If you had told me in the mid-1990s that I would be running Infosys’ Hartford Technology and Innovation Hub in 2018, I would have immediately dismissed it with a laugh. I was working on my PhD in philosophy at Brown University, but little did I know that my start in academia would eventually lead me to Infosys today.

In the late 90s, Brown was one of the first schools to put curricula and work online. We worked closely with MIT, Stanford and others to use the internet to share information and collaborate. When the job market in academia collapsed at the end of the decade, I found that I knew more about the internet than most people out there.

See a related commentary from Infosys President Ravi Kumar.

So I began helping startups build their internet presences, working with companies like Select Quote to set up their online capabilities. When I moved to Connecticut a few years later, I worked with The Hartford to help their venture group commercialize online the start-ups in which they had invested. I did similar work later at PwC, improving their clients’ digital customer experience and building out their digital health practice right at the time the healthcare exchanges were starting up and all the big insurers had to sell and manage direct to member sales.

After years on the road, I wanted to spend more time working in and giving back to the Hartford community. I enjoyed my work helping companies scale and optimize their digital capabilities, but I was also acutely aware that the business model which we were using needed to change. We needed to have teams together in a room, figuring out the nuances of the experiences we were providing to customers and optimizing them to even better meet their needs. We needed a model that would truly embrace what it means to be agile, creating combined teams where clients and IT service providers worked hand-in-hand to develop solutions to pressing business challenges.

It was just at this time that my phone rang. Infosys was calling and asking me to help implement this exact model in Hartford. They offered me the ability to train the community, build local IT and tech talent, and work with academia to see this challenge through.

My first four months with Infosys have been a whirlwind. Working closely with my colleagues, we’ve designed a uniquely local enterprise. We assessed what the local job market looked like, what state and local officials were trying to accomplish in the economy, how the school systems were working to educate their students in technology skills, and we’ve worked to build a local presence to help address the area’s technology needs. We’re forming partnerships with local state and community colleges, meeting with the superintendents of local school districts and helping to change the skeptical narrative about the market for IT jobs in Connecticut.

For years now, educators have dissuaded students from entering the space, warning them that there were not enough local tech jobs to succeed. Infosys is changing this reality. We’re sponsoring events to demonstrate the kind of opportunities we can provide in IT: exciting jobs in customer experience and design thinking. We are designing programs to work with two-year associate degree holders to employ them in network administration, junior programming roles and project management jobs and then sponsor them to finish their 4-year degrees at one of the local state schools. And we’re collaborating with Trinity College to provide a bridge into digital jobs, creating business analysts, designers, and project managers whose background in humanities will complement the technical skills of our engineers.

My road to Infosys has been a long and winding journey. My varied career has afforded me this opportunity to design a local enterprise which can help build Hartford’s technology workforce and revitalize Connecticut’s economy. I’m thrilled to be working for a company that’s investing in the future of the American technology worker and I’m proud to have the ability to help my community. I encourage you to continue following the work Infosys is doing in Hartford. There are so many exciting developments in store for the months and years ahead.

Jeff Auker is head of Hartford Innovation and Delivery at Infosys.

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