UMBC Mic'd Up

Tackling Today's Challenges through Digital Transformation [podcast]

June 29, 2022 UMBC Mic'd Up with Dennise Cardona and Dr. Albert Mubako Season 2 Episode 32
UMBC Mic'd Up
Tackling Today's Challenges through Digital Transformation [podcast]
Show Notes Transcript

Transformation trends are based on emerging technologies being leveraged by businesses, whether in the private or public sector, to run more efficiently and improve their service delivery and operations. The field of systems engineering plays a role in this digital transformation.

"People remain the most important assets. Fancy technologies and their capabilities are nothing without the innovation brought on by the leadership and the direction of the people who use this technology to solve real world problems. The positive impacts that come from taking advantage of digital transformation tools is very exciting." Dr. Albert Mubako,  D.Mgt, MBA, UMBC Faculty, Digital Transformation Innovation and Sustainability (SYST 691)

Listen to this podcast episode for an in-depth conversation into digital transformation!

About Digital Transformation Innovation and Sustainability Course (SYST 691)
In fall 2022 students, can enroll in a new course on digital transformation. These topics are important to the systems engineering field. This special topics course will deepen the student’s understanding and critical thinking of digital transformation that is present in modern society.  The course will identify and examine the process that contributes to the development cycles to a digital society and digital economy. Digitalization and innovation cycles impact different performance levels, skills, structures and the strategies of the organization, including the ability to respond to external stimuli, the interactions with the stakeholders and the definition of the value propositions. Hence, the Digital transformation course aims also to support the students to comprehend the problems that the digital transformation might produce and, at the same time, to assess the new opportunities that the digitalization unlocks.

About UMBC's M.S. in Systems Engineering
Systems Engineering encompasses the principles and practices that guide the engineering of complex systems. As technologies become more complex and integrated, systems engineering professionals bridge traditional disciplines and focus on the system as a whole to find the solution that best meets the needs of the end user.  Learn more about UMBC's M.S. in Systems Engineering

Dennise Cardona  0:00  
Welcome to this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs. We are joined today by Professor Albert Mubako from UMBC Systems Engineering graduate program. We hope you enjoy this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up. Welcome Professor Mubako. It's so nice to have you here on the UMBC Mic'd Up podcast. And today we're going to talk about the field of systems engineering and an upcoming course that you're going to be teaching this fall semester. So it's really wonderful to have you here. 

Professor Albert Mubako  0:33  
Thank you for having me. 

Dennise Cardona  0:35  
So first of all, let's talk a little bit about your journey. So can you tell us a little bit about the path that you took to land here at UMBC?

Professor Albert Mubako  0:43  
Okay, it's very interesting. I certainly think so. So I am in the field of systems, applications, products, consulting. And when I ventured into doing my PhD in business management and strategy, my then supervisor was Professor Jeffrey Ray, who is actually an instructor at UMBC in the systems engineering faculty. From 2015 to 2017, he was my supervisor on my PhD thesis. And since then, I've been working with him, and we cofounded the Institute for Digital Business Strategy, which focuses on digital transformation, skills, training and consulting. And since then, we have been working well together. And we co-authored a book with him called the Definitive Guide to Digital Business Strategy. And from there, we have just been evolving and creating courses on digital transformation. And he got us involved with the University of Maryland. And then basically, I mean, that's how I landed here, I suppose. Teaching this course. 

Dennise Cardona  2:13  
Oh, that's wonderful. So I interviewed Professor Ray, I would say probably in early maybe early to mid 2020. And we talked about this, we talked about the book and the copartnerships. Anybody listening in or tuning in, go ahead and listen to that episode. It's in our podcast episode archives, with Dr. Jeffrey Ray. So that's a very interesting path that you took here. And it's wonderful that you took some courses here as well. So what I would love to know is, I'd love to talk about the nature of the engineering field. Why do you feel like it's important to the world and to organizations, the world of engineering?

Professor Albert Mubako  2:54  
Alright, so, systems engineering, basically, I mean, is technology related. As we see in the world right now with the transformation trends, is all based on emerging technologies that are being leveraged by businesses, whether in the private or public sector, for them to be able to run more efficiently, and to be able to, you know, improve their service delivery and operations. So in looking at that field of systems engineering, it basically plays a role in digital transformation. So the course that I'll be teaching will be around digital transformation and looking at these, investigating these transformative trends that we have, that evolve, you know, all these emerging technologies like Blockchain, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, Internet of Things, you know, just to name a few of the interesting ones that are driving business. So in engineering innovations that are in there, for example, if we look at like, applications called liquid applications, those are closely related to engineering because, you know, all of the engineering innovations and management of technology through Agile and DevOps, you know, that's closely tied together. That's where the close relationship is. And I think, you know, the importance of systems engineering comes into into play, you know, in digital transformation, and digital transformation projects and leadership.

Dennise Cardona  4:38  
Excellent. And I want to talk a little bit about that course, you're going to be teaching but before that, I always like to ask the question of: what excites you most about this field of systems engineering and digital transformation?

Professor Albert Mubako  4:50  
What excites me most is basically digital transformation. It's not all about the technology. You know, people remain as the most important assets, so we may look at the fancy technology and capabilities that come with it. But at the same time, those technologies are nothing without the innovation. And the leadership and the direction of the people who actually use this technology is enough to solve real world problems, to solve business problems, whether it's in the private sector or the public sector. And underlying all this, I mean, I think is basically innovation. What excites me is, you know, the positive impacts to operations of a business or a government entity or the service delivery, they know that that comes out of taking advantage of digital transformation tools that we have these days.

Dennise Cardona  5:49  
Yeah. And anytime you're able to make an impact on the world, I mean, that's such a positive motivation. And it's such a reason to get up out of bed in the morning and do what you do. And to be able to share that with students and your upcoming course, that must be an amazing feeling.

Professor Albert Mubako  6:03  
Absolutely, it's very exciting. And yeah, I'm really, really, really excited to do that.

Dennise Cardona  6:10  
What are the career opportunities that we see for students and professionals in the next five years, you know, which technologies according to you will be relevant? And what do you recommend to learn them?

Professor Albert Mubako  6:21  
So, definitely intelligent applications, you know, that involves artificial intelligence. Augmented reality, as we have seen, for example, you know, Facebook has taken it one level up to the metaverse, that's got everybody excited. I mean, that is now being used as a proper business case or business use case, where you know, augmented reality is actually going to be commercialized, whether or not in a entertaining or positive way, whichever way you look at it, that is quite exciting to follow. And also, maybe technologies that have been used already, but have been enhanced, like, for example, in the Internet of Things, where you find that sensors are being used in manufacturing and healthcare, you know, to be able to enhance machinery and reduce malfunctions, increase efficiencies, and the like. So, with that all comes together, those technologies offering, you know, opportunities for employment, or even let me mention that, you know, opportunities for digital entrepreneurship. So, you might find that, you know, you can actually even become a business owner by exploiting these technologies, not only being just the employee professional, but yeah, you can actually innovate with them, and then actually, you know, become a business owner and employ other people. Those are just the technologies that I see that I like at the forefront of digital transformation, that driving business at this point.

Dennise Cardona  8:02  
And it's interesting to me, you mentioned augmented reality. And the reason why that's interested me is because I am studying in a graduate program here at UMBC, the Learning and Performance Technology graduate program, and I run a live stream show about the world of ISD. And one of our future guests on that show is somebody who runs an augmented reality and virtual reality training for people for various organizations, various fields to help bring the workforce up to speed through training through augmented reality. And so the implications of a career as somebody who programs these things, is vast, and it's right there on the cusp. And it's one of those emerging technologies, that is going to be so important to bring in professionals up to speed in so many different ways and also in the fun entertainment aspect of it all too.

Professor Albert Mubako  8:57  
Definitely, definitely. So the one use case for that is in the healthcare sector, where, you know, the surgeons can actually practice a couple of times or you know, before they actually go into the real life, operating theatre augmented is going to be very, very important... is important at this point, I think.

Dennise Cardona  9:22  
Yeah, absolutely. Now, let's talk about the upcoming course you're going to be teaching this fall semester. For starters, what are the business benefits and challenges in adoption of digital transformation in industry 4.0 and 5.0? How do you think COVID has affected these business models?

Professor Albert Mubako  9:42  
Definitely COVID has accelerated digital transformation of many organizations in the public sector and the private sector. It has improved the reaching out to customers know with the meetings and all of that. That's on the basic necessity level. But over and above that digital transformation self, you know, the other benefits to businesses organizations is running data driven businesses, you know. So with that, the business can actually know the customers better, know what the customers need, as I mentioned before, you know, that ties back to improving service delivery for customers. And basically, as well, that comes back to increasing or improving efficiencies, what we see is that businesses and organizations definitely will benefit from just the transformation because they get closer to the customers and they get connected. The way they operate, it becomes way way better than well, how we were operating like maybe 10 or 15 years back.

Dennise Cardona  10:53  
What can a student expect out of the class you're going to be teaching this fall?

Professor Albert Mubako  10:58  
So the name of the course is Digital Transformation. What to expect is that you're going to examine and interrogate digital transformation concepts, and the current digital transformation, transformative trends around the world and global. We're also going to look at the tools and the practices that is used in digital transformation, and basically understand how it is to become a digital transformation leader. So in the course, as well, you will find that the language is geared to talking to the students as if they were business owners, or digital entrepreneurs. As I mentioned earlier, talking to them as if they were part of the digital transformation project teams, and leading those teams. The language of the course also talks to you as if you are part of these business study teams. So basically, all of the traits and leadership and capabilities and skills that are required to actually become digital transformation leaders. This is also bandwidth in this course, as well.

Dennise Cardona  12:18  
Oh, that sounds so interesting. It sounds like that real world application that you can be in this class one night, and then the next day, bring everything you just learned right to your professional life. Sounds like there's going to be a lot of engagement in the class, can you talk a little bit about what that might look like for students?

Professor Albert Mubako  12:36  
All right. In terms of engagement, we will do the whole traditional quizzes, I don't know if anybody can run away from because... but definitely, we're going to have use cases that we're going to look at; real world use cases for each of the technologies. And basically case studies also on the successful companies that have successfully executed the digital transformation journeys. And we're going to dissect these, we're going to discuss this. And we're going to actually also come up with our own action plans and how we would, you know, tackle different types of situations that are related to the topics.

Dennise Cardona  13:20  
That's great student discussions and case studies, those are so useful in a learning journey. It helps you to really act it out as though you are part of a team sitting around a conference table or in a Zoom meeting, and trying to figure out the challenges, creating solutions and imagining what those solutions might do to the end result. That sounds like it's going to be very powerful and useful for students.

Professor Albert Mubako  13:48  
It will be very useful. 

Dennise Cardona  13:51  
In your opinion, how does this class prepare students for success out in the real world? I mean, we talked a little bit about this, these discussions, these case studies, but what else? What other kinds of benefits are students going to gain from this classroom, this class?

Professor Albert Mubako  14:09  
One benefit I'm hoping to give out or to be able to let students have is, is basically coming out after doing this course with the confidence to be able to engage managerial and executive level with regards to innovative technologies and those capabilities and how they actually translate into business outcomes. Because businesses basically do not invest in technologies because it's pretty cool or nice to have, but they want to invest in these technologies so that they also get you know, an increase on the bottom line. So if there's any investment it is all projects, which systems engineering professionals will be involved in. It will be able to communicate the value and also demonstrate the value capture of these technologies and be able to communicate and engage and then deliver, you know, digital transformation projects at such a level.

Dennise Cardona  15:16  
Absolutely. How can a student come into this class and make the most out of it? What is this ideal student have to do to really dig in and learn and grow from this course?

Professor Albert Mubako  15:30  
Alright. Yeah, the ideal students should come in with an open mind, willing to think outside the box, willing to throw in innovative ideas in discussions, willing to actually learn how to apply some of these, or what they're going to learn in the exercises in the discussions, in the case studies. And also, you know, be able to come out with actionable plans for them to be able to apply in their professional lives, when they do graduate. And who knows, might be talking to the next Bill Gates. So you know, we want to have people who are willing to be able to think about and also become entrepreneurs and apply their knowledge and what they've learnt as well.

Dennise Cardona  16:28  
Yeah, as a professor, I would imagine, that's the most exciting thing is when you sit there, and you are engaging with your students, and you think: "gosh, somebody in this class could be the next pioneer in the next emerging technology". That must be pretty cool. Because the possibilities, the potential, it's there. Is there anything else that I didn't ask you that you feel would lend value to this conversation?

Professor Albert Mubako  17:00  
As I mentioned earlier, you know, people remained as the greatest assets, not the technology. So coming out of this course, you should be armed to be able to exploit the technologies and be able to use them, you know, to make an impact in society, and, you know, positive impact and greater impact wherever you go. So yeah, I think that's the last note I can add to that.

Dennise Cardona  17:29  
Absolutely. This has been a great conversation. I'm really grateful that you took the time to be here with us today, and to help inform and educate those who are listening a little bit more about the world of systems engineering, and how important it is to the world at large. The fact that you can make impacts with engineering, and it's critical to the success of the human race, overall. And so there's a lot of exciting things on the horizon, and I'm really happy for you to be starting a journey as a professor here at UMBC, helping to bring the next generation of engineers into the world. Thank you so much for being here.

Professor Albert Mubako  18:12  
Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.

Dennise Cardona  18:16  
Thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up. We hope that you enjoyed it. If you'd like to learn more about UMBC's Professional Engineering suite of courses, please click on the link in the show notes.