Cayman Tech City, the technology-focused special economic zone within Cayman Enterprise City (CEC), in partnership with Digital Cayman, hosted a live virtual panel of Gen Z technology experts on July 23, 2020. Part of the ongoing monthly series “Tech Talks”, the panel of local Caymanians answered questions from participants and discussed how the next generation responds to the changing technology sector in the Cayman Islands.
Panelists for the virtual event included Shannon Williams, Junior Software Developer at Walkers who studied at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Matthew Elphinstone, natural entrepreneur who has been solving environmental issues and a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Queen's University Ontario, Canada, and myself Alyssa Ebanks, CEC Intern, Game Design and Development Graduate from Brock University in Saint Catharines, Canada,
The panel was moderated by Adam Clarke, a Tools Engineering Intern at Activision Infinity Ward, studying Game Programming at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.
Our group of panelists mentioned to the audience that it is important to recognise that Gen Zs individuals are very technology-focused. We are the go-getters, wanting to create our own opportunities. (We are) A very globally aware generation. Being exposed to technology from a very young age has facilitated our connections across the world, growing the digital economy in the Cayman Islands. However, the tech community amongst the young adults is still very small and sometimes a challenge to grow amongst widespread ‘hype’.
Emerging into the workforce
When asked what it has been like entering the workforce after graduation, Shannon Williams noted, “After graduation, I’ve done two summer internships at the time. I have come to realise, my life was heavily influenced by social media. I would watch interviews and videos of ‘Day in the life of a software developer’ and technology related videos. It shifted my perspective of working in the real world. Going into the workforce takes a great deal of growth and mental maturity and unfortunately, I recognised that a lot of postgraduates still struggle to look for a job because of what social media told them was to have a good ‘work-life balance’ ”
Shannon also highlighted that there are gaps between education and joining the workforce and that there needs to be adequate training to help fill in those gaps for incoming graduates.
Our group addressed some ways to tackle these gaps.
We suggested that there be more Hackathons, this would cultivate and allow students to gain exposure and experience working with world class developers which would be brilliant for our workforce development. It is important that we grow and foster interest in technology especially through creativity. Demonstrate that technology can be used creativity to solve problems.
Paid internships are a huge plus as well for companies and students to recognise what gaps are missing and address those by connecting with peers and mentors to be successful in our field. Ultimately, it is training the next talent and workforce generation, why not invest for the long term?
Think big, Think technology
As more graduates are returning from school, we have to question ‘what impact Gen Z is going to have for the future in the Cayman Islands?’
We highlighted, we are going to think big. With the growing climate crisis, a step forward is in environmental technology in the marine sector such as creating artificial reefs, sequester carbon and developing storm barricades for future hurricane seasons.
However, education plays a huge role for garnering young people around technology in the Cayman Islands. Mathew Elphinstone explains, “The rigidity of the education system has one way of teaching and thinking; there isn’t freedom for creatives, there are limitations for creatives when it comes to designing technology. The education system is not primed to teach technology and to demonstrate how critical it is to the infrastructure of Cayman’s digital sector.”
We further explained an area of opportunity for Cayman is to invest in a Makerspace. A makerspace would help to generate the next workforce. Getting hands on experience will develop an understanding of the design process which is a huge plus.
Technology for All
Williams also mentioned that, “access to technology and internet for students around the island is going to foster this hype for young people too! Access to information, the next generation is going to act autonomously, using what they know to propel Cayman into the future.”
Williams added, “but foremost, getting technology into the education system is a step we need to take.”
“As it still demonstrates that a tech degree is a premium product,” Adam Clarke stressed, “It is important to show that all of us have degrees from outside Cayman and it is not quite viable yet to get a degree on the island and it is going to take a while before it starts growing locally.” We expressed our desire to empower the next generation to pursue BSc and STEM related fields in hopes to get a job immediately in tech.
In our closing remarks, we all shared a few words about moving into the workforce. Marketing yourself and having influence in your followership can have an impact in job searching. Putting yourself out there gives companies a better sense of you. Williams states, “if you make yourself look good, you make the company look good”.
For the future of workspaces, we are looking forward to companies having more coworking spaces, to allow the next generation to be more collaborative.
Watch the full interview below. For more information about upcoming “Tech Talks” email firstname.lastname@example.org.