Career Round Table: As Legacy Tech Paves the Way for New and Emerging Fields, Job-Seekers Have Countless Opportunities to Get in on the Ground Floor
By Lori Cameron

Technologies change and advance rapidly. In the realm of computing, legacy technology has given birth to a myriad of new and emerging technologies that are reshaping our relationship with the digital world.

For example, recognizable tech like artificial intelligence and machine learning has paved the way for lesser-known tech fields like neuromorphic computing.

We asked several experts about career opportunities in industry that deal with emerging tech. We also asked distinguished scientist and former IEEE Computer Society president, Sorel Reisman, who made the switch from industry to academia, about opportunities in academia for pursuing an interest in the newest technologies.

Here’s what each of them had to say.

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Andy Pavlo

Beyond the Problems of Legacy Tech: AI and Machine Learning as ‘Hot Growth’ Sectors

Andy Pavlo: Artificial intelligence, more specifically machine learning (ML) will continue to be the hot growth area for the foreseeable future in database and data science fields. Developers who can span the mathematical side of ML and develop high-performance systems to support complex, data-intensive applications will surely be in demand for several years. This last point is becoming increasingly more about combining software and hardware.

Pavlo is assistant professor of databaseology in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University. His research interests are in database management systems, specifically main memory systems, non-relational systems (NoSQL), transaction processing systems (NewSQL), and large-scale data analytics. He authored the article “Emerging Hardware Trends in Large-Scale Transaction Processing.”

R. Stanley Williams

R. Stanley Williams: In information technology, I see neuromorphic computing as offering the biggest opportunity for growth in the next decade or two. Adapting concepts from the brain for computation will be the key enabler for robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, search, and learning.

Williams, recently retired, was a research scientist in the field of nanotechnology and a Senior Fellow and the founding director of the Quantum Science Research Laboratory at Hewlett-Packard.

Sharad Singhal: Technology is evolving at an ever-increasing pace, with the most recent advances in the areas of autonomous systems, such as self-driving cars, drones, and the Internet of Things. The combination of machine learning and the analytics of very large data sets with real-time control will provide many new opportunities in the next several years.

Sharad Singhal

Singhal is a distinguished scientist at Hewlett Packard Labs. His research interests include speech and video processing, middleware, and large-scale distributed computing. Singhal received a PhD in engineering and applied science from Yale University.

Intelligent Systems and IoT as Key Trends

Kirk Bresniker: We are moving toward a future in which we create information systems capable of not just providing us hindsight (what has been happening) but also of giving us insight (what is happening right now) and eventually foresight (what is most likely to happen).

Key technology trends here include the creation of intelligent, distributed systems—such as those that will be part of the Internet of Things—that can house large amounts of information outside of traditional data centers.

Kirk Bresniker
Kirk Bresniker

Bresniker is chief architect of systems research at Hewlett Packard, where he guides research and advanced development of novel hardware and software system designs. Together with Williams and Singhal, he co-authored the article “Adapting to Thrive in a New Economy of Memory Abundance.”

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Emerging Tech in Academia

Sorel Reisman: An academic can pursue an interest in emerging technologies in three areas, which align with the three criteria used to assess a professor’s work performance: research, teaching, and service.

When I entered academia, I didn’t have a specific research agenda. However, I’d been involved with multimedia computing in industry, and it seemed reasonable to work in that area again as a professor. How much real research you can do in emerging technologies depends on the funding available for that kind of work. In industry, companies typically fund their own projects. In academia, on the other hand, external grants typically fund research. Your success in obtaining a grant determines your ability to pursue your interest in emerging technologies.

Sorel Reisman
Sorel Reisman

In terms of instruction, undergraduate courses are limited in opportunities to teach emerging technologies, but there’s more freedom to do this with graduate-level courses. At the undergraduate level, accredited academic departments must adhere to a prescribed set of topics to provide students with foundational knowledge. You can introduce newer, advanced topics in some courses, but you don’t have time to deal with them in-depth.

You can do as I did and propose optional courses related to an emerging technology, but there might not be enough interested students to justify the university offering the class. I created a course called “personal computer systems and architectures” that became very popular, just as PCs were being widely adopted. I also designed a class on e-commerce systems—which was just starting to become an emerging topic of interest—that was popular with graduate students.

Service means volunteer personal or professional community work. I chose to invest my service time with the IEEE Computer Society, which has paid off immeasurably. I’ve learned about many new technologies, and my involvement with the IEEE and Computer Society digital libraries has enabled me to bring new ideas and concepts to the work I do at the university.

Prior to obtaining a full professorship in information systems at California State University Fullerton, Reisman held senior management positions at IBM, Toshiba, and EMI in the US and Canada. He served as the 2011 IEEE Computer Society president and has served as vice president of the Electronic Products and Services Board and as a member of the Transformation and Planning and Membership Committees.



About Lori Cameron

Lori Cameron is Senior Writer for IEEE Computer Society publications and digital media platforms with over 20 years extensive technical writing experience. She is a part-time English professor and winner of two 2018 LA Press Club Awards. Contact her at Follow her on LinkedIn.