Thirty years ago when I started my career at Novell, I never imagined that someday Utah would benefit from a vibrant and amazing technology community, dubbed Silicon Slopes. Back then, technology was a small ecosystem in which super-nerdy coders and geeks – like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell – would talk about things no one else understood. Technology was an industry-specific market like health care, manufacturing and aerospace. Today, technology is part of the fabric of every market.
Utah is a frontier in more ways than one. While we continue to struggle in our drive for diversity, it’s still a great place to build companies, teams and communities. Silicon Slopes is home to more than its share of unicorns and founder-led companies, all focusing not only on growing technology but also on ensuring that our communities thrive and grow as well. If only technology grows and other parts of our community lag behind, we will have failed to use technology to improve life for all of us.
Silicon Slopes has had tremendous success, but we still have a long way to go. For example, we long for more-diverse teams, as well as more diversity on our boards of directors. We need more women in executive and leadership positions. One public company CEO whom I know is determined to have 50% women on his board by the end of next year, and he’s having a hard time getting even halfway there.
Our state has benefited from tremendous growth drivers, and yet we still have families at or below the poverty level and children who go to bed hungry. We struggle with clean-air issues. We struggle with tremendous pressures for our educational system, and we have children in elementary school who still can’t read.
We strive for diversity of thought and look for cultural contributions from new members of our community. We see the tremendous potential in technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. We work closely with our colleges and universities to ensure that our students can “visit their future,” leapfrogging the struggles we had as we built our careers.
We want to make sure they have access to capital, and we believe that every one of them can be an entrepreneur. We are grooming young people to be computational thinkers. Young people, especially young women, cannot be what they cannot see – we want them to see us working shoulder to shoulder with all kinds of people to build a better community.
And we want them to be passionately curious. Because no matter how smart computers are and how fast technology moves, nothing can replace human curiosity. If we get this right, Utah will continue to be a great state.