Stuart Kippelman is the Corporate Vice President and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Covanta and is responsible for all aspects of the company’s global information and digital technology. In his capacity as CIO, Mr. Kippelman has been instrumental in leveraging innovative technologies to transform the way the business is run and generates revenue.
As a globally-recognized IT leader, Mr. Kippelman has received numerous prestigious industry recognitions including Computerworld’s 2014 Premier IT Leader Award and the CIO.com Top 100 Award in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Mr. Kippelman came to Covanta from Johnson & Johnson where he was Chief Information Officer, Health & Wellness. Prior to this role, Mr. Kippelman was J&J’s Vice President of Global Infrastructure Technology and, before that, Corporate Director of IT M&A, Innovation and Emerging Markets. During his tenure at J&J, Mr. Kippelman spearheaded the creation of revenue-generating business opportunities, new services, applications, and patented research. He led many aspects of global infrastructure and strategic improvements to leverage the power of technology to enhance business efficiencies and employee productivity. In the search for next generation breakthroughs, and in support of STEM activities, Mr. Kippelman led the sponsorship and research at the MIT Media Laboratories.
Mr. Kippelman is a monthly guest columnist and regularly quoted in the WSJ, and is a featured blogger on Computerworld.com (Real World IT). An accomplished speaker, Mr. Kippelman is a frequent presenter at many major industry conferences, delivering keynote presentations on a wide variety of topics. He is actively engaged in various STEM activities including guiding and developing the next generation of IT leadership and serves as a career mentor for Columbia University’s Executive Master of Science in Technology Management program.
Covanta (pronounced coh-van-tuh) is one of the world’s largest owners and operators of infrastructure for the conversion of waste-to-energy (known as “energy-from- waste” or “EfW”), as well as other waste disposal and renewable energy production businesses. Our company name represents the cooperation and advantages inherent in the partnerships we form to provide sustainable waste disposal solutions for the communities and businesses we serve. Covanta operates and/or has ownership positions in over 40 energy-from-waste facilities in located North America, Italy and China. We also operate other waste management businesses such as transfer stations and metals recycling facilities complementary to our core EfW business.
Covanta-operated facilities in North America convert 20 million tons of trash annually into clean, renewable energy for approximately 1 million homes. Covanta’s U.S. operations process approximately 65 percent of the nation’s EfW volume and offset 20 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.
It is difficult to believe that in today’s world where technology dominates our lives in every imaginable way, there is a crisis brewing. The nation faces a critical shortage in the number of graduates adequately prepared to work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related careers. So what’s going wrong? It’s how we educate and motivate students.
In the future, it will take an even greater level of focus on STEM for our nation to become successful, and it all starts with education. What’s needed is a new approach to the educational curriculum in our country. Hands-on educational experiences should be introduced as early as Kindergarten and extend through high school. Real things, not using a word processor as a typewriter, or PowerPoint to draw shapes. To turn this around we need to gain students’ interests early, often, and with the same enthusiasm as focus as we show to sports such as lacrosse and soccer. Teachers should lead these areas who are as passionate about applied problem-solving as their students.
And who is equipped to prepare young students for the next decade? We need to look not just at the classically trained education majors. Yes, they have their place. But so do professionals already working in their respective STEM fields. There is a material difference in being taught by someone relying on the Teacher’s Edition for a subject they don’t truly understand nor have a real-world connection to versus someone who has a grasp of the root concepts and a desire to infect the next generation with their passion for discovery and innovation. Students must learn how the world fits together, along with critical thinking and problem solving skills. Once equipped, graduates will find themselves very well positioned to change the world!
In addition to an academic education, the next generation needs to have meaningful exposure to professional environments. I am a huge proponent of hands-on internships and corporate fellowship programs at every kind of company. The work must be meaningful and true on-the-job experience, not clerical busywork. At Covanta we encourage and support internships that are meaningful and in line with a student’s course of study. We strive to put students to work in real business situations, doing work that matters and that is reflective of the position. If I had my way, what I’d like to see, even at the elementary school level, is a regular program where invited guests who work in STEM-related fields, regularly interact with the students. I really do believe with the right education, STEM students have a true chance to change the world.
While important today, STEM skills and qualifications will become even more important since the problems our world faces are more complicated than they used to be. When I worked in the medical and healthcare research field, the scientists would say that all of the low-hanging fruit – simple-to-moderately challenging problems had all been solved already. What remains, is the more challenging stuff; the stuff we need to adequately prepare today’s youth to tackle. The future of our nation rests upon the success of these very individuals!
At the same time, while the problems are getting more complicated, all industries are becoming more reliant on technology than ever before. In my mind, all companies are now technology companies because we all rely on it so heavily to run our lives. In addition, we are now living in a data-driven society driving a data-driven economy. Our products demand technology advancements to stay competitive, our employees expect access to the latest tools to be more productive, and our customers expect access to all data the instant they need it. This trend will continue to accelerate, and those in the STEM field will be the catalyst for all companies to make the transformation. Those who embrace the change and not resist it, will be the winners in 2016 and beyond.
As a CIO and leader in the technology space, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to manage all these issues and leverage STEM to create a competitive advantage for Covanta. I spend a lot of time recruiting the right individuals with the necessary mindsets to position our IT department to act quickly, think creatively to solve problems, and in doing so, drive change. Like that scientist told me, it will take more effort to solve tomorrow’s problems than it did to solve yesterdays.
As a country, we need many more people with critical thinking and STEM skills to accomplish our goals and maintain our competitive edge. Deciphering business Intelligence, analytics, automation, cloud computing, mobile applications, and cyber security are just some of the challenges before us. Embracing STEM will lead to the competitive advantage we are looking for. CIOs must turn these change into results that bear fruit. It isn’t optional, but a question of survival!