OpEd: Focusing Michigan on mobile & wireless technologies

Linda Daichendt is the executive director of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM), a co-founder of Mobile Monday Michigan, a co-host/co-producer of the international mobile marketing podcast series, The Mobile Marketing Review, and a co-host of the This Week in Small Business Technology broadcast on the Michigan Business Network.

Linda is an accomplished marketer and award-winning blogger, and one of Michigan's leading proponents of the use of mobile/wireless technologies for businesses of all sizes and in all verticals, as well as being the leading advocate for Michigan's mobile/wireless industry in the international community.  She is a recognized business expert with 20+ years of corporate, small business and franchising experience.

A 15-year resident of her adopted home state of Michigan, Linda's daily focus is on educating Michigan business, government and education stakeholders about the opportunities that mobile/wireless technologies provide to substantially grow Michigan's economy, as well as ensuring the ability of all Michigan residents to benefit from the jobs and businesses created by those technologies.

Under Daichendt's leadership, MTAM and its subsidiary, Mobile Monday Michigan, have grown to include chapters throughout the state with over 2,800 members, and MTAM has become an internationally respected trade association for the state's mobile / wireless technology industry. 

Focusing Michigan on Mobile / Wireless Technologies

After 20 years of moving around the country to manage marketing departments for regional and national corporations, I'm often asked how I ended up in Michigan running a mobile/wireless technologies trade association because it's apparently perceived as an odd choice due to my marketing (rather than technology) background and the fact that I'm a woman. The short answer I usually give is that after working for a national wireless retail firm as their head of marketing (before the iPhone and after), I saw the opportunity that these technologies were going to provide: to individuals, to companies – and to economies – and I knew that helping people become aware of, and positioning them to take advantage of, this opportunity was something I was meant to do. And really, it's not so different from what I was doing; marketing and 'customer' education is still a big part of my work, and the fact that I'm a woman has no relevance as far as I'm concerned. Though women are currently small in numbers in this field, they are quite well qualified to do this work, and I expect to see a lot more engagement from my gender as we move forward.

However, helping people understand and take advantage of the opportunities of mobile/wireless technologies and the impact they're having, and will continue to have, is not necessarily as simple as it may sound – for several reasons:
  • First, when most people think of mobile/wireless technologies they think only about their cellphone, or possibly a tablet, and what they do with those devices in their personal lives. Most don't realize that there are many different types of mobile/wireless technologies and devices, nor do they realize the wide variety of ways these technologies can benefit their businesses and how they live their lives. So it is our job as a trade association to increase knowledge and awareness.
  • Second, we're in the very early days of helping the business community – in every industry – understand the types of mobile/wireless technologies available and the ways those technologies can assist in increasing their productivity and profitability. Finding ways to educate business owners and executives about this is a big part of the work we do.
  • Third, while apps and the jobs related to their development are a big part of the mobile/wireless eco-system, there are many, many opportunities in the mobile/wireless  field that have nothing to do with app development and yet still provide extremely lucrative opportunities for businesses and/or careers.  App development is just the tip of the iceberg for mobile/wireless opportunities. Part of our job is getting this information out to those who can benefit from it.
  • Last, because these technologies are for the most part 'new' (or at least awareness of them is), when a business decides to strategically incorporate mobile/wireless technologies into their firm, they are typically challenged with knowing where to start, what is possible, and who can help them. As a trade association, we of course see this as a wonderful opportunity to connect them with Michigan-based firms that have the expertise they need to help them every step of the way.
So the message I want to convey today is to every business owner and executive, to every government organization, to every K-12 and post-secondary educator, every legislator, and to every leader in Michigan who has influence on what happens in this state:  Those who elect to disregard mobile/wireless technologies and the ways they are changing how business is conducted in our world will be left behind very quickly. It is becoming increasingly evident that over 2014 and the next few years, mobile/wireless technologies will show in history as being as similarly impactful on our global economy as was the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century. If you choose to continue to do business as you always have, you – and your business – will very quickly become irrelevant.

However, that incredible impact also comes with its own challenges, mostly related to education that will enable us to ensure we have people in every industry trained in how to use, make, manage, analyze and otherwise maximize the opportunities these technologies provide. Another part of our role as a trade association is working with our state's K-12 and post-secondary education institutions to help them prepare the type of mobile/wireless training programs that are critical to providing a well-trained staff to meet the needs of employers in every industry.

We at MTAM strive for the day when businesses in every industry, governments, and educational institutions will be maximizing the benefits of sensors, GPS, Bluetooth, RFID, augmented reality, and all the other mobile/wireless technologies. We also strive for the day when our state has seized the opportunity to bring here to Michigan the manufacturing and assembly of the estimated 50 – 70 BILLION mobile devices connected to the 'Internet of Things' that will be in place by the year 2020, and when our educational institutions will offer mobile/wireless training as part of every degree offered at their institutions. Further, we strive for the day when we're no longer having the conversation about how unusual it is for women to be working in the mobile/wireless field.

I encourage all of you reading this article to contact us at MTAM to discuss how we can work with you to help maximize the opportunity provided by these technologies for your organization or yourself. If we all get on-board now, before the rest of the country catches on to the exceptional economic opportunity, Michigan will be seen as the 'go to' state for everything related to mobile/wireless technologies. In the meantime, I also encourage you to check out our website, to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and to join our group and sub-groups on LinkedIn.  Remember, think 'Mobile First' as you move forward!

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