This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Joanne Wong: Networking Academy Manager for Canada. Earlier this year, I had a chance to keynote academic conferences managed by Joanne. It was a great experience speaking to hundreds of academic leaders, faculty, teachers, certification and government-related groups. At these sessions Joanne displayed her passion, elite talent, and innovation for education and empowering students. This is an area that I would encourage IT professionals to get engaged: speaking at schools, mentoring youth, donating time/resources to support aspiring IT professionals.

Joanne has a remarkable background of contribution and shares her views on education, success attributes for IT professionals, trends, major community groups and global initiatives. Have a look!

Enjoy,
Stephen Ibaraki

Joanne WongJoanne Wong is the Networking Academy Manager for Canada. The Cisco Networking Academy is a comprehensive e-learning program that enables students to develop valuable information and communication technology skills for increased access to opportunities in the global economy.

Since 2000, Joanne collaborates with leaders in education, government, and business to help them understand the importance of programs like the Cisco Networking Academy in helping Canada to sustain economic competitiveness and innovation. In addition, Joanne supports secondary, post-secondary, and non-profit organizations to ensure successful implementation of the Cisco Networking Academy.

Prior to Cisco Networking Academy, Joanne has worked in the Information Technology field as a manufacturing engineer, account manager, and consultant at various organizations such as IBM, Digital Equipment (now HP), SAP, and SHL Systemhouse (now EDS Canada, an HP company).

Joanne holds a Bachelors of Engineering degree from McGill University and is a member of the Quebec Order of Engineers.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

DISCUSSION:

Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:39:
What sparked your initial interest in computers?
"....I got more into computers in my final year of engineering. I took a course where we built microprocessors for automated processing which combined hardware and software and added more complexity...."

:02:44:
Can you share your earlier experiences at McGill and key life lessons you learned at that time?
"....Engineering at McGill was about teamwork, doing projects with your peers. We were also taught by engineers working in the field, not just university professors, and this brought the real life experience to the studies. From this type of education, we learned that to succeed you not only need your technical knowledge but also excellent communication skills. Engineering is not just theoretical but also practical so you have to think and develop many solutions and there is always more than one way to solve a problem...."

:04:44:
What two career tips did you learn from your time at each of the following: IBM, DEC, SAP, SHL?
"....Respect of others and being able to convey technical terms in a business fashion...."

:06:02:
Do you have any innovative achievements in terms of the problems you were trying to solve, your solutions, and the impact it has today and into the future?
"....Working as a consultant you need to have a vision, a high level view of looking at the business and how software and hardware can solve business issues of getting people to work together...."

:08:00:
What motivated Cisco to start the Networking Academy program more than ten years ago?
"....Networking Academy is Cisco's corporate social responsibility program to return back to the community. They realized that simply donating networking equipment to schools was not enough; people needed the knowledge of how networking worked...."

:10:13:
How did you get involved with Cisco?
"....It comes down to personal networking...."

:10:36:
Please overview the current state of the Networking Academy Program and its Canadian initiatives plus global reach.
"....One of the best things is that there are pathways built between secondary and post-secondary so that students can take an IT course in high school and if they like it they can continue in post-secondary and can get that post-secondary credit...."

:13:26:
We have the WorldSkills Competition in Calgary, I guess you will be there?
"....Yes, Cisco is one of the founding sponsors of WorldSkills...."

:13:51:
Working together, how can we ensure the success of students?
"....Networking Academy provides the online curriculum and its updates for free and all the associated tools such as online assessments, labs and online communities. We always have to think of other ways to help the teachers and students; for example, mentorships and access to relevant work experience, giving industry insightfulness. By working with Culminis and other organizations, we need to reach out to IT professionals to help with the future IT generations...."

:14:58:
Tell us more about your vision and the objectives behind your current roles?
"....To facilitate collaboration on a global basis so that technology education is accessible and interesting....Today's students are tech-savvy, they know how to use technology, now we need to take further steps with them and get them more interested in how to design and build the next technology innovations that can be used in many types of organizations or by individuals everywhere...."

:16:46:
What do you hope to accomplish and how will you bring this about?
"....Students need to realize that IT is not just in their city but around the world so that they can reach for the sky and think beyond what they're used to. The ideas have to come from the students on how to maximize the use of technology to change the world, but they have to be open to work with others elsewhere and adapt to the environment around them....."

:17:40:
What are the best job resources for IT professionals?
"....Their present and past colleagues....They need to network, reach out to others and to find those 'hidden' gem jobs....Also not just joining but actively engaging with professional organizations such as Culminis, CIPS, IEEE, etc...."

:18:25:
How does your professional status as an engineer support your work?
"....Being an engineer has given me that logical thinking process of how to solve problems, always thinking out of the box and looking at all possibilities to resolve a problem....Having a professional status gives that credibility of being a problem solver...."

:19:21:
What are your suggestions for managing the economic challenges?
"....As an IT worker, you need to keep updated on technical knowledge and make yourself more valuable to yourself and to your organization. Also be cognizant of the economy and changes happening around you from a people and political perspective and keep abreast of business needs and changes. Overall, be on top of the changing environment...."

:19:51:
How do you manage change?
"....You have to like change to manage it. That is why I like working in IT because change is a constant and you just go with the flow and be on the top of things...."

:20:09:
What are the best ways of making connections?
"....ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE....Keep a smile on your face....Have a positive outlook...."

:20:44:
What can you say about women in technology?
"....Girls are tech-savvy....They have to be creators of the technology, not just users of the technology....They have to be part of the solution...."

:22:02:
As a prominent leader, what were your greatest challenges and how did you overcome them?
"....From two perspectives - from the business side and also from my current work with educators (they kind of meld together).....We have to look at how do we bring together IT solutions, not as a techie solution but as a business solution....And looking at my present role, how do we meld education with technology and how do we get collaboration with educators, non-profit organizations, government and industry to really encourage them to see how technology works, to think outside the box and get educators to realize the benefits of technology...."

:24:23:
Please make predictions for the future, their implications, and how business executives and IT professionals can best prepare?
"...The challenge in technology is not the technology but rather the people who implement and who use technology. Educating users and IT professionals are key for successful technology implementations...."

:26:01:
What do you see as the three top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
"....Convergence and the complexity of technology....Globalization....Not enough collaboration...."

:27:38:
If you were conducting this interview, what 3 questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
"....Why aren't there more girls in the 'Western' world going into IT programs?....How do we get more companies engaged so that post-secondary schools teaching IT programs or even high schools have more ready access to today's technology?....How do we address the IT workforce shortage in Canada?...."

:30:14:
Throughout this interview you have made reference to ICTC - Who is ICTC?
"....ICTC is a sector council, at the Canadian level they are funded by SRSCC (Federal government)....one of their mandates is to represent industry to government to ensure certain standards, to address certain issues that are happening in the IT industry...."

:32:22:
Joanne, please provide your views on the IFIP IP3 program on professionalizing the profession.
"....Having a global standard for the IT practitioner will address the skills shortage, provide IT worker mobility, ensure high quality and consistency of IT, bring in the business aspect such as ROI to technology adoption, continuous professional development - all positive outcomes of IFIP IP3 mission...."