We welcome John Dobbin, a Digital Transformation Consultant who has worked in the field of technology for many years, onto CoverShr. With technology advancing day by day, year by year, this interview with John aims to enrich us through his experiences with technology and his experience as a consultant. John has worked extensively with technology; not only has he worked as a systems consultant for several years, but he is now driving digital transformation by using technology as a helpful tool to enhance the perfroamcnes of organsiations.
1 | Describe your daily routine as a digital transformation consultant.
It is highly varied depending on the gig or gigs that I am running at the time, but here some examples: running an ideation workshop around digital initiatives with the staff of a client, facilitating a whiteboard strategy discussion with senior executives, conducting business analysis for a new system, setting up analytics dashboards, overseeing the agile delivery of a suite of apps, preparing reports and presentations to help guide cross-functional teams, having one-on-ones with team members who are struggling, interviewing potential digital suppliers …
2 | What made you choose a career related to technology and have you always had a passion for using technology to better not only organisations but also individuals?
I was studying for a degree in pure mathematics. My lecturer suggested I look at the rise of the PC as a potential future. Like others at that time I got sucked into that movement and was the Director of a startup before I finished the degree. It was a very exciting time. I was interested in early forms of machine vision and AI and the technology was making leaps and bounds. I saw technology as releasing humans from drudgery.
Then I started seeing the human cost of technical unemployment. It was highly upsetting putting people out of work. I did a Masters in Social Ecology to get my head around the bigger picture of technology and society. I still believe that technology can liberate people from drudgery but we need an even bigger movement — a philosophical and economic movement — to ensure that it will. One of the most important questions of this time is: what is the future of work? We can’t keep applying outdated models of work to the autonomous future that we rapidly creating.
3 | What do you find most satisfying about your career and what are some aspects you don't particularly love?
I love seeing people’s lights go on when they suddenly see how a new technology or a new technique can help them achieve a goal that they’ve been struggling with.
I hate losing pitches for assignments, especially when I know I’ve been outsold by a slicker firm that won’t do as good a job.
4 | How did you first get involved in technology? Was it an interest you picked up or did you discover it whilst studying?
It was a HP programmable calculator in high school. I still have it. It enabled me to shorten manual computation time (lines and lines of equations) by programming a stack of routines into it. I could complete my homework or an exam in a fraction of the time and get to the beach for a surf. At that time the teachers had no idea of their power. I discovered the advantage of being ahead of the curve. A few years later they were banned from exams.
5 | What is some advice you would give to aspiring students wishing to take courses related to technology and consultancy?
Make sure that you develop your creative side. Machines are going to do all the routine stuff soon. Work out how to integrate creativity into your life. Always try to find new ways of doing things. Regularly expose yourself to experiences outside of your comfort zone and domain knowledge. Learn all about fungi, make 3D printed art objects, spend time with aboriginal elders …
6 | You also seem to be a keen entrepreneur with your fingers in a few startups. What do you think makes a successful start-up and most importantly, a successful individual?
A successful startup is one that understands value from the customer’s eyes very, very well. The entrepreneur will “see” a better way to deliver value than anyone else. That vision will consume them. They “know” they must give it a go or always regret not trying. They must, however, give it a reality test to ensure they are not deluded by cognitive bias. Then they must find the right people to help them, if they need help, and be uncompromising with their selection. Finally they must be willing to risk every cent they have to make it succeed. And they must know they will still probably fail, but at least they have lived.
A successful individual is someone who creates meaningful connections with others and who is truly content with themselves, despite all their flaws and imperfections, IMHO.
7 | Do you have a reading list of books that you think would be helpful for students wishing to go into engineering and computer-science?
No. Find some highly specialised web sites. Knowledge is being generated faster than publishing cycles. Go to the source. I love the stuff the Sante Fe Institute put out for example. You can’t find this stuff in books.
Thank you John for allowing us the opportunity to interview you. Your knowledge and tips will unquestionably be an exciting read for many students including those who see technology as a path they want to go down into.
Find John on his LinkedIn profile | John Dobbin