Feedback: January 2014

by William J. Pepicello, Ph.D. | Clark Peterson | James T. Swanson

Question: What are the greatest challenges companies in your sector of business face to grow individually or as an industry?

William J. Pepicello, Ph.D.
University of Phoenix
Sector: Education

Higher education’s challenge today is how to serve students and deliver the learning they need to succeed in a fiercely competitive global economy. All postsecondary educational institutions — whether they deliver professional training, a full degree program, certificates or credentials — must deliver to students the skills they need to advance in their careers. Schools must work closely with employers to ensure consistency in learning outcomes and competencies delivered to students.

Technology and innovations in the classroom present tremendous opportunity to change the way learning is delivered and how it connects employers’ talent needs with students’ demand for training. Higher education must form partnerships with industry leaders to design specialized curricula and degree programs — this is the future of higher education.

A degree itself is no longer a ticket to economic stability. The degree, and the coursework that constitutes it, must be relevant, substantive and reflective of today’s skill requirements. College is for creating a pathway to career success.

William J. Pepicello, Ph.D., became the sixth president of the University of Phoenix in 2006, and as such is responsible for the leadership of the largest private university in the United States. Dr. Pepicello helped guide the University through the transition from a degree completion institution to a comprehensive university serving students from associate through doctoral levels. He holds advanced degrees in Linguistics from Brown University.



Clark Peterson
Sector: Telecommunications

Cloud communications is an industry that is experiencing tremendous growth right now, but with that growth come many challenges. These are the top three that stand out in my mind.

Finding great talent: In an industry that is daily forging new ground, it is very difficult to find employees who understand cloud communications or even have the aptitude to learn it — and it is people that really differentiate a company. It would be advantageous if universities had more classes specifically geared toward newer technology like VoIP, cloud and IP networks.

Breaking through the marketing noise: Telesphere was offering cloud communications long before “cloud” was cool and when most had no idea what it had to do with communications. Now, with every company touting some sort of cloud service, it is difficult for customers to determine the “real deal” providers and the right product.

Keeping up with the pace of technology: With content becoming centralized, it is easily served from the cloud, and thus the pace at which new “apps” are introduced is becoming staggering. There will continue to be a tremendous challenge for businesses and providers to keep up with this pace and leverage these new technologies as they arrive.

Clark Peterson currently serves as CEO of Telesphere, among the largest and fastest-growing cloud communications companies in the U.S. The company has been recognized twice as among the ACE awards fastest-growing private companies in Arizona, three times on the INC 500/5000 list, and is on this year’s Deloitte FAST 500 growing companies in North America. Peterson is also chairman nationally of the Cloud Communications Alliance.



James T. Swanson
Sector: Builder, Developer

After a challenging few years, we’re cautiously optimistic about the future of the commercial building industry. We’re fortunate to be as uniquely diversified as we are, and able to adjust and focus our work on areas where there is activity and we have expertise: predominantly healthcare, Native American and student housing. Our development business has experienced a renaissance with the excitement around luxury multifamily, and we’ve been able to fill in some prime real estate holdings with high-quality residential and mixed-use space. As a 100-percent employee-owned company in an increasingly competitive landscape, our biggest challenge is maintaining focused and happy employees. Like many in our industry, the demographics of our work force have changed over the past few years, with younger professionals equipped with new knowledge of cutting-edge technology exploring ways to leverage their talents. Our seasoned managers are actively mentoring this cadre of emerging leaders, so that they understand our expectations of a high level of customer service, while encouraging them to look long-term at Kitchell as the place where they see their career growing for many years.

James T. Swanson is CEO of Kitchell, a Phoenix-based legacy builder, developer and construction manager with more than 800 employees and major offices in Phoenix, Sacramento and San Diego. The company’s extensive portfolio spans integrated project delivery, design-build, at-risk, general contracting, construction and program management projects for private and public-sector clients throughout the country.

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