Melissa Reali-Elliott interviewed Nabeel Mahmood, co-founder and CEO of Nomad Futurist and managing director of the Nomad Futurist Foundation. In this video Q&A, Mahmood shares his insightful futurist perspective on the shifting patterns in how we learn and the new path to education we need to adopt to meet the challenge of training the next generation.

Mission Critical: So tell me, what are you doing with your foundation, how are you focusing on the importance of digital infrastructure education, and what are you hoping to achieve? 

Mahmood: Yeah, so how we started was to demystify technology for the younger generation as well as people that are currently in transition because we see that there's going to be a human capital deficit that's going to be massive as technology becomes second nature to all of us. And then there's also this generational gap - as we have aged, it's not necessarily very easy to, you know, buy into all the tech that's available from applications to interfaces and collaboration tools. So, our idea really was to demystify that technology, whereby there's, you know, a level of comfort for people to say, "OK, I'm willing to take the risk. I'm willing to try it out, and, if it doesn't work, then, you know, go back to my old ways of doing it. But it was also to encourage them to come into our space to potentially address that human capital deficit that we're getting ready for. The other thing is that I found, over a period of time in my career and life is that, if you're not passionate about something and it becomes a job, then you're not going to be the change agent. You're just going to get into line and do what others have been doing. So we need that level of innovation as we progress. And that can only come by giving people the opportunity, the exposure, the experience, and - potentially - education as well.


Mission Critical: People are coming into our industry from all different walks of life - from entirely diverse backgrounds and skill sets. So, how are you building that in so that we teach that variety of skill set that for diversity of background along with the technical education that they'll need to succeed?

Mahmood: I'm a big advocate of cross-functional education. So, for instance, when we start looking at the data center space, the mission critical space, and, you know, we've talked about it for decades ... the electrical guys don't get along with the mechanical guys, and they don't get along with the facility guys, and they don't get along with the networking guys, and the layers just keep going on and on and on forever. So, our vision is that you've got to have enough knowledge base, which is cross-functional, that you can have intelligent conversations. Because, if you're making a minor change at any of those layers, it's got a significant impact on other things and data in particular. So, to help each other out, you've got to have the basic understanding, you don't need to be the subject matter expert, but you've got to have this understanding of how the thermodynamics work, how air flows within the data center, what are the implications if you increase the temperature at a rack level at a 1U level, right? And then what are the requirements for the power capacity and power needs? And then, you know, what are the implications? Like, OK, can we downsize this data center and address the carbon neutrality initiative. But, all of that needs to come together, and the only way you can do that is if you actually have a basic understanding of what other people are doing?

Mission Critical: Absolutely. I recently read the statistic that workers skill sets become obsolete after only three to five months because technology is evolving this rapidly. So, what I love about what you're doing is embracing that passion and drive for continuous learning, for self-taught learning and self guided education. So, how do you see this working with some of the continuing ed requirements and that future need for skill development? Because there's so many avenues we can take with this, it can just go boom. I mean, this could be a huge system for all of those needs.

Mahmood: Absolutely. So, yeah, I mean, it could be massive, and I believe it will be at some point in time. At this point in time, we need to work on the foundation - as strong of a foundation that we can actually pour because then you can get to those levels that we were talking about, right? And we are laying a lot of emphasis on the core coursework. So, get the basics right, and then we will build a skyscraper on it. One of the theories I have, and it's pretty probably kind of disruptive when it comes to education, is I believe, unfortunately, that we have not had education reform since the Second Industrial Revolution. And we're just mind boggling, right? And, when you look at kids these days, I mean, they will learn totally different than how we went to school in college and learned. So, I am a firm believer that we are not going to have graduates because the minute you graduate, you know it all.

The idea of graduation is that you've done it, and you know most of the answers. And, like you said, our world is changing so quickly, so rapidly, that we can't really keep up. So, that continuous education is going to be a part of the whole initiative, that as things are developing as things are in the pipe, as things are being forecasted and planned for that we are running those concepts ahead of time. Maybe you have that next AI transformation. Who knows? Or maybe we can have some sort of robotic process automation transformation, who knows? And that could potentially come from the schooling system and the the platform that we're putting together.

Listen to the full interview here.