Of the dozens of companies represented Friday at a technology conference in downtown Tacoma, truck manufacturing giant Paccar seemed an outlier.
It owns truck businesses you have heard of – Kenworth, Peterbilt. It’s a 105-year-old global company based in Washington with $16 billion in sales and revenues.
One of the ways its engineers make new equipment is using software that, after hitting “print,” prompts another machine to produce a three-dimensional part. If the part doesn’t work, they can print another.
Paccar hired 8,000 people last year.
“We’re the biggest technology company you’ve never heard of,” Gary Whisler, Paccar recruiter, told about a dozen students who gathered during a break Friday at the South Sound Technology Conference at the University of Washington Tacoma.
“I’d heard of Peterbilt, but didn’t realize how much technology they use,” said Michael Garcia, 25, a student at Clover Park Technical College studying networking and information security. He and classmate Jordan Tole, 18, soaked up the enthusiasm of their first tech conference.
Hundreds of people, including leaders of private industry, government officials, employees and students, spent the day discussing how technology affects our daily lives and must be made more secure.
The featured speaker was Howard Schmidt, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, who has deep roots in Western Washington. Schmidt is a former Microsoft executive, early member of the advisory board for the UWT’s Institute of Technology, and owns a home in Issaquah.
In less-than-breaking news for the owners of the 4 billion mobile devices worldwide, the mobile Web is the future. (The population of Earth is about 7 billion.)
“Our entire social life has the common thread of technology running through it,” Schmidt said. “We all depend on it.”
It has to be secure for everyone. No one knows enough. Panelist after panelist Friday spoke with urgency about ease of user experience, the need to protect data, and education.
Janine Terrano, founder and CEO of Tacoma tech company Topia Technology, said Facebook’s billion-dollar profits aren’t from advertising: “They’re selling your data.” She said Europe is more concerned about privacy than the United States.
Americans’ laissez faire attitude toward their own data causes problems for everyone, panelists said.
“It continually astonishes me how little literacy the general public has around these issues,” said Barbara Endicott-Popovsky, a UW professor. “They take that into the workplace. And we’re only as strong as the weakest link.”
Schmidt said the federal government has thousands of openings for tech-related jobs because the private sector is snapping up all the talent. Clara O’Brien, a Paccar recruiter, said India is one source of the company’s new workers.
One of the places to start is educating more professionals. The UWT’s Institute of Technology is building connections with private companies, like Paccar, to find qualified graduates. The UW system is now a “designated center of excellence” for the National Security Agency, which is providing full scholarships in exchange for work after graduation.
Governments are getting involved, too: Pierce County now offers an internship in cooperation with the UWT. County IT director Linda Gerull said Friday that the internships are a two-quarter commitment for 10 credits. Students will learn to develop mobile applications as well as get practical knowledge of workplace issues they’ll encounter after school.
Andrew Fry, conference organizer and UWT instructor, said the Tacoma campus’s tech institute has 360 students and expects significant enrollment growth in the next two years.
In a rapidly changing economy, it was hard not to notice automatic job security for people comfortable not just with technology but with constant change.
“I never teach the same course twice. This is not the classics. This is not ‘Beowulf,’” said Endicott-Popovsky. “What I have is the tiger by the tail. And so do you. When you go into this field you have to commit to continuous learning.”
Kathleen Cooper: 253-597-8546 kathleen.cooper@thenews tribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/business Twitter: @KCooperTNT