Harvard alumni working in digital fields foresee a shifting landscape in 2015—from the rise of new leadership to the increasing importance of cybersecurity to the evolution of the freelance economy.
The Harvard community can explore these predictions with each other at Digital Harvard in Austin on Sunday, March 15 at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW). At this casual networking event, Harvard alumni and students who are shaping technological advances around the world will have the opportunity to talk about the digital landscape and their role as innovators.
"College graduates from the Class of 1994 are now rising into the ranks of executive leadership in their organizations—and they have spent their entire professional careers in the digital era. These wired leaders engage via digital and social channels to align and execute on their strategic goals, and they will foster greater openness and transparency. The result: organizations that can attract, develop, and retain these digitally engaged leaders will be more responsive to digital customers, attract top millennial talent, and move with greater speed and alignment than those with more traditional, hierarchical leaders."
"The most technical aspects of building a company have been abstracted away by web services and other open platforms (like Amazon's cloud and 3D printing), allowing entrepreneurs to concentrate on what truly sets their businesses apart. In 2015, this trend will eat the entrepreneurs themselves, giving rise to a more powerful breed of 'liberal arts founders': people who are technically gifted and who have the perspective to see beyond incrementally better versions of what came before. Brian Chesky (Airbnb, fine arts at RISD), Ben Silbermann (Pinterest, political science at Yale) Susan Wojcicki AB '90 (Google/YouTube, history and literature at Harvard) are just the beginning. It's time to make technology human again."
"2015 will be the year cybersecurity becomes a sexy industry. We've grown very accustomed to sharing our lives online, but the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) brings with it the Internet of Dangerous Things. When a hacker can potentially control medical devices remotely or steal intimate personal details from our devices, security will become an integral part of any IoT solution and will undergo more public scrutiny than ever before."
"2015 is going to be a great year for women in technology. While we'll still have important articles on women leaving, we'll start to have more positive coverage about companies that happen to have women as founders. As Rachel Mercer has already said, it's shaping up to be a great year for Women on the Internet. Aside from gender, this year we'll have more tech-mediated non-tech businesses. I'm excited about things like Gertrude—connecting people directly with artists and studios. Over time I think people will figure out how to use technology to make real life more fulfilling."
"The freelance economy went mainstream in 2014—in addition to HourlyNerd, companies like TaskRabbit, Postmates, and Fiverr now allow us to hire on-demand resources for all projects and jobs imaginable. In 2015, we expect this trend to continue and for the freelance economy to move upmarket. Enterprises will realize the opportunity that freelance talent offers, and this new labor force will significantly disrupt the way these companies solve problems. Professional service industries present arguably the largest market opportunity for freelancers, as incumbent firms continue to systematically destroy value for their clients by relying on decades-old business models that force artificially high prices and keep top young business talents from realizing their true potential. Companies across the board will need to adapt to the changing workforce and alter the way business gets done. If 2014 and early 2015 are any indicators, the freelance economy is here to stay."