Innovation Heroes

TRANSCRIPT - The Power of Passion in IT: Intel’s Stacey Shulman Returns

October 28, 2021

Ed

This episode of Innovation Heroes is brought to you by Lenovo Intelligent Computing. Learn more at shi.com/lenovo.

 

Stacey 

[Innovation Heroes theme music] The passion projects that we've done in my organization are now outpacing our chartered projects in terms of revenue return... [Innovation Heroes theme music] ..and so, it does work to lead with values, and you can make money. It's an "and" statement. The primary motivator needs to be impact.

 

Ed 

Welcome to SHI's Innovation Heroes, a podcast exploring the people and businesses making a difference in our constantly disrupted world. I'm your host, Ed McNamara. [gentle electronic music]

 

Ed 

I don't know about you, but I'm really, really tired of talking about the pandemic, and I'm not being flippant here. The fatigue we're all feeling is a real issue, and I know I'm not alone. One recent report found that instances of depression symptoms were three-fold higher in the last year as compared to a pre-pandemic survey. From the frontlines to our home offices, we're feeling the impact, and we will be for a long time. So I just think that, in the meantime, at least, something's gotta give. We've seen some amazing stories come from the pandemic, people coming together supercharging innovative tech to meet needs and saving lives in the process. Those stories absolutely deserve our attention, because they're the bright lights that have guided us through these dark times. [light clicks on, fluorescence hum] In fact, our guest today has been one of those people. Intel's Stacey Shulman, who is Vice President Internet of Things Group, and GM of Health, Life Sciences and Emerging Technologies. [pensive music] When Stacey was on last season, she shared how Intel was helping to revolutionize the healthcare system to bring better, more efficient technology to help patients and workers alike. But we're not here today just to talk about healthcare innovation. Today, I want to talk about something that seems to have fallen by the wayside: the wonder, passion, and excitement that's been missing from our tech lives and experiences. More than anything, I want to talk about something fun, and if there's something we know about Stacey from her last two appearances on the show, she's always working on something amazing.... and something fun. [pensive music]

 

Ed 

Stacey, we are so thrilled to have you back on the show for a record third time. Thank you very much for making time for us, once again.

 

Stacey 

Yeah, I love talking to you guys. I love the show. I will always come back as long as you'll have me.

 

Ed 

[chuckles] It's very easy for us to have you back because you always give us any number of different topics to choose from, so I'm sure, just having that kind of variety, keeps your work interesting.

 

Stacey 

Oh, yeah. It's never a dull day. I mean, ever.

 

Ed 

Excellent. Excellent. So, when you were on Innovation Heroes last season, you talked about how we've been using cool tech innovations to save lives. So, just continuing along that thread, at least initially, you know, what impact did the pandemic have on the way you do your job?

 

Stacey 

I mean, the pandemic has really forced me, along with most of the people I work with, to take inventory of what's really important to us. I think that that's probably the biggest topic, and I'd like to say that there's been, you know, technical impacts, but realistically, we had to take inventory of what's important to us. We have to look at what drives us. Where do we want to spend our time and efforts? And you know, and I'm seeing that with people all over the place, wrestling with this in every industry really, and we're seeing this great exit, and I think part of that is because people are sitting back and saying, "You know, what do I want to do?" And so, as I did that, you know, what I had to really, kind of, come to grips with is, the areas that I'm working on, I want those to be areas that have impact, and I want to explore areas that allow me-- you know, that push me into a deeper conviction about how important those things are, you know, for greater-- kind of, greater humanity, I guess. And then, the other thing that it made me do is start exploring that with my team and asking them, "What's important to you? What are you passionate about?" and really pushing them towards that, and I've always had a team where we talk about passion projects and working on passion projects, but I think my conviction got deeper on this topic, and I'm pushing people more on, you know, "Let's get you connected with the things that you're really passionate about, and the things that, you know, that inspire you, and that will inspire your work, so let's take the things you like, and let's make sure your work is connected to that."

 

Ed 

Do you think some people are looking for the "right answer", and maybe they don't have it, or they just simply don't know?

 

Stacey 

You know, I wonder if it's just that people don't really think about this question often. Or they think that, you know, passion means-- you know, it means something to them in different ways. It could mean that, "Okay, those are purpose-driven people. I'm not a purpose-driven person, and so, you know, it doesn't really apply to me." And I've had to go back to people and say, "Stop constraining yourself. You can be passionate, even about volunteering in your kid's classroom." That's an okay passion to have. The criteria would be, once you identify what you're passionate about, the follow-on question is, "How can we help you go make an impact in that area?" and so, the intent is to get them deeper into that side of things versus, you know, just try to get in touch with themselves, but it does start with getting in touch with yourself, in that way. [laidback music]

 

Ed 

So whether it's, you know, passion projects, or work, you know, what were some of your highlights of the last year, perhaps, since the last time you were on Innovation Heroes?

 

Stacey 

There have been a lot of really good ones that have come up, which, for the record, makes it tougher for some other people, because they're like, "Oh, my gosh. That's such a good one that's happening over there with that person. I can't possibly compete."

 

Ed 

Passion doesn't have to be competitive, right? [both laugh]

 

Stacey 

And so, you know, I have lots of favorites, but I'll say, the one that that has me the most fascinated right now is a project we call the Next 50, and that project started out as a passion project for someone in the team, who was really passionate about connecting the 50% of the world that's not connected today. And, as we started looking through that, we realized that we had it framed wrong. We had an assumption that people would connect to the internet if they had the opportunity to connect to the internet, and we thought 50% of the world didn't have the opportunity. When we started really looking at it, there's-- you know, most people in the world actually have the capability to connect, but they're still not. There's, you know, a good 50% of the population not connecting, and so we reframed it into participation and how do you get the 50% of the world not participating today, in any way, you know, in the digital, you know, the digital world... how do you get them participating? And you have to really go and have-- you know, look at, "Well, what's important for them?" You know, it's through apps, it's through, you know, giving them things that matter. You know, it's not going to be through social media for a lot of people. It's not a draw. But something like, you know, in the remote areas of Africa, knowing what your raw materials prices are, the price of maize, at any given point is a real driver, and quite honestly, no matter where you are in the world, sports scores still seem to be a real driver for people connecting to the internet. And so, we have to go and look at those things and identify ways to do that. And then, you've got a cost issue, so there are some people who, you know, they may be able to connect. They may really want to participate, but data is very expensive. In rural communities, even in the US, and other places, you know, if you can get access, data is expensive, and so we're working on programs around, "How do you get data that's really needed, and cash it at the edge on a telephone pole, and not charge for that?" So, as an example, health-related information, you know, safety-related information, education content. If you can precache that at the telephone pole, and anybody that's near that can access that data for free, well, then you get them participating, and educated on that, and then they can selectively consume content in other ways, so that's a project that we're working on. We're seeing that it's scaling in indigenous areas, and in both the US and abroad, and we're also looking at, you know, cities in rural communities, and even some urban communities that don't have access, so that's the one that's been the most fascinating lately.

 

Ed 

Aside from Next 50, is there another highlight that might come to mind?

 

Stacey 

Well so, I'll say one of the things that we're really-- I've been thinking about more and more lately, is this topic around, "How do we bring fun back into the equation?"

 

Ed 

Mmm.

 

Stacey 

And so, I'd say that's an area that I'm kind of exploring, and we're doing some thought experiments around that. I went to a friend's party, really, and it was a party in this place called AREA15, and it's a project. AREA15's a partnership in a project we've been working on, at Intel, for a little while. So they're an experience center in Las Vegas, and so I visited there, spent a couple days just walking through what that experience looked like, and it reminded me that, you know, technology can be used to do fun things. [chuckles] And we need to bring fun and playfulness back into our world right now, and we're looking at different verticals in remembering some of the things that we started working on prior to the pandemic, which we were exploring things around experiential topics. You know, how do you bring artists and architects and creative people together with tech people to make things that are that are fun, and delightful, and experiential? And so, that kind of came back to me this year of, "We gotta do that again. We gotta get back into that."

 

Ed 

Yeah, and I think you might be, you know, right at the right time for that. I was... As a baseball fan, I was looking at some attendance numbers, and somebody had gone back 100 years ago, after the Spanish flu and checked baseball attendance figures and, you know, everybody credits Babe Ruth with the big rise of, you know, the Roaring Twenties and baseball there, but it actually was all this pent-up demand that the attendance figures just went through the roof, once people felt like it was, you know, time to get back out there and spend some of the money that was in their pockets. So, when you said experiential, that was the first thing that I thought of. I mean, there-- this is really the right time for people who just really want to get back out there and have fun in, you know, in a different environment from where they've been, right?

 

Stacey 

Yeah, I think we're ready for a change. You know, we've all been, I'd say mostly homebound, or, you know, we've narrowed the people that were around on a regular basis, and there's a lot of serious things going on right now that we're facing as a society, and so, you know, we need to be serious about things, and we can also have fun, and I think that's the reminder. [Ed chuckles] And yeah, I mean, there's pent-up demand. I do think that we're going to see people just really, like, go all out, when they feel safe to do so again, you know. And, some people are out there now going to concerts, and you know, some people feel safe right now, and I think that's great, but it'll be even better when more people feel that way, and that's what I'm looking forward to, and I think, you know, we don't have to wait for that. I think we need to start having these discussions now on, you know, "How do we bring fun back into our teams, back into our environments, back into our roles, the things that we're doing?" It's time.

 

Ed 

This episode of Innovation Heroes is brought to you by Lenovo Intelligent Computing. Learn more at shi.com/lenovo. [upbeat music] shi.com/lenovo.

 

Ed 

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Ed 

Clearly, Stacey believes in bringing back wonder and inspiration into what we're doing, and I'll bet her hiring managers love her for it, but how the heck can we all do that? Really thinking about how to affect positive change is the first step. But even further, how do we give people permission to explore the limits of their own creativity in the workspace? [gentle music]

 

Ed 

Do you have some other examples of tech that, kind of, puts fun first?

 

Stacey 

I wouldn't say I have an example of tech that puts fun first. I would say I have an example of how people have been successful in using tech to help their fun experiences. I'll use AREA15 as an example again because it's pretty fresh for me. One of the experiences they have is an experience called Meow Wolf. It's a company. It's a collection of artists, and when you walk into this-- into Meow Wolf at AREA15, what you see is what looks like a very stale, old-fashioned, kind of, big box store. You know, you got the metal shelves, you got all the stuff on the shelves, people wearing the blue aprons. You've got all of that, but when you take a closer look at the things on the shelf, they're just not quite right. It's a little off, and as you start really looking at it closer, it's-- there's a lot of humor in it. And then, when you kind of go to the backroom to the meat counter, if you go behind the meat counter, you walk through the freezer, and you go into, kind of, this whole other world. It's like, I don't know, "old-school dime store meets Alice in Wonderland" is probably the way I would explain it. And then, there's this whole, like, discovery, and search, and wonder, in the back part of that store, and it is a real shopping experience. There are things to buy in that experience, and through that experience, but what a way to deliver it. We spent probably two hours just exploring. There are slides. You know, you can, as an adult, go down slides, and you watch, you know, grown adults just having the time of their life, sliding in public, basically. And so, things like that. That would be one experience. There was a lot of technology in there. There was RFID technology in there. There was-- I mean, they actually, as part of their experience, showed their server room, so you know, there's lots of tech that was involved, but you'd really didn't see the tech unless they did it as, kind of, a gimmick. And again, lots of tech. There was, you know, holograms, and you know, all kinds of different tech that was involved, and they did it in a way that was actually intentionally gimmicky, so it was funny. But that would be an example of somebody who designed the experience they wanted to have, and then they leveraged the technology to bring that experience to life.

 

Ed 

Do you have an example of how, you know, some fun factors can come into, you know, treating patients in hospitals or in the medical field?

 

Stacey 

Yeah, so we are talking to a number of hospitals now that are testing VR in a couple different ways that I've seen. One is, patients who are-- you know, pain management. One of the ways to manage pain is to distract it, and, you know, you can use VR and gaming and things like that to kind of transport, again, somebody into another space, and that, alone, creates-- that sense of wonder, creates solutions for people that are dealing with pain, and whether it's emotional pain or physical pain, it's really helpful for them. We're seeing it there with veterans. There was a lot that was being used for veterans to, kind of, rehabilitate veterans from some of the things that they'd seen. And then, other-- you know, even with children, lots in the children's space to kind of keep them playful. You know, when a child's in hospital, their environment needs to look different, and they need that chance to play, but, you know, if you're in your bed and you're, you know, can't move around beyond the bed, you need a way to let somebody play that kind of transports them, again, into another space, so VR has been a really good solution for that, and we're seeing that get adopted more and more. It was being tested to see if it had an impact, and there's been lots of good tests that have come back showing it has a positive impact on patient recovery and pain management. And then, there's another one that we saw where, you know, one hospital system, they have an older patient that, you know, it's intimidating to walk into a hospital and find your way somewhere, especially on these big research hospital campuses, and so, one of the things that they were exploring is, can you send a robotic buddy and have somebody on the other side talking to them about, you know, what procedure they're getting, or, you know, talking them, just asking them questions and putting them at ease? And so, those are some other things that I'm seeing get explored in this space. [gentle music]

 

Ed 

In terms of it being really a tough year, and maybe calling some attention to the, you know, the mental health side of things, like, how can we engage tech to help people recover?

 

Stacey 

Yeah, that's a great question, and it's something I've been thinking about a lot. There's somebody else in my team. His passion project is really around dealing with mental health for soldiers, and the issues in Afghanistan have really brought that front and center for a lot of our former military, and so it's something that we've been talking about quite a bit is, well, one, how do we start dealing with the mental health crisis that's going on? You have people who've been sitting there, you know, in their homes, probably the most connected they've ever been, and yet, the most isolated they've ever been in their lives, so, from their vantage point, they see other people having fun and doing things, you know, if they're reading social media, yet they are sitting there alone. And, you know, we have this crisis that's happening, so we've been thinking a lot about, "How do you get people connected in a more meaningful way again, so that they're not isolated? How do you bring them together?" And yeah, while VR is an area, we also think there are other ways to do it. We're talking to a company, as an example, that is creating, well, I wouldn't say VR spaces, but spaces where people can come in, not with an avatar, but they're a dot on a map. But the closer they move together on the map, the louder they hear each other. The further they move apart, the less they hear each other, and it was interesting because you could actually go work a room. You can walk, kind of, "walk through a room" by moving your dot through the room, and you see a group of people that you know, talking over in a corner, you can walk over to them, you know, move your dot over to them, and you can hear them, and you can join the conversation. Or, you want to disengage from the conversation, go to another group, you can move over to another group. Even things like that, when we tried it out with teams has been very-- I mean, it's just such a different experience than Zoom, for starters, where you go into one, you click "hang up", and dial into another Zoom. This one, you get a freedom to move around, so things like that, even, can make people feel more connected to the people around them.

 

Ed 

There's a role to be played by the tech industry on the whole here. You know, what kind of changes do we need to see people get the support that, frankly, we all deserve?

 

Stacey 

Yeah, I don't know that I have a mature, well thought-out thought here, so you're kind of hearing it early. I'll say, the way that I'm thinking of is there's a couple things. One, we-- first, we need to start having the discussion in our teams and asking each other, "Hey, how do we bring fun back into the things that we do? How do we design delightful experiences into the products that we build?" and sometimes it's as simple as a question of, "How can we make that product really beautiful?" It's fun. It's honestly, you know, it's delightful to get something new that is just so beautifully designed. It was why we all liked the iPhone when we first got one. It was just so elegant in its design, and it's so great, and everything was so simple, and it really had you in mind, and the way that you would use it in mind. So I think that, you know, again, we need to come back to some of these topics of, "What does that look like in the products that we build?" Whether it's a software product or a hardware product you hold in your hand, how can we make sure that we're really thinking about the people that are using it, and asking, "How can we make that experience for them really great?" and elevating that, so I think it starts there, and then, you know, I also think that the tech industry, we need to start having these discussions wider. We have a lot of influence on the way that people use products. We have a lot of influence on where we put our priorities, on the problems we want to solve out there, as well, and so, I think we have to prioritize this problem, which, we never thought of fun as a problem before. But, the lack of fun is a problem, and I think it should be prioritized, and you know, I know that there's going to be people hearing this might roll their eyes at it, but I honestly believe that we have to start prioritizing building in fun, and you know, encouraging it in positive experiences in the things that we do, and in the teams that we lead.

 

Ed 

And if they're rolling their eyes, they are not fun, clearly. So...

 

Stacey 

Yeah, they need to work on it the most. So all those eye rollers they need to go in, and they need to take a little inventory on where their passions lie, [Ed laughs] and start thinking about that for themselves.

 

Ed 

First step, "Lighten up." Second step, "What is your passion?" and, "Let's start pursuing it," right?

 

Stacey 

Yeah, it makes an impact.

 

Ed 

There you go.

 

Stacey 

Yeah.

 

Ed 

So what is your dream application for the future of this, kind of, fun-first, you know, innovative tech?

 

Stacey 

I would love to see more of artists, and creatives, and people who understand human behavior get more involved in tech and get more involved in influencing our technology and the way that we bring technology to life. I believe that we will build better products, and people will be happier with how they use those products, and so, that would be my dream, is we really need the creative industry and the tech industry to collaborate more often, and I mean, the artists. You know, artists know how to evoke emotions out of us. And, you know, that is, kind of, what we need to be built into our products, as well. So that sense of wonder is really, kind of, what I'm looking for in the products that we put out, and then the ways that we solve problems. [gentle music]

 

Ed 

Stacey, I want to thank you again for your time today. I know this is your third appearance on Innovation Heroes. Thank you so much for joining us again, and I really appreciate your time.

 

Stacey 

Yeah, thank you for having me, and again, happy to come back anytime. [gentle music]

 

Ed 

It seems like we need to consider fun as more than just a weekend word. It needs to be woven into our day-to-day lives, and Stacy is really inspiring me to reevaluate how I could integrate passion into my own work, and those who live and work around me, and how to make the biggest impact doing it.

 

Ed 

[Innovation Heroes theme music] Thanks for listening to this episode of Innovation Heroes. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Next time on the podcast, we're speaking to Dr. Frauke Zeller and Lauren Dwyer from X University, two experts who are helping to break ground in the new and exciting field of Social Robotics. "What makes a robot social," you ask? Tune in to our next episode in two weeks to find out. [Innovation Heroes theme music] If you enjoyed this episode, then consider being our hero. Smash that like and subscribe button to Innovation Heroes, wherever you get your podcasts.

 

Ed 

Innovation Heroes is a Pilgrim Content production in collaboration with SHI. Our producers are Tobin Dalrymple and Jessica Schmidt, with production assistance from Carmi Levy, Ronny Latimore, and Jane Norman. I'm your host Ed McNamara, and I'll be back with another amazing story in two weeks.

 

Ed 

This episode of Innovation Heroes has been brought to you by Lenovo Intelligent Computing. Get scaling today. Visit shi.com/lenovo

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