2019 Recap

Official DisruptED 2019 recap report

View highlights from DisruptED 2019 in our official recap report.

Click here to download the report.


Graphic Recordings

Didn’t take notes during DisruptED? Tiare Jung at Drawing Change has taken care of that for you with her super cool graphic recording images.


Event photos

Photos from DisruptED’s two-days in 2018, thanks to Jason Halstead (jjhphoto@gmail.com)


DisruptED in the Media

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Find your place in the future of work

Almost 500 people explored how the world of work and learning is evolving at the DisruptED: The Future of Work, a two-day conference organized by the Information and Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba Feb. 1 and 2 at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

ICTAM co-hosted the conference with the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technologies, Red River College, the University of Manitoba, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents.

Featuring a diverse range of keynote speakers, on-stage panels, the attendee-guided ‘Unconference’ and the Interactive Playground, the event focused on technological change and what it means for our work lives and education.

Ryan Klassen, ICTAM’s board president and vice-president of business solutions with Bell MTS, said DisruptED is all about jumpstarting the conversation about the future of work and learning.

“We’re delving deeply into the conversation about technology-driven disruptions that are changing the workplace and changing our educational institutions, our government policy and the way each one of us starts to engage with the world around us,” Klassen said. “The relationship between teachers, students and the broader institutions is evolving to reflect the realities of a more connected and volatile world.”

“It’s about getting educators, youth and industry together in the same room to have this conversation about how we prepare for the future,” said ICTAM CEO Kathy Knight. “We have to get out of our echo chambers. If we’re all just sitting around as industry types talking about what needs to happen or talking about what has to happen with education but not engaging with educators, with government, with young people, then we’re not going to be able to facilitate the kind of change and transformation we need to in order to thrive in the future. It’s really about the sense of community and the ability for people to connect, and having a forum for people to learn about new types of tech and then take those tools with them back into the work and education world.”

There was a common message from many DisruptED presenters: If you think your work doesn’t already involve tech, think again.

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“So much of our society now, no matter what you end up doing, whether you’re in sales, a creative artist, a scientist, a business person, it’s going to involve technology and it’s very important that young girls feel comfortable in that environment and that they grow up with a sense technology is many different things, not just someone playing a video game or whatever our stereotypes are,” said Stefi Baum, dean of the faculty of science and professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Manitoba. “Technology is involved in every aspect of what we’re doing now.”

Baum took part in the panel discussion, Where are the Women?

“Just like we expect literacy will involve every child learning to read and write, in this age literacy also involves feeling comfortable with data, computers, technology and science,” Baum said.

In a time of the ‘Me Too’ movement, women’s marches and social media focus on ending harassment, Baum’s and her fellow panelists lamented the fact the number of women entering the ICT field is not increasing substantially. Rather than approaching diversity as an afterthought, it’s time to start with the idea of diversity at the core to get out of our echo chambers and disrupt gender stereotyping.

“The sooner we all start approaching one another as human beings and not thinking about gender orientation and how we identify, it will be a huge leap forward,” Knight said. “There’s a cultural shift that has to happen.”

Many DisruptED keynote speakers looked hard at what automation will mean for our work futures. While automation and robots are already taking over some of the work we do, it’s the most human of our work skills that escape automation.

“We’re very optimistic about the future of work,” said Kate Morican, national organization transformation and talent leader for Deloitte, who co-presented the keynote called the Intelligence Revolution with Stephen Harrington, talent strategy national leader for Deloitte. “Yes, jobs will change and the fundamental work people do will change, but we very much believe it’s going to be better for people, putting the ‘human” back in some of the human work.”

“If we think about the market today the kinds of capabilities people need to be successful, which of those are likely to be future-proof in the next 10-15 years because they can’t be automated?” Harrington asked. “Things like social awareness, judgment, influence and empathy make the difference between good and great in the market today. We need to bake those capabilities into the way we’re teaching students today, to prepare them.”

Keynote speaker Ilana Ben-Ari, founder, CEO and designer of Twenty One Toys and creator of the Empathy Toy, spoke of the need for teaching methods tailored to this new reality. Her Empathy Toy is used to help gain insight as to how we can better use collaboration and communication in our work.

“I like to think that toys are the new textbooks,” she said. “While we can’t necessarily teach empathy, innovation and creativity with a textbook, we absolutely can teach it with toys.”

Citing the Future of Jobs Report from the 2016 World Economic forum, Ben Ari said about two-thirds of students entering grade school today will end up working in careers that haven’t even been invented yet.

“How do we teach for jobs that don’t even exist yet?” Ben-Ari said. “It’s about being comfortable with the fact we don’t know everything. We need to be more agile, more creative and complex.”

Keynote presenter Sean Mullin, executive director of the Brookfield Institute For Innovation and Entrepreneurship, counselled jobseekers not to aim for too narrow a target.

“Don’t plan for a specific job,” Mullin said. “Accumulate bundles of skills that make you resilient to changing jobs.”

Many of the conference’s keynotes and speakers focused on the need for diversity, both in personnel and in our work and education relationships, in this time of fragmentation of traditional work situations and the rise of the ‘gig economy.’ Panel discussions at DisruptED explored the issues of women in tech work, Indigenous inclusion and the impact of tech on our mental health.

Ashley Richard, and associate with Higgins Executive Search and Leaders International, took part in the Inclusive Innovation panel said fundamental elements of Indigenous culture fit well with the work world’s demand for meaningful human connections.

“The way I was raised by my grandmother, as an Indigenous woman, that’s the way we’ve always done things,” Richard said, citing the qualities of resilience, humility, empathy, social awareness and non-linear thinking. “That’s the way we’ve always built our relationships. In the future, I think Indigenous people and our knowledge have a big role to play.”

While we’re ever more connected digitally, that doesn’t necessarily mean improved human connections. That can take its toll on our mental health — just look at how tied we are to our work devices during so-called personal time.

“Technology has provided us with connection but not necessarily relation,” said Jordan Friesen, national associate director for workplace mental health with the Canadian Mental Health Association, as part of the Tech On The Brain panel. “As innovative Canadian employers, we can do better. The real disrupters, the people who change mental health in the workplace are going to be the organizations that find a way to use technology and things like big data to actually build healthier workplaces in a smarter way — and this is already happening.”

Our thinking about work also must try to grasp the differing work goals of the baby boom generation and millennials. That was the focus of the DisruptED panel The People Imperative: Corporate Reality and the Millennial Dream.

Panel member Leona McCharles, vice-president of global recruitment for RBC, credits her 24-year-old son for giving her a reality check about romanticizing the ‘freedom’ of the gig economy. While some Millennials may really take to the gig economy, McCharles said it’s important not to paint all in the younger work generation with the same brush.

“For him, he says it’s terrifying,” she said. “How he doesn’t have benefits and he has to navigate paycheque to paycheque while paying rent every month. So be careful about bucketing everyone into one category. We try to provide multiple opportunities and make sure we’re putting the right individuals into the right roles, whether full-time or a gig.”

The panel’s moderator Usha Srinivasan, vice-president of venture programs for MaRS Discovery District, has an excellent strategy to stay open-minded.

“I actually have reverse mentor,” Srinivasan said. “I have a young person as a mentor. We have coffee and chat regularly. I’m tech-savvy in lots of ways because of her. It keeps both of us honest.”

The DisruptED conference’s diamond sponsor was the University of Manitoba while gold sponsors included the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, Red River College and DXC Technology. At the silver level were sponsors Dell, Payworks, Cisco and AVentPro and bronze sponsors were RBC, IBM, Oxygen Technical Services and ICTC. Pembina Trails School Division and Neovation were event sponsors. Promotional partners included Mitacs, CTV and Relish New Brand Experience. Design services and furnishings for the stage and the Interactive Playground were provided by Anthony Allan and Number 10 Architectural Group. Funding for DisruptED was provided by the Manitoba Government and NSER

Jason Halstead


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