Get to know Computing’s new leader, Mike Starkey

BCIT Computing is pleased to introduce our new Associate Dean. With international depth in this complex field, Mike Starkey brings a vast array of experience and skills to BCIT.

“After a months-long search for a new Associate Dean in Computing, I am thrilled to welcome Mike to our team,” says Dean Hildebrand, Dean of the School of Computing and Academic Studies.

“The search for ‘tech talent’ in Vancouver is notoriously challenging, but in Mike we have a person with deep knowledge of computing, strong leadership skills, and a passion for learning.”

“I am thrilled to welcome Mike to our team,” says Dean Hildebrand, Dean of the School of Computing and Academic Studies.

In his 30-year career with IBM, Mike has held roles including Distinguished Engineer, CTO and Vice President for Technical Leadership – Eastern Europe; and Distinguished Engineer, Software Development Director and CTO – China. Mike has earned numerous honours and patents, and is a true lifelong learner and innovator. His technical teams have spanned 29 countries – so two campuses should be easy!

We sat down with Mike to learn more about him and his thoughts on future-proofing tech training.

Q: You’ve been in this field for 35 years. Are you surprised where it’s gone?

I’m surprised how quickly it has evolved.

It’s also interesting to see some of the technologies that were novel many years ago have become more commonplace today.

For example, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AIML) was invented many years ago. But it hasn’t really taken off until now, because compute power and the evolutions in technology make application of the technology much more viable.

Other areas have advanced much more quickly than people thought they would, because of all the advances in technology and communication. Connectivity – the internet – has enabled people to share around the world and collaborate on worldwide problems rather than just focusing locally.

Q: What do you think are the most exciting opportunities for computing to help humanity in the coming decade?

There are a number of things occurring, a lot of them natural, that we don’t understand very well.

I think we’ll be using technology to understand some of these patterns, and some of the ways things are evolving. Something like climate change, for example: we observe it, but we don’t fully understand all the contributing factors. Technology can be used to better understand complex systems.

Then whether it’s monitoring what’s happening, or even being used to help people change behaviour, technology can help us adapt. Technology can help us address some of these global concerns, ensure society evolves in a way that isn’t detrimental, and in some cases even predict what may happen.

Technology can help us address some of these global concerns, ensure society evolves in a way that isn’t detrimental, and in some cases even predict what may happen.

Q: Where do you think we’ll see our biggest challenges in dealing with the pervasiveness of tech?

Privacy will be an issue.

There’s a lot of technology now that monitors what we do. A car monitoring where we’re driving, for things like maintenance, is collecting data that could be used for other purposes. Face recognition can play a role in social control – for instance, by identifying people in crowds. Wearables can track behaviour and patterns for more than just our health.

All that data’s availability can significantly impact our privacy, especially when combined and correlated.

Q: With the tech landscape moving so fast, is there such a thing as future-proofing computing education?

I believe there is such a thing as future-proofing computing and technical education.

I think the future-proofing aspect is really training students to be able to adapt and learn technologies. So certainly they learn the technologies of today, but in five or ten years, the technologies will be quite different.

But because they’ve learned how to learn, and how, in a short time frame, to be experts in some of these areas, they can apply those techniques when new technology comes around.

I appreciate BCIT’s emphasis on technical skills, but also the ‘soft skills’ that are key:  teamwork, presenting, communicating, and how to work well with others. These are all important to any evolution of technology in the future.

Q: What’s surprised you so far about BCIT?

Number one: the number of programs at BCIT! I didn’t realize we had programs in so many fields, so many areas of training.

Second, the level of maturity of the students, and the kinds of projects the computing students are able to accomplish in the short amount of time they have. Coming from industry, I know some of these projects are quite difficult. But these students have the ability, from what they’ve learned, to take them on, and to produce something relevant to the companies they’re working with.

That has really amazed me – the abilities of the students here.

That has really amazed me – the abilities of the students here.

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1 thought on “Get to know Computing’s new leader, Mike Starkey”

  1. It is reassuring to hear Mike’s thoughts on future-proofing computing education. It can be challenging to get the message across the whole class that it’s not just acquiring the technical skills that are expected and practiced, but also teamwork, presenting and communication — all that are key in working well with others and adapting to changing landscape of technology.

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