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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Above all, build trust

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Courtesy of the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center

San Diego, CA, May 24, 2018 -- For Greg Papadopoulos, a UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering alumnus and partner at NEA, one of the largest venture capital firms in the world, engineering leadership is all about trust.

“We ask society to trust our technology. But the real trust is in us, the people behind it – that we engineers have done our jobs,” said Papadopoulos.

He made these remarks at the 9th annual Engineering Leadership Awards event run by the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Papadopoulos was awarded the Professional Gordon Fellow honor in recognition of his passion for leadership and innovative technology in software and semiconductor companies, as well as advocacy for social responsibility and commitment to inclusion and diversity in engineering.

At the ceremony, the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center also recognized undergraduate and graduate engineering student leaders.

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Greg Papadopoulos gives keynote remarks after receiving the Professional Gordon Fellow honor.

Papadopoulos’ keynote remarks centered on building trust as engineering leaders with society. Commenting on the disparity between the engineers who design and build solutions, and those who use the products and devices, he referenced genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial intelligence, and nuclear power as recent topics of distrust among the general public.

“The T-Rex in middle of the room today is artificial intelligence and all the data that feeds the beast, as it were,” he said. “Have no doubt that machine learning and AI are enormously powerful and transformative tools…But I would say that, like GMOs, AI is not what most people think – machine learning and artificial intelligence are a collection of software tools that take tons of examples, so-called labeled data, and generalize them to create some new, useful algorithm.”

The ability to explain complicated concepts like AI and machine learning, and their role in society, is not just the job of one department in an organization. Engineers have a dual responsibility in the world as engineers and citizens, and need to actively communicate with the people that their technology touches.

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Honorees and attendees at this year's Engineering Leadership Awards ceremony.

“It’s not marketing’s job, it’s not the people out in the field – it’s a never-ending conversation about understanding the possibilities and perils,” Papadopoulos said. “Above all, build trust, because that to me is the ultimate form of engineering leadership.”

He also advised students to think carefully about what they choose to work on as another way to engender trust in the community.

“The most powerful thing you can do is choose what you work on, and with whom,” he said. “You vote with your feet and your minds. Select a place, above everything else, based on the culture of that place, and be dedicated to the continuous improvement of that culture.”

Papadopoulos is a UC San Diego alumnus from the Jacobs School of Engineering, and a Venture Partner at NEA focused on early-stage systems, software and semiconductor companies. Prior to that role he served as executive vice president and chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems, and associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, where he received his Ph.D. Papadopoulos is an active advisor for the schools of engineering at UC San Diego, UC Berkeley and MIT, and a trustee for the Computer History Museum.

By Kritin Karkare

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Media Contacts

Katherine Connor
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-534-8374
khconnor@eng.ucsd.edu