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Western Washington Summit 2012: Innovation and Leadership
Stellar lineup addresses education, trade, immigration, and more

Last night, I attended West Sound Technology Association’s (WSTA) annual summit on Innovation and Leadership (WWS2012) at Kitsap Conference Center. The speaker lineup was impressive and included:

  • US Congressman Norm Dicks: The Growing Threat Landscape: Cyber Security Initiatives that Safeguard American Business and Intellectual Property 
  • State Senator Derek Kilmer: Technology, Innovation and the Changing Economy
  • Egils Milbergs, Washington Economic Development Commission: Building a World-Class Innovation Ecosystem
  • Patty Lent, Mayor of City of Bremerton: The New Bremerton: Doing More With Less
  • John Powers, Kitsap Economic Development Alliance: Kitsap — The Most Competitive Community in a Globally Competitive Region   

The keynote, Gary Shapiro, is CEO of Consumer Electronics Association — an organisation which hosts the world’s largest Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He is also the New York Times bestselling author of “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream”. His presentation was energetic, sharp, direct…and his message delivered with conviction and humour.

Rather than recycle what each presenter said, I instead refer you to articles written by Seattle 24x7 and The Kitsap Sun.

Also inspiring were Innovation Showcase sponsor-participants who displayed their successful achievements and efforts – Kitsap County, City of Bremerton, Washington State Broadband Office, Puget Sound Energy, ATS Intelligent Discovery, Paladin Data Systems, Comcast Business Class, Audit West, and The Doctors Clinic.

The overarching theme for the evening was what Superstar America and its leadership needed to do in order to keep the innovative spark alive. Immigration, trade, tax, and education policies were at the top of the list, with a great deal of discussion focusing on the dearth of talent top companies faced.

Some proposed solutions included increasing visas to immigrants with masters and doctorate degrees so they can remain here and work with the companies, organisations, and academic institutions who need them. Another was strong emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects and degrees so American students were better prepared for employment or innovative entrepreneurship roles.

The ambitious agenda left about ½ hour at the end for questions and comments, and this was quickly consumed as I moderated that discussion. Otherwise, below are some remarks I would have made.

  • For years while still president of WSTA, I participated with other statewide associations in Technology Alliance (TA) policy reports on key issues affecting the long-term health of Washington’s technology economy. These included strengthening the quality of early learning, and committing to standards which prepare our students for improved knowledge in core subjects. In other words, STEM. So I get and support that. However, I also recall times when emphasis was placed on getting computer science degrees. Many of those who did ended up turning to worker retraining and workforce development programmes to reinvent themselves after the dot bomb detonated. STEM is absolutely important for our future, but a well-rounded education remains valuable so those with multiple skillsets can pivot into a variety of career choices. Finally, innovation isn’t just about technical mastery of science, technology, engineering, or math. The entrepreneurial mind is a well-oiled machine open to new ideas and possibilities.
  • My other comment would have been about visas which recruited or held onto immigrants with masters and doctorate degrees. I won’t make an argument against the value of encouraging high performance or skimming the cream of the crop. However, it is worth noting the diploma and degree mill business which has exploded because too many tout these degrees but have actually purchased them from unaccredited schools based on life experience. In other words, don’t just focus on degrees without factoring in quality.

WWS2012 was well-executed and impressive. It’s worth noting that Shapiro’s team found WSTA on the web, reached out, and asked to address this community. That’s a true testament to the work WSTA has been doing over the past twelve years in this region. Join and support them so they can continue it.


Doña Keating is President and CEO of Professional Options, a prominent innovator in the policy and management consulting industry which provides solutions for businesses, organisations and governmental agencies. She is also a principal in K2 Strategic Solutions, a partnership between Professional Options and Keating Consulting Service which has a combined 50 year history of providing information technology, policy, and management consulting. Keating’s latest book, “How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Nonprofit Hell”, offers pithy observations and solutions borne of decades of service on non profit boards and committees, advising them, or facilitating executive retreats.

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