Hofstra alum Thomas Sanzone ’82, former CEO of Black Knight Inc. and a member of Hofstra’s Board of Trustees, hosted a technology panel as part of the inaugural Executive in Residence program at the Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science this month.
Sanzone spent a week meeting with students, faculty and deans to share his insights on emerging careers in computer science and engineering, bridging the gap between academia and industry, and outlining how students can prepare for careers in a rapidly changing technology marketplace.
The culmination of Sanzone’s ‘residency’ was the technology panel, which included Hofstra Board of Trustees Member and alum Michael Delaney ’85, vice president of digital transformation at Boeing Commercial Airlines, alum Mireille Genadry ’76, principal of MGEN Consulting, and Barbara Porter, chief technology officer of Fragrance.com.
According to the panelists, one of the biggest issues facing corporations over the next decade is a critical dependency on aging software.
“I think that just like the leadership of most companies today understand the risk of cybersecurity, they need to understand the risk of legacy systems to their companies,” Porter said. “At best, it’s slowing things down as market conditions change. At worse, it could cause the company to close if there is some failure and they can’t fix it.”
The key is finding new talent who can address the issue of aging software.
“We are partnering with local and regional universities like Hofstra to help bridge the gap between academia and industry,” Sanzone said. “I think that there are skills that are in very high demand in the market and there aren’t enough students that are graduating with these skills.”
“The perspectives of the panelists resonated with me and coincided with my own experience in the industry,” said Olivia Macedo, ’18, who is pursuing an MS in computer science while working full time. “I know a lot of people who are frustrated because there seems to be a disconnect between what companies are looking for and how candidates are preparing for jobs.”
According to Genadry, in-house training is one way to address this problem.
“There is a new trend called ‘Analytics Academies’ and they are in-house training,” Genadry said. “Companies will hire faculty from outside the company to train everyone in the company to run their Analytics Academies, from the CEO down the line, to inculcate a new way of thinking analytically.”
The dependency on aging systems is worsening as the talent pool to maintain this equipment shrinks and this has led to a growing competition to recruit and keep talent.
“The skillset for mechanical engineers, industrial engineers and manufacturing engineers is pretty good,” Delaney said. “On the data side – the modeling and simulation side – that’s the skillset where a lot of our talent is getting poached and it’s harder to keep talent. We need these types of skills in order to do the digital transformation that is necessary but there are a lot of big guys like Google, Amazon, Microsoft that take that talent, and it’s a tough game to compete.”
For the remainder of his visit, Sanzone hosted in-class presentations with undergraduate and graduate computer science students, met with DeMatteis faculty, department chairpersons and deans.
“Mr. Sanzone’s week-long visit provided a tremendous opportunity for DeMatteis School students to engage with an industry leader through both formal presentations and informal interactions,” Dean Rabbany said. “Hopefully, this type of experiential learning will help educate and prepare our students for challenging tech careers once they graduate.”
Sanzone concluded his visit with a university-wide presentation, From Classroom to Boardroom, and shared his journey from being a student at Hofstra to becoming the CEO of one of the nation’s leading providers of integrated software, data and analytics solutions.
In his closing remarks he advised students, “Ask anyone who knows something you don’t or is in a place you want to be, how to do that or how to get there. Don’t think that the learning ends when you graduate. It never ends.”