Faculty & Leadership Blog / Innovative Curriculum

The Modern Workforce Requires Digital Innovators. Here’s How We’re Building Them.

At Babson College we have identified the need for a new type of graduate to join the modern workforce – the digital innovator. As waves of disruptive technologies have transformed the corporate world, the expectations from graduates have also changed. These knowledge workers are expected to have basic skills like communication, creativity, collaboration and, for Babson’s target market, skills such as entrepreneurial and critical thinking and action. While these skills have been fundamental for a long time, the technology modalities used to learn, nurture, and apply these skills continue to evolve. At Babson we want our graduates to be good digital citizens with the ability to navigate both the digital and the real work seamlessly. In addition, each business school major is expected to have deep domain knowledge in areas like finance, marketing or strategy. Information technology (IT) majors are expected to have deep knowledge in the areas specified below. Other majors are expected to have a threshold level skills of these technologies.

In our effort to create a program to meet the needs of a digital innovator, we partnered with our career center and with practitioners and created an advisory board of Boston area executives. As part of our design exercise, we spoke with several recruiters from the Boston technology ecosystem and held a workshop with our advisory board. Here are some lessons that came from that exercise.

1. Be familiar with modern technologies and platforms: As technology has evolved from mainframes to cloud computing, knowledge workers are expected to be familiar with cloud-based productivity tools like Google Docs, Workday, Dropbox, Basecamp, GitHub and even some programming languages like Python. These skills are necessary for any knowledge worker to become productive contributors.

At the enterprise level they must have familiarity with ERP software, human resource management, e-commerce packages, CRM packages, online marketing automation, social media platforms, collaboration and project management software. They should know how to create simple computing environments on a cloud service provider like Amazon.

We include business platforms as part of this skillset. Today, a digital innovator knows how to source jobs on sites like Innocentive, Upwork, or Elance. They know how to check the reputation of employees on Quora, StackOverflow or Amazon.

2. Have hands-on experience with top tools that align with job-market demand: Our recruiters asked that our students get hands on experience in the technologies mentioned above. Exposure to these tools can range from internships to class projects. To continue to build proficiency in these tools, knowledge workers must continue to learn and engage with these technologies by asking questions and helping people in online communities. In addition, following influencers on LinkedIn or listening to technical podcasts or reading technology sections of the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times is a good way to learn.

3. Be strategic IT thinkers, able to work at the intersection of strategy and technology and make strong decisions spanning products, services, and people. With flat organizations in vogue today, every employee must be both strategic and operational. They have to understand the big picture of how a business functions, while at the same time be a “deep expert” in one particular domain.

4. Be agile experimenters with a bias for action, able to quickly prototype and build IT-dependent solutions and able to iterate on these ideas. At Babson we call this entrepreneurial thought and action. Our graduates learn how to deal with uncertainty and explore options that lead to a good solution to a problem that solves a customer need.

5. Establish online identity: A modern-day resume is based on your online presence. This presence can be established using a completed profile on LinkedIn and participation in online communities. In addition, it is quite important to express your point of view on subject matters using your blog. LinkedIn or WordPress has their own platforms for bloggers. In addition to this, online forums like Quora or Openstack are very helpful in establishing your reputation in the online world.

6. Understand the power of connections: Connection are the new wealth and isolation is the new poverty. Technology can connect people and organizations. These connections help with the flow of knowledge and other resources and provide an advantage to individuals and companies. Digital innovators know how to navigate the world of inter-connected people and organizations and use it to gain competitive advantage.

7. Learn to learn: The days of fixed time spans spent on learning are long gone. It is now the age of continuous learning. Digital innovators know how to identify emerging areas and learn about it on their own. Following influencers on LinkedIn and Twitter can provide early signals on emerging technology. MOOCs are a good source for filling gaps in either knowledge or new capabilities.

Regardless of your business school concentration, it is quite important to be proficient with information technology. We call knowledge workers that are skilled in navigating the digital world and industrial world, along with the ideas for transforming the company, digital innovators. Want to join this elite group? Check out our new concentration at Babson’s TOIM division. In our next blog, we will outline the core classes that students must take to be a digital innovator.

This post was written jointly with Prof. Sal Parise from Babson College; Originally published on LinkedIn