Becoming some dude @ the technology frontier

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These pages will be filled with articles, personal opinions and inspiration on personal leadership in tech business. I want to support more tech leaders to succeed in launching impactful solutions that create a better world. But before I jump into that I think it might be good to introduce myself.

Ever since September 2001 I have been involved with technology. My first developers’ job started at a big tech consulting firm on the first day of that month. It was also my last (both for the developer-part as well as for the job-part) but it was a perfect start for what I actually want to achieve.

Not a developer

In the first years of working at this firm I clearly found out that the application design and solutioning side of technology was more my expertise than the actual building of the stuff. Under the coaching of various brilliant colleagues I really tried. My coding (usually) got the job done but it was never really efficient or smart.

The moment I started to combine the functional design work with my basic development knowledge it was clear that I started to get more into my zone. Talking with people about what they wanted to achieve with the software product made me more happy than developing it. Letting both logic and creativity flow freely to find real value for those stakeholders was way more my game than doing the minute detail of “if, else, then”.

But still to this day I am glad that I was a developer for a few years. On the one hand it made me understand enough of the work to guide me in my project leadership roles. It is more easy to estimate workload and to understand pitfalls when you have been around the block yourselves. On the other end it made me a realistic innovator. Knowing something about the development work helps you assess dreamed up innovations more easy on feasibility.

Not an employee

Ever since I was 16 years old I knew that working for a boss did not really fit me. At day three of my first student job I knew that I was not employee material. It were also the last of that first job, ending in a conflict where the shop manager demanded me to do things while just relying on “because I say so”. Same lessons I got from the 4 months in my second job and the 12 months in my third. Doing what another tells me just because he is called my supervisor or she is managing director of the company? To me authority should be earned.

That same attitude guided the first talk I had with my new manager at that tech consulting firm back in 2001. He asked me how he could be my example. I bluntly responded at 21 years old that he should not expect me to walk in his footsteps, because that would block me from passing him over… Fortunately he was a good sport about it (later he even became a supplier of my own firm!) and smiled at my youthful enthusiasm. But apart from youthfulness and needing to adjust at being lead and managed, I also found out that big firm dynamics had something else going for them that did not exactly suit my worldview. The tech that we touched was just meant to optimize profit margins. We worked long days to support our own employer as well as our clients to earn more money. Not seldomly leading into more environmental harm and social injustice. It was about shipping more luxury goods to the stores against record low costs, about refining one more ton of gasoline to support another useless road-trip with the family SUV. The upcoming abundance was generally used to create more consumptive abundance for the few, instead of leveraging that technological abundance to create proper livelihoods for the many.

Not a saint

For the first 10 years after that first employee experience at 16 years old, I kept banging my head against the employment-wall. My family had nothing of entrepreneurial spirit in its ranks and therefore that path was rather unknown to me as an alternative for a critical contrarian like me. But finally the penny dropped in early 2006. I met some freelance IT consultants on a project and their way of living sparked my interest to jump off and start on my own. Being ambitious though, I surely did not want to be a freelance consultant. I wanted to build something big. And with that ambition I made a first move in the right direction but looking back I was all but a saint either. Yes I wanted to change the way my business domain functioned, but after a few years and some first employees of our own we shifted our focus more on where the money could be earned. And yes, I also drove that family SUV the moment it was possible and bought every new model of a certain BMW-series, just because I could.

Not happy with what I saw

Over the years, while gaining more and more experience on developing and delivering technology, I became more and more conscious of our consumptive business behavior. I read more books about environmental control and global social development, next to the piles of literature I already devoured on building businesses and being an entrepreneurial leader. The more I read, the more I noticed that I was not able to drive the change I wanted in my own consulting firm. It had been built too much on the old world of doing business. The policies I announced and the potential customers I renounced for not matching my view of world did not help (enough). While I was proud of the target that I set to get to a 0-carbon footprint by 2020, my colleagues became angry that I wanted to touch their company cars. While I felt confident about the pesticides-producer I renounced as a client, it made it much harder to keep the firm afloat in a market that was not yet ready for such strong convictions.

While this heartfelt change for the better was blocked close at home, I frustrated more and more about global change that was being blocked as well. President Trump renounced the Paris climate agreement and within Europe the situation was only better on paper. All EU countries ratified the agreement, but making policy out of it proved hard while the real  effort was placed at economic impact. All the while I was confident in one hope: digital technology could do a lot in making things better. It is no magic wand that makes all issues disappear overnight, but in changing human behavior and limiting industrial- and community-impact it certainly has the potential to do a lot. Instead of taking the lead in these issues, Big Tech really burst my bubble that year by taking the lead in getting trapped in big privacy scandals and earning a lot of money in the process.

Just some dude who wants to fight at the technology frontier for a better world

From that moment on I started to get into full-impact-mode and picked up different sorts of projects. Over the last few years these new experiences thought me that there also is a tech world out there that gives hope. A tech world where innovative entrepreneurs and leaders drive change for a better future. Where profits still can be made, but profits are never a trade-off with doing harm.

A tech world where I found that my knowledge of scaled innovation and implementation of technology, combined with entrepreneurial mindset and experience, allowed me to help many SME’s. I was able to help start-ups in finding better lean methods. I supported scale-ups in further standardizing their platform to start the flywheel loop of sustainable growth. And I was able to give larger firms a hand in the tune-up of their daily ways of working. I helped tech businesses reach their goals of impact and I helped non-tech businesses in launching their first impactful tech-platforms.

But there is always more to do. When I look around me and see an environment that needs as much successful leadership as it can get. So I ask myself the question how I can be of service to all those aspiring leaders in tech? How can I allow more project leaders to release better solutions? How can I stimulate more tech entrepreneurs in building better businesses?

Simply put: I want to scale up me helping tech entrepreneurs and tech leaders around the globe to “put their dent in the universe” (to paraphrase Steve Jobs).

Via these pages I want to combine my passion for entrepreneurship and my experience in technology innovation and implementation to inspire, to inform and to support all tech business to become better.

When you look carefully, the world around us is a very great place but has many issues and challenges. Social injustice threatens freedom, environmental change threatens (ever better) livelihoods. And the cynical fact is that the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 shows us that this economy, the one that we have built on social injustice and environmental threat, is very vulnerable and does not really help us in any way. It is our ball & chain. We are fighting a war out there. A war against ourselves to make us change our ways in many possible directions.

To my worldview, the combined power of technology and entrepreneurship, when applied correctly, can and will be one of the main drivers towards a better world. So I put on my boots, pull my hat closer over my eyes and ride out into the sunset to the west to fight my fight at the Technology Frontier.

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