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Focus on Leadership Jim Gibson to lead SAITs new digital technology school

Jim Gibson is the chief catalyst at the School for Advanced Digital Technology at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). Photo by Wil Andruschak © Postmedia Network Inc.

Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.

Talk about sparking the imagination.

Veteran Calgary tech sector venture capitalist Jim Gibson did a double take when he was offered the job of leading the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s (SAIT) new School for Advanced Digital Technology under the title of chief catalyst.

“It’s one of those things where I wasn’t looking for a job, but when I saw the email, titled ‘chief catalyst at SAIT,’ it was an intriguing offer I simply couldn’t refuse,’” says Gibson, now the ‘dean’ of the new school.

Certainly ‘chief catalyst’ is appropriate for the School for Advanced Digital Technology. Largely funded by a $30-million gift from Calgary entrepreneur David Bissett, the school will cultivate Alberta’s next generation of skilled technology workers and industry leaders — the tech-preneurs — of tomorrow.

“We wanted to create a school that does more than graduate coders, virtual-reality programmers and game developers,” Gibson says, noting training for those vocations will certainly be core programs.

“The question we want the school to answer is ‘How do we create leaders in the digital economy?’”

As Albertans well know, the drivers of growth are shifting quickly. While the resource industry will never go away, its economic prominence is not what it was a decade ago. What’s more, new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics are becoming increasingly essential to sustained economic growth.

As Gibson notes, technology is exponentially evolving. As such, the mindset of the school’s students must be laser-focused on not just the technology of today, but what comes next.

Located in the former Calgary Chamber of Commerce building downtown, the School for Advanced Digital Technology will be a critical hub in the city’s burgeoning digital technology ecosystem — an area that needs to grow much faster than it has, Gibson says.

“On a per capita basis, we’re behind places like Toronto and Vancouver.”

The potential is here. Calgary has the capital to invest in the sector. What it needs is a deep talent base that the new school can help provide.

“SAIT can be a central player in this transformation,” Gibson says. “My job, more than anything, is being that liaison with business and government partners to help spark the growth opportunities of today and, more importantly, of the future.”

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.

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