On November the 3rd, IBM co-hosted the 360Fashion & Tech “Startup Runway & Innovation Awards” in San Francisco. The speakers were mainly visionary fashion designers who work on integrating technologies within their creations.  Sandy Carter is responsible for the IBM Ecosystem and Social Business Evangelism. It was her call to co-host last week’s event, and we are thrilled to have her on the Women in 3D Printing blog today! 

I can’t imagine I am the only one wondering about IBM’s involvement with the Fashion industry, so I asked Sandy if she could shed some light on IBM’s interest in Fashion and other non-tech industries. It looks like IBM started exploring non-tech industries in 2014, by investing into events like the 360Fashion & Tech “Startup Runway & Innovation Awards” for Fashion & Retail, but also in various other events and programs in industries as wide as Banking, Healthcare and Telcos.  IBM, probably thanks to Sandy, understands that being part of the equation which combines Technology and Fashion to enhance the design experience using the tech industry is a winning bet for the future.


With that being said, Fashion & Tech have been under the spotlight for quite some time now. Beyond what we can see in the wearable industry, we don’t really see any of the creations going public. As Sandy was an ambassador for a few designers showcasing their creations during the 360Fashion & Tech “Startup Runway & Innovation Awards”, I asked her if she believed that some of those creations could actually go mainstream in the future.

Her response was positive but cautious, as it can be of someone who already thought about wearing fashion-tech accessories or clothes! It is true that some of the products we saw on the runway have the potential to be mainstream today, as she explained about the Elektrocouture necklace  she wore during the event. As we are talking about clothes, a few things will need to be figured out before those tech-clothes could go mainstream: the first would be the challenge of cleaning and second would be the weight issue (as some of the tech-clothes can be very heavy to wear for more than 5 minutes…!

But as Sandy mentioned, the solution is probably out there and we only need to find it: We are able to 3D print circuit boards, and some research is made on 3D printed fabrics. Connected 3D printed fabrics anyone? 

IBM Executives have, at several occasions, shown some direct interest for 3D printing. In 2013, Mr. Brody (then VP & Global Industry Leader of Electronics at IBM) even mentioned 3D printing as being one of the three technologies that will transform manufacturing as we know it (the other two technologies being Intelligent Robotics and Open Source Electronics).

We asked Sandy if she shared this vision and how it translates into IBM’s actions. Sandy shared the example of the 360Fashion & Tech “Startup Runway & Innovation Awards”’ organizer’s (Anina) glasses. Anyone in the 3D printing industry would recognize the so specific nylon material as being the glasses’ frame. But what’s even more interesting in Anina’s glasses is that not only the frames are 3D printed – The lenses are 3D printed too! How can fully 3D printed glasses not be the perfect example of what future is for the fashion industry: a combination of healthcare, fashion and technology? And this is a wonderful example of tech & non-tech collaborations Sandy keeps in mind when sponsoring various events.

Among the numerous Industry Awards she received over the years, Sandy was named one of the “10 most powerful women in tech” by CNN in 2012. She is strongly involved in several groups promoting women in the tech industry; and is also the author of three books [“Get Bold” – “The New Language of Business” – and “The New Language of Marketing 2.0”]. We were wondering what inspires her to help other women to enter the tech industry.

She confides in me that when she was attending her Computer Sciences classes, women only represented 30% of the class. She knew that this would change with time and was confident that when her own daughter would someday attend computer science classes there would be at least 50% of females represented. Unfortunately, the 30% ratio dropped…. The latest numbers are 12%! If this number is no motivation to make things move, I don’t know what would be!

The second idea that inspires Sandy helping other women is diversity. From her own words, diversity always brings new ideas and leads to innovation – And as the pace of innovation is going faster over the years, we need to open tech industries to more diversity.

That’s when I asked Sandy Carter what motivated her in the first place to start her career in the tech industry. She admits that she was first planning on becoming a doctor or a vet. But an allergy to an anesthesia component discovered when she was in college changed the course of her studies… The counselor at her college, who happened to also be the Head of the Computer Sciences department, told her that if she wanted to change the world by helping others, she would probably enjoy being in tech.

Unfortunately not every girl is lucky enough to have encouraging parents, teachers or counselors [or even to go to school in some countries!], Sandy and I share the same vision on the matter. We both believe that we need to give women a voice so that we can give girls some “women in tech” examples and encourage them to follow tech careers.

If you are interested in those initiatives, I recommend following Sandy Carter’s twitter account, as well as joining Women in 3D Printing on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

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