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School Brings Together Women Technology Leaders to Share Insights on Innovation

November 12, 2015
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cortana microsoft jen underwood

Jen Underwood, principal program manager at Microsoft, showed
off the soon-to-be-launched Cortana

A patient swishes, gargles and spits into a cup to find out if she has oral cancer. A woman stares into the car mirror to apply lipstick while her car drives itself seamlessly along the road. And a student scribbles her work on a sketchpad in a tutoring session with an intelligent computer. These were among the technological innovations highlighted by panelists who gathered at the School of Business in November to talk about what they’re working on locally and where the trends are headed.

The demonstrations, discussions, and networking were geared toward women in the School, which presented Women in Technology: Present and Future Trends of Technology alongside WITI South Florida.

“Women traditionally have shied away from computer science and technology,” said moderator Sara Rushinek, professor business technology at the School. “There is more to technology than coding in the back room. Technology is part of every field.”

panelists witi um millennials and learning tech

Panelists talk about millennial statistics, how they learn, and
how technology is helping them learn more effectively

The session began with innovators demonstrating their emerging technologies. Rushinek likened the wide-ranging presentations to a speed-dating sampling and promised future events to focus in-depth on the individual sectors. 

Jen Underwood, principal program manager at Microsoft, showed off the soon-to-be-launched Cortana, her company’s answer to Siri, and HoloLens, which allows users to experience their data by transforming it from charts into a sort of virtual reality. Adding predictive abilities is, Underwood said, “the secret sauce of applications. Whether it’s a sports team trying to predict what the next moves will be or trying to predict stocks and when to sell, these are massive windows of opportunities.”

When Elizabeth Franzmann took the stage to demonstrate the simple cancer detection test that is near launch, students learned that she is the only female among the University’s faculty to be launching a startup. Meital Stavinsky of Greenberg Traurig discussed her work with an Israeli company working on smart irrigation solutions.

students um witi tech women success interning networking

Students discuss their early success in tech by doing internships
and networking effectively

After the array of demonstrations, a second group of panelists came forward to discuss where they believe technology innovation in South Florida is headed. The target audience for the development is the millennial generation since they’re the primary consumers, said Melissa Krinzman, managing partner of venture capital firm Krillion Ventures. The trend of the moment, she said, is Just in Time: immediate access to things like transportation, deliveries, food and lodging. She’s also seen a lot of technology in the works for drones, particularly for the real estate and cyber security industries.

Miami Herald business reporter Nancy Dahlberg, meantime, pointed out that 70 percent of the venture capital coming into South Florida has gone to companies in the health sector. Norma Kenyon, the chief innovation officer for the Miller School of Medicine, touted the benefits that will come from the Cambridge Innovation Center’s plans to house up to 500 startups in the Life Science & Technology Park, forming a link between the startup community and the University’s health district.

 When a computer science major asked what advice the panelists had for women entering the male-dominated field, panelist Geeta Nayyar, chief health care and innovation officer at Femwell Group Health, said: “You’ve got to find mentors and help each other out, just like the guys do. And you have to make light when you’re in a male-dominated industry and sitting in a boardroom. When the guys want to make big decisions over cigars and drinks, I laugh and say, ‘Let’s do it over manis and pedis!’”

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