Discussing the future of technology with Leidos and ScotlandIS
When Davie Gow, Director of Technology, Strategy, and Innovation at Leidos, rose to speak at the Software Engineering Leaders Forum (SELF) in May, he aimed to spark a debate about emerging technology and its future. And, thanks to the methods he used to compose his presentation, he did.
There were a few surprised faces in the room when participants learned he had used generative AI tools to create his slides and craft the main talking points. People were surprised because they had not guessed Davie's methods until he disclosed them at the end. When the participants learned what had unfolded, the intrigue and engagement went on to spur lively conversation. It was clear they wanted to know how he had done it so effectively.
Creating engaging conversation, debate and knowledge sharing among industry peers is precisely the point of the forum, attended by 20 software engineers, managers, and other technology leaders representing sectors as diverse as aerospace, financial services, and public service. Leidos are an active member of ScotlandIS, an information technology industry association, Leidos and ScotlandIS Jointly hosted the event in the Leidos office in Glasgow.
Bringing leaders together
With SELF events, ScotlandIS aim to bring technology leaders together in a safe space, to discuss their challenges and opportunities, and learn from peers. Such open discussions are rare outside of individual organisations because it's difficult to foster open dialogue in competitive settings—particularly between public sector and commercial technology leaders.
Another benefit for Leidos is that being an active member of ScotlandIS helps to enhance the company's involvement and reputation in the Scottish technology community and gain insights from it. "It gives us an environment to get feedback from potential customers and competitors," Davie says.
According to Karen Meechan, ScotlandIS Chief Executive Officer, the events represent a win for everyone involved. "These forums serve as catalysts for growth, providing an invaluable platform for software engineering leaders to come together, share their experiences, and tackle common challenges," she says.
Walking the talk
Davie gave a real-life demonstration of the subject of his presentation—the benefits of migrating from cumbersome heritage on-premises technology to more flexible, modern cloud-native applications. To underscore his points, he built his slides and wrote his speaker notes with the help of generative AI.
Davie's presentation, titled "From Monolith to Cloud Native Applications Using CI/CD Techniques," outlined the problems of applications built with a single codebase, typically on-premises. He described how loosely coupled microservices, often deployed in the cloud, can overcome these problems. And he explained how modern working practices, including continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) of software can help organisations accelerate innovation, reduce costs, and improve security.
He acknowledged some of the challenges of working with emerging technology, for example, generative AI's propensity for hallucinating, and the need to upskill engineers and managers to work with new tools. But the advantages outweigh the drawbacks, he asserts, thanks to time savings and other benefits. "You know, we've gone from the stone age to the iron age, and from the steam age to the information age," Davie says. "And now we are on the cusp of something else."
Davie closed his talk with an AI-generated image of sunrise on an alien planet, symbolising his optimism for the future. For some in the audience, the creative pictures were the first clue that Davie had used generative AI to develop his presentation, after all technical presentations don’t normally look this artistic, and they wanted to know more.
In the ensuing discussion, participants agreed that prompt-based engineering enabled by generative AI could augment the abilities of human coders but not replace them. They also agreed that they stand at the dawn of a new age of technology and that the technologies they discussed would bring more benefit than harm.
The very presence of such a wide range of sectors and potential competitors having an open discussion reinforced the optimistic view of the future expressed by Davie and the other participants. We could all feel the energy in the room as people fully engaged and learned from one another.
For more about ScotlandIS's SELF events, visit scotlandis.com