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Open Source, DevOps and Reskilling the Workforce with DXC Technology’s Faisal Siddiqi and Chris Swan – Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series
by Daniel Newman | April 28, 2020

On this special edition of the Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series, host Daniel Newman welcomed Faisal Siddiqi, Chief Technologist, Innovation and Ecosystems at DXC Technology and Chris Swan, CTO of Global Delivery at DXC Technology. In this episode, the two talked to Daniel about the current state of upskilling and technology in the workforce especially in the wake of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Pushing Digital Transformation Forward

Almost overnight, companies around the world have been forced to change how they work, bringing in a lot of new technologies to help the business run efficiently. We are seeing a rapid digital transformation. What used to take years is taking weeks and months now because companies have no choice. But this is also leading to another revolution in the workplace.

At the World Economic Forum this year, it was predicted that we are on the cusp or a reskilling revolution. An estimated 1 billion people will need to be reskilled by 2030 for emerging technologies.

The shifts are already starting to happen in the workplace. From a service provider perspective, we are moving away from sending work to low-cost labor to sending it to software engineering while at the same time shifting from software engineering to machine learning and AI where we are training systems instead of programming systems.

The demand for machine assisted technology is on the rise. It’s augmenting how we work and we need people to understand how this technology works in order to make it work in the enterprise. This technology is not replacing humans, it’s requiring a new skillset.

Building the Foundation Today to Upskill Tomorrow

In most businesses, employees are required to have certain certifications or degrees to be able to work on certain technologies. Some businesses might require a certification to work with their cloud partner while others might require a certification to work on any cloud system in general.

But emerging technologies are starting to require a certain type of individual rather than a certification. It doesn’t matter if their education comes from a certification or degree program or if they’re self-taught from an open source community.

In the future, we will likely need both employees in the workplace. The employees who have degrees in the tech fields, but also the employees that seek new education. The ones who are constantly learning how to solve new problems.

New Kind of Training Program

With upskilling in mind, DXC Technology turned to a DevOps Dojo to train anybody. These problem-solving programs aren’t focused on if employees know the material. It’s about how they solve the problem. They can use whatever program they want to help them — Google, GitHub etc. It’s an authentic, on-demand experience designed to help people understand the new material in whatever way works for them.

Great examples of this style training program are Katacoda and Microsoft Learn. These two are designed to help people not just learn the technology, but master it as well.

Open Source Upskilling

Open source communities are a great place to better oneself. The right community can offer the right kind of support no matter what level of education you have. It’s open to everybody meaning it’s a great way to seek collaborative input from a number of people and it’s a game changer for so many businesses.

Open source is likely going to be the onramp to help people and companies move from legacy applications to the multi-cloud world. It’s going to provide the support and training that employees need in order to be prepared for new technology.

The Future for DXC Technology

Chris shared that DXC is on the cusp of opening several modules from DevOps Dojo similar to the Katacoda training. Faisal shared that DXC has a few open source projects now available on the DXC GitHub like the newly released AI starter kit.

Beyond that, Faisal discussed the importance of taking the foundation of open source software technology development and applying it to the culture of the enterprise to become better collaborative citizens. It’s clear that work is changing and building a better collaborative environment will prepare us for the future.

If you’d like to learn more about what DXC Technology is doing visit their website and be sure to listen to the full episode. Don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode of the Futurum Tech Podcast.

Transcript:

Daniel Newman: Welcome to the Futurum Tech Podcast, the Interview Series. I’m Daniel Newman, your host today, Principal Analyst at Futurum Research and Founding Partner. And I’m excited to have DXC on board with me. I’ve got two guests today, Faisal and Chris Swan. I’m going to have you both quickly introduce yourselves and talk a little bit about what you do. But first and foremost, just want to thank everybody for tuning into this episode of the Futurum Tech podcast. We’re going to be talking today about re-skilling the workforce and some things going on in the developer community, and how individuals and companies can better prepare themselves for the revolution that technology, code, applications are bringing to business.

But first of all, let’s get Chris and Faisal introduced. Faisal, I’ll have you go first.

Faisal Siddiqi: Yeah, thanks Daniel. My name is Faisal Siddiqi, and I’m Chief Technologist for Innovation at DXC Technologies, which means that I get to work on these really fascinating innovation programs, including our open source development and collaborative development programs, working with smaller companies, and really excited to be here.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, Faisal, thank you so much. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Swan: Thanks Daniel. Hi, so I’m Chris Swan. I’m CTO for Global Delivery at DXC, which means I’ve spent the last few years optimizing how we do delivery and taking a more data driven approach to that, but also looking at how we rescale the organization to be relevant for an increasingly cloudy and agile world.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s a big topic right now. It’s a bigger topic even in the last few weeks. So for everyone out there, we’re recording the show. It’s mid-April 2020. Depending on when you’re listening to this show, if you’ve caught this show in real time or within the few days of it coming out, you realize we’re still in the middle of this global pandemic, COVID-19, that’s really changed the course of work for many. It’s changed the course of business continuity, and the entire public health system and healthcare has changed greatly because of this.

And I point that out because obviously this conversation is timely. Because all of a sudden in the wake of this event where many people were suddenly put out of work unexpectedly, companies were sort of brought to the edge of their resources. Continuity and resiliency has been tested. A conversation about re-skilling is pretty timely right now.

And of course, we want to make sure everybody realizes when we were recording this, because I think this puts a little bit of an edge to how much we might talk about our products and services and what we do, and really want to talk a little bit more about how we can help. What we’re doing and what we’re working on in our businesses could potentially drive better outcomes in the long run. So Faisal and Chris, welcome to the show.

Let’s start out and just talk a little about that. You both introduced yourselves and it’s great to kind of hear what you guys are doing, but how are you adjusting? How are things? Were you working at home before this all started? Faisal, I’ll have you go first.

Faisal Siddiqi: Yeah, I had the good fortune to be experienced with working from home for the past several years. So the impact was not very significant for me except for one significant thing. And that was the rest of my family works from home as well. So today, I’m sharing an office, although you probably can’t see it right now, but my home is a mini WeWork facility these days.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that’s for a lot of people. Chris, how about you?

Chris Swan: Similar story for me. So I kind of mostly worked from home when I wasn’t traveling. So all the travel suddenly being canceled. And I’ve not been anywhere in like six weeks I think now. But having the family around does make it a bit different. So as we’re recording this, I think my daughter’s downstairs doing a singing lesson with her school. And my son’s been working his way through the kilo of cheese bread that he made for himself yesterday.

Daniel Newman: Well, she sounds great. We can all hear her. No, I’m just kidding. No, but I think that’s a little bit of what we’re all going through. I traveled 47 weeks a year. Everyone that listens to the podcast probably has heard me say this because I’ve talked about this to a few different folks now. But 47 to 48 weeks a year, usually anywhere from three to five days. I had 27 events between February when this started getting pulled back to June. And all 27 have been canceled, rightfully so.

And now we’re starting to even hear about a wave of events being canceled into the fall now. I think Microsoft, one of the companies that you guys work closely with at DXC, just announced that they were canceling events all the way out until middle of next year, 2021. So we’re seeing some significant pullback.

But concurrently, like I said, what would be really interesting is as technology is rapidly changing, I actually think the pandemic is going to drive the importance and will accelerate digital transformation. It’s going to push companies to get more prepared, to be more invested in tech. And that means it’s going to need a new type of workforce. It’s going to need to retrain, to re-skill, to up-skill, to rehire and to add to the quality.

Actually, there was some data that came out, some feedback from a 2020 meeting in Davos at the World Economic Forum where they basically said that there’s a re-skilling revolution on its way. A billion people are going to need to be re-skilled by 2030 for AI and the industry, Ford Auto are the fourth industry industrial revolution as we call it. Interesting stats. What do you guys think about that?

Chris Swan: I think the re-skilling is absolutely necessary. We kind of got to sort of overlapping changes to the industry structure going on, especially if you would look at it from a sort of service provider perspective. So it’s sort of a move away from work going to low cost labor, and instead going to software engineering. And this has been a big focus of ours for the last few years. But that’s kind of overlapping with a shift away from traditional software engineering and into machine learning and artificial intelligence where we’re kind of training systems rather than programming systems, and a whole different skill base to go along with that.

Faisal Siddiqi: Yeah, I think that what really this opens it up to what is that a traditional workers have an expectation of a computer assistant technologies for their day to day work. We see a significant trend of manual work being replaced with automation assistant work. However, it’s not in a threatening kind of way, but it’s an expectation for the people in their day to day jobs. What this really means is that the demand for that kind of automation, that the machine assisted technology is on the rapid rise. That’s what we’re hearing from our clients too.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. When I wrote a book called Human Machine with my coauthor Olivier Blanchard and we talked a lot about. It’s augmentation. It’s not actually going to be replacement. I do think we will see acceleration of more automation as part of this whole transformation that I discussed. I think companies are going to look at how do we reduce all the risk when things like this can suddenly be so disruptive to the business. And I’m talking about in this case the pandemic. But it could be a natural disaster that could take out data centers. It could be an unexpected new product or development that comes out. We’ve talked about with the Uber’s and with the Kodak cameras and the black … I mean just all these disruptive things that companies needed to be able to pivot faster and they couldn’t.

So it could be anything from a wild external event that is completely out of control to just companies lacking innovation, but they’re going to need to speed up. They’re going to need to be able to go faster. And when suddenly they’re hit by this a new wave, whatever the wave is, like I said, whether it comes from in or out, they need to be able to react. And so that really kind of, actually it brings up a good question. And Chris, I’ll let you chime in on this one first. But where should the workforce … What kind of the skill level they need to have today in order to be ready to start working towards that re-skilling in the future?

Chris Swan: So, one of the things I push quite hard towards is for folks to have at least an associate level certification with one of our cloud partners, and kind of not fussy really which one it is. And then from there go broad is one option, and get there with all of the cloud partners and know which, which is stronger and which areas and be able to help customers choose where to go. And then there’s also going deep. Get to the professional level certification and have that kind of much deeper understanding of the ins and outs.

Daniel Newman: So would you say, Faisal, that’s sort of the tipping point for honing the skills is right now, it’s certification driven?

Faisal Siddiqi: I have a somewhat different set of experiences, possibly because the directions where I focus tend to be innovation-driven and emerging technologies. And I find that it requires a certain type of individual who has taken the initiative themselves. Now, that could come from certification. It could also come from self-learning. It could come from participation in a collaborative open source community. What I really look for are those self-driven people who have gained expertise, perhaps on their own, perhaps supported by their day job.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that’s probably the combination. I think we’re still in a society where by and large there is thresholds to entry. We’re hearing those being pulled back. We’re hearing big companies like Google saying, “We don’t care necessarily if you have a degree, and we’ll hire you if you have great skills.. Just an example of things we’re starting to hear, but I think if you look at the greater society as a whole, companies still want that checkbox, that degree, that masters, that whatever it is, depending on the field, depending on what you’re doing.

But I do think you make a great point concurrently that the human condition, the inspired and motivated. A lot of the greatest developments and new products and services are created by people who have not necessarily followed a traditional path. But I think you need both.

So to Chris’s point though, a lot of organizations, enterprises that have to run their development operations, that have to build their it infrastructure, do need people that are certified in the right hardwares in the right places. They know that they have the security. They know the configuration set up, deployment and the whole stack. But I think when you start looking at that innovation, it’s not always as traditional.

And we’ve studied this extensively, Faisal. Innovation does not always come from very traditional paths. It Doesn’t even always come from this innovation nervous centers of companies. A lot of times it kind of gets stumbled upon or is brought by some entrepreneurial personality in the company that just realizes something kind of unexpectedly.

Faisal Siddiqi: That’s right. We see pockets of innovation sometimes what we think of as the fringes. Now my job is usually to try and harness those innovation pockets so that we can take advantage of them across the enterprise. So really, there is no substitute for this coordinated discipline mechanism of harnessing those resources.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s definitely an and. So many times it’s not, or it’s and. But to your credit, if you have to sort of pick … And here I am putting it on the spot to say choose, what are they? Chris, let me throw it back your way. So we kind of got into this conversation talking about re-skilling in the revolution. So we’ve kind of got a stasis of where we need people to be now and what’s working right now. But foundationally speaking, Chris, how do you see someone that’s going to be ready to be re-skilled in the technology space?

Chris Swan: So I think there’s lots of different ways of engaging with that. And I think the most exciting part that we’ve seen emerge over the last few years is the cloud itself has accelerated some of the ability to do that. So initially, we saw kind of traditional classroom style lectures just kind of being delivered as videos available in your browser. But now we’ve seen the birth of a whole set of much more interactive platforms.

So I first saw this with a thing called Katacoda. And we’ve been working with that a bit internally for our dev ops dojo. Then know Microsoft Learn came along. And there’s things like Qwiklabs. My favorite piece of all of this is kind of challenge lab type of environments, where it’s a bit like an escape room. It’s kind of 90 minutes on the clock.

Here’s a temporary account for a cloud provider. Solve this problem, go. It’s open book. If you want to use Google and Stack Exchange and GitHub and whatever else to solve the problem, then go at it. Because those are exactly the resources you’d probably use in your daily life if you’re trying to solve a problem that you’ve not come across before. And I think this gets us much closer to a training environment that matches sort of real world working.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. It reminded me of a scene in The Social Network. Do you ever see that movie with the one about Facebook where he’s got all the programmers in the lab down in the dorm somewhere, and they’re doing their coding something and taking shots? I mean obviously, minus the shots. It was seeing who could do what and how quickly. It was like a coding challenge. But kind of to your point of like seeing how dynamic, putting them in a real environment, seeing if they’re able to put those skills to the test in a real world application and quickly deploy rather than do you know the material?

We are in such an interesting world. I asked my daughters to do a presentation for me recently on the stock market. When she put this presentation together … And it’s really good for a high schooler, but it was like you can tell that they’ve learned one way to do it. Every presentation is baked the same. The PowerPoints look the same. It’s the same introduction. It’s the same, “Welcome to this presentation. I’m so and so.”

My point is that this is a lot of what happens when you’re doing it through the school, through the academia or through the … So this is why, to you both of your points, you need the school. You need the training. You need that ability to always harness and hone. But you also do kind of need that natural disposition, that fire, that energy, that willingness that pairs together.

I think that’s going to be super important in the re-skilling environment because it’s going to be culture. It’s going to be how ready are people, how willing are they to actually adopt and change behavior. Even people who have coded and then and are considered technologists sometimes get down that line like, “I’ve been doing this 20 years. I don’t necessarily want to go from …” I mean we’re hearing now about cobalt databases running states’ unemployment stuff. Clearly there is resistance somewhere in the chain. Hopefully that wasn’t the programmers.

So talk to me a little bit about the business side. So, we’ve talked a lot about the individual. And Faisal, I’ll ask you on this one. Businesses are going to need to prepare for this too. So you talked about kind of what the people can do and the different certifications and individual, buy businesses need to think about it more broadly. What do you recommend?

Faisal Siddiqi: Well, businesses are prone to the same constraints that an individual is. We seek the quickest path to the best outcome. Unfortunately, what that means is that when I’m planning for my future, I don’t always take the best route in planning for that future. It’s a classic innovator’s dilemma because the system incentives and rewards is really driven to the things that I already know how to do best, which could be, Daniel, the cobalt system that I’ve been maintaining for the past 50 years. However, the opportunity to take it to beyond that, I think, we have this need, this understanding. And increasingly in our current environment, we are getting demand signals from our customers to plan for the post COVID future.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think we have to. I think it’s going to be different. And another thing that’s kind of come up. And we’ve had some interesting discussions over the past few months. A lot of podcasting, guys, just because you can’t meet people live anymore. So it’s been fun to have all these discussions. And open sources come up a lot. It seems to be a little bit of a potential goldmine for companies, right? This is something that both of you are really interested in. Where do you see open source fitting in the sort of re-skilling and training space?

Chris Swan: So I think open source is a place where people can sharpen their skills. And if you find the right kind of community that’s offering the right kind of support, yeah, there’s everything there from entry level to really advance. So, I think one of the best projects I’ve seen for this as Docker. The maintainers there are really good at figuring out which of the issues that have been submitted are beginner friendly. And so there’s a an easy on ramp there for people that want to get started. And even things like documentation fixes.

So, I think that the kind of classic example I pull out here is whenever we’re installing some open source ourselves for the first time, you find documentation that’s been written by people that know it super well because they created it. They’ve not experienced putting it onto a laptop maybe with different libraries or whatever else. And there’s quite often bits missing. Just fixing the documentation for the next newbie that comes along after you to be able to get on there easier is a great contribution to an open source project. So, I think for, for many people that’s the on ramp. It’s not necessarily code. It’s kind of fixed the docs.

Daniel Newman: Interesting. Yeah, with Docker, looking at that the new architecture of it, right, with microservices containers are a very different approach where kind of you’d say infrastructure meets developers, because it is really the two working more closely than ever before. And Faisal, I want to ask the question. I didn’t point it to either of you, and I saw you were like leaning.

Faisal Siddiqi: That’s because we’re so enthusiastic about this stuff. We live and breathe open source, Daniel. Chris, I’m right there with you. The opportunity to participate in open source really is not just like, “Let me go and code something.” It is a means of bettering oneself. It’s participate in a collaboration. The really cool thing, just as you had described Chris, is that it’s open for everybody.

Now, I will draw a distinction between the way we normally conduct development efforts to build things as a part of a of traditional teams. They tend to be focused. They tend to be a relatively closed. And this kind of flips it upside down, inside out to say that this is open to everybody. It is not a free for all. It is, in fact, just a way of seeking the collaborative input of a number of people for the overall betterment of everybody. I like thinking of it simply as that we can harness the smarts of a large number of people, kind of crowdsource things better than we could have in a small team.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think you both kind of put it together pretty well. But open sources, it’s such a game changer for so many businesses. You’re hearing a lot of different stacks and different sort of approaches to open source. But I think most companies would agree that in this sort of cloud native world, in the world where we either want our legacy apps to run like cloud or we want to build apps to run in the cloud. And I think the goal over time is that the legacy apps do run natively in cloud.

Open source is your on-ramp. You used it in a different capacity. So there’s kind of an education and learning on ramp, but open source is going to be sort of the bridge. We can use a lot of different, I guess, transportation metaphors here. But it will be the on ramp and then the bridge that will take you from your legacy IT, your legacy applications running in old on-prem to truly enabling companies to do this whole multi-cloud thing.

So they kind of alluded to that earlier, gents, but we are seeing because of dev ops, because of open source and because of multicloud, probably the most integrated IT stack we’ve ever seen where software and hardware really do live harmoniously, at least once it’s done. As of right now, there’s still a lot of friction though I think, right? Wouldn’t you say that’s probably true, Faisal?

Faisal Siddiqi: Yeah, I think so. And one way of overcoming that friction is genuinely the bridge or the on ramp that you mentioned, Daniel, as a foundation for facilitating, taking the legacy and making it more accessible. It’s not even a choice anymore. It is a given that we are going to use the foundation of open source technologies in order to enable future development.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. So hey, we’re kind of coming to the end of the time here for the podcast. But gents, I want you both to have a chance to talk a little bit about what you’re doing. Like I said, thanks for bearing with me and not doing too much … not too much promo. But DXC is doing some really interesting things with open source. I know you guys both work in a little bit different pockets.

So maybe if you each could just take 30 seconds, 45 seconds, kind of tell me what you and your team at DXC are doing and quickly where could someone learn more. And I’ll put this in the show notes, too, so that nobody has to worry about scribbling down your link or recommendation. And Chris, I’ll let you go first.

Chris Swan: We’re just on the cusp of open sourcing a number of modules from that DevOps dojo that I mentioned earlier on. So that’s some kind of Katacoda training. And people will be able to then use it for themselves, try out the modules, but also see the code that lies behind them and maybe take it to their own purposes, and possibly even contribute back to other people that are using it. So that’s the intention of getting it out there.

The cloud’s important, but I think the clouds ultimately just at the end of the continuous delivery pipeline. And so that training is all about the pipelines and why we use them.

Daniel Newman: Great point. For most people, whether it’s in the cloud or on prem is sort of irrelevant. When you’re outside of IT, you just want it to work. For us though, when you’re in this every day, every workload placement seems to be important, but I think that just makes for interesting podcast fodder. So, you’re absolutely right. Faisal, how about you?

Faisal Siddiqi: I’m a tech guy so it’s really tempting for me to jump right into specific open source projects that I, or are people like me, may be working on. But I really want to take a more cultural response to this. The really, really game changing, foundational opportunity that we see is to change the way we do innovation change the way we develop software.

So towards that end, we have DevOps Dojo that Chris mentioned that is now open source. There are a handful of other really exciting projects on our public GitHub@DXCtechnology on github.com, such as our newly released AI Starter Kit. But really the foundation that I want to take advantage of is taking the culture of open source software development and have it permeate throughout the enterprise. And that’s where something like applying the inner source culture and techniques internally with inner source is where, I think, becomes a huge game changer so that we just become better collaborative citizens.

Daniel Newman: I love it, Chris and Faisal. I’ll be sure to throw some of those links into our show notes when we push out this podcast. I don’t think anybody could probably have written that down as quickly as they’re … Hopefully if you’re driving or home you’re just enjoying, you’re listening, you’re tuning in. Really interesting conversation.

I think the real moral here, or the real end story here, is work is changing. There’s going to be that visible work changing. It’s going to be the way you work, whether you are in tech or not. And then there will be the code, which is the source code, which is kind of going to be the underpinnings of what’s changed it. And so for some people, it’ll be very visible because you’ll be working in it, developing it. Those are the people you’ll be training, up-skilling, specifically for tech.

But for the world, whether that’s the end user and what you’re able to do on a web app or on an app on your phone, all the way down to operations, how ERP systems are going work and Salesforce administration tools are going to work. And it’s going to be shifted by the way we can work with data, the way we can work with open source. And the work you guys are doing, Chris and Faisal, over at DXC is certainly contributing to that.

So, really interesting discussion. I want to thank both of you for coming on the Futurum Tech Podcast. Great interviews. I wish you a ton of luck, success, and health in this very interesting time that we’re in. And hopefully very soon, we’ll all be back out in a new capacity. Maybe we’ll be elbow bumping instead of handshaking, but we’ll get back to our events. We’ll get back to spending time both onsite and in our labs at home, working in the dark. But thank you very much.

Everyone out there hit that subscribe button. Check out those show notes. Click and check out what DXC is doing with open source. Really appreciate you guys tuning in. For now, for the Futurum Tech Podcast, I’m out of here, but we’ll see you again really soon.

This podcast is part of a special series focused around what leaders and companies are doing to help employees and customers deal with COVID-19. Be sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on amazing insights.

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