Making plays for Calgary’s digital talent ecosystem

Industry leaders came together to map the digital future of our city
Industry leaders came together to map the digital future of our city

SAIT’s School for Advanced Digital Technology (SADT) recently convened local and global leaders to define and create a collaborative playbook in support of Calgary’s digital talent ecosystem.

With Calgary currently facing a shortage of local tech talent, SAIT is partnering with industry to reimagine, design and shape a digital talent pipeline. This collaborative response is at the heart of SAIT’s Strategic Plan, New World. New Thinking.

“Our mission at SAIT is to teach and empower people to not only to compete but thrive in a digital economy,” said Jim Gibson, Chief Catalyst, SADT. “The act of gathering builds consensus, trust and community, which is critical to creating a healthy ecosystem.”

Keynote speaker Sir Peter Estlin, Lord Mayor of London, England from 2018 to 2019, independent non-executive director of Rothschild & Co and chair of FutureDotNow, spoke to the impact of innovation and the pressing concern of developing the talent ecosystem.

“Research has proven that success in business is driven by emotional intelligence,” he said. “In practice, we’ve all been exposed over the last year to the impact of COVID, and, if nothing else, COVID has revealed a dependency on technology. One of the challenges that has presented is that we have a lack of skills in much of the workforce.”

“The only way we can fix that is if we have the shared conversation together,” said Gibson.

Hosted by Gibson and mediated by Soula Stathakis, Managing Director, Accenture, the virtual roundtable featured industry leaders from a variety of sectors to start talking next steps.

Now, dig into the perspectives of these change leaders as they define digital and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities of Calgary’s digital future.

Defining the digital future

“Whenever people ask me about digital technology, the one thing I always do is remind them it’s not actually about the technology,” said Chris Foster, VP IS, Chief Information Officer, TC Energy. “I use the examples of Netflix and Uber within TC Energy to actually talk about ‘the art of the possible,’ to talk about the fact there are other ways of doing it…it’s not the technology that leads — it’s the thinking, the creativity, the curiosity about how you solve problems.”

When it comes to the talent who will have that curiosity and creativity, Greg Hart, Partner, Thin Air Labs and Co-Founder, InceptionU, said it’s about competencies.

“… how do we fit into the future? It’s about trying to create the conditions through a design learning approach so people have the competencies required to be successful.”

“All the way through society, whether it’s in school, whether it’s in business, or even for now those who’ve left work, the recognition that skills, as opposed to knowledge-based learning, skills and experiential learning, are so important,” added Estlin. “It’s about that element as human beings of being able to co-create but also to have that resilience.”

Connecting to local

“Calgary is perhaps at a precipice, a tipping point, economically,” said Court Ellingson, Vice President, Research & Strategy, Calgary Economic Development.

We’re going through some pretty rapid economic changes here in Calgary … only through the power of an ecosystem can we truly harness what we have in our community. We have to open up, open source our learning environment so that everybody has an opportunity to participate and contribute. If we’re not opening access and allowing everyone to participate, we’re not realizing the full potential of our city.”

“Locally, we believe that Calgary is in this shift where digital transformation is going to be all around us,” said Tim Wong, Lead, Industry Solutions at Unity Technologies. “But one of the hardest things now is how do we accelerate together as an ecosystem? How can we enable creators that aren’t technical, so they also build and create meaningful experiences?”

The playbook

Gibson and SADT are looking to “land the plane,” a phrase Gibson said they often use in SADT to talk about taking ideas and making them tactical. With guidance from Accenture and in collaboration with 11 organizations, including Mount Royal University, Wealth Simple, Combine and others, they've created a living document to do just that — to help the local talent ecosystem take the next steps.

As a foundation, the playbook will provide guidance toward a shared vocabulary that will cover digital competencies, digital talent ecosystems, playbooks and plays. A play is exactly what you think it is — it’s a tactical initiative, a set of activities we can implement towards overcoming our digital talent challenges.

“Every engine needs a flywheel — as such, this is our contribution to sparking a movement and co-creating the conditions that will accelerate our shared path towards prosperous, globally competitive digital talent in Calgary. The playbook is a living document. In the future, we’re hoping the playbook can be the center point for conversations and collaborations across the ecosystem to accelerate digital skills in Southern Alberta.”

“This is an extraordinary beginning of the conversation we’re going to have,” he said. “I’m excited to launch the Digital Talent Ecosystem Playbook.”

You’re part of the Digital Talent Ecosystem. Check out the playbook for the first two plays and get ready to collaborate and create.

Watch the full event here.

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