STEM: It Does a Brain Good!

Growing up, I was the kid who aced every English paper. I was “fluent” in grammar and punctuation, and I could recite all my prepositions to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. (Still can!) Teachers would applaud my “gift of gab” and tout my ability to create dynamic story leads and transition seamlessly between thoughts.

What I couldn’t do was Algebra.

I struggled with geometry.

The thought of sitting through a calculus class sent shivers down my spine.

And every science class either confused me or bored me to tears.

I was told repeatedly by teachers and just about every adult in my life that I was a “right brain” so I shouldn’t stress that I couldn’t solve for X or that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects weren’t “my thing.” I’d never need this knowledge for the types of careers I’d pursue and eventually settle into.

They were completely wrong.

Nurture Versus Nature

Today, I lead Employee Engagement at Avaya, which is a fancy way of saying I communicate with employees. I write, edit and consult (my strengths!), and I’m never asked about square roots, the Periodic Table or the Pythagorean Theorem (my weaknesses). Even simple arithmetic isn’t part of my daily job (and if by chance it is, my laptop and smartphone are equipped with a calculator).

What I didn’t know back then was that STEM subjects teach us how to think … critically. We learn to look at complex problems from all angles and then put forth innovative and thoughtful solutions. This isn’t to say that I’m not thoughtful or rational, but when it comes to really understanding the financial and technical complexities of business and technology, I struggle…and in that way it does impact my career. Writing a communication from my CFO is much more difficult for me then writing for my CMO. In fact, translating earnings for employees is how I imagine that calc class to be—painful.

Settling into my comfort zone rather than forcing myself to really tackle and learn STEM subjects hinders me today, and because of that I made a commitment early on that my children wouldn’t repeat my mistakes.

Raising Whole Brain Children

Most of us have a dominant side, but that doesn’t mean the other side can’t be nurtured. In fact, it’s important that it is. To that end, my husband and I make sure we provide opportunities to all three of our children that play to their strengths but also develop their less dominant sides.

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Our older son, Dylan, is a perfect mix of right (he’s a talented artist and can learn on his own any string instrument) and left (he excels in STEM), but when we noticed his writing wasn’t where it should be, he spent last summer with a tutor. Guess what? His lowest grade in Honors English this past school year was a 96, and he was placed in AP Lit for the upcoming year! Strong writing skills are something that can and should be developed. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a gift with which you’re born. It’s learned and it’s necessary. And if you love the written word, it can become a passion, career or even just mental exercise!

Ryan, our middle, is a full-on science guy so in addition to STEM camps, he takes private art and guitar lessons, and is a contributor to the school newspaper. Writing comes easy to him but he doesn’t like it. His articles are about draft picks, fantasy football and the NY Jets. But he’s writing!

Our youngest—little Miss Sienna—well, she’s a right brain if ever there were one. A voracious reader since the age of five, she’s also part of a Youth Writer’s Group in Maplewood, NJ. She gets lost for hours on end in her art, books and words. It’s amazing—all that creativity at just 10 years of age. And this week, she’s in her third STEM camp, analyzing and creatively solving real-world problems through science, technology, engineering, and math concepts. Brilliant!

What we’ve found is that all three enjoy the change of pace. They genuinely like exploring different areas and challenging themselves to think differently. Best of all, they’re racking up new and diverse experiences, which helps broaden their view of the world…wins across the board.

What do you think? Do you think STEM education is important for everyone? What about art, music and writing? Is it important to expose ourselves to areas that challenge our thinking? Would you agree that our greatest lessons and most rewarding wins come from doing so?

 

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Check out the Cool Avaya Omnichannel Contact Center Demos at ICMI

Sometimes you travel to Orlando to really fun destinations. But this May 22-25, when you arrive in Orlando for the 2017 ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference, we think you’ll be heading for what we like to call the second happiest place on earth. Visit Avaya’s Booth 623 for a fun omnichannel contact center experience that shows you how to create satisfaction—happiness—for customers throughout their interactions with your company.

Each year, contact center executives gather for a few days of education on the latest innovations designed to ensure customers have a great experience. I might not meet up with Mickey from Disney, but I may get together with Alex from Norwegian Cruise Lines, an Avaya customer, and many others who are going to have a wild ride at our cool contact center demos. We’ll show customer-focused companies our latest innovations. This includes the Avaya Oceana™ Solution for contact centers, which enables you to provide a greater customer experience over every communications channel—phone, email, web, SMS, chat, and more. And Avaya Aura® Workforce Optimization, which helps you drive a better customer experience by generating relevant and timely insights from each interaction.

At our demos, we believe customer service professionals will be as excited as kids visiting Goofy. Why? With just five minutes of prep, we can put your corporate website into our Avaya Oceana contact center transformation demo. We’ll set up a live, fully functional omnichannel contact center for taking calls and chat sessions from your website. It’s like magic to see a retail website suddenly support chat and WebRTC-based voice. We show you the exact experience your customers would have. Want to add voice? Will do. How about co-browsing and secured form fill? Done. How about a custom application for the iPhone? Done and fun!

Then we’ll add in our workforce optimization tools, giving you a 360-degree view of how to move from the old world of 800 numbers to the new world of a multi-touch omnichannel contact center. It all works with all of our Avaya solutions (which are used by 90% of the Fortune 100). It’s a great ride—with no height restrictions and guaranteed to be eye opening.

Visiting an Avaya booth at any tradeshow is a unique experience for many reasons:

  • Each demonstration we do is customized. The best way to show you the power of Avaya is to give you a glimpse into what your actual solution could be. If a vendor shows a canned demo, it might be an indication that the technology is not flexible or easy to customize.
  • Each demo shows multi-touch channels in action. Click on a live representation of your company’s mobile application and it connects to an agent. Follow the experience like your customers would.
  • We show the entire customer experience. A customer journey map shows the entire customer experience so that agents can add value to previous transactions and steps. By knowing what a customer has done in the past, or what a customer tried to do, an agent can be one step ahead with a relevant response.
    If a customer chatted with an agent yesterday and places a phone call today, it’s likely that both contacts are about the same transaction. An agent can see what information was exchanged with another agent, so the current agent can continue the customer journey fluidly. It’s a great way to reduce agent time requirements, while making the customer experience more personalized.
  • We are passionate about making a difference for your business. Meet an Avaya team with years of contact center experience and dedicated to helping your company create a competitive differentiation by transforming your customer experience.

We hope to see you at the ICMI Contact Center and Exhibition in Booth 623. We’ll have you saying “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” (Did you know Microsoft Word has supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in the dictionary?)

If you can’t make it to a show, an Avaya associate or partner can demo our solutions in person or online. To schedule a demonstration at the ICMI event or at another time, please email me at blgutnick@avaya.com.

Secure IoT Deployments with Avaya SDN Fx™ Architecture Solutions

Let’s look at how to deploy the IoT in a safe and sane manner—a top-of-mind business challenge. Before diving into the technology, let’s remember why secure IoT deployments are so important. The Yahoo breach is a lesson learned: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer lost $12M in bonuses over the Yahoo data breach and Yahoo paid $16M to investigate the breach and cover legal expenses as of March 2, 1017. It’s clear that the cost of not building a safe infrastructure is much more than the cost to build one.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is sometimes over-hyped. At a base level, separating the control plane from the data plane makes sense (if one understands the definitions of a data plane and control plane). In a practical sense, it means the network infrastructure doesn’t need to be managed on a node-by-node basis (i.e., logging into network devices on each end of the cable to make complementary changes to configure a network link). This is where SDN can be over-hyped. The SDN solution automates the process of making the changes to each end of the cable, making the network easier to manage. But, it doesn’t reduce the complexity, increase the resiliency (other than reduce outages due to typing errors), or make it easier to troubleshoot or expand.

Avaya SDN FxTM Architecture is based on fabric, not network technology. The architecture was designed to be managed as an entity of subcomponents and not a bunch of nodes that are interconnected to create a larger entity. In other words, it’s like designing something to manage a forest, as opposed to managing the trees. Would you really want to manage a forest one tree at a time?

How SDN Fx Architecture Benefits the IoT

Although the SDN Fx network architecture wasn’t specifically designed for the IoT, it works well for providing a solid foundation to deploy IoT solutions. These are the key components of the SDN Fx Architecture that benefit the IoT:

Avaya Fabric Connect is Avaya’s implementation of Shortest Path Bridging (SPB/IEEE 802.1aq). SPB replaces the traditional network stack, greatly simplifying network configuration, management and security. Three key benefits of Fabric Connect apply directly to IoT deployment use case:

  • Hyper-Segmentation: SPB supports 16 million+ network segments. In theory, every IoT device on a network could have its own segment. More realistically, every device type can have its own segment. For instance, HVAC could be one network, security cameras could be on another, employees on a third, guests on a fourth, etc. It’s worth noting that the NSA sees segmenting IoT networks as a key to limiting exposure of IoT deployments. (In my next blog, I’ll examine how Avaya solutions provide security between devices on the same segment.)
  • Automatic Elasticity: Services in SPB are provisioned at the edge without touching the core of the network. This makes it very straightforward to provision network services for the hundreds or thousands of IoT devices that the business wants up and running yesterday. Plus, edge provisioning makes moving devices simple. When a device is disconnected from the network, the network service to that port is disabled and eliminates open holes in the network security. When the device is connected to the same or different port, the device is authenticated and services are automatically configured for the port.
  • Native Stealth: SPB operates at the Ethernet, not the IP layer. For example, if a would-be hacker gains access to one segment of a traditional network, they can go IP-snooping to discover the network architecture. A traditional network is only as secure as the least secure segment/component. With Fabric Connect, if a security loophole is overlooked in a less important network project, there isn’t a back door to access the rest of the network and the corporate data.

Avaya Fabric Extend provides the ability to extend an SPB fabric across a non-fabric network, such as IP core, between campuses over Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), or out to the cloud over WAN. IoT deployments enable the phased adoption of SDN Fx so that IoT projects can gain the values above, without ripping and replacing significant network infrastructure or affecting non-IoT workloads.

Avaya Fabric Attach automates the elasticity of the SPB fabric for IoT devices and other devices supporting Automatic Attachment (IEEE 802.1Qcj). Fabric Attach allows the device to signal the network that it needs in order to connect to a service. If the device is authorized, the service is automatically provisioned. When the device is disconnected, the service is terminated. If the device is moved to a different network port, the service will be provisioned automatically to the new port. This makes deploying and moving Fabric Attach-enabled devices very simple. For a real-world example, see how Axis Communications is starting to deploy Fabric Attach in their IoT devices.

Avaya Open Networking Adapters—an Open Network Adapter is a small device that sits in-line with an IoT device to provide programmable security for IoT devices that lack adequate network security. One component of the solution is Fabric Attach, which provides automated service provisioning and mobility to devices that don’t have the auto-attach capability. (I’ll explore more about the power of Open Networking Adapters in an upcoming blog.)

The Avaya Identity Engines Portfolio provides powerful tools for managing user and device access to a network, commonly referred to as Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting. In the IoT use case, Identity Engines authenticate a device by MAC address or MAC address group and use predefined policies for the device type to dynamically configure services. For instance, a camera could be assigned to Video VLAN 30 and provisioned for multicast, while a phone would be authenticated, assigned to VLAN 20, and configured for SIP communications. This provides security for unauthorized devices joining the network and provides automatic segmentation based on device type and service requirements.

I’m not sure if there ever was a time when network design and implementation was static, but there was a time when the devices connected to the network could be predicted: servers, printers, storage, PCs, etc. With IoT, IT is being asked to design networks for devices that haven’t been thought of yet. The old network technologies were designed for mobility by work order, and IT was able to list the number of device types that wouldn’t work on the network. SDN Fx provides a true software-defined network and not software-defined automation on old network constructs. A fabric network has the intrinsic flexibility and security required for tomorrow’s IoT projects, today.

In my recent blogs about the IoT, I’ve looked at how the IoT enables Digital Transformation and examined a business-first approach to IoT technology adoption. Next in this blog series, I’ll explore the newest component of the SDN Fx solution for the IoT, the Avaya Surge™ Solution.

Customer Journey Analytics vs. Traditional Analytics—Know the Difference

It’s expected that 60% of all large organizations will develop customer journey mapping capabilities by 2018. Why? Because the average consumer isn’t so average anymore. Consider that a typical customer now owns three personal mobile devices, each with anywhere from 10 to 20 downloaded apps. This individual owns an average of five social media accounts, nearly three of which are actively used. Additionally, the average office worker receives up to 121 personal emails per day. Just imagine what these figures look like for consumers on the high end of this engagement spectrum.

To get a snapshot of my own activity, I followed these simple instructions to figure out how many emails I receive. It’s 10 a.m. and I show 59 emails received (up from 47 just two minutes ago). And tweets average around 6,000 per second—I have 1,175 in my queue based on who I am currently following. The question is: How do you bring your email, tweet, post, or blog to my attention amid all the clutter?

When we look at what this means to customer experience it is worth noting that we’ve reached a point where over 40% of customers now use up to seven different channels to interact with brands, from live chat to email to social media to SMS. Businesses increasingly understand this fact, and they’re taking the necessary steps to ensure they can deliver consistent, contextualized experiences across various channels and devices.

Each of the devices and channels offers its own set of diverse scenarios for linking to other devices and channels, making no two customer experiences the same. The not-so-good news is that businesses are still grappling to understand customers’ actions across these various touchpoints. They need to leverage data but, in fact, 43% of companies currently obtain little tangible benefit from their data, while 23% admit they derive no benefit whatsoever. Organizations are struggling to create a data strategy that delivers the insights needed to drive anticipatory engagement and repeat spending.

The bottom line is that a business can support virtually every interaction channel. However, without a comprehensive view of the data generated and shared across those channels organization-wide, it will fail. Supporting an array of channels is simply not enough. Businesses must gain an inherent understanding of how customers are using these channels so that they can adapt, evolve and change as needed. This is where the ability to understand your data—specifically, customer journey analytics—becomes vital.

The solution here may be simple to describe, but implementing it isn’t. Adopting customer journey analytics means businesses must now support a powerful, real-time visualization of the customer journey across all lines of business, not just the contact center. They need a roadmap to continually reinvent key processes and fine-tune organizational behavior. They must harness real-time and historical data across all channels and devices to intuitively understand customer needs and optimize business outcomes. Most challenging of all, they must do this in a way that shows tangible ROI and improves TCO.

To make customer journey analytics work, businesses must take a critical step from ideology to implementation—a move that can often feel like a leap of faith.

But there’s good news: technology has evolved to a point where companies can now easily, effectively and cost-efficiently achieve these core data objectives. The key is investing in an extensible, omnichannel customer engagement solution.

Your customer engagement solution should boast simple capabilities. It should be pretty easy to create and manage dynamic, multi-touch customer journeys. And you need a built-in, flexible analytics and reporting platform to deliver a single, comprehensive view of customer data across all sources, both internal and external. This lets you compete using customer journey analytics, and also easily add third-party data sources to amplify their strategy.

A customer engagement platform redefines the way businesses engage with digital consumers. Here’s how customer journey analytics stand apart from traditional reporting and analytics:

  • Obliterates Siloes: A siloed environment is the greatest barrier to data success, and it’s affecting more businesses than we realize. According to Deloitte’s 2017 “Contact Center Benchmarking Report,” nearly 60% of customer channels are currently being managed in silos. Analytics integration is vital for competing on customer experience (CX), an initiative that traditional analytics tools simply can’t support.
     

    Built on open, extensible architecture, a customer engagement platform has unparalleled flexibility for gathering transactional information from numerous different channels (IM, co-browsing, SMS, phone, email, IoT) and devices (phone, mobile/tablets, branch, desktop, kiosks). This enables companies to flexibly collect, process and analyze all real-time and historical data. They gain a rich visualization of their customer journey enterprise-wide. This means consistent, contextualized experiences no matter where and when interactions begin, end, continue—and no matter how many company agents are communicating with the customer.

  • Seamlessly combines internal and external data sources: The open nature of a customer engagement platform enables companies to combine internal data with that of virtually any other business intelligence (BI) tool. For example, insights collected internally can be combined with data from visualization tools from leading providers like MicroStrategy, Oracle, SAP and Tableau. This lets managers maximize the return on their existing investments, while driving their potential beyond what was initially imagined.
     

    Furthermore, this unique ability lets managers generate cradle-to-grave customer interaction reports, enabling them to identify innovative new ways to meet consumers’ evolving needs. Chances are you’re not going to get this with traditional reporting and analytics platforms.

  • Transforms the agent experience: A holistic customer engagement platform redefines agent and supervisor experiences by allowing companies to easily create, customize and integrate key applications for specific work groups. Supported by an advanced software development kit, companies can build their own contact center apps, or embed specific functions into their existing apps, to customize desktops for any unique customer/agent configuration. The solution represents a revolutionary way to serve digital consumers. And, it offers managers a new avenue for analyzing performance metrics for all ways customers are served.

With customers using more digital channels than ever, it’s clear that now is the time to adopt customer journey analytics via a customer engagement platform.

Interested in learning more or chatting about transforming your analytics environment? Contact us. We’re here to help and would love to hear from you.