Several notable colleges are undergoing crises on their campus as students, faculties and administrations wrestle with how – or even whether – to respond to events taking place far from home, in particular in the Middle East.

The ongoing protests on college campuses have brought to light many conflicting points of view, and generated tremendous reaction well outside the sphere of the student bubble. It’s not necessary to recap all the outrage and countermeasures here. But there are obvious business implications that, in my opinion, merit some consideration.

Near the end of April, we welcomed Audrey McGuckin back to the PCB Chat podcast. McGuckin spent 22 years with Jabil in a variety of roles culminating as vice president and chief talent officer, and has experience living and working all over the world: Singapore, China, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, France, and Spain as well as the US, where she has called home for the past 25 years. Her eponymously named consulting group offers advice on strategy, operations, and human resources to executives across a variety of industries, including many in companies in the electronics supply chain.

A proponent of strategic solutions to workforce development, training and issues, McGuckin is not afraid of tackling the more complex personnel issues head-on.

To wit, McGuckin not long ago addressed in her blog another complexity that many businesses had to understand and develop ways to address. Specifically, she looked at why DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) programs are failing in many organizations, an outcome she asserts can result when the program goals don’t fit the business context, or that they are the proverbial solution in search of a problem.

So it was only natural, then, to ask McGuckin about possible parallels between what’s happening today at US schools and the DEI programs in business environments in terms of the strategies business leaders could use to address them and the perhaps lack of a playbook for doing so.

These are not unreal scenarios to businesses. Over the past few years, we have seen numerous instances of workers pushing even their blue-chip employers for changes well beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.

No Tech for Apartheid, an activist group that has singled out Amazon and Google as war profiteers, occupied Google offices in multiple states last month to protest a $1.2 billion cloud computing contract the company was awarded by the Israeli government. (After nearly 30 workers staged a sit-in protest, Google’s response was to fire them.)

But that’s just the most recent of myriad instances where workers in the electronics supply chain have used demonstrations to make their voices heard. Around six years ago, literally thousands of Google employees and contractors staged a brief walk-out to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment claims and other workplace issues, and to push for changes in pay structures.

Just a year ago, in what now feels like eminently simpler times, tech workers formed human roadblocks in Tel Aviv in protest of what they called unjust changes to Israel’s judicial system.

The so-called Facebook Papers, leaked in the wake of Covid in part to protest the social media giant’s policies on sharing of anti-vaccine misinformation, led to collective activism by workers at all levels of the tech titan.

That reaction in particular prompted Catherine Bracy, founder and chief executive of TechEquity Collaborative, to observe, “We are experiencing a major shift in work norms. Executives and upper management often come from a tradition that expects workers to check their personal lives and opinions at the door. Rank-and-file workers, especially millennials and Gen Z-ers, aren’t willing to make those kinds of compromises.”

None of this is lost on McGuckin. In the context of DEI, she responded, the part the McGuckin Group likes to focus on is “inclusion.” “The reason we like to focus there,” McGuckin told me, “is because we think that’s directly correlated to leadership and the next connection point is, as a leader, how do you create an environment where everybody feels included? How do you create an environment where everybody feels like they can contribute?

“We think that the No. 1 way to do that is empathy. Empathy is walking in the shoes of others. How as leaders do we do that? It is not easy, but one of the ways is to create platforms for storytelling, to create platforms that allow leaders to tell their stories.”

McGuckin uses a process she calls “sharing your story in six images.” In contrast to one’s professional résumé on their LinkedIn page, these are stories that shaped one’s life. In her experience, when colleagues connect on a personal level, through stories, they can summit barriers that others can break through.

Not everyone has a made-for-TV life story to share, of course, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a meaningful one. McGuckin’s rule seems ever-so-simple on its face, but implementation is always the hardest part. Google has 180,000 workers. It can afford to take a hard line. That might not work for everyone, though. What’s your company’s plan?

Respects to a friend. I’ve spent my entire career in this industry, and the best part of it has been the many friendships developed along the way. When you are surrounded by friends every day, how can you not have fun? The saddest part is saying goodbye, especially too early. I will truly miss Regina Lathrop, my favorite San Francisco Giants fan (sorry Rob), who sweetness and humor lit up every conversation we had over the years.

P.S. See you in June at PCB East and the UHDI Forum in the Boston suburbs! More than 65 leading companies will exhibit on June 5, and the tech conference features more than 75 hours of original content.

Mike Buetow is president of PCEA (; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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