Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Emily Friedman is a New York-based enterprise wearable and emerging technology advocate, journalist and facilitator. She is Head of Content and Lead Writer at BrainXchange, a boutique conference company that organizes the biannual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit. She is also the manager, lead journalist and senior editor of the EnterpriseWear Blog, the leading resource for new realities and all things wearable in business and industry.
What projects are you working on at the moment? What does your current job role entail?
Over the last few months I've been busy working on our event - the Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) Spring 2017, which took place May 10-12 in San Diego, CA. We had an incredible program of speakers and case studies, as well as a great network of partners and sponsors with whom I get to work.
In my current role as Head of Content and Lead Writer at BrainXchange, I spend my days promoting our event and writing original content about emerging technologies for industrial enterprise applications. I cover wearable tech as well as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, and other IoT technologies.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
I am incredibly lucky that soon after I graduated from college I was able to start BrainXchange with my colleagues. As an Art History major (where I honed my writing skills,) I never dreamt of ending up in the tech world but the timing was fate. We entered the enterprise wearables space just as it was beginning to take off and were fortunate to form strong relationships early on with the companies driving the market forward.
At BrainXchange, we essentially play matchmaker between the major enterprises currently using or interested in pursuing wearables, AR and VR, and the leading solution providers in the space. We bring these parties together at EWTS to network and share knowledge across industry lines, so I get to meet some truly fascinating professionals while trying out innovative technologies.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Being a small team serving the needs of a fast-growing space is a great challenge. As the market grows and demand for our events increase, we aim to stay true to our style of high quality, intimate, and educationally-driven conferences. We’ve also expanded our offerings to include digital services, consulting and content collaboration, so there is a lot going on in our office! It can also be a bit discouraging to believe in the great potential for enterprise wearables when the media often dismisses the technology from a consumer standpoint.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female entrepreneur?
In the enterprise wearables niche, it can be challenging to keep up with the ever-changing landscape, and yet at the same time it can feel like things aren’t moving fast enough. There are a number of device and implementation challenges holding wearable tech back from becoming mainstream in the workplace. We’re also in a unique position in the space, sort of a liaison and a community builder. We want to see this space move forward, because we have witnessed just how transformative hands-free technology can be for real workers in the field.
As a young female entrepreneur, I do feel like the odd woman out sometimes, especially in my office where I work with four guys. But through our events, I get to interact with some incredible women spearheading the adoption of new technologies at major companies like Shell, AGCO, and Lockheed Martin. Their pioneering efforts are refreshing and inspiring.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I am very proud of our line of events. Each successive Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit boasts new speakers, new case studies and experiences; it’s a pleasure to take part in. I feel like a real community has developed around the conference. I also consider our blog EnterpriseWear a great achievement. It has become a leading resource for organizations seeking to understand how wearables might improve their business, and I can’t help but blush when a head of innovation tells me he or she read my article or white paper. Here is the link for our upcoming Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit that will take place in October 2017 - https://brainxchange.events/events/ewts-fall-2017/
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I focus on enterprise use of wearables, and what I’m sure of is that wearable technology is going to play a key role in the smart workplace of the future. That future is near: Over a third of the global workforce is now mobile, so I think this technology is inevitable simply because those workers need their hands free to work better and safer. In addition, many industries are currently facing a skilled labor crunch. AR smart glasses enable veteran workers to stick around for longer and greatly speed up new employee training.
I’m also predicting that consumer-like smart wristbands and body-worn sensors, as well as smart clothing in the form of work gear and uniforms, are going to find their place in the enterprise over the next 5 years. There’s more to enterprise wearable tech than smart glasses, and I hope some consumer-focused body wearable companies will begin to address enterprise needs.
Is the #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
The #WomenInTech movement is very important to me, especially in today’s political and cultural climate. I hope to see the number of women at our events grow, and to see women both create and direct the future of enterprise mobility by developing new wearable technology and bringing it into the workplace.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Don’t be shy, and don’t downplay your gender. After over two years in this space, I still feel awkward to be considered an expert on wearable technology in the enterprise, but I shouldn’t. There are far more men who attend events like EWTS and wearable tech shows each year than women. Don’t shy away from increasing your visibility by networking, speaking or even just sharing your opinions and insight on LinkedIn.
To step outside my area of expertise a bit, women are a powerful market, both as technology consumers and as engineers/developers. We’re not just underexposed in the tech world; we’re underserved by it.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech and fashion tech industries?
Since I don’t really work in consumer wearable technology, I am unfamiliar with the female innovators in that world, but I have met a few inspirational women who lead the wearable tech adoption efforts at their companies or who are experts in the space. One is Peggy Gulick, Director of Business Process Improvement at AGCO Corporation, where she has led a team to successfully introduce Google Glass on the manufacturing floor; and another is Angela McIntyre, a Research Director at Gartner who covers wearable electronics within the Internet of Things. She advises execs on how to leverage wearables for new business and customer engagement.
On another note, I would love to meet more women in wearable tech!
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, co-founder of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.