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SEI Bolsters GE Professional Development Curriculum with a "Technovation" Executive Training Lab


February 3, 2012—Marshaling experts from across its four programs, and also from among Carnegie Mellon University’s top faculty, the SEI developed and hosted “Technovation,” a week-long executive training lab specifically designed to support GE’s Experienced Information Management Program (EIMP). GE launched EIMP in 1997 as a professional development program to accelerate the career growth of its high-potential IT professionals. Technovation participants represented a range of GE divisions and information technology roles.

“Technovation grew out of a dialogue between GE’s Information Technology Development team and the SEI,” noted SEI Business Manager David Scherb. “GE was looking to refresh the delivery of EIMP’s external, technology focused training component. Following a series of conference calls, we developed a draft agenda, introduced GE to speaker candidates, and provided GE a tour of our facilities. Further discussions followed, and GE was convinced that we could offer their EIMP participants a superior educational experience.”
The SEI developed the concept and theme for Technovation —“The New Normal”—by engaging in one-on-one conversations with past and present EIMP participants. “Almost every industry and organization is redefining itself these days to align with the new normal: leaner, faster, more nimble, more creative,” noted Chris Labash, assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon's Heinz College and the host for Technovation. “In all of our discussions with EIMP participants, we saw a focus on the question ‘What is the new normal and how do we deal with it,” said Labash. “The new normal is about adapting to a digital revolution that's well under way, forcing challenges today and offering the promise of greater changes, and opportunities, in the near future.”

“Some of the biggest takeaways for us were concepts around interdisciplinary teams, creativity, and innovation. At GE we’re always looking for new ways to be even more innovative, so this content was especially interesting and valuable.”– Jennifer Cherry, Leader – IT Talent Development for GE.

To help EIMP participants explore this topic, the SEI recruited an impressive group of guest lecturers. Tom Grant, senior analyst at Forrester Research, delivered the keynote address, “Innovation and the New Normal.” Grant’s address touched on a number of key topics, including the way the Agile process has tipped the influence on product management decisions away from executive management and toward product developers. He also discussed the evolution away from the current “catapult” model of innovation (in which a product is “fired” at the customer) toward a new normal that has become “a dance involving the mutual creation of value between SW software producers and consumers that ensures your customer is happy with the technology and ready to adopt it.”

Guest lecturer Donald Marinelli joined Grant on the program. Marinelli is executive producer of the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) and a tenured professor of drama and arts management at CMU. His lecture was paired with a tour that enabled EIMP participants to experience the workings of the ETC firsthand. Dovetailing Grant’s observations concerning the mutual creation of value between producer and consumer, Marinelli discussed the birth of the ETC, a result of pent-up demand among students already immersed in the world of technology. “Today,” Marinelli said, “the students are smarter than the faculty when it comes to technology. The world is different and you need to recognize that. The new generation has high expectations of what can be accomplished.”

Other notable lecturers on the week-long program included Eric Nyberg, professor in the Language Technologies Institute in the School of Computer Science at CMU; Andrew Wasser, associate dean of The Heinz College’s School of Information Systems and Management at CMU; William L. "Red" Whittaker, Fredkin Professor of Robotics, director of the Field Robotics Center, and founder of the National Robotics Engineering Consortium, all at Carnegie Mellon University; and Alan Willett, president of Oxseeker, Inc. and Team Software Process (TSP) coach.

Throughout the week, participants engaged in discussion with these internationally known expert lecturers, investigated important topics in software engineering areas relevant to their roles at GE, and visited world-renowned research facilities, such as CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center. These activities provided participants a forum for exchanging views on technology challenges with the experts and their colleagues.

“Some of the biggest takeaways for us were concepts around interdisciplinary teams, creativity, and innovation,” said Jennifer Cherry, Leader – IT Talent Development for GE. “At GE we’re always looking for new ways to be even more innovative, so this content was especially interesting and valuable.”