Ryan Pickren is a Penetration Testing Security Engineer for Amazon Web Services (AWS) who recently graduated from Georgia Tech, majoring in Computer Engineering. I recently talked to him about Digital and what it means to him.

Audrey McGuckin (AM) – Ryan when I talk to people about Digital, they often say “what do you mean by Digital?  I’d love to hear your perspective and what you’re seeing evolving in the digital space?

Ryan Pickren (RP)  – Yeah, when I think about the digital evolution, I draw from my experiences that I’ve had inside organizations and also from conversations with end users and customers, particularly customers who are not used to making investments in digital solutions. Interestingly, what’s emerging is that consumers and businesses are really only interested in investing in a digital solution if the solution makes it easy for the end user. It has to be a significant step change in how if effects their life whether this is at home, in the workplace or their social environment. This is what I call “frictionless solutions”.

AM – Ryan, that’s an interesting perspective. What’s an example of “frictionless solutions” that would help our readers understand what you mean by this?

RP – Of course. Think about a thermostat or light bulb.  The non-digital or analog solution is a straight forward flip of a switch. The technology or digital solution could be that your Wi-Fi system knows when you enter the room through connecting automatically to the Wi-Fi network. It knows you’re home, so the light comes on automatically. This is a simple example of what I call a “frictionless solution”. There’s no intervention required from the user. It’s really a “frictionless experience”. A poor technology solution would be that you need to go in the house, take out your phone, get to the right app, press on your phone, then the light comes on. This will never truly catch on in a digital environment and consumers just won’t have the patience for this. Smart home products really won’t be consumable until it’s “frictionless”.

AM – As I’ve talked to other digital natives, what’s emerging is that digital means different things to different people depending on their perspective. Tell me what else you’re seeing from your vantage point.

RP – Well I look at it in a couple of different ways, I think about it in terms of potential threats and opportunities and clearly one threat and also a significant opportunity that is gathering some steam is in the automation and robotics’ space. It’s going to be interesting how organizations implement factories of the future and take account of machine to machine and machine to human interactions, this will have huge implications on industry in terms of productivity, data availability and predicative analytics.

AM – Ryan, something else that’s relevant to the digital agenda is demographics. For the first time in history we have four generations working together and digital natives or millennials now make up the largest percentage of this multi-generational workforce. I’d be interested to understand your perspective on this?

RP – Yeah that’s a great question, digital natives like myself, have been raised on technology. We do not know anything different, we have a different perspective on how we should be hired and how we develop our skills and capabilities. It’s just a completely different expectation. For example, nowadays it’s so quick to catch people up to speed. All you need is a lap top and the ability to learn fast. So, I’d say for organizations, it’s important to find and hire people that are passionately curious. I try to imagine what this means for traditional learning functions inside organizations and it really changes the landscape significantly. There is no doubt that traditional approach to learning and development is going away. The environment needs to be to be real time, instantaneously accessible and relevant to the speed of change that is happening. It’s interesting, as an example, I’ve never had to use a library. I can’t imagine what that experience would be like. Technology is just part of my life.

AM – Ryan, as we see this shift in the digital era, I’d be interested to understand your perspective on how this also changes the leadership dynamic in organizations?

RP – When I think about leadership, I think about it from being on the receiving end. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great mentors during my career so far. I’ve also been really fortunate to have had the opportunity to have a ton of exposure. I had the opportunity to work and live in China and Singapore. This was a huge learning experience for me personally. The initiatives I worked on were directly tied to enabling digital solutions. From a leadership standpoint, organizations and individuals that embrace a digital journey and leverage digital natives to enable that journey will continue to be at the forefront of their industries. I got to see this first hand during my internships in China, Singapore and at Jabil’s Blue Sky center in San Jose.

AM – You’ve just started  a new role in Amazon Web Services (AWS) – what’s going to be your focus?

RP – I’ll be working in cyber security, it’s a passion of mine and it was important for me to find an organization where I could do what I love.

AM – Why is cyber security a passion of yours?

RM – I knew as I was going through college I wanted to be in the technology space and it was evident to me that cyber security was going to be a huge challenge as the digital eco system expands. Then I started to look at some of the planets most interesting companies. When it came to the choice of a company, AWS really emerged at the forefront for me. They were one of the first major disruptors moving from analog to digital. Just a really interesting company for digital natives like myself. I truly believe the future is in cloud and AWS is the clear winner in that space and I want to work for a winning team.

AM – Congratulations on your new role, Ryan. Wish you all the best for an exciting career ahead!

Ryan has an interesting perspective on the environment that it will take to attract, engage and develop Digital Natives. How are you shaping the experiences in the workplace for Digital Natives. I’d love to hear your perspectives.

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