, leading acquisitions of Google Earth, Maps, and Picasa; and later was a VP at Google[x] where she co-created SolveForX and Women Techmakers.

Smith also served as Chief Technology Officer of the United States during the Obama administration. She helped the president and his teams harness the power of data, innovation, and technology on behalf of the nation.

After completing her government service, Smith founded and is now CEO of Shift7, an organization that collaborates with a broad range of other organizations to leverage technology and innovation in tackling society’s hardest challenges. Megan explained that the organization’s name comes from the computer keyboard; when you type Shift7, the ‘&’ symbol appears. Shift7’s initiative is solution making through inclusion. They strive to unlock the collective genius of community to transform people, places, and systems.

During her keynote address, Smith explained how important diversity and inclusion are in the world of work. She emphasized, “The only way to move forward is with all of us.”

She mentioned Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician at NASA. Johnson’s calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. manned spaceflights. With Johnson’s help, the Friendship 7 mission’s success marked the turning point of the competition in space between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Smith continued, “If we don’t start including everybody, we’re in trouble. There’s lots of ways to do it, and the way to do that is surface area. I could do community organizing. We could sit together and worry about the future of work or we could reach out and notice who’s already fixing things. For example, our united nations work. Who’s already fixing justice, gender equality, and climate? How do we come up from underneath and support them? How do you unlock talent at the level that you’re being asked to do? We could take it to a whole other level. If you really get together and start to engage others, it can be very powerful.”

When asked what important steps privileged people can take to bring about change, Smith replied “I think there’s two main parts that can help; the first is to never diminish yourself. Keep bringing your whole self and keep doing what you’re doing because we need you. Second, you can give some of your agency to others to bring them up, too. You have tremendous agency and access, so you can use that.”

Megan closed her address by challenging attendees to listen and be open to cultures that differ from their own cultural norms.

To learn more about the work Smith and Shift7 are doing to bring about change, click here.