Sophie Vandebroek - Xerox
Chief Technology Officer, Xerox
President, Xerox Innovation Group
Sophie Vandebroek is Xerox’s Chief Technology Officer and president of the Xerox Innovation Group, leading Xerox’s research centers in Europe, Asia,Canada and US, including thePalo AltoResearchCenter.
Dr. Vandebroek is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, and was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame. She is a director of Analogic and Nypro, and serves on the US National Academies Committee on Science, Technology & Law.
Vandebroek earned a MS degree in engineering at KU Leuven, Belgium and received a Ph.D. in engineering at Cornell University.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our nation?
A strong STEM workforce is of critical importance to our nation. They are technology entrepreneurs creating jobs so our society can thrive. They are inventing and building solutions for big problems such as climate change, health care, hunger, and security. STEM individuals make our nation and the world a better place.
In order to solve these big technological and scientific problems one must be able to deeply understand how our current solutions work, be able to improve them or invent disruptive alternatives. For that a STEM education is a ticket to the game.
What can we do to assure more women leaders in STEM?
First of all, girls must experience early on how much fun science is. My children treated the world as their laboratory. Nena, my now-23-year-old engineer daughter, and her brothers spent afternoons digging for bugs, building their fort, constructing dams, and redecorating my kitchen with "science" experiments. There were plenty of messes to clean up, but I loved it.
Secondly, middle and high schools engineering classes can give girls a taste of engineering. Hands-on experiences, such as the FIRST Robotics competition, are critical to gaining confidence.
Thirdly, it is important to have women role models that are balancing a successful career and a happy family. Women leaders need to share how they are prioritizing family while running successful organizations.
Finally, we must communicate how rewarding and cool a STEM career is.
What about STEM gives you passion?
I collaborate daily with passionate people who are envisioning and creating the future. Xerox’s STEM researchers are applying imaging algorithms, which currently enable our fastest printers to consistently print high-quality images, to monitoring infant heart rates in India. In France we are mining patient records to detect hospital acquired infections very early on. Researchers are creating greener cities by mining traffic data and minimizing unnecessary driving. We are enabling justice faster by giving lawyers the tools to mine huge amounts of documents without human intervention. At PARC, we have created a new low-cost way to get clean water. Given how critical the shortage is for drinkable water, this is very exciting. The impact STEM researchers are making on the world is larger now than it has been in many decades.
If you believe as I do, that there is no greater calling than solving the big technological and scientific problems, then together we must inspire young people to become scientists and engineers. Our viability as a thriving human society and as a nation depends on them.
How is your company innovating to promote STEM?
Xerox’s CEO Ursula Burns is a founding member of Change the Equation, a White House initiative advancing STEM. Xerox also helped found FIRST Robotics and continues to support many FIRST high-school teams.
The Xerox Science Consultant Program is one of the longest running industry-education partnerships. For over 40 years, Xerox scientists and engineers have made science fun for hundreds of thousands of elementary students.
Finally, we invested several hundred million dollars in grants to fund universities throughout the US. Thousands of students have received educational assistance through Xerox’s Technical Minority Scholarship Program.