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Questions to Ask at Thanksgiving Dinner to Understand the Future of Tech

By Paige Kassalen

Holidays are a great time to celebrate and enjoy life with family and friends. We all have our own unique traditions for how we celebrate the holidays, and the thought of these traditions makes us smile and feel warm inside. Sometimes we travel back home and stay in our childhood bedroom, and other times we prepare to host dozens of our relatives and friends.

One thing that remains true, no matter what traditions you have, is that there is always some type of discussion after Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone is full of turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes and ready for coffee and pumpkin pie.

Growing up, I remember the conversations about “kids these days not knowing how to talk anymore because they are always on their phones” or “I have no idea how to help my kids with their math homework because it’s taught so differently.”

We all know the technology landscape is changing quicker than ever, so this year, here are some questions you can use at Thanksgiving dinner to gather some market research on the future of tech.

To the Adults:

How is your organization using AI?

Every industry is going to be impacted by artificial intelligence (AI) in ways we cannot even imagine yet. Within your family, you probably have people coming from a variety of job functions and industries. By learning about how others are using AI, you can start to gain a better understanding of new opportunities for the technology. You can then take these findings back to your teams to make sure your organization is not falling behind.

What are your top concerns when it comes to the future of work?

A lot of organizations are talking about AI, but what other organizational disruptors are out there? In our role and company, we might be hyper-focused on one topic, but unaware of something else that can shake up the way we work. By having these discussions with family and friends, we can understand what future might lie ahead.

To the Grade-school Kids:

What are the hottest tech-centric toys on the market?

Toys are fun and exciting to talk about, but they also can provide some interesting insights. If you learn about what technologies are being incorporated into toys, you gain a sense for what tech is also at an affordable and scalable price-point.

This can help you think about other applications for the technology or even use it as a starter solution for something totally different. Plus, this question doubles as a way to phish for some good present ideas for the future!

What are you learning and what technology is used?

Back when I was in grade school, we had options to take electives in computer programming, but is that now a requirement? How else has the education system changed and what technologies are students taught to use? When you ask this question, you learn what skills the next generations will be entering the workforce with and how that could impact the future of work.

To the College Students:

What technologies are you concerned about?

College students might have the most interesting perspectives to share. They are in a period of life with exponential personal and educational growth, while also starting to enter the workforce.

You can learn a few things with this question. The first is gaining a sense for what to anticipate as you’re onboarding students fresh out of undergrad because you want to make sure they feel included as they are entering the workforce. The second is that you gain a new perspective for issues surrounding the tech industry that you might not have thought about. These conversations could reveal blind spots you weren’t aware of, which can ensure you account for them in your work.

Conversations over the holidays are an opportunity to learn about the tech industry from the unique perspectives of your friends and family. Take the time to really listen to what they are saying and try to consume the information with an open mind. When you return to work after the holidays, you can use this information as a starting point to have a well-rounded view on the future of tech, and how you should prepare personally and as an organization.


Paige Kassalen

Paige Kassalen has an electrical engineering degree from Virginia Tech and a Master of Information Systems Management from Carnegie Mellon. Kassalen began her career as the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in Glamour, Teen Vogue, and Fast Company. Since Solar Impulse, Kassalen worked in the manufacturing and finance industries to create implementation strategies for a range of emerging technology trends from autonomous vehicles to machine learning. She was the Chief Operating Officer at CrowdAI, a start-up named by Forbes as one of the most promising AI companies in 2021. CrowdAI was acquired by Saab, Inc. in 2023, and Kassalen now serves as the Chief of Staff for the strategy division.

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