Pillar Technology Discusses Industry 4.0 and Collaboration in the Midwest

Steven Yaffe - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree

Steven Yaffe

VP of Client Solutions

Pillar Technology



Bryan Kaiser




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The VP of Client Solutions for Pillar Technology, Steve Yaffe, discusses industry 4.0, collaboration in the Midwest, and the struggle to find the right talent.


Hello, and welcome to the comSpark podcast, where you will get to meet today's technology thought leaders. To learn more, visit comspark.tech.


BK: We are here today with Steve Yaffe, who is the VP of Growth at Pillar Technology, who was recently acquired by Accenture. Pillar Technology is a technology consulting company that specializes in uncovering and solving industry-disrupting opportunities. My name is Bryan Kaiser; I'm the Founder and President of Vernovis, also part of the executive host committee of comSpark. And I will be your guest moderator today, so let's get started. Thanks for joining me today, Steve.


SY: Yeah, it's great to be here, Bryan. Thanks for having me.


BK: You bet. So, let's jump right in. So, how do you see technology changing in the next three years?


SY: Wow, I love that question. Uh, when you think about technology over the past, you know, couple hundred years, you know, if you think about industry x or industry 1.0, that was the first industrial revolution, and it really started with thinking about steam and water accelerating steamboats and being able to move, um, you know, products. Right? Back in 1783, I think was the year. And then you go to industry, um, 2.0, which was really around manufacturing and assembly line manufacturing. And then 3.0, is what, kind of, Steve Jobs and Woz started with the electronics and computer, what that did for, for us and really changed the game. Right now we're in industry 4.0, and we're really just starting. And if you think about industry 4.0, that allows us to connect everything. So, it's smart cities, robotics, AI, machine learning, everything that we're doing today, what we're going to see in the next five years will really revolutionize like we've never seen before. I mean, it's going to be game changing. So, really in that state and really seeing how we take that to the next level, because exponentially, change is going to happen faster than it's ever happened before.


BK: I would agree. So, what will that mean to your business?


SY: Um, more opportunities to solve complex problems. Uh, we like to bring in some of the smartest engineers in the world and give them opportunities to solve some of the hardest problems that will really make a difference in people's lives.


BK: So, what makes you the most happy in your professional life?


SY: You know, if I look at growing up in, uh, in the Rust Belt and Cleveland, Ohio in the early ‘70s and you know, I'm sorry, late ‘70s, early ‘80s, and the amount of people that were impacted by job losses because of the manufacturing industry, and seeing how that impacted family members and friends, families, and things of that nature that really left a mark on me. And over the past eight to 10 years in Central Ohio, being a part of Pillar growing from 25 employees to 350 and creating jobs, and creating jobs where people can passionately solve the problems that we have had an opportunity to solve in automotives, utilities, smart cities, retail, um, healthcare, and make a difference is really, is really something that makes me really happy.


BK: That's good. What is the best part of working in Central Ohio in your opinion?


SY: Most people call it the CBUS way. So, it's the fact that – you've probably heard this resonate today –  where people in Columbus are all…everyone goes out of their way to help each other be successful. Whether it's, uh, a company that has a downturn, people reaching out to people that have lost jobs and finding other opportunities for them, whether it's an event, uh, whether it's, you know, an opportunity for people to raise money for charities – that's really what makes Columbus special. I think, Paolantonio, something I'm very involved in – It's a cycling event to raise money for the James Cancer Hospital, and they've raised millions of dollars, uh, almost every corporation I can think of is involved in Central Ohio.


BK: That's unbelievable. And I keep hearing this theme – there's certainly competition. We're competing for the same people, we’re competing for the same, uh, dollars in some ways, but there's also cooperation. I'm using, stealing this term called “coopetition.” So, what is it about Central Ohio that this seems to be common and everyone's kinda, you know, trying to raise the tide?


SY: Um, I think it's the massive growth that we have and the fact that people want to see Columbus, Ohio be the most successful place in the country. You know, I think in the early ‘90s you saw a lot of the talent moved to the valley. And over the past several years, they're all moving back to the Midwest. You know, people want to make the Midwest great, and it should be. Because I think we have the sixth largest GDP in the world, um, and there's more opportunity here, especially the manufacturing area to really change and revolutionize the future of manufacturing.


BK: Did you have a mentor in your early years?


SY: Yeah, I've had a couple. So, I think, uh, early on, inside Pillar, it was our CEO Bob Myers. He's given me a lot of advice and coaching to help make me successful, as well as many others with, inside the organization. And then, Angelo Mazzocco. Most people call him the Godfather of Central Ohio, but he's definitely been one of my mentors that has steered me in, um, giving me a lot of career advice, and personal advice and I really value both those individuals.


BK: So, you've received, received a lot of mentorship over the years. Are you, do you also pay that forward and mentor others?


SY: Uh, yeah, I'm very involved in Rev1. So, working with, uh, young startups – I've worked with a couple so far, as well as, I'm always meeting for coffee and lunch with folks to really help guide them and give them career advice on how they can be successful. Something I'm very passionate about.


BK: That's great. So, a lot of, a lot of positive themes here. I'm curious what, what keeps you up at night? What concerns you the most?


SY: Brian, that's one of my favorite questions to ask, to ask folks. Hm, what keeps me up the most? Besides, um, you know, my kids and how we're going to pay for college over the next 10 to 15 years? Uh, probably, you know, the amount of growth we're having, how we're able to find as much talent as we're going to need to really solve the problems. We're getting, uh, presented problems around automotives or autonomous vehicles, in life science around emergency care situations and, you know, the smart transportation area. So, where are we going to find that talent? Um, you know, it's a war for talent out there and, you know, we've created one of the most special places to come be a part of, and it's really spreading that message so we can continue to grow.


BK: So, I hear this message a lot of, there's, there's a plethora of jobs in the technology space, but there's a shortage of people. How can we bridge that gap? What's your, what are your thoughts around that?


SY: So, we're doing a lot to work with organizations like Ohio State to identify programs that we can do together to help accelerate innovation, as well as identify folks that are talented that want to be a part of our organization or some of the bigger corporations in Central Ohio. We've also got an apprentice program, where we bring in people that may have some of the skills they need, but help them redefine their skills and accelerate some of the things that they're doing, so they can be ready to be a part of our team.


BK: Wonderful. Thank you for your time today, Steve. Really appreciate it. This is Bryan Kaiser with Vernovis and Steve Yaffe with Pillar Technology. To learn more about us, please visit comspark.tech, and we'll see you next time. Thank you, Steve.


SY: Thank you. That was fun.


To learn more about sponsorship opportunities for 2019, contact Michelle Ziegler at michelle.ziegler@venuemag.net