Back in February, we reported on the promotion of the previous Executive Director of Worldwide Marketing & Product Strategy, Peter Balyta, to president of TI Education. At T^3 2014 in Las Vegas, we had several opportunities to interact with Dr. Balyta, and he reiterated his mission to work with the community as well as to encourage programming wherever it intersects with and enhances TI's mission. Dr. Balyta generously spoke to me this past Friday, answering questions about the present and future of TI's technology, its role in promoting programming and STEM, and his thoughts on the calculator enthusiast community. I was very pleased with what he had to say, and the fact that the following 4,000-word transcript is an edited and abridged version of our conversation (!) should belie the depth of our discussion.
If you lack the time or patience to read the full interview, a few important quotes are worth your time. For example:
Over the last few years, as I've been more involved in product strategy and then going into worldwide marketing, I've worked hard to help the organization see that the community can really help us, and that we need to work more closely with the community along the positive lines I've discussed with you, adding value to the products, and I believe that that far outweighs the negatives. Most of the people in the community want to innovate, they want to improve their programming skills, they're very competitive people, and the vast majority is working on positive innovation. Those are the initiatives that we're excited about.
[W]hat you guys do is extremely valuable as well, whether it's programming or just showing what's possible. I refer to it as "extending the capability" of our platforms. That is very helpful for us to see what else can be done today and what should we be thinking about tomorrow. While I can't comment specifically on any roadmap plans and especially not what the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition will look like in the future, what I said earlier, that there's an important customer base there, it's one of our two hero product lines, and we're committed to improving the customer experience, and in my mind that includes performance going into the future.
In some parts of the world, programming as part of STEM regardless of whether TI is involved is really taking off, and I'm happy to see that. We're partnering more and more with folks to have kids start programming early on, knowing that all kids could have a platform for programming right there in their hands. They can do it in schools, they can do it at home, on the bus, waiting for lacrosse or soccer, and we're seeing that take off in parts of the world, for example in France. The TI-89 and now the TI-Nspire CAS platform is really taking off as a programming platform, and we try to encourage that wherever we see it. We're starting to see some of that here, and we're excited to recognize that. If you have ideas on how we can encourage that more, let me know.
Dr. Balyta spoke at length about TI's educational mission with its graphing calculators, including the classroom material and activities and professional development that it offers. We touched on the ever-popular STEM Behind Hollywood program, including whether that program might feasibly find a home on the TI-84+CSE. Perhaps most importantly to the community, Dr. Balyta discussed his views on the value of the community to TI (and vice versa), and how we can continue to build a close positive relationship in the future. I thank Dr. Balyta once again for his time, and I'll look forward to continuing to liaise between Cemetech, the community, and TI Education in the future on the behalf of our many skilled and passionate programmers, students, and teachers.