The ‘swipe generation’ will inherit the business world. For future business leaders, this brings challenges. Rapid change is now the new normal.
I started my PR technology career at the best possible time, the dot.com crash. I was swept up in all the new websites that were going for sky-high valuations based on future stellar figures with rather random ideas, few plans and no income. It all seemed unreal – turns out it was. The lesson? The business of technology is not only technology alone. You need to understand the environment to see the opportunities.
Fast-forward to now, technology has not only become central to business, but it has also disrupted traditional industries. We have seen how Hailo in Ireland has changed the taxi industry by offering drivers an alternative way of booking fares. Netflix has changed our TV watching behaviour. The Web Summit was a showcase of this continuing evolution and has had one consistent message; there are few areas where technology does not play a crucial role when you take the time to understand the fundamentals of that business.
According to a recent study by Eir, 75% of the Irish population own a smartphone, Nearly one in five (18%) admit to accessing the internet practically every waking hour of the day, rising to 41% amongst 16 to 24-year-olds. 45% of those over the age of 50 are online daily. The business of online is booming and rich in opportunity.
The technology industry will always change. Apps and platforms that command millions are worth billions and may not be here for another five years. Job roles and skill sets will also change rapidly. In short, rapid change is now the new normal.
Navigating all this means that future leaders will need to understand the basics of technology. It is the next printing press. You must understand the medium as well as the message. Understanding how people and technology interact and what the data tells you will give you better insight to lead.
It is easy to see all these new technology start-ups and new entrepreneurs and think this must be the only way to become part of the next generation of future thinkers. But the reality is very different, you don’t see the initial and sometimes frequent failures and mistakes, the long hours and significant sacrifices needed to get to that point.
Swiping right for tips
Ultimately, capitalising on technology and becoming a future leader requires you to expose yourself to as many roles and business functions as possible. Tech knowledge and coding skills are only part of the equation because it has become so pervasive, understanding its role within that industry will be key to see the opportunities. Some things to bear in mind:
- Always keep an eye on new skills needed: A recent report from PWC highlighted that the digital age has shifted the digital and technical skills shortage from a nagging issue to a very real concern. They warned that HR managers will be looking for people with strong technology skills who are adaptable and can work flexibly across different disciplines. In essence a tech nomad, but able to command more of a premium as they could travel across various departments.
- Continuous education and development will be crucial: Keeping skills updated and upgrading will also be vital to building your skill set and future-proofing your career. Julies Coleman of Hassle, gave up her job in Accenture, taught herself to code and built the first version of Hassle.com from scratch, less than two years later, its merger with Handy saw its value grow to over €30 million.
- Think strategically: Don’t just chase every opportunity because it is there, or shiny. Understand your core competencies and where you need to be.
- Fail fast: It is a mantra you will repeatedly hear, and it is a good strategy, but balance it with tenacity and dogged determination. Colonel Harland Sanders is amazing. He was turned down 1,009 times for funding for his chicken recipe, which went on to become KFC.
- Don’t forget the basics: Understand how to communicate, to collaborate and work as part of a team.
- Be flexible: If you are starting out, be versatile and get exposure to as many different experiences and ways of doing business, this will increase your chances of seeing opportunities and creating something valuable. When you look at startup founders or successful executives, they had to start somewhere and came to their role or start up from somewhere else.
Steve Jobs put it best: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Cyril Moloney is the head of Tech PR Practice at PSG Plus. Images from Shutterstock. ⊕