SXSW 2016 exploded on Austin a couple of weeks ago with crowds from across the world gathered in one central spot for the same purpose: fostering creative and professional growth alike.
SXSW is a launching pad for new creative content and emerging technologies, and we wanted to be there.
In this two part series, I will share my account of the conferences and panels we attended while at SXSW.
Our first day SXSW. The first impression was great. It’s very different from the conferences I’ve been before. It’s like a skate park kind of vibe, very informal. Some people were having wine and beers during the sessions. We started with Obama’s interview. The guy is very transparent; he was at ease. It was very refreshing to see the POTUS asking the community for help to solve government issues with technology. He simply gets it, the key to a better democracy and better government services is technology. He knew all the buzzwords, Big Data, Analytics, Algorithms, Apps, the works.
He laughed at the Obamacare fiasco and explained the lessons learned. To that end, he changed the way the government procures and implements technology. In fact, that led to the creation of the US Digital Service, a team of problem solvers that makes the government services simple, effective and efficient.
The interviewer asked the President about the Apple/FBI controversy to which he gave a reasonable explanation. We need to find middle ground on this. The same way the government can obtain a search warrant to enter the home of a suspect, the government should have a secure and trusted way to investigate the data being held in the phones of suspected terrorist and pedophiles.
After listening to the President, we attended a very interesting session hosted by Mr. Norman Winarsky, one of Siri’s co-founder. Yes Siri. I did not know that Apple’s voice command service was a startup they acquired for 500 million. He gave excellent advice. Among all the things he explained one stuck with me: “When you go to market you better have speed because competition will be fierce and to move fast you need money, which is why you almost always need venture funding”.
Find your product/market fit in 15 minutes
Next we listened to Mr. Scott Cook, Founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee at Intuit. This session was very interesting, as he actually selected two startups from the audience and interviewed them just like he does at Intuit with their innovators. It was really interesting how he helped them define their markets better and what they needed to prioritize. He actually went to the web sites of one of the startups, and together with the audience gave advice on things to improve. One term that stuck with me was Social Capital, which is to use the positive input given by your user community to gain credibility. The most important advice from Cook, was that at Intuit, all successful projects have three characteristics: 1) they solve a big problem for customers, 2) Intuit has the capabilities to build the solution and 3) Intuit has the competitive advantage versus the competition when going to market.
Professor You: Why teaching is a 21st Century Skill
I think everybody agrees that the education process needs some serious hacking. We’ve been doing the teacher/classroom thing forever. Today, with all the technology around us, the education process should be improved and should be much better than what it was 15, 10 or even 5 years ago.
In this session, Mr. Jeffrey Young highlighted the fact that a professor does not need to have a PHD to teach; he just needs to know a bit more than the student does in a particular field. Thus, many people can teach a lot of other people. That simple.
Today, there are many platforms to spread knowledge. Young mentioned Udemy, MOOC-list, MRUniversity, Khan Academy, etc. These are places where people can access courses to learn and in some of them, publish what they know to teach others. The more popular one to do so is YouTube.
He narrated a particular story of a Mongolian high school student who aced a circuit design MIT MOOC. While taking the course, this kid created courses for his friends that did not understand English very well. He highlighted the fact that this kid became an instant teacher. What was interesting was that the kid didn’t even realize what he was doing. He is now a formal MIT student.
Other platforms that I thought were interesting where Chegg and tutor.com. Chegg in particular is mostly used by students who tutor other students. Another interesting hack is the accreditation process of these informal education alternatives. When you go to college you get a degree, but if you study even more through this informal education alternatives, it cannot be validated. That problem is being solved by a company called Credly. Definitely things will change in education.
Selecting the hidden gems in sport
This panel, consisted of Dr. Justin Anderson, Dr. Scott Goldman, Mark Aoyagi, and Taryn Morgan, discussed the process of recruiting top athletic talent. Nowadays they evaluate the athlete in four quadrants:
- Metrics: which is the physical body of the athlete and his/her performance in certain tests such as the 60 yard dash in baseball.
- Performance: the athletes’ performance while playing the sport. For example, batting average in baseball.
- Character in and out of the field (Does he/she throws the helmet when strike out, is the athlete a party animal outside the field?)
- Athletic IQ: These are certain tests, like the SAT, but they measure the ability of an athlete to mentally play the game. For example, how well can a batter anticipate a pitch? Does the player remembers what happened in a situation during the game that will likely repeat and he can anticipate the play?
This last one I thought was very interesting. Today recruiters can evaluate whether an athlete that is not as strong as other, can do a better job because he can compensate through his athletic IQ.
Other things that were mentioned where that recruiters also look for the obstacles an athlete has been in life. Thru this they can evaluate their character and ability to overcome adversity. In other words, how will they react in a situation critical to the team?
Other aspects mentioned, particularly in college recruiting, was the parental helicoptering factor. That is the fact that through mobile devices some athletes are connected to the parents even in college. The recruiters saw good and bad things about it. If you are a parent, just note that it is OK to be connected to your athlete child and give them advice, but the coach is the authority in and out on the field.
So far, I’ve shared my experience of the conferences we attended on day 1 and day 2 at SXSW, but there is still more to cover. Stay tuned for more of day 2 and 3!
Meanwhile, get to know Fusionworks and what we do. Check out our site at www.fwpr.com. We’ll be glad you stop by!
This article was written by Jorge Mejía, Fusionworks’ Director.
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