The following interview is a part of SkillSpeak, a series of short interviews with SUMA professors, where they share bits of wisdom and knowledge, advising on skills that are crucial for a successful career in sustainability. This week we have Gregory Falco who teaches a course on Sustainable Technology & the Evolution of Smart Cities. This interview was conducted by Mitika Bajpai, SUMANI Vice President & Director of Events.
Name: Gregory Falco
Academic Background: BS in Hotel Administration from Cornell University; MS in Sustainability Management from Columbia University; PhD (in progress) in Cybersecurity of Critical Urban Infrastructure at MIT
Current Professional Title: Smart City Strategy Lead, Accenture; Adjunct Professor, Columbia University; Research Assistant, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, MIT
What field within the sustainability realm do you work in?
There is really no single field that I work in for sustainability. I live in a world of data, analytics, sensors and connected devices, which I apply to sustainability problems. The sustainability problems are sometimes related to energy, water, healthcare, transportation or waste. For these topics, I try to figure out how we can collect relevant data from these areas, analyze it, and then take corrective actions to help improve the way we live.
What skills have you leveraged on so far, to expand your presence in your field of sustainability?
Leveraging my knowledge of the power of big data has been invaluable to pushing the boundaries in the sustainability realm. Understanding the ecosystem of IoT sensors and devices has enabled me to bring a skill set to the sustainability landscape that is still nascent thereby allowing me to add value to the field overall.
What are some of the most relevant skill-building opportunities offered by the SUMA program?
The most important component of the SUMA program is the breadth of topical areas that are covered. The biggest challenge for sustainability practitioners today is to have visibility across the different fields of sustainability. The wide array of topical material across sub-areas of sustainability mixed with knowledge of data analysis and critical problem solving positions the SUMA students well in the marketplace.
What skills would you advise a future SUMA graduate to develop in order to build credibility within your field of sustainability?
Be comfortable with data and technology; it’s not going anywhere. Therefore, you need to embrace it or you will be left behind. SUMA students have the ability to take classes promoting skills in these areas and even if they are not comfortable with data or technology, now is the time to be in a safe environment and learn. The ubiquity of these tools make it a necessity to be conversant in how data can be collected, manipulated and actuated on using technology. This is especially true in the sustainability world where data is transforming behavior and driving real change.