The Grill: Greg Taffet, CIO of U.S Gas & Electric

By Mary K. Pratt, Computerworld |  IT Management

Does the experience teach you something new about leadership? The biggest thing that you learn is that you have to get people motivated. And you can always motivate people to do things that they're good at doing.

Where, and why, does the digital divide persist today? It is definitely an economic barrier right now, and with higher rates of unemployment [among lower-income citizens] it's very critical that we provide the tools that people need to bridge that divide. Right now, here in Miami, we have a huge school system -- it's the fourth-largest in the nation. But 60% of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and when you see numbers like that you [realize] those are the people who can't afford to buy a computer. These are the kids and parents who will come to the parks to use this technology. Some of the older people will be able to come and learn to use Skype and be able to talk to their grandchildren.

Does this divide have an impact on businesses in the area? The impact is very significant because we're looking for employees who are computer-literate. You have to have these skills to be hired in any position. In this area, businesses are having trouble finding qualified people to fill the jobs. Many of the jobs are changing from blue-collar to technology-oriented, and many of them are requiring just basic computer skills, being able to do data entry and be proficient using the computer. And it's more from the older generation, because just about all kids coming out of school today know more than their parents.

You've worked as a technology adviser to other nonprofit institutions. What has that work taught you about leadership? That you must understand the business and the business strategy of the nonprofit. That is so much more important than understanding the technology. Because there are 50 different ways to solve a problem, and the business is looking for something that really aligns with its strategy. If you're just proposing technology, most people will brush it aside and say, "This doesn't solve our problem." They want a solution, not a technology.

What are the biggest challenges in your job today? I see the workplace evolving from what people used to call work-life balance to work-life integration. The fact that technology is available everywhere, that people can work on their cellphones, tablets and laptops, the line between life inside and outside the job has blurred to a point where we have to worry about how [work and life integrate] rather than the balance between the two of them.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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