Imteaz joins the CPG Scoop from sunny Sydney and discusses his journey to his current role as Director of Performance Marketing at Reckitt. Imteaz gained broad experience covering sales, eCommerce, DTC, retail media, and more in 12 different roles over 14 years. He expands on how success follows when brands focus on things of higher order value, how celebrating failure is crucial in keeping pace with Accelerated Change, and what excites him most about eCommerce in 2023.
In a world driven by relentless technological innovation and transformation, the convergence of leadership and mindfulness is pivotal. In a recent enlightening conversation, Lisa Gable and Imteaz, two stalwarts in applied intelligence, delve deep into leadership, innovation, and personal growth. Their dialogues uncover profound insights into the symbiotic relationship between technology and human consciousness.
Unveiling Leadership Brilliance with Lisa Gable
Lisa Gable, a renowned visionary, elucidates the intricate facets of leadership. Her extensive experience paints a vivid picture of how adaptability and resilience are the linchpins of effective leadership. Lisa’s journey is not merely about leading; it’s about manifesting visions into realities, fostering a culture of innovation, and driving transformative changes.
- Innovative Leadership: Lisa emphasizes embracing innovative approaches to effectively navigate challenges and lead teams.
- Adaptability & Resilience: Adapting to evolving scenarios and bouncing back is pivotal in maintaining a progressive leadership trajectory.
Synergy of Mindfulness and AI with Imteaz
Imteaz, a prominent figure in applied intelligence, explores the confluence of mindfulness and artificial intelligence. He discusses the critical role of staying connected to one’s essence while harnessing the capabilities of AI. For Imteaz, integrating consciousness and technology is about shaping a future where AI complements human abilities and enhances human well-being.
- Balance: Finding an equilibrium between technological progress and intrinsic human values is crucial for harmonious development.
- Enhanced Well-being: The confluence of AI and mindfulness can lead to augmented human experiences and well-being.
Navigating Innovations: Strategies & Insights
Lisa and Imteaz collaboratively dissect the strategies to navigate the innovative landscapes of today’s world. They reflect on how one can balance personal development and technological progression. The interplay between ambition, innovation, and inner peace emerges as a central theme in shaping perspectives and driving advancements in applied intelligence.
- Holistic Development: Personal growth and technological evolution are interconnected, requiring a holistic approach to development.
- Symbiotic Relationship: Ambition and innovation, coupled with mindfulness, can lead to a harmonious symbiosis, advancing individual and collective progress.
The conversation between Lisa Gable and Imteaz is a beacon of wisdom for enthusiasts and professionals in applied intelligence. It brings an enriched perspective on leadership, innovation, and technology integration with human values. As we venture deeper into AI, these insights are guiding principles in fostering a balanced and enlightened approach to leadership and personal development.
The journey of exploring leadership and innovation is continuous and ever-evolving. The insights from Lisa Gable and Imteaz encourage us to reflect, adapt, and grow in our pursuits. It’s about embracing the synergy of technology and consciousness and moving forward with an enlightened perspective to create a harmonious and progressive future.
Hosted by: Imteaz Ahamed
Welcome everybody to Applied Intelligence. My name is Imteaz, our major host. Today I have a very special guest on the podcast. Her name is Lisa Gable. I’m just gonna give you a bit of background in terms of who Lisa is and we’ll dig straight in. So Lisa is the former US ambassador. She’s a CEO, a former UN delegate and a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author. She’s the author of the book, Turnaround, How to Change a Course When Things Are Going South.
Lisa speaks on leadership and partnership, mentorship and relationship building and big ideas. Her goal is to support the next generation of leaders and organizations that are solving the world’s biggest problems. She serves as the chairperson of the Diplomatic Career Futuristic Think Tank World in 2050 and is a distinguished fellow at the Hunt Institute of Engineering and Humanities, the SMU Lyle School of Engineering. Welcome to the show, Lisa.
Lisa Gable (01:30.106)
Well, thanks for having me. I so enjoy being on.
Thank you so much. So to give everybody a bit of background in terms of who you are, I love asking this question beginning of my podcast, which is, what’s your story? If you were to break your life down into an autobiography, which only had five chapters, what would the chapter titles of each one of those chapters be?
Lisa Gable (01:56.998)
The first chapter would be character building. When I was growing up, I lived in a small town in southern Virginia with parents who spent a great deal of time making sure I had every single encyclopedia, a variety of different ethical training. And so it was really the time period of building my character and being able to explore who I am. Chapter two is what I call my credentialing phase.
I went out to the University of Virginia and then Georgetown while also working at the Defense Department and the White House under Ronald Reagan, and then left to go work for Intel Corporation where I had an opportunity how to apply processes to solving complex problems. And so by my third chapter, which I put in my 30s, it was how did I take those processes, those credentials, and transition them into leading organizations, to applying them to help people move to the next level of performance.
And today I would say that I’m in phase four of my life, which is not leading the charge, but being the person who supports others who are going to be solving the complex problems of the future. That’s really what the world in 2050 is about. And as I tell people, I’m going to be around my mid eighties in the world in 2050. So I want to make sure that the next generation of leaders have the resources and the training and the support they need in order to get us to where we need to go.
And obviously, like everybody else, there’s always the fifth chapter. And the fifth chapter is enjoying looking over my life, hopefully having done good things to support good people and setting the world forward and being able to step back with it, from it, with the knowledge that I’ve done all that I can do.
Super cool. I read your book and thank you for the recommendation. So mastering turnarounds. It’s a lovely read. One of the key questions that I had in terms of, you know, the book is you’re recognized as a turnaround mastermind. What do you believe are the core principles or strategies that are essential for successful turnarounds within an organization? And if we could speak specifically, you know, in terms of this next wave of generative AI that’s coming now,
Lisa Gable (03:37.958)
Thanks for watching.
What are the key things that organizations that have been around for a very long time, be they in the public sector or the private sector, what are the key things they need to watch out for?
Lisa Gable (04:18.31)
Well, as you know, in my book, I focus on four things and I’ll relate how that goes with the AI conversation. The first is to envision the future. What future do you want? If you could wave your magic wand, what’s the perfect world that you’d like to see achieved? But a key critical step that most people forget is breaking down the past. That’s truly auditing everything that went on before you because the reality is there are decisions that have been made, there are systems that have been put into place, there are things that currently exist
going to enable you to get to that perfect future state. As you come up with that audit, what you need to do is understand what are the parts of the existing array of tools in your toolbox that you need to focus on. One of the things we learned at Intel was the concept of job one. What’s the number one thing you need to do in order to get to your perfect future state?
And once you’ve identified that, you need to start ranking and rating what you’re currently doing, where are your expenditures going? How are people spending their time? What types of staffing do you have in place? Do those things currently fit with the future that you’ve dynamically outlined? And once you have grasped your key core competencies, what you need to do, what’s job number one, what I call jobs two and three that are sort of the supporting cast, the backup singers.
to get you to where you need to go, you’ve gotten rid of things, at that stage you’re ready to run as quickly as you possibly can. And what I believe is happening in the world of AI is as we look at where we want the world to be, we’re all acknowledging that it’s not where it needs to be. One of the areas I focus on is health and wellness. And we know that medical files, medical storage that we have of our entire personal history isn’t necessarily consistent. It’s not consistent.
either within the way that it’s been entered into the system, systems between Johns Hopkins and Stanford are different than each other. And so you need to fix that stuff first, right? You need to go through and fix the data, make sure that the data that’s being inputted into the system is going to allow us to get to that early diagnosis, that’s going to allow us to get to where we need to go, that needs to be fixed. Another element is that our systems don’t talk to each other. One of my personal pet peeves is lack of conversation between clinical health and behavioral health.
Lisa Gable (06:38.406)
and also consumer data points. An area that I am passionate about is diet related disease. Each of those data points is critical if you wanna try to do an early diagnosis and get the patient what they need to get to a healthy profile in the future. So there are things that are required within the audit. And I would say the final thing, and I do talk about this a lot in my book, is the people that are involved. I discuss my diagnostic.
challenge, which is where I look at what are the key things that have led us to where we are. And one of the largest issues is hubris. And what I do worry about as we move forward very, very quickly is that people will become enamored with what they can do. And they’re not going to step back and say, should we be doing this? I’m a big proponent of AI and very excited about where it will take us, but I want smarter humans at the helm.
I want people that have taken time to study history, that understand where hubris, where wrong decision-making, where people putting their own self-interest above the interest of the organization have led to a negative outcome. That’s really one of the key areas that I’ll be focusing on in my writing and my conversations over the next two years.
That’s very cool. One of the frameworks that I love when it comes to thinking about deployment of technology is it’s the three P’s people, process and platforms. So typically what people or, you know, business leaders think about when they’re deploying, let’s call it AI or any form of technologies that they focus on the technology and not necessarily the problem. Um, that.
can only be actioned by the people within their organization, as well as the processes that they have within their organization as well. So, you know, when you think about it that way and realize the technology is only an enabler, you fundamentally haven’t, you know, gotten to the root of what you do as an organization and who you serve as customers and how you do that better using the available technologies that you have and the talent that you have, then you fundamentally miss the point. You can buy…
Lots of very expensive Ferraris in terms of more technology, but if you’re not going to use them properly, it’s just going to be a significant waste of money. And I was just reading in the Sydney Morning Herald, I’m from Australia, so I like reading Australian news, that in Australia, there are 34 different business registries that a small business would need to, could, and sign up for. And the government spent over $4 billion on a project trying to piece all of that together.
I’m like, why does a small business, why do we need 34 different government agencies to just do such a simple thing as register their business and get the applicable licenses to do their thing? And why does it take $4 billion to simplify something so simple as registering what a business does and making sure that they have the right credentials to do so? So if that’s Australia, a country of only like 26, 27 million people,
and it’s struggling to put this existing data together. Imagine the amount of data waste and duplication and mess that exists in the healthcare system here in the US. So if there’s a language model or if there is a process that can kind of merge and sync all of these disparate data sets across multiple…
private health institutions, public health institutions across America, that would be insane. That would be an incredible unlock.
Lisa Gable (10:21.346)
It would be incredible from all different perspectives when I think about the different state tax filings that exist and how much a small business person, if they’ve managed to give a speech in Ohio or a speech in Kansas City, all of a sudden they’re being asked to file taxes there for a $5,000 speech, it’s crazy.
Lisa Gable (10:39.798)
And it’s very difficult to do. And I have a friend who works at a company called Nortal. They got their start with the turning the Estonian government into the perfect D government system. And some people say, well, Estonia is a tiny little country. How does it apply? But the reality is that technology happens to be able to ramp up. Bureaucracies can’t. All bureaucracies do is grow.
And so I’m perfectly fine if we as a US government start looking at Estonia and going, what can we do? We can always extend the impact. We can always bring on more users. But the reality is that we have broken systems throughout our process and the degree to which we recognize that we need to start channeling money back into creating and supporting innovation, not into supporting bureaucracies around the world, the free world, then we’re going to be in a…
position to put more money into R&D and to other things that are very important to create revenue on behalf of the people we serve.
I’ll give you a very small example. I’ve migrated from Australia to three, I’ve done three expat assignments, one to the UK, one to the Netherlands, and now here in the US. We’ll start with the Netherlands. The Netherlands, my application for the visa was a two page application plus my CV, and that’s it. And I got my CV turned, I got my visa turned around, I think, in seven days. The UK.
It was a 42 page application plus my CV and some other business documents, which was fine, turn around time about four weeks. The US, my lawyers had turned my three page CV into 250 page dossier with all of my company’s credentials, who we are, etc. Six month process on top of that. So, you know, it is amazing. There are lots of things that America is very good at.
very fast. But from a bureaucracy point of view to attract talent into the US, I think there’s certainly a lot more improvement that could happen versus other developed countries as well.
Lisa Gable (12:51.386)
And I’ll tell you another place that’s hurting us desperately is that you may know one of my jobs early in my career was working at what’s called Presidential Personnel at the White House. And what that meant is that we were the executive search firm on behalf of an administration. And there are a number of high-level government positions that exist. And those positions used to go to people that were in the top of their field. You had people like Casper Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, and he’d been CEO of a number of companies, Bechdel being one of them during
greatest points of growth. And yet today, no one wants to go into those jobs. One, people are worried about the risk, right? The risk of disclosures and what that might mean to them. But secondarily, it’s just the hassle. A friend of mine made a decision. It took her three years to get a very major appointment. And I think the amount of paperwork that she had to fill out was something like 250 pages. And the worst is she had to go back and find every speech she had given through her whole life.
I, you know, my mom poops all the records because she loves tracking all the places that we’ve traveled. I’ve gotten every security clearance just because my mother’s records are so darn good, but not everybody has my mother.
No, no. Okay, let’s come back to your book. It seems like we’re on the precipice of the next technological evolution through generative AI. What were the key lessons from previous tech evolutions that you saw that would help companies navigate the significant change that’s about to unfold?
Lisa Gable (14:27.23)
I think there are two things that I learned and were just bored into my head at Intel and they have proven true through the last 40 years at every business government and philanthropy effort that I was in charge of. Most importantly, you’ve got to focus. What is your core competency? Why did someone create your company or your organization in the first place? What problem were they trying to solve and is that problem still relevant today? I would say that the second thing is partnerships.
One of the key things that I saw, because it was the early 90s, is when Intel, Microsoft, and IBM went in and pitched together to heads of IT departments around the world. What they were saying is, each of us have a piece of the puzzle, and we want you to standardize on our piece of the puzzle. That’s one reason why we exist the way that we do versus the Microsoft Intel platform that originally was put together.
And so partnerships are going to be even more critical as you’re talking about AI. We’ve got to be able to, as I call, jump the walls in order to get that information that you and I have discussed in order to streamline things. And unusual and uncommon partnerships might be what bring us there. The final thing is mergers and acquisitions. You may find people merging.
across very unusual categories. And I do believe that is one thing that’s going to happen is you’re just going to have categories collapsing. My career has been in technology, agriculture, food and beverage, manufacturing, and biopharma. Those are all coming together with AI. They’re coming together with the advancement of biologics. They’re coming together with the way in which we use apps for tracking health and wellness. And so people need to be very nimble.
They need to not get stuck in their silos and they have got to be able to link arms with others and run very, very quickly in order to become the de facto standard of whatever category they’re in.
Supercore. So transitioning to breaking barriers, you made history as the first woman to direct the US Pavilion at the World’s Fair. How did you navigate the challenges of this groundbreaking role and what advice would you give to women aiming to break barriers through their fields?
Lisa Gable (16:48.294)
Well, I appreciate your asking. And I have to say, I do think it’s the craziest thing on the face of the earth that in 175 years of World’s Fair history, dating back to the Eiffel Tower, that they’ve never had women serving in this role. And what’s also an interesting dynamic of this role is I’m the only person in that entire time period that’s delivered a US engagement at a World’s Fair under budget and without a huge inspector general’s report and legal problems. Why is that?
I was saying, when I walked into the role, it wasn’t as much just being the only woman there. There were 200 countries and I was the only female representing another, you know, representing one of the countries who were participants. Australia, by the way, had a woman and she ended up, I believe, getting cancer or something. So she had to drop out even after the first week when I met her. So it was me and 199 men. But you learn to do what’s right and…
One of the key critical factors is that I treated everyone as if they were coming into my home. And I embraced the delegations, I embraced the families of the various ambassadors and heads of state that were coming in. Morgan Freeman brought his grandson to the fair, which we thought was very cool. We had been one of the premieres for Batman in Tokyo. And
I was with him in the green room and I said, well, what are you doing after this? He goes, well, I brought my grandson and he really wants to go. What does he need to see? I made it human. And I do think that women sometimes are a little better at doing that, is making that human touch that’s so important for people to feel as if we’re in this together, we’re all achieving a wonderful objective together. But the other is going back to the thing I talked about earlier, which is hubris.
I mean, some of the men that had the job before me and after me were into spending on lavish dinners and lavish events. And I wasn’t. I knew that we had a financial issue with how money could be spent. And so while everybody else was doing black tie dinners for the day, it’s called National Day. Every country owns a day that is their day to show what’s best about their country. And you have to host a lot of events and do a big show. I made ours about baseball. And we had.
Lisa Gable (19:12.174)
beer and popcorn and peanuts. We had Tommy Lasorda, who’d been the manager of the LA Dodgers. I invited all the family members of everybody who was going to be attending our event. And I pretty much think that we blew it out of the water as the most fun.
World National Day that went down at that particular fair. And I talked to people today, I get Christmas cards from people and they still remember that. They still remember that we did ours a little differently, but what we captured is values that the Japanese and the United States had, which was we love our baseball, we love our countries, we love that commonality of what baseball brings to us and finding the emotion that was attached to that, it enabled me to just put a little
icing on the cake.
think when you address problems or address opportunities with authenticity, magic happens. So, you know, even in my career, starting out in my career in sales in CPG in Australia, you know, there are many times where I was the only non white person in a room. And I didn’t notice that until other people had called it out and been like, wow, you know, this is the first time we’re seeing a brown person doing
uh, sales in this organization. That’s amazing. Um, but you know, for me, it was kind of like, well, I have a job to do. I’m going to go out and do it. Um, if I achieve the results that I said I was going to achieve, super cool. Um, if I don’t, I’ll take the learning and I’ll kind of move on. Um, but when that was called out to me, you know, I kind of realized, okay, cool. Um, you know, I’ve been given an opportunity to do something cool, uh, or, or something great. I should.
do the best that I can and then, you know, transpire that to people behind me as well. So you know, when, when it comes to breaking barriers, taking those learnings and sharing that with other people so they use that as motivation for themselves is super inspiring. So thank you. Moving on to mentoring the next generation, you’ve been actively involved in mentoring initiatives like the rarest one project. How has mentorship shaped your own journey? And why do you believe it’s crucial for experienced leaders to?
guide upcoming talent.
Lisa Gable (21:29.99)
Well, I was very fortunate to have two mentors when I began my career. I had a woman by the name of Barbara Barrett, who later in her career would end up being ambassador to Finland and also secretary of the Air Force and a board director at Raytheon. Barbara introduced me during the time with the Reagan administration as I was getting ready to leave. We served together. I actually have a story in my book about how we met in the basement of the White House and where we bonded.
But she knew I was doing my master’s thesis on dual use products and the Chinese ability to use both semiconductors and supercomputers, both in the commercial sector as well as in the defense sector. And she said, you’ve got to meet my husband. His name’s Craig Barrett and he’s SVP of a company called Intel Corporation. And so at the end of the Reagan administration, I contacted Craig and he hired me. Craig would later become a CEO and chairman of the board of Intel.
But the two of them truly were instrumental in the first 10 years of my career, and I want to say that if you can help somebody in this first 10 to 12 years of your of their career, you will make all the difference in the world for them. My husband ended up getting quite ill when I was first married. And I called Barbara and I said, I don’t know what to do. He’s got a startup. I have my own company. He’s pretty sick. I don’t know what’s going to happen. And I don’t I think I have to step away from work.
And she worked with me to identify different boards, business boards, a philanthropic board, as well as a Department of Defense board and a business school board that I could serve on. They were boards that she had served on. She goes, you know what? We’re just gonna stick you on boards for a couple of years. That way you’ve got certain meetings you’ve gotta go to, but you don’t have to work every single day and you can take care of the ebbs and flows of your husband’s illness combined with what’s, you know, your daughter growing up. And that…
Having a person who cares about you as an individual, as a human being, that knows what your potential is and is willing to be there for you when you hit those bumps in the road, that’s what makes the difference. Sometimes we help people get into college, we then help them go to graduate school, get their first job, and then we kind of leave them there. Well, the reality is that senior 30 is when a lot of things happen in life, and Rare is one, with Chan Zuckerberg as a perfect example.
Lisa Gable (23:49.358)
The two mentees I had were very, very high performing business women. One was in corporate finance. I think she was at JP Morgan or Morgan Stanley. The other had been at the top of her career and brand management communications. And both ended up with children with severely debilitating rare diseases. They took their talents as early 30 women and they decided to
form organizations that would do research to help solve the underlying problem that causes that disease. So that’s what you need to look out for. It’s not just the person who’s, you know, running up the ladder and all the world’s great for them and you’re out golfing with them. What mentorship to me is, it’s finding those unique people and helping them along the way because we desperately need people who are empathetic and have the ability to multitask and solve complex problems at the top. But the
The path forward isn’t very straight.
I think finding mentors that enable you to find balance and are aware of the things that you are very strong at versus the things that you’re very, you have areas of development, someone who can call that out. And even if that is, you know, someone who’s an over worker and someone who’s burning themselves out at work and not spending enough time on themselves or on their family, someone who can give you that frank advice.
a person like that in your life is fundamental. Otherwise, you can work and be extremely successful, but if you don’t have that balance, it’s all gonna fall apart at some stage. Whether you pay that through your health or you pay that through your relationships, finding that person is super critical. So moving on to health and wellness advocacy. You advise startups in the health and wellness domain and…
led the world’s largest founder of food allergy research. Why is this sector important to you and how do you envision its future?
Lisa Gable (25:53.35)
Well, I began working in diet-related disease in 2009 when I led the largest industry coalition that made changes in our food supply. We actually changed 35% of this food sold in America by reducing calories. So it’s basically reducing sugars and fats. And then I was recruited to FAIR to basically turn around that organization. We’ve restructured it by 83%, raised, as you said, $100 million to put into research around food allergies, which are growing rapidly.
have been growing rapidly since 1998. Ironically, what happened is I was already involved in the space, understanding the relationship between food, therapies, biopharma, technology, in order to adjust someone’s lifestyle to accommodate the unique health profile that they had.
And there are a lot of characteristics that are very similar across all diet related disease, right? You eat, you, you consume a food or you avoid a food because you have some medical reason as to why. What is interesting and one reason I’m even more passionate about it today is that my daughter was diagnosed last summer with eosinophilic esophagitis, which is a rare form of food allergies that affects one in two thousand people a year. And it is
normally a disease that is identified within young men under the age of 18. And so my daughter, even though I was in the driver’s seat for the largest food allergy organization in the world, no one thought she had food allergies. I kept going back to everybody and saying, well, don’t you think she has some form of food allergy and they go, no, she doesn’t fit the profile. And the reality is that the profile, as we went back to our earlier conversation about what AI can do, the profile was there.
but it wasn’t identified because the information was living in different silos and no one was seeing the red flags and the patterns that would cause them to explore that disease and whether or not she had it. So I have always been passionate about it. I think that it is, unfortunately, all the diseases, whether cilia, excreta, and colitis, food allergies, EOE, obesity-related diseases.
Lisa Gable (28:09.082)
They affect all of us. They affect our ability to function. They affect our ability to work. They affect our family lives terribly, especially during the holidays. And so there’s a lot of mental behavioral issues, stress and anxiety. I’m passionate about it, but now I’m even more passionate because it affects my daughter.
Super cool. And it’s, you know, from a food allergy point of view and food choices point of view, you know, having lived across the world now, I find America has an amazing assortment of food from, you know, anything and everything that you’ve won, every cuisine that you could want. But generally speaking, I find from a cost point of view,
High quality food in this country is relatively more expensive than it was in Australia and than it was in even the UK or the Netherlands. So I think one of the challenges this country has is the transition from processed foods, fast foods, et cetera, into something that can be really relatively accessible or very accessible for the general populace. We’re very blessed that we can cook at home and have the time to do so and et cetera, but not everyone does.
and not everyone has the access to the healthcare to find out what, you know, issues or nutritional profiles that they might have which may impact their diet. So I think certainly an area of opportunity here in the US. Moving on to legacy and future endeavors, looking back at your journey, what do you want your legacy to be? And as you look ahead, what are the new projects or challenges that you’re particularly excited about?
And how do you prioritize and pick those opportunities?
Lisa Gable (29:57.41)
Oh, I have been extremely blessed. I have had a very unusual life working with CEOs, presidents of the United States, billionaire philanthropists, people who had a passion about a thing and wanted to see it change to benefit someone else. And at this stage of my life, what I’ve really focused on is how I can take all of those connection points that I’ve had.
my unusual knowledge of a variety of different industries and also a reflection of how those industries operate because I’ve seen how they operate from the top and use that to solve the world’s most complex problems. We talk a lot about climate change, we have geopolitical unrest, rising inflation. As you point out, we are a country that has a lot, but it’s very inefficient. And so how can I, and that’s one reason I was interested at
SMU and focusing on humanities and engineering is that there are people who have, we are on the cusp of solving a lot of these problems, but one of the critical driving points that we have is being able to get them to the people who need them. It is not that we don’t have the answers, it’s that we can’t seem to get the answers to the individuals that are in need of those answers.
And we have the ability to create great change, but we also have a number of barriers. And so through my work at SMU, through my work at the World 2050 for the diplomatic career, through the work that I’m doing on the geopolitical front with the Kroc Institute on tech diplomacy, I am trying to help people use my network to connect and make the relationships that will shorten the time span of getting us to the end point we need to be at.
And to be honest with you, I don’t think we have a lot of time right now. I am very concerned that we need to move very, very quickly. And I’ve been given the opportunity to have that access to make that happen.
Cool. Lisa, for people like yourself who are so driven by purpose, so driven by service to others, what drives you to do that? What drives you to, you know, wake up in the morning, think about all of the, you know, opportunities that you, you know, you’ve had previously and will have in the future. What really makes you passionate about what you do?
Lisa Gable (32:32.858)
It’s an obligation. And I come from a family and when you look back, we’re very fortunate and my husband and I, our families are very similar in certain ways. We got to different places in different ways, but we were this past month looking at his family history. And what I realized is that his great-great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather were in two different states that happened to be next door to each other doing exactly the same thing.
which is using their positions that they had within their communities to help change the lives of the people in the communities. In both cases, they spend an inordinate amount of time and actually gave up wealth in order to make sure that during the downturn, the people who worked for them had the financial structures that they needed to survive. And so it’s a family history. I sought out someone who had a similar mode of operation.
But I do believe it is fundamentally our obligation. No matter what you believe religiously, I think we all believe that we’re here for a purpose. Someone put us here, we have a job to do, and I wanna do that job the best that I can, and I feel that it is a requirement that I do so.
Lovely. On a personal front, what are the habits or productivity hacks that make your life easier?
Lisa Gable (33:52.65)
I am, people, I started this one crazy process that now everybody who works for me does, and I know it doesn’t fit anything that all you high tech people are saying we should do and all the various apps that exist. I take my calendar and at the top of my calendar, I put down the things that I must do that day. And I fill up that calendar in advance. So I put all my deadlines into the calendar and it is my daily calendar. It doesn’t matter if it’s an Outlook calendar, if it’s an iCalendar.
I literally have all the things I need to follow up on, what the time period is that I have to follow up with them on. And I tell you, as I delete those items from the top of my calendar, I am so utterly and completely happy. I’m sure there are lots of cool, sticky things that people have come up with in order to do that, but that’s what I do.
Lisa, I have every, I’ve tried every productivity app in the world. I think at least 25 of them. And I always go back to my leather down notebook. Every night I just write down all the things that are on my mind. And then I go one, two, three in terms of what are the must do things for tomorrow. And that’s, you know, if I get those three things done, there’s always going to be overflow. Um, but then I’m super happy. So yeah, I’m a hundred percent with you that you don’t, you don’t need.
Apps don’t do the work for you, you need to do the work for yourself. So yeah, super cool. What books do you recommend or do you give the most outside of your own book, which is The Love Reade by Lauren.
Lisa Gable (35:25.886)
I used to make everyone who worked for me read High Output Management by Andy Grove, which if any of you’ve read it, many people in high tech have. It’s not easy reading for someone not in the technical field. However, John Doar’s High Output Management, I found, really takes the key concepts that Andy Grove developed and brings them to people in a way that, and it’s a book I give out to a lot of people.
A book that I’m very excited about and it has not come out yet is Conflict, which is by Andrew Roberts, who Andrew and I interned together when we were 18 years old and he’s become one of the foremost historians and thought leaders within the European sector. It’s a book he wrote with General Petraeus and it takes us through the history of war from the early 1900s to Ukraine today. And as we look at the shifts in the geopolitical atmosphere, I’m…
quite keen on reading what Andrew and Petraeus have written.
Super cool. How can people reach out to you if they want to find out more about what Lisa does?
Lisa Gable (36:33.058)
Yeah, connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m extremely active on LinkedIn, also Instagram and Facebook. But if on LinkedIn, you send me a note, I am always happy to respond. I make sure I go through my inbox every Saturday and make sure I’ve gotten back to everybody. But focus on connecting with me there. And I write for a number of different magazines on a regular basis. My writing is varied. I do women in empowerment on a monthly article
do in sway. I write for CEO World, I write for Diplomatic Courier, and I actually just started writing for the Washington Times in their ethics and religion category, because as I said with AI, I think we need smarter, more ethical humans.
super cool. Laysa, thank you for being on the podcast. It was a fascinating chat. You have an inspiring story. I’m very motivated to contribute more by listening to your story. Thank you for sharing. Is there anything else you want to leave the audience with before we wrap up today?
Lisa Gable (37:36.214)
No, just that each of us have the ability within our daily lives to make one small change for another person every single day. It does not need to be earth shattering or life shattering. It’s truly a small bite. It’s doing one thing for another person, whether it’s sending them a job opportunity, giving them some input on their resume, helping them with a child issue, or even liking and commenting on a post that’s important to them.
But if we do that, we’re going to be able to see massive change throughout the world.
Thank you so much. Thank you for being on the show and I look forward to connecting with you in the future, Lisa. Take care.
Lisa Gable (38:15.072)
In a rapidly evolving tech landscape, Generative AI stands as one of the most promising innovations of our time. In a recent podcast episode, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Justin Feinberg, the visionary mind behind Cassidy AI, to explore the vast potential and practical implications of this groundbreaking technology.
The Age of Generative AI
Generative AI is no longer just a buzzword; it’s an emerging field that’s shaping the future of technology and how we interact with it. During our chat, Justin highlighted how Cassidy AI aims to make people’s lives better both personally and professionally by making AI incredibly easy and useful to use.
Staying Ahead of the Tech Curve
How does one stay current in such a fast-paced industry? Justin emphasizes the importance of intentional learning and curiosity-driven exploration. He urged individuals not to pressure themselves with words like “should” but instead play around and see what works. He advises a delicate balance between staying informed through newsletters and avoiding unnecessary noise from social media.
Unleashing Creativity through AI
Combining creativity and technology can lead to incredible innovations. Justin’s insights into content creation, product building, and leveraging AI’s power to enhance our creative pursuits were not only inspiring but practical. He believes that it’s in the hands of content creators and product builders to spread AI’s benefits to the masses.
Mindfulness Practices in a Tech-Driven World
In an unexpected twist, the conversation shifted to personal growth and mindfulness practices. Justin’s unique perspective on how to disconnect from the daily chaos and focus on what truly matters offered valuable takeaways for personal development. Could technology and mindfulness go hand in hand?
A Beginner’s Guide to AI
One of the key highlights of our discussion was Justin’s approachable guide to diving into AI, especially Generative AI. He believes in letting curiosity guide the way and not putting unnecessary pressure on oneself. Are you interested in starting your journey into AI? Justin’s tips could be just what you need!
Stay Connected with Justin
From unlocking creativity to balancing social media’s impact, the conversation with Justin Fineberg was an enlightening exploration of the intersection between technology, personal growth, and the future of AI. The evolving landscape of Generative AI is not only fascinating but offers a glimpse into a future where technology empowers us to live better lives.
Catch the full podcast episode for even more insights and to see where Cassidy AI is heading. You might just find the inspiration you need to embark on your own journey into the thrilling world of AI!
Hosted by: Imteaz Ahamed
Hi everyone. Welcome to Applied Intelligence. Today I have a really cool guest that I’m super excited about. His name is Justin Feinberg. He’s the CEO and founder of Cassidy AI. Now, Justin, I met through TikTok. I follow Justin on TikTok along with over 300,000 other people, where he regularly talks about the applications of generative AI. And Cassidy AI, which he’s the founder of, is helping businesses implement custom AI solutions without actually writing any code. Justin also writes a weekly newsletter which you can sign up to on JustinFindberg.com and I’m going to leave all of the notes on how to follow him, etc. on the digital linear notes as well. But yeah, welcome to the show Justin, glad to have you.
Yeah, excited to be here, man. It is always fun to do these podcasts. I love doing these. And especially with your podcasts, and the amount of awesome people that you’ve had on here already, it’s super cool to be here.
Very cool. So I’d love to ask this question at the beginning of my podcast to really get the audience to know who my guest is. So the question is, what’s your story? How did you kind of get here? And if you had to write an autobiography of yourself, of your life so far, and it had five chapter titles, what would the titles of each chapter be and why?
Yeah, totally. Well, I think if I was to write an autobiography or a biography about my life, it would definitely be one of those books that has no chapters. And it’s just like something you continue to read through. And one part connects to the other. And the lines of the chapters just don’t get there. I kind of be a lazy author, I think if I wrote a book, to be honest, about my life. But yeah, I mean, my background, you know, it’s kind of been on a long winding journey. you know, through lots of different places. And I think I talk about this in my content a lot, but, and it all kind of comes together. So I started my kind of career, like actually in the film industry. So, you know, when I was growing up, I wanted to be a writer and a director and make movies. And I started doing that very early on in high school. I had a short film that got into South by Southwest, which is a popular, obviously, film festival. And. It was kind of in that introduction at South by Southwest that I started kind of being introduced to the tech scene early on and it was through that festival and through just the fact that you could create movies and you could create films. It’s actually really compelling to people in tech and people in startups because that is the story of marketing. It’s the story of growth marketing generally. It’s just how well can you convey a story of a company. And so… From that point on, I started getting more interested in the marketing side and using those skill sets around film to actually make different commercials and worked with a bunch of different startups and different brands and actually kind of ventured out to build a growth marketing agency fairly early on. Ran that for a couple of years. That was really my introduction to tech and started working with lots of different startups. It was from that journey, starting to work in there that I realized I needed to learn to code. because if you don’t know how to code and you work in tech, it’s kind of a limit to what impact you kind of have. So I learned to code, started working on different projects with that. I started just building my own projects, got really into AI around that time. So it was right about GPT-3 was coming onto the scene. Some people would get early access. We got early access, we started playing around with it, we were building different products. At that point, I was also working and I got a job in tech as a product manager. worked at a few places, worked at a company called Blade, which is like Uber for helicopters, public company in New York, was a product manager there. And through all that, I think just a continued interest in AI, we started a startup that was essentially a social news platform that kind of used early GPT-3 to help you get these recommendations and was utilizing that in our product. You know, through that about I started making content, you know, I think there was so much interest that people had in how do you use AI? Um, it was a lot smaller amount of interest at that time when I started making content than where it is today. Uh, this was pre-chatGPT. So, um, basically like BCE, uh, pre-chatGPT and, um, and then, you know, chatGPT came out, it came on the scene and there was just so much interest and no one really saw that coming. No one who was building an AI really saw that was going to be that thing that clicked in everyone’s minds. Right off the bat of that, I was getting so much inbound from companies wanting to build custom AI solutions in their products that I teamed up with my co-founder and we decided, hey, let’s go build a company around this and solve this problem. That’s what we did and we are on that journey.
So what do you think the pivotal moments in the last, let’s say, three to five years, that’s enabled generative AI to like get to where it is today?
Yeah, I mean, I think if I look at, you know, generative AI, and I think specific look, I think there’s really one pivotal moment that matters. And I think you could back it up. And there’s a lot from like a technological perspective that’s happened over the five years that, you know, made generative AI and the technology to get to the point where it needed to be for it to kind of grab the mass adoption. But I think from where I am interested in and my focus is definitely on the mass adoption. It’s around the education of people and businesses on how they can utilize this technology. And the one pivotal moment, the obvious one, is that you know, release of ChatGPT. You know, even that really early on, I tweeted and I made the point of like, GPT-3 had been out for a while, it had been out for over a year, but it wasn’t until the user experience changed, that it was in this chat interface that unlocked in people’s minds. And I think that when you break that down and you look at that, it just shows really how important the user experience is. And I don’t think anyone was really thinking about that in the world of AI, because pre-chatGPT, the only one who was people who were necessarily interested in AI, were the researchers, were the engineers, were the technical folks. But because the UX changed, we had restaurant managers, we had dentists. We had teachers who were excited about what they could do with AI and generative AI specifically. Um, so yeah, if I have to bring it down to that, like, what is the pivotal moment? It is, it is that, uh, release of chatGPT.
And you think back to Steve Jobs launching the iPhone, right? Like there’d been cell phones around for a long, long time before that. Um, but he just made it so easy for everyone to adopt. It just became mainstream. Now, you know, the same thing, it seems like the same thing is going to happen with, uh, Chadjibbity in particular, but also generative AI in the sense that, you know, the kids that are growing up today will, that will be their natural interface to interact with. technology in the future, rather than, you know, first step, go to Google and look for something and hunt for something on five pages of Google and look for it. Right.
Exactly. And, you know, it’s, it’s still in the so early days, right? It’s like the iPhone came out and the reaction to the iPhone was like, all right, who’s buying, who’s going to buy that for, you know, a thousand dollars or whatever it was. Right. You know, and so there is still the adoption curve. And I think what chatGPT has kicked it off. But I think going back to like, you know, crossing the chasm, I don’t think we’re necessarily there yet. I actually saw a statistic where still one third of McKinsey just put out this report that you know, one third of these respondents of businesses, utilizing Gen.ai, say their organizations use it more than one function. And so it’s still less than a third, which is the actually the same number as it was in 2021. And so I still think that goes to show that like, all right, everyone knows what it is now, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s being implemented or used, which is so interesting.
Yeah, I did a presentation recently where I had to explain a really complicated AI model that we were using to senior executives that have never worked in technology, let alone applying artificial intelligence. And I was just too lazy to do it. So I just used ChachiPT to break down what a multi-ombatted model is and put it into a slide and give me a graphic to describe it through Midjodi as well. So it’s yeah. hard anymore. It’s just very surprising to see that a lot of people are just staying in their own ways and that creates a business opportunity to come in and solve that for companies at scale. Which is a great segue to the next question which is what are the pain points Cassidy AI is solving for your customers?
Yeah, for sure. So I think the biggest thing, right, and I think the way we think about it, I think going back to what you said, right, it’s like, we are still looking at the AI adoption curve. We know this stuff is powerful, we know it’s useful, but there’s still a level of like, it lacks that adoption. And, you know, we really look in and dive into like, why is that? And I think when you look at it, there’s a few different reasons. Number one, I think these models work really well when they have the proper context. Right. And so if you go to chatGPT right now, and you say, you know, write a blog post about our business, you probably don’t have a blog post that’s worth publishing. It’s not that good. You know, now if you take the level and you can prompt it properly and you understand how prompting works, you could probably get it to that place where it’s even more useful. But then even further on is like, what, what would it look like if this model essentially had all the context of your brand guidelines and it was attached to You know, the knowledge base of here’s all of our prices, here’s our products. Here’s all that relevant context about your business. Um, so that when it produces that blog post, not only is it in your writing style and your brain guidelines, but it actually knows who you are on a deep level. It’s connected to your data sources, wherever they are. And so, you know, the pain point for us is really just how can you customize these models and also bring in your own internal knowledge and data. So you can actually get better output easier. Um, and for people who are not necessarily technical or understand what the best way to use AI, making it very intuitive and easy to use. Um, so that’s really kind of what our focus is on, uh, at Cassidy. Also, am I lagging at all?
So from them
No, you’re like, it’s, it, even if you’re, you’re not lagging on my end. And even if you are, it’s no issue because the uploaded file is going to get edited. So it’s the audio
Oh, okay.Got it. That’s really cool
Um, coming back to custody AI in terms of, you know, having, uh, I understand the technological solution here in terms of, you know, uh, absorbing a company’s brand guidelines, looking at, you know, historical contents, tone of voice, uh, looking at, you know, product pricing, going through PDFs of, uh, FAQs, uh, ingesting customer service. Um, manuals, etc. to kind of answer a lot of the questions from previous users. But what’s, you know, in terms of your secret sauce or in terms of, you know, how you’re really going to push adoption within the companies that you are targeting, you know, how do you ensure that users are going to find that value that you promise?
Yeah, I mean, that is such an interesting challenge. Something I think about a lot is that the user experience of AI has just been default chatbot. ChatGBT came onto the scene, and this is the user experience that worked. It’s what clicked. And it clicked for a lot of people. And for the past six months for the early adopters, it worked really well. But it’s not the best user experience, right? An open-ended chat experience where you might not know what to type or if you type, you don’t know if you’re gonna get the right output or you have to have all this prompting done to the experience. 99% of people shouldn’t have to do that. The people building the products, or the people who are the early adopters, the people who set up the tools can do that stuff and build that experience. But for the 99% of people… Using AI has to be incredibly simple and the results it gets back has to be exactly what they want without having to tinker and play around. And so I think what we’re setting up at Cassidy is really trying to lead adoption across the organization. And so I look at like a product such as retool, you know, if you’re not familiar, which, you know, allows you kind of like a no code to build internal dashboards is really awesome product. And it’s not like every single person in a company. uses and sets up retool or they know how to write the SQL queries in order to properly get the dashboard set up or they know how to structure it and make it easy. No, it’s one person at your company or even you build the product and you release it and 99% of people just interact with that dashboard. And so I think right now when you look at like how you use ChatGPT, it’s basically like everybody’s building their dashboard for themselves. And I think what we’re trying to build at Cassidy is the experience where 99% of people don’t have to get into the weeds. They could use AI. They could get what they want. It’s intuitive, it’s easy to use, it’s simple. And I think that is what’s gonna actually lead that adoption. So, yeah.
One of the analogies or one of the similarities I really see is I used to work setting up warehouses for direct to consumer order fulfillment. And the particular warehouse that we were working with had just moved to a pick to light system. So, you know, in a traditional warehouse, a picker will get an order manifest, which is literally a printed piece of paper. And they
have to go find. that particular order within the warehouse. Whereas this warehouse, they still had humans, they didn’t move to robots yet, but they literally had a, the manifest was connected to lights within the shelving. So as the picker was walking through the shelving, the lights are turning on and they just pick out of the thing and put it into the box. So that was, you know, user behavior change using technology. But for the picker, it just meant, oh, I don’t have to literally go hunting and searching for it. It just natively happens to me in my existing user experience, in my existing process flow, and I can adopt that very easily. So I think the startups and the companies that, you know, create generative AI companies, if you can augment the existing processes of a company and you can natively just flow into their existing workflows without. fundamentally changing that human experience. So you’re augmenting the human rather than just, you know, fundamentally coming in and saying, we’re replacing you right now. I think that adoption will be significantly faster as well. What do you think to that?
Exactly. It really is. I mean, the core of what, how you drive adoption, how you drive these different things is the user experience. It’s all the UX because the technology is there and the technology has been created and you have to look at the parallels of other technology and other cycles, whether it be the phone or the computer. It’s like the operating system has been built. It’s like, what can you build on term of the operating system so that it makes it really easy for everyone, for my grandma to use a computer, for my grandma to use AI, you know, it’s like kind of the way you have to think about it.
So in terms of building up Cassidy AI, what are the key professional experiences that you’ve had and that you’ve kind of reflected on in terms of building out Cassidy AI?
Yeah, I mean, one of the best things and why I think, you know, we have such a unique position to really build a great product is just the extent to which the fact that we started with content and content creation and that we’ve been able to tap in and educate people generally about AI, it’s led me to connect with hundreds of businesses at this point. I see the comments, I get the DMS, I get the emails on a constantly on a daily basis. And so. What we’re able to do with that is we were just so tapped in to how people think about AI outside of tech, outside of the people who are publicly talking about it, but how, how did the teachers, how do the everyday people use AI? And something that I just think about a lot is really my focus is I, I’m so driven by like, how do we make this so easy to adopt? So you see it in my content. And so what Cassidy is, what the product that we’re building is just the extrapolation of. what we can learn from talking to people, really having that human relationship and that connection and understanding and translate that into a product that we know will work for these people. And I think that’s just really an advantage of like any sort of startup that you’re building. You got to talk to your users, you have to understand the problems. And if you could do that at a massive scale, like you can when you produce content online and you’re talking and connected with hundreds of people, you really add a massive advantage to know what product to build. And what are the features that will have the most impact? So that’s how I think about having that advantage and having that experience of starting with the content is really what’s going to let us build a really strong product with Cassidy.
Very cool. So if I’m a non-technical founder of a generative AI startup, and let’s say I have a business idea right now, what are the key things you should, outside of focusing, obviously, on content and building a community of people to actually sell your product to, what would you focus on in the immediate term to kind of get started and validate?
Yeah, so if I was non-technical, I was non-technical. My background was in marketing and I took six months and I did a coding bootcamp where I learned to code. There’s no other, I really think there’s really one way to learn to code and it’s like you have to just commit and go into it and do it, right? It’s so interesting right now and I’m so excited and I think bullish basically on people learning to code right now. I think there’s a lot of people who… You know, like, oh, there’s no reason to code anymore because who’s going to need engineers with AI the way I think about it so differently like that you Will there will be a need for software engineers? There will need a need for people to implement and to build these products out And so sure a lot of code is gonna be written by AI But that’s a benefit to people who know how to code because it means it could take a 1x coder and turn them into a 10x coder, right? And so like if you don’t know how to go from 0 to 1 in terms of engineering, then AI is not going to do much from you. But if you have that one, if you’re able to get to that first base, it could take you, AI will take you to infinity. There’s won’t be anything you can’t do or can’t build. And so I actually think right now is a great time to learn to code. So if I was a non-technical founder, I would start there. You really, it’s hard to beat around the bush and I could give the advice, go use certain tools and You know, go build it on bubble, the no code product. And that’s an option and people do that well. But I think like at the end of the day, it’s worth it to take six months to learn this skill. So honestly, that would be my advice.
Very interesting. Like, uh, I like your analogy. No, for me, you know, I, I’m a non-technical person. I pretend to be a technical person because I understand how things are connected. Um, but for me, it’s, it’s always been problem definition and customer adoption. Those are the two things that I’m hyper focused on tech for me, technology. And especially new technology. Like I’ve seen.
Do you agree? Do you? What do you think?
uh,I like amazing things before, but there’s no customers. There’s no business model. And then you burn through cash so quickly that it fails. And then somebody with the same idea comes up, you know, six months later, but has a ton of customers to go with and then they succeed. So for me, you know, yes, I think what I was reflecting on was I really like how you said if you’re a zero. AI is not going to get you from zero to one, but if you can get above one, then it’s an amazing coding. It’s an amazing tool to help you become extremely good. And that analogy is also true, I think is also going to be true if you’re a content creator, right? Like I personally have been trying to get into content. Oh, sorry. I’ve been trying to put in the time to do content for many, many years. I started in newsletter, I want to say like eight or nine years ago and then just left it because you know. For me, I’m a closer, I’m a finisher, I’m not a starter. So what I use Genite AI for in terms of my content is ideation and just getting me started. And then when I’m in the flow to actually write, because I’ve already got a base or somewhere to start from, I can just crunch it out and not it out very quickly. And I don’t have that, you know, excuse of, oh, I have to ideate all this stuff. And I have to think about all of these. I have to. think about the template or I have to think about all the things that I have to say, because it kind of helps me do that. So yeah, if you want to build a tech startup and you don’t have the vocabulary or the enough insight to know what your technical team is going to be doing, you’re obviously going to be at a loss. So yeah, I agree with you. I think you have to get to at least one and then leave. the heavy lifting or leave a lot of the grant work to the experts. But for sure, if you don’t understand what you’re trying to sell, it’s very, very hard to sell it.
Yeah, I mean, go learn to code and then don’t code. You know, I think it’s totally reasonable, right? You know, with Cassidy, I’ve, you know, my co-founder’s the best engineer I’ve ever worked with. He’s the single best engineer I’ve ever worked with. And you know, what would take me two hours, four hours, five hours to build, he could build in 10 minutes. I honestly don’t even think that’s an exaggeration. And so, you know, like,
but, Exactly. When you work with the right team. But the, but the difference here is that we have such different skill sets. But at the end of the day, he understands what I could do. And I understand what he’s doing. I understand when he says this is what’s going on or what he wants to build or what we want to build, I understand and can resonate with this is the scope. This is how long it’s going to take. I could talk the talk. And I think that really goes a long way in tech. Even if you don’t know how to code, even if you aren’t coding, The fact that you know how to code will give you a level of confidence that you can actually lead a technical team. Um, cause you know, if you go learn to code for six months, should be people who are better coders than you, but there might not necessarily be better coders who are also better leaders or better marketers. And so I think that’s the advantage there.
Very cool. Um, so what can a non-tech business professional do today to kind of get started in generative AI? I
know someone with some, you know, good enough proficiency when it comes to technology, they’re on, um, multiple like social media platforms there. They use Excel very well, et cetera. How do you think, um, someone who hasn’t delved into generative AI can really get started?
Um, yeah, I missed the first part of the question just because I was lagging out. Um, you said, how,how can I, how can a person get an generative AI?
Yes, a non-tech person into generative AI.
The thing about these tools is that if you take the time to play around with them, you’ll find the use cases in whatever your field is, you know, um, it’s so, you know, the, the prompting advice that anyone will give you at prompting 101 is that you start your prompts with, I want you to act as, and then fill in the persona and the fact that you could fill in that persona as literally any persona out there, whether that be a copywriter, whether that be a personal trainer, whether that be a comedian or a math tutor, I think just shows how powerful this is. So when you go and play around and you’re someone who’s non-technical and let’s say you work construction or you… Whatever it is, whatever field you’re in. There is some value that you could be like, wow, this is powerful at this sort of workflow in my, my work, because there, no matter what you do, there’s not a profession out there that couldn’t have a little bit of help and receive some benefits from utilizing a large language model, because it’s in the name. It’s large language model. Is there any job out there that doesn’t use language? You know, I mean, it’s really at the, so it’s such as versatile tool. Um, that I think there’s just, you know, there’s no profession out there that really can’t have the aha moment. Like, wow, it could do that in my field, in my industry. You know, I think that’s really cool.
The mantra I love is having the ability to unlearn to relearn. Right. So, uh, if you take the time to just, you know, open up a chatGPT account and get started and, you know, put in some basic prompts, very specific to your own field. It gives you, it opens your eyes to the art of the possible with this stuff. Right. And the more specific you get to your use case. the more blown away you’ll probably be in terms of what it could actually do. So, you know, being set in your own ways or being thinking that this stuff is way too far fetched, way too complex is I think very stupid because it’s so easy to get into. If you want to do more complicated things on, you know, in terms of image generation or video generation, et cetera, those things are getting much easier as well. But from a very basic point of view, just starting on chatGPT, there’s no excuse not to do that. if you’re a business professional anymore. But yeah,
cool. So. So moving on more so onto a personal front. You’re a startup founder, you’re a very busy person. What are the habits and productivity hacks that you have in your life that make your life easier?
It’s a great question.
Look, to be totally honest, and I’ve been more transparent about this, I really, I wake up, I work, I go to the gym, I work, I go to sleep. I pretty much just work anytime I’m not in the gym. And when I’m talking about what my habit is, it’s 100% that. The gym, right? It’s exercise, it’s running, it’s sweating. There’s a mantra in my life that I make sure that I sweat every day. At least just one beam of sweat. comes down my forehead at least once a day. And I actually think that is what keeps you sane. If you plan and want to work at a caliber of just a lot of work and you want to handle all that, and there’s a lot of pressure and lots of decisions, there really is no better way than making sure that you’re exercising. On top of that, I really am strict about diet. I think that also plays a really big component. I mean, your physical health is your mental health. And so I’m sort of basic, right? That’s kind of the classic advice, but I think it is, you know, 90% of what you could do in order to ensure that you can work at a great level, that you remain happy, um, and, and that you just can operate at that caliber and that’s, and also, you know, caveat, you know, maybe you don’t, you know, you, you don’t, you don’t live to work, you know, you, you work to live and I think that’s so reasonable. I think everybody’s different. Everybody’s got a reason. But I think no matter what you do, working out, eating healthy, that’s gonna allow you to be at your peak performance through your happiness. Whether that is you work your nine to five and that’s fine. It doesn’t really matter. You’re gonna find what it is for you. But I think for me, when I think about personal habits and the things that made the biggest difference in my life, it’s really just strict exercise and strict diet. So yeah.
How do you take the time to learn though, Justin, in terms of like all this stuff is exploding right now, how do you keep on top of all the things that are happening within the generative AI space?
I listen to podcasts like this. It’s really hard generally to stay up on all this stuff. I think really talking and meeting people, really getting out of your comfort zone, talking to as many people as you can, staying updated on social, there’s ways to do it. And I also think don’t put the pressure on yourself that you need to stay updated. You can miss some news. I mean, delete Twitter, get off Twitter for a month, who cares? You know, like, you know, like
It’s not Twitter anymore, Justin, it’s X. Come on, man.
anymore, Justin, it’s X. Come
It’s like, what interests you? You know, if you like let go and you’re just like, oh, I’m curious about this, like you’re gonna get the news, you’re gonna get the information that you need. And I think that’s the way to really treat it is don’t try to force yourself. I gotta stay updated. I need all these newsletters. I need everything. Just like, hey, does that sound interesting? Do you wanna listen to that podcast? Do you wanna, you know, make an intentional effort to stay up to date with this? But. It’s always a challenge to stay up to date, but I don’t think it’s a necessity.
For me on this one, it’s unsubscribing, religiously unsubscribing from like stuff that I don’t like and only being attuned to the content that I do like and I find is adding value. Like, especially on social. For me, it’s just, if I open up LinkedIn or TikTok, it’s giving me content that’s relevant to what I’m doing. And I make sure that I’m really subscribed to those people. And then as I randomly, you know, subscribe to some random stuff that’s not necessary anymore. I just make it a very good habit of trying to like get out of that stuff. Otherwise you just go down the rabbit hole and then just lose so
I totally agree. I even added on my newsletter. I have two unsubscribe buttons. I have one unsubscribe button. You’ll never hear from me again. That’s it. But then I have the other one, which is like just unsubscribe from me from the week and I’ll only email you when I really think you need to know something. And I think that’s like a very like transparent, honest thing. I know people’s inboxes are filled. And so if they’re receiving my newsletter, you know, once a week and that’s too much and they don’t want that kind of noise, Well, I want to give them the optionality that like, wait a second. Sometimes like I don’t, there’s something beyond just a week that’s like, Hey, I would definitely recommend knowing this. And I almost think that’s a great option for like anyone with a newsletter is like, give your subscribers an option because there is really, they might want to keep hearing from you every once in a while, but they just can’t handle the once a week or the everyday type of thing. And so giving that option of cadence, um, it also builds a level of like trust. Like I’m not going to email something to that people who have opted out of the week unless I truly, from where I am, want and know that this person needs to know this information. And I think it’s the job as a content creator. It’s like, you wanna provide, you really, I overly index on like, is this a valuable piece of content? Will this be valuable to this audience? Will this be valuable to the people who unsubscribe from the weekly newsletter? Should they know this? And if you really put value at the forefront of like what you’re trying to do. that sets you up really well as a content creator and someone who does spread the AI news and the information. So, yeah.
I’m curious to know your process for coming up with new content when it comes to generative AI. How does Justin decide this is the thing I’m going to talk about today?
personal curiosity. I think like we’re all kind of the same, you know, like, and it is even transparent and like when you make a piece of content on TikTok and you post on Instagram and the performance of the video does well in the same exact way, even though it’s a hundred percent of different audience, probably no one who saw it on TikTok rarely would ever see it on Instagram. They’re separate groups, but the fact that they perform well on both platforms for me shows that We’re all kind of, we like the same stuff. We’re all interested in the same stuff. And so if you really are focused on like, I’m gonna make content that I would like, and you put it out there, and you make a video or share educational information, you go, I would have liked to have seen that from someone else, then you know it will be valuable to everyone else. You know, and so like, I really do feel like we are the best judges of the content because you can know if something’s interesting to you, it’s probably interesting to a million other people.
Super cool. My next question is, what are the books you recommend or gift out the most to friends and family?
Yeah, I think well there’s one book in particular that I gift out the most which is waking up by Sam Harris So going back to the kind of personal front so waking up is basically in Sam Harris wrote this entire book basically on how to meditate and How to be spiritual without having to be religious right and It’s one of the most I was one of the most kind of eye-opening and fascinating experiences when I read it just about how much something like meditation or mindfulness can really impact, you know, who you are, the way you operate. I mean, I’ve gone through periods in my life where I’ve meditated a lot and there’s gone through periods in my life where, you know, I have meditated a little. But I think the through line of it all is just like being able to be mindful and being present and knowing what that means and actually having a deep understanding of what that means that you can’t. become happy, you can only be happy. And so that’s a book that I give to a lot of people because it really breaks down that concept in a very scientific manner. You know, there’s no pseudoscience. I think a lot of people have the connotation of meditation and you know, wow, you know, the pseudoscience and all that stuff, but it really breaks down that science of what’s going on and why it is so powerful.
In a similar vein, I love the book, Never Split the Difference, which is about negotiation, but it goes through how, from a negotiation point of view, before going into negotiation, you can do breath work and literally just calm your mind and calm your heart rate down in order to focus more. So like, you know, at the beginning of some meetings, internal theme meetings, I’ve used that. to kind of, when everyone’s just agitated by a situation that’s kind of going on, can’t necessarily take a logical decision, right? So just taking three day breaths as a group sounds weird, looks weird, um, but really changes the tonality of the situation and allows you to really make a very logical decision in a very hyped up state. So
should check that out. I’d be interested in the negotiation. What are your negotiation tips? Do you think you’re good? Like, I mean, maybe read the one book, maybe read a couple others. How do you become a good negotiator?
Um, it’s really understanding what the other person is looking for and what, how do you solve that problem for them and really understanding how you’re adding value in that equation and getting them to a yes, uh, by thinking two or three steps ahead of where they actually are. So, um, that’s, that’s the logical side of the equation. The other side of the equation is you’re only going to buy something or you’re only going to interact with someone. that you like, not going to buy something from a douchebag. So on the emotional front, you know, keep your promises, do what you say you’re going to do. Follow up when you say you’re going to follow up and tick all of those boxes. And then on the logical front, it’s kind of like, okay, I’m going to listen to all of the things that you have to say in your business situation, personal situation, et cetera. I will then map out. from my point of view, how I can help you achieve those goals. And through the relationship side, as well as the logical side, present all of that information back to you so it makes like complete logical and emotional sense that you would choose me as the solution to what you wanna do. So for me negotiating, I’ve worked in sales for the first six, seven, eight years of my life. And I wasn’t the… uh, over extrovert type of salesperson. I’m actually quite introverted. I had to be extroverted to kind of do my job and do like public speaking and stuff, but I’m naturally introverted. Um, so for me, it was kind of like taking that step back and really just actively listening to all of those problems that my customer was telling me. And then playing it back in a way that it was like, Oh, okay. This guy kind of has the solution to what I’m really looking for. So I think if you think about negotiating less like, you know, salesmen trying to like a second hand car salesman trying to push something onto you and more like this is a problem this person has, how can I help them through that? And then, hey, if I sell them a product, super great. And then it becomes just really easy to do. So I don’t think it’s that hard. It’s just taking a balance between the emotional side of the equation as well as the logical side. you kind of push it through.
Yeah, I love that. I think that’s great.
Super cool. Any other final closing statements from you, Justin, in terms of what people can do to kind of get started in Gen. AI?
Yeah, you know, I think, uh, let your curiosity, let the, let your curiosity guide you. Um, never say the word should, I should use AI. I should, I should, you know, it’s like, you’re putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, like I think if you play around, you try it out, see what works. But I think ultimately it’s in the hands of people like us, content creators, people building products to really get it across to the majority to the masses, how they can really make their lives better using these products and these tools and this technology. And so it’s something I try to do with my content. It’s clearly something you’re trying to do with your podcasts. And it’s something we’re trying to do with Cassidy is really how can we actually make people’s lives better, both personally and professionally, obviously, uh, using AI and, uh, we’re going to make it. incredibly easy and useful to use. That’s, that’s the goal with Cassidy. So, yeah.
Justin, pleasure to have you on the podcast. It was a fascinating chat. I’d love to catch up with you, let’s say in a year’s time or so to see the progress of Cassidy and to see where it’s at. How can people reach out to you if they want to learn more about Cassidy AI and learn more about you?
Yeah, they could come to my website, Justinfeinberg.com. They can go to Cassidy’s website, Cassidyai.com or Cassidy.ai. They both go to the same place. I got a newsletter, send out once a week. You could try it. And if you don’t like the weekly newsletter, unsubscribe to the weekly newsletter and I’ll email you when there’s something you need to know about. And reach out if I can help.
Thanks so much, man, take care.
In a recent in-depth discussion on a popular video podcast, Pasha Rayan, Co-founder and CTO of the online training platform, Forage, offered profound insights into the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education. Rayan’s innovative EdTech venture, part of the Y Combinator Winter 2019 batch, revolutionizes how education and recruitment intersect.
Forging Ahead with Forage
Forage’s unique vision stems from Rayan’s determination to use technology as a force for educational progress. He aims to align education with real-world business requirements and provide a learning platform that exposes students to practical experiences.
“Pasha Rayan’s vision is not just about making information available,” the host noted. “It’s about engaging learners and equipping them with the skills that today’s businesses are searching for.”
Forage is a testament to this vision. By partnering with top companies, Forage offers extensive online training programs that educate and provide hands-on industry experience.
The Role of AI in Education
The interview delved into the transformative power of generative AI in education. Pasha explained how AI has the potential to create personalized learning paths, taking into account each student’s learning style and pace. He elaborated on how AI could revolutionize learning outcomes and open new global student opportunities.
“As we evolve, we’re looking at how we can use generative AI to really help drive personalized learning experiences,” Pasha stated. “By understanding each student’s individual learning style and needs, we can provide them with a truly tailored educational experience.”
Aligning Technology with Impact
On aligning mission and technology for impactful work, Rayan was vocal about how Forage seeks to solve real-world problems. “It’s about your mission and how your technology can help you achieve that mission,” he said. He emphasized that it’s essential to align the tech solution with the mission of any startup to create an impact.
Pasha Rayan’s views paint a vibrant picture of a future where education and industry work in unison. Through his endeavors at Forage, he’s creating a learning ecosystem that benefits students and businesses alike. His infectious enthusiasm for innovative learning and recruitment solutions makes him a leading figure in educational technology.
By leveraging the power of technology and aligning it with the mission, Rayan is not just shaping the future of education – he’s shaping the world’s future leaders. Connect with Pasha Rayan on LinkedIn or Twitter @Pashpops to follow his insights.
Hosted by: Imteaz Ahamed
Imteaz – 00:09 Hi everyone, welcome to Applied Intelligence. Today, I have a very fun guest to speak to, Pasha Ryan. Pasha is the current CEO, I’m sorry, CTO, and co-founder of Forage. And we’ll get into that a bit later, but more importantly, I met Pasha many, many years ago. And Pasha was actually my intern back at Racket in Sydney, and now he’s gone on to do.
Pasha Rayan – 00:21 Yep.
Imteaz – 00:37 some many wonderful things and we’re gonna get into that in a lot of detail. Very recently though, however, we’re both in New York and I got to catch up with him, which was very cool and hear all the stories of what it’s like to be a startup founder and there’s so many crazy things that we’re gonna talk about today. But Pasha, welcome to the show.
Pasha Rayan – 00:57 Oh, it’s good to chat again, MTS. It’s funny, right, because when we met, you know, I was just at university, figuring out what to do with my life. And I think it’s a little bit better nowadays, but yeah, definitely, definitely a long time ago.
Imteaz – 01:14 Yeah, don’t worry man, I still don’t know what I’m doing in my life. I just, you know, happening to get through day by day. Um, but anyway, just so the audience gets to know who Pasha is. Um, I love to ask this question, which is if you had an autobiography and if it had five chapters, what would the title of each one of those five chapters be?
Pasha Rayan – 01:18 I’m gonna go.
Pasha Rayan – 01:38 Yeah, I mean like I love this question because it really makes you distill like into those phases of like your life, right? Um, and it’s funny, right for me, a lot of my first chapter would always be that introductory childhood chapter of just like you know Basically, you know being a pretty normal kid not really caring about too much except for video games and movies um, I guess the second chapter in my mind really would be
you know, like being young and trying to figure out the world. So that was a period of my life when I was, you know like maybe 16 to like 21, where before I knew anything about anything at all**, you know,** like, you know, I didn’t really. I grew up in a single-parent family, so I had no real exposure to the outside world and like what was going on and like what work was like or what different things you could do at school, at university.
So my second chapter would basically be this phase of like, yeah, trying to figure things out by going deep. And that second chapter would be that phase where I picked up books about philosophy. I read a lot of books across different topics. It’s when I started to learn the code on my own or at school. Yeah, I was just kind of a voracious reader and trying to figure out things there. So that second chapter would be, oh, you know, like, let’s go deeper and try to figure things out.
My third chapter would basically be, you know, probably a chapter of my university years where I kind of took the approach of university where, you know, I had to kind of figure it out at that younger age that this is a great time to actually, you know, figure things out but also like do things at a lower risk, you know, like I had not learned anything about the corporate world. I hadn’t learned much about academia. I decided to…
I did pure randomness to a degree in commerce and philosophy and computer science with the liberal studies at UNSW. And for me, it was really just a distillation of, okay, you know, like I had read a lot in the previous years. I had only started to figure out what the world was like, but I thought university or college was the best way to actually test out some of these ideas and have fun, you know, trying to do student.
society things have fun trying to build things on the side, have fun learning. You know, I would go out and just. Pick up random textbooks from the library, read them for fun and try to understand what the topic was about. It could be economics, could be random things around history or sometimes the sciences and, yeah, put them back and just kind of like get back to, like, tinkering and trying out things in the real world. After that, I guess chapter was that chapter. Yeah, that’s chapter three.
a chapter of my life on actually kind of like doing real work for the first time. That’s when I entered with UMTA as you know, like when I entered at records, I worked in the corporate world, I spent some time working on**, you know, in**, as a consultant, I spent some time working as a product manager at a tech company in Australia, and that would be like that fourth chapter, just a chapter of exploring work.
There you kind of like, I went through multiple types of business cultures and I think kind of learned what I thought would work and actually is kind of what we want to do for the rest of our lives. And the fifth chapter would be**, you know,** quite, and I guess you could probably sub-subdivide chapter five into a ton of subchapters, because it’s still ongoing, but really would be my journey with forage and kind of life ever since starting a startup. So chapter five would basically be titled Forage. And then under that would probably be about five or six subchapters for the gamut of jobs and roles that we’ve had there and the crazy journeys and stories. So yeah, Chapter Five is probably a bit of a undersell, but yeah, that will probably be the fifth chapter because that could be its own book and its own rights.
Imteaz – 05:50 But let’s dive into that, Pasha. So what led you to create Forage, and what problem does it solve, and how does it kind of work? Let’s go into a bit of detail to give people perspective in terms of what you work on right
Pasha Rayan – 05:52 Hmm.
Pasha Rayan – 06:00 Mm-hmm.
Pasha Rayan – 06:05 Awesome. Well, we step back, like, Forage is a platform that runs virtual job simulations. So when we started Forage, we basically had this idea that, and this thesis that the model of hiring someone just doesn’t work today. Because today, a company would spend a lot of time to figure out how to hire someone, then spend two or three years to train them up. And then after that, either that candidate or that person just doesn’t fit the role or isn’t good enough for the role, or on the flip side, the candidate realizes that career isn’t for them. And what we thought was we’d flip it around and go, well, why don’t we actually train people first, then the company can hire them, then they can stick around for much longer. And the vehicle to kind of prove that these are our virtual job simulations and Forage basically is the platform to…do a three to five-hour virtual job simulation with any company, any like, you know, we try to work with any big company in the world. So a university student or college student can jump on to theforge.com and do a job simulation with the Boston Consulting Group, Pfizer, Lululemon, General Electric, you know, work with a lot of these companies around the world. And in that simulation, a student actually tries out what it’s like to do a job.
I guess in my mind; it’d be like, they get to like experience what it’s like to work with their own version of MTAs at records. But it’s the actual stuff, nothing theoretical. And when they do that, students actually start to realize what is, what they find interesting. And on the flip side, employees today are finding that the students that do these forage job simulations are much more hireable.
So a student on forages three to four times more likely to land the job than a student who hasn’t done forage in the application processes that we work with companies all around the world. Companies love us because the students that do come on board, you know, like when they interview them, they know the key terms of an industry. They know what the work is like, and they know that they’re not gonna be someone that drops out in a year or two. So that’s kind of like the core bit of forage. And I guess like, you know,
Before I get into what led to it, where we are today, we’re quite lucky, right? We started in Sydney, Australia, but we’ve been lucky enough to grow around the world. We have offices in here, in New York, in San Francisco, and in London. When we started, we had 300 students on our website when we were in Australia, but now we have 4.5 million students around the world. We have 150 employers, and we’ve been going down the venture capital startup route. We’ve been lucky enough to raise around $40 to $50 million.
and venture funding in the last five to six years. So that’s Forage. And what allows us to create that ecosystem really is a much more personal journey of story for me and Tom, my co-founder. I think the funny thing is when we created Forage and wanted to create something in the student space, even before the first lines could be written, Tom, my co-founder…
And I independently were just always helping the students out with their resume and how they could land a job. And I think for us, you know, like, you know, I mentioned, you know, like we grew up in a single parent family. We had no idea about this. And I think for me, a lot of it was like, I feel like I got really lucky landing into really cool jobs, doing cool internships, meeting amazing people who could help out with our resume. Um, and.
my co-founder I think felt the same. And I think for us giving back was always a way to actually really kind of like help the next generation of people who maybe didn’t have the best of luck. Tom grew up in Waka and didn’t know anything about any of this stuff as well. So that’s kind of like, that was the feeling of us wanting to give back was really the genesis of the company. And I think, you know, what led us to create it was us realizing that there probably should have been a better way.
to do this at scale, right? You know, and I could probably go into the story of how we started off as a mentoring marketplace to solve that, but you know, we really just started Forage as a passion project to solve that. But as we went along, we realized that there were other way to productize the main experiences required to get someone to be ready for a job, do that at scale and do that in a way that really impacts education and hiring.
Imteaz – 10:48 That’s incredible. It’s very cool to see a story where the work that you do has an impact on the way that you’ve perceived the world and not necessarily received that help or seen that help growing up and then landing in a place where you can actually do that. I never knew I wanted to do sales. I wanted to do commercial. I never knew that I wanted to manage a P&L.
and I kind of stumbled into corporate more than anything else. I thought I was going to be a lawyer growing up. And I didn’t necessarily have the mentors or the people around me or even, you know, my dad’s parents, my dad’s friends or my mom’s friends, they weren’t necessarily in the corporate sector because they were first generation immigrants to Australia, right? They did, my dad had a white collar job, but it was a very technical role, not necessarily.
managing commercials. But I’m faith my way into record, and I’m still that record. But that was pure chance. And it shouldn’t necessarily be pure chance in terms of how people find the right career path that really lets them shine.
Pasha Rayan – 12:06 Yeah, and you know what’s funny? I remember your story back when I was an intern and you were chatting it through, how you got through two records and went through it. And that and many other people have similar stories where they’ve been able to find their great careers for luck. And I think the thing that I always have pinched myself with is that not everyone was as lucky as us, right? There are lots of people at the different schools I’ve gone to that maybe…
just what as lucky they’re like land into a pool or figure out that, you know, for you, commercial was good for me being in tech was kind of something that I wanted to do. Um, and some people just get kind of like swept away. And, you know, I actually think it’s also like, let me step back, you know, the, the scope of them, the, there are so much talent out there in the world, but getting that talent to the opportunity where they can flourish is actually something that isn’t done very well yet. And, you know, it can be.
it can be done better in so many ways. But I think for us, you know, like being able to solve that problem you mentioned of like having, you know, like being able to like, bridge that gap of going, oh, I, someone doesn’t know, it doesn’t have the connections about it industry to, Hey, in your own time, one safe space in your own safe way, you can find what particular, you know, what particular career will, will align with you, I think is, you know, and it’s more, we’re going to be really impactful. And I think, you know, for us, it was always
trying to create a way where we could align getting that impact while at the same time proving that you can actually try to solve this problem, which means a lot to a lot of people and turn it into a very good business and turn it into something that is also unique and didn’t exist yet. So all of that kind of packaged together into kind of what ended up becoming Forage.
Imteaz – 13:56
Like I think about working in commercial and working in sales in particular, and that’s not something that’s necessarily taught at university, nor is it taught at high school. So you don’t necessarily hear about becoming a salesperson or a commercial leader. You hear about being a business person, right? But you don’t necessarily hear about being a salesman as growing up.
Imteaz – 14:27 giving the opportunity to people that already have these innate skills of building relationships and or other very technical things or not non-technical things and then putting them in a situation for them to actually flourish, which is very, very cool. So coming back and steering more towards applications of generative AI, which is such a hot topic right now. How is that?
Pasha Rayan – 14:44 Yeah.
Imteaz – 14:54 How is GenAI really changing the way that you’re going to market with Plurage in the near term?
Pasha Rayan – 15:01 It’s a great question. And recently at Forage, we had run an internal hackathon around generative AI. I think maybe, you know, a bit of context and preface is that, you know, obviously as Forage we’ve been growing a lot and have been doing a lot with, you know, helping place amazing students and talent into like great companies out there. But Gen. AI kind of like came in like a storm essentially and kind of like… shook the world of technology because it allows you to do so much more than you could have done before, right? Before to even get close to anything close to what OpenAI and these other generative AI tools offered, you’d have to spend millions and millions of dollars on a data science team and they themselves would not have enough general content to be able to train a powerful AI.
Pasha Rayan – 15:59 I think at a high level, the question is, how does generative AI actually change the world of recruitment education? I’ll start with education in that generative AI is very powerful because it allows basically anyone to have a personalized tutor and allows anyone to have.
Imteaz (42:37.833) You got it.
Pasha Rayan (42:44.938) why I’m really proud of like us realizing that our core hypothesis for our original product was really not on solid footing was that we kind of really like, you know, I think what happened was we listened to this great video by Y Combinator about what product market fit should look like. And what we had done was, you know, we’d listened to it and Tom and I, I think, you know, we had realized after watching this video that we don’t have product market fit. And I remember, I think we both independently just had sleepless nights and felt really sick about that fact.
Like we were like, we knew we were doing something that was not going to work. And I think for us, it was at that realization and really early on that we were like, this isn’t going to work, but we’re going to figure out what does work. And we’re going to figure out what does work, but that still hits our mission. Um, and I think that, you know, like when we made that decision and we were screwing up and spending a lot of time with something that wasn’t working, it was really pivotal for us because for us.
We then turned around and changed all of our behaviors and our processes to go find product market fit, you know? So after like three months of working on this project, the mentoring marketplace, and it wasn’t working, we had basically turned around and go, we’re gonna just iterate every week on a different kind of idea, make learnings on that idea, and talk to so many people to the point that we would just actually be sick of talking to people.
every day and we were exhausted. I think we ended up talking to like a few hundred people by the end of like, by the end of it. We had iterated so fast, like within the next two months, um, that we had built up a list of learnings. Like actually students don’t know how to get mentored, but they do want to know what a job is like. And companies do want to give out more work experience programs, but they literally can’t physically, like, like just as you imagine, you can’t physically manage that many people. Companies can’t physically manage a thousand to 3000 interns in a new month.
moment in time. And it was interesting. We had learned so much. I mean, it started picking up these learnings. And I think what I didn’t realize, you know, and what made it eventually a success was that like, we had spent an extreme amount of time talking to users and figuring out what did or didn’t work. And at that extreme, after that extreme amount of time, I think Tom and I were just drinking and exhausted one afternoon. And we had just joked that like, Hey, what if we just gave every student an internship?
we were all like, yeah, let’s just give every student an internship. And then we just kind of laughed about it. And then the next day we sent an email being like, Oh, well, then we’re like, let’s go do it. So we went out and said, like, we’ll go out and like create these virtual internships. And the thing was like, I remember we weren’t bullish on the idea in itself. We knew that we wanted to solve the mission, but the virtual internships, virtual job simulation idea that we ended up with, we kind of saw it as fallen from everything else that we had done.
But when we sent out an email to our user base saying that we were going to do some virtual internships, virtual job simulations, the thing that kind of like makes me proud like I think the funny thing is that we had put all this effort into it. And Tom had written this email, very basic email, and he had press send and he walked to the toilet. And I had set up the system where when a student signed up to something, we would get an SMS. And the seventh…
Tom Press sent me that email. We had basically, like my phone started ringing nonstop and we’re sitting next to our investors at that point and our investors are like, oh, what’s going on there? And I’m like, I don’t know what’s happening, but everyone is signing up to this thing that we’ve just sent out. And you know, in the multi few minutes that Tom took to go to the toilet, it took a while, he had interest, we had initially gotten like 180 applications to our virtual internship, virtual job simulation then. And I think the crazy thing was that like,
looking back, you know, we was just part of our consistent process of learning and trying to figure out what could be helpful to students. But that was it. That was us finding the thing that would have actually had both the fit for the market and what students wanted and the employees wanted. And yeah, it was something that really kind of like, that was the culmination of all of the hard work after we realized we had screwed up thinking and being so stubborn that we had an idea that was going to be it. And I think for me, that was probably like…
the failures to hope that I’m most proud of in the whole startup journey, which is like we had almost come in too stubbornly, but we had really realized we had failed on what we wanted and what we achieved to do, which is build product market fit, but then corrected and tried to really solve it and probably at an extreme level to get to where we were. So yeah, I think getting to what our first product became was probably crushingly, crushingly
sad when we realized we had failed in our first run through of it all. But we’re proud because I think we’re able to pick ourselves up and almost work at an extreme level to solve that problem down there.
Imteaz (47:41.61) So talk to me about the point where you realize you didn’t have product market fit. To the time that you got all of these pings on your phone, what kept you motivated between those two times?
to keep going.
Pasha Rayan (48:00.619) Motivation is such a funny thing when it comes to doing a startup. That early phase was like, I think it was pure stubbornness. We had left our jobs, start this company and we had really wanted to make a difference. I think we’re all like, well, if we’re going to leave our jobs and we’re well paid, we’re lucky enough to do a lot of these cool things.
Pasha Rayan (48:27.794) I was running like growth and acquisitions at a, at a marketplace company. So like we had left our cool, we had left some pretty cool jobs, good positions. And, and we wanted to make a difference. And I think for us, the motivation was actually at that stage and motivation changed over time, but I’ll never swap out in stages at that stage of like, Oh, we don’t have something when you figure it out. Um, I think it was just pure stubbornness. I think for us.
We wanted to make a difference. We didn’t want to fail and we wouldn’t let ourselves fail. That was our motivation then. We didn’t want to let ourselves fail because we thought that the problem was so big and so real that, and someone had to figure it out, that we may as well make it us. I mean, we may as well make it us and do it in such a way that it actually would work. So I think that first bit was pure stubbornness and just a desire to achieve our mission.
I think we’re a little, Tom and I were a little zealot like that. We really, we had that zealotry around really trying to make a difference. Um, and then when we got there, it was interesting, the motivation afterward, after you get to something that kind of works because you know, once we had the core products, we were lucky enough to grow and get students from like amazing universities and start getting these amazing brands to come on board. Um, you know, we had KPMG on board, Kim and Malisyns, and then BCG came on.
government departments started coming on, it was really like quite good. But like at that point, the motivation to charge through like, really like, you know, like this is our sixth year now doing forage and we know that it’s going to take a decade or more of commitment to even get to where we think it can go. Um, the motivation right now is really, A, trying to achieve a mission. Like every time we find things hard, it’s like, we’ll do something worthwhile. B, I think the biggest thing as we kind of grow is this idea that you know, we’ve
worked really hard to bring out amazing people to join our team to make a difference. We have amazingly talented leaders, amazingly talented engineers, amazingly talented product people, salespeople, who could all probably be out there making a lot more money but are choosing to work with us because we are making a difference. So it’s how do we do them right? How do we do them right at a day-to-day level as working with them, but also at a year-to-year level so they feel like that they’re getting…
you know, they’re growing and they’re getting their worth and spending their time here with us as a company. And that, you know, like I wake up and that always keeps us going. I think thirdly as well, right? Like when we hear of these amazing stories of our students landing jobs and our employees being able to find amazing students, like it really keeps us going, you know. When we started, we wanted to do a company that did a line of admission, but like it has been such an advantage because, for us, there’s really no reason.
to quit, you know, like there’s, there’s always, we are helping someone every day, someone out there. Um, you can see it on, if you look up social media or LinkedIn, you’ll see people posting about Forge every day. Um, I think the crazy thing is like that keeps you going because that alignment of being able to have a good mission, um, a good business, and really something quite unique as a technical challenge and a product level or as a business level. If you’re thinking about the economics of it all. Um,
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s kind of what keeps us going, being able to help people out in such a unique way that can become a big company. So yeah, motivation, you know, that early motivation was pure stubbornness and really wanting to make a difference. And then as we’ve grown as a company and organization, it really is, I think, a sense of, yeah, being able to make that difference, a sense of duty to the people that have put their time and investment and being custodians of like, you know.
our team members’ effort and the custodians of some of our investors’ money, custodians of the effort that the students put into the hours on our platform to be able to turn that into something valuable, I think just keeps us going.
Imteaz (52:26.398) super cool. In wrapping up the podcast, Pasha, what are the three things that, or the three takeaways that you want to leave with the audience today?
Pasha Rayan (52:36.898) Yeah, I think there’s a few takeaways. I think one at a high level, I think going off the topic of motivation, I think it’s okay to be motivated to make a difference and make, I think people separate the idea that you can make a good business and it be both nourishing and helpful for people around the world. I think there are ways to pull that off most of the time. And I think…
More people should be willing to try to build businesses that align with those three things, companies that can be big, companies that make a difference, and companies that are unique that don’t exist yet. I think that’s a huge thing that, A, as the years go on is almost like ridiculous how much keeps us going every day to kind of work hard for forage and everything that we do. The second takeaway is I think with generative AI, the opportunity is quite…
large, especially when you think about generative AI as a tool to get you past current limits. I think one of the interesting things about generative AI versus, let’s say, the era of the internet is that because it can be so personalized, it really gives you the chance to become much faster, much more engaged, much smarter, much more understanding of things that are happening than before.
And if you use that world, you can really, I think an individual can make much more impact in the world overall. And then I think the third thing is like, yeah, I mean, I think, I think, um, hopefully, the last takeaway is that someone out there listening, whether, you know, they’re a bit younger or they’re kind of in their career thinking about making a difference, you know, like it is, it is possible to be able to like, you know, pull it off and like actually create like, you know, cool things.
by putting the effort into it and having fun and being able to mix this idea of mission and technology and work altogether. So yeah, I think hopefully someone out there gets a little bit more energy to make a difference in their community or in a way that makes sense to them. I keep thinking about generative AI, but helping small communities out, like running small organizations, helping…
Helping families be better, helping companies become a bit more, you know, like streamlined. I think there’s so many opportunities and hopefully, this gets you going a little bit more on.
Imteaz (55:12.126) Super cool. Pasha, lovely to catch up with you, man. It’s insane to see. I remember you as this tiny little intern that came into the office and then 10 plus years go by and then you turn into this guy. I’m super proud of you and super proud of the work that you do. It’s mind-blowing. So congrats to you. Keep going. I want to see bigger and better things from you going forward. Just for people that want to reach out to you.
Pasha Rayan (55:26.728) Yeah. Ha ha.
Imteaz (55:42.304) for any other questions and whatnot, how should they do that?
Pasha Rayan (55:45.95) Yeah, I mean, visit theforge.com to visit the website. My email is pasha at theforge.com. Always happy to help companies and people out, you know, who are trying to make a difference. Yeah, feel free to reach out anytime. I know there’s never, I’m never too busy to try to help, like, you know, someone trying to do some cool stuff in the world. That always excites me. But yeah, feel free to email us and reach out and connect us on LinkedIn and other things. Pasha Arian is my name and unique enough to hopefully be found pretty quickly.
Imteaz (56:20.234) Super cool. Thank you so much, man. Take care.
Pasha Rayan (56:22.99) Thanks, Imteaz!
In today’s ever-changing financial landscape, individuals with complex financial situations and international lifestyles face unique challenges regarding wealth management, taxation, and estate planning. To shed light on these topics, we had the pleasure of interviewing Mohammad Uz-Zaman, a highly qualified financial planner and esteemed Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) member. Muhammed shared his expertise, providing invaluable insights into strategies for optimizing wealth, minimizing tax burdens, and safeguarding assets. Here are four key takeouts from our conversation:
- Understanding the Impact of Domicile: One of the crucial aspects discussed during the conversation was the concept of domicile. Muhammed explained how individuals with nomadic lifestyles or those residing in multiple jurisdictions must consider their domicile status and how it can affect their investment holdings. He highlighted the potential benefits of acquiring deemed domicile status in different jurisdictions based on the time spent in each location. This insight emphasizes the importance of seeking specialist advice to navigate the complexities of domicile and its implications on financial affairs.
- The Power of Specialized Professionals: Muhammed emphasized the significance of engaging professionals with high-level qualifications in multiple disciplines. These professionals should be well-versed in legal services, trust management, taxation, accountancy, and regulated wealth management. By consulting experts who understand all three disciplines, individuals can benefit from comprehensive advice tailored to their unique financial circumstances. Muhammed also highlighted the importance of engaging regulated wealth managers and members of STEP to ensure a holistic approach to financial planning and protection.
- Mitigating Tax and Maximizing Wealth: Tax planning was a vital focus of the conversation. Muhammed emphasized the need to consult specialists who can offer strategic solutions to mitigate tax burdens. While accountants play a vital role in filing tax returns, tax specialists and regulated wealth managers are better equipped to provide advice on tax optimization strategies. Muhammed provided real-life examples, showcasing the potential financial benefits of implementing sound tax planning techniques, such as mandating income from trust funds to eligible family members for specific purposes like funding private school fees.
- Taking the First Steps: Muhammed highlighted the importance of taking the first step towards preparing for a secure financial future. He encouraged listeners to contact highly qualified financial planners for an initial consultation, as many are willing to provide valuable insights and guidance. By reviewing their financial situation, individuals can better understand the steps they need to take to achieve their financial goals. Muhammed cautioned against relying solely on online resources and stressed the significance of seeking professional advice to navigate the intricacies of financial planning effectively.
Our conversation with Muhammed provided knowledge and actionable insights for individuals seeking to master wealth management, taxation, and estate planning. By understanding the impact of domicile, engaging specialized professionals, and implementing sound tax planning strategies, individuals can pave the way for a secure financial future. Additionally, Muhammed shared productivity hacks for entrepreneurs and stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to optimize performance.
We invite you to listen to the full podcast episode to explore the full extent of Muhammed’s expertise and gain a deeper understanding of the topics discussed. By leveraging the insights shared, individuals can confidently navigate the complex world of finance, securing their financial future and maximizing their wealth.
Connect with Mohammad Uz-Zaman on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trustsandestateplanning/ Learn more about Muhammed’s work on his website: https://adlestateplanning.co.uk/
Hosted by: Imteaz Ahamed
[Podcast Episode Timestamps]
00:00:00 – Introduction to the episode and the guest’s background
00:01:15 – Understanding the impact of domicile and its implications on investment holdings
00:05:42 – Importance of engaging professionals with high-level qualifications in multiple disciplines
00:10:20 – Exploring the role of regulated wealth managers and members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP)
00:14:55 – Strategies for mitigating tax burdens and optimizing wealth
00:19:30 – Real-life examples of tax planning techniques and their financial benefits
00:25:10 – Taking the first steps: Importance of seeking professional advice for financial planning
00:29:45 – Productivity hacks for entrepreneurs and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
00:33:20 – Discussion on the importance of learning from others’ experiences
00:36:45 – The impact of global economics on financial planning and the social contract with governments
00:40:15 – Recap of the interview and key takeaways
00:42:50 – How to connect with Muhammed on LinkedIn and learn more about his work
[Include related hashtags: #WealthManagement #Taxation #EstatePlanning #FinancialPlanning #ProductivityHacks]
Don’t miss the opportunity to gain expert insights from Muhammed and discover how to secure your financial future. Subscribe to the podcast now and embark on mastering wealth management, taxation, and estate planning.
Podcast Transcript: Imteaz and Mohammad Uz-Zaman
Imteaz: Okay. Hi everyone, welcome to Applied Intelligence. In this episode, I’m gonna be interviewing your dear friend of mine, Mohammed Zaman. Mohammed Zaman is the director and the founder of ADL Estate Planning. And he’s also a very good friend of mine. I got introduced to Mohammed, I wanna say, seven or eight years ago as I moved to the UK. And he was introduced to me by a mutual friend, Bilal Hassam, and I’m gonna have Bilal on the show, in the future as well. But Mohammed is just a very fascinating guy and full disclosure, I’m an investor in one of his companies and I’m an avid supporter of people that are creating some really cool things for consumers as well as people that are looking to improve their overall wealth. So I’m going to have a fascinating chat with him today and I know you are too. So let’s get started.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Thank you very much, NtLs. It’s a pleasure to be on board.
Imteaz: So the way I like to open my podcast and the way that I like to get the audience to know who I’m talking to is asking this really important question to me, which is, you know if you had an autobiography and it only had five chapters, what would the chapter titles of the book of your autobiography, what would it be? Let’s go.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: I got it. All right. The five chapters of my autobiography. I would probably say chapter one, adolescence. All right. Chapter Two, inquisitive thinking. Chapter three, marriage. Chapter four, well actually, I think… Between chapter three and chapter four, there would probably have to be a sub-chapter around entrepreneurship or initial entrepreneurship and then marriage. And then I would probably say ongoing entrepreneurship or an ongoing journey in business.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yeah.
Imteaz: give me the cliff notes of H.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Okay, so I guess what is it? The first chapter was adolescence, I guess. I’m a kid, all right. So primary school, secondary school, that’s, you know, becoming acquainted with the way of, you know, the world as such in that particular immature domain that I had. During that particular time, I guess, I thought… I was learning, I was experiencing relationships. I was a quiet kid growing up. So I was very reflective, I was a dreamer. All right, so I guess there could be a few things to be said about that. That can be elaborated on during my adolescent period. Chapter two, what did I say? Critical thought and critical thinking slash entrepreneurship. During that particular time, yeah, certainly. I started I started questioning a whole load of things. So history, I enjoyed studying history around that particular time. I started asking questions about faith and religion. It became a very big part of my upbringing, especially in relation to a whole host of topical events that were happening globally. And also around that particular time, I got my first foray into entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has been a big part of my upbringing. And moving on to the following chapter, it actually continues because, post my marriage, I took on a lot of responsibility quite early on. And yeah, needed to acquire a whole load of new skills. I guess what I would say, sorry, and the final chapter. Is ongoing entrepreneurship. Okay, ongoing entrepreneurship is effectively a space where I am right now. And in that particular space, it includes combining entrepreneurship, I guess, with having a family too, and what that actually entails. So yeah.
Imteaz: So in terms of becoming a founder of your own startup, of your own business, what are the key experiences that have led to where you are today?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: I think, you know what, InterEarth, wealth management has been my high-income skill, okay? I’ve been fascinated with the way money works for a very long time. I’ve been fascinated with the way the economy around, within the UK, and how it interacts globally also actually interact. I’ve been fascinated by the evolution of companies around the world. So looking at the history of major companies like Apple, Tesla, Microsoft, yeah, fascinating. And I think I took a lot from that. But that is at a global level, right? But even at something that is more, say, more reachable. I’m also fascinated and I am even to this day with boring businesses or dare I say boring businesses. So even your laundry or even a plumbing company or an electrician company or a very successful small restaurant business or a cafe business. Knowing that these businesses retain profit. And how they retain profitability in a highly competitive environment have always fascinated me. That’s one side. The other area that I really like to look into is particularly around branding. So branding is quite key. So branding has fascinated me from day dot to day dot.
Imteaz: So just coming back to small businesses, personally one of the most, I want to say, highest cashflow ROI businesses that I’ve actually invested in is a small business. And it’s the family business, which is in property management. And
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yep.
Imteaz: outside of all of the sexy sorts of startup ventures, tech ventures, et cetera, the one that cash flows the best is by far the small business. So. It goes back to what Warren Buffett said, talks about in terms of having multiple sources of income, diversifying your income portfolio, and managing your expenses. It’s not all about just putting your money into tech stocks and high-risk startups within the tech sphere. It’s also balancing out your portfolio and having things that also cash flow. There’s enough, I can’t remember his name now, but cash flow is happiness to many people. But yeah, it comes back to the importance of, you know, when you’re assessing that business,
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yeah.
Imteaz: look at the cash flow.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Cash flow is very important, again—no doubt about it. But… It also depends on what you want to achieve from that particular business as well, from that particular business investment. Because one could actually be investing in a business where there’s very little cash flow, but the equity position over the next five, 10 years could become far greater. And also cash-rich businesses, when you’ve got cashing regularly coming in, it doesn’t necessarily mean the actual equitable value of the actual business is actually increasing X number of years. So it’s something that one needs to consider but it’s phenomenal to give you liquidity and as an entrepreneur, you need to have liquidity. If you don’t have liquidity you’re on a back foot. Okay, so one of one of the most difficult aspects about setting up your own business is where on earth do you get that liquidity from. All right have you got that?
Imteaz: But I think this is where I think starting small is actually not a bad idea.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yep.
Imteaz: Because, you know, especially if you don’t come from a commercial background, and if you didn’t study finance and didn’t study marketing, even if you studied marketing, you don’t necessarily understand cash flow. So investing in a small business and really getting into the nuts and bolts of a P&L of that business understanding. You know how much money is coming in every month versus how much money is actually coming out of that business every month.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yeah.
Imteaz: I think if you’re a non-commercial person trying to get into investing, it’s actually not a bad place to start. Even if you lose your initial 5, 10, 15 thousand dollars worth of investment and it goes to zero, if you learn how to manage that monthly P&L, that is a pivotal skill that every investor needs to have. That, you know, a lot of people just look at. The equity upside and see 30, 40, 50, X multiples and get excited. But they’re
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Thank
Imteaz: so, you
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: you.
Imteaz: know, they’re very rare to happen, and you have to be amazingly good at picking them. So it’s not a bad place to start in small business.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Identifying alpha is what every particular type of active fund manager out there is trying to actually achieve. But unfortunately, they struggle with it. The best of us struggle with it. And also, when you have a cash switch business or any type of investment to be fair, as an it could mean something very, very different, depending on your own entrepreneurial context. I mean, you could have a family with a few children, or you could be a single person, no dependence, all right? And losing 5K is not an issue at all. I mean, before I was married, I lost around five grand. It didn’t have a huge impact on my well-being in the slightest. It just disrupted me for a few months. Okay, but this, but that journey was fundamentally important to, to my growth and my mindset in approaching entrepreneurship today. This is being able to take those particular risks. In that particular situation, we did something crazy. So I was at, I was in university at this point. And I had invested just a little bit, a little under 5000 pounds into into closing stock with a couple of other guys, but with no idea as to how we’re going to execute the actual investment, i.e., right, we’ve bought a whole load of stock which cost around 12 grand, I think it was, which had a retail value of something like 60 to 70 grand. But, and it was stock that would be on a… You know one of those markets on the high street, okay But we didn’t think about who’s gonna open up the store who’s gonna get the license All right, who’s gonna be manning the store day in day out? Right because we all had full-time jobs Right. So so yeah, that was quite funny. All right, so we saw all right, we’re gonna lose this particular deal We figure all of that out later Sometimes you can you that does work. Most of the time it doesn’t. And I have the type of attitude where plan, plan. All right. And this is where I tend to be quite good at, which allows me, when I take those calculated risks, it’s less of a burden to me. It’s less of a stress to me as well.
Imteaz: So, just drilling down on analyzing risks, talk to us about your experiences when it comes to employment. Like what are the companies that you’ve previously worked at and what are those key skills that you gained there in terms of wealth management?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Ah, yeah, totally. So my first foray into private client world back in 2003. So, and particularly on the mortgage side, I don’t advise on mortgages anymore, but it’s a good place to actually start your career. And this is shortly after university as well, a few years after university, was in the legal sector prior to that. I’ll speak about that shortly, but that was one of my first roles. And the learning that I got in that particular role very early on is client interaction. It’s basically sales and customer service. And what I learned during that particular time, it was so important to have an attitude where you can actually build trust and rapport very, very quickly. Because you don’t actually have long to actually make a really good impression. Whether it’s over the phone at that particular time or whether it’s face to face. So you need to leverage as much as you can. Now, the way I look at fostering relationships, first and foremost, is to be authentic. And before thinking about the actual sale or value, think about what problem can you actually solve for that particular person. Everything else will come out of that. Don’t look at the sales figures first or don’t look at your commission first. Rather look at how can I solve this particular problem for that particular person, and I guarantee you the blessings will come out.
Imteaz: So, in terms of struggles that you had in terms of the wealth management sector, what are the key things that did you struggled to reconcile when it comes to
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Oh yeah, totally.
Imteaz: your outlook?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Oh yeah, totally. So I have a lot to say about the wealth management sector. And among the areas that I disliked was particularly in relation to how investment philosophy or investment strategies are actually priced. In actual fact, in one of my previous roles, I politely critiqued an investment strategy at a major wealth management firm. That actually led to an internal departmental review and then a one-to-one training indoctrination to justify the firm approach. All right, so I’m not shy away; I’m not a person to shy away from critiquing something. And bear in mind, I left that firm, and shortly after, without any association with me, there was an FT article on that particular firm. Basically speaking about everything that I had actually said, which is
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: great. All right. So I felt I felt quite vindicated in that particular regard. But yeah, I decided to leave that particular firm and join another particular wealth management firm shortly after. I’m the type of person I can’t be at an organization where their values don’t align with mine. And those values relate to integrity, those values relate to equity, those values relate to transparency as well. I cannot advise on something that to me, I wouldn’t be able to put those types of solutions in front of, let’s say, people who are nearest and dearest to me. On another note, okay, I’m probably not a very good employee as well, bro. So not only that, in one of my previous roles, I let a staff strike at a law firm. All right,
Imteaz: Oh, wow.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: so, and that was once again, because of poor corporate practices towards employees and things like delaying staff salaries and the like, and a whole lot more, which we don’t need to really get into. But yeah, that was a whole load of fun. Okay, so yeah. Let us off Shrike, went to the cinema.
Imteaz: So how does this, in terms of being a founder, in terms of setting up ADL estate planning, how did all of these experiences lead you to setting up ADL?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: You know what, I think it was a case of a combination of circumstances that really came to the fore, which allowed me, you know what, let’s do something that could be quite different. And bear in mind; I had that entrepreneurial experience early years of university that… gave me experience in a whole host of different industries, not just the legal sector, but also in retail and distribution and manufacturing as well, which I haven’t actually really gone into. But you’ve got that on one side. And on another side, you had someone who was passionate about economics, who were passionate about global economics in fact, okay? And who was also passionate about community as well. And passionate about faith and religion. So all of these particular areas came into focus when I was also looking at a particular career change post-marriage as well. So in that particular context, I thought, look, I’ve got enough skills and experience behind me now to actually explore setting up a particular practice. In a way that I feel is being missed in the UK. And this is particularly around private client services, where the goal with us anyway is less about building assets under management, but more about solving complex problems. Now that mind shift is very, very important. If we can solve complex problems like, look. How wealth transfers from one generation to the next generation, if that is done well, the next generation may not need to worry about a mortgage. That next generation may not need to worry about paying the rent. That next generation may not need to worry about how they can put their children through really good schooling or a fee-paying school. Especially if you can do that. The formative years of a child’s development phase. I mean, think about it this way. My work, all right, isn’t necessarily just for the wealthy. Okay, yes, without a doubt, most of my, practically all of my clients are, they come from a very privileged position. But they weren’t always so privileged, not at all. I mean, some of these characters, right, they’ve got the successes based on new money. They’ve got no idea about financial literacy. They’ve got no idea about legal literacy. Got no idea about how to plan for income tax, corporation tax properly. Okay? They’re really good at making money. They’re even better at spending money. Okay?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: and also potentially investing in the wrong things. I often say that I’m a really bad salesperson. And I am, I’m a terrible salesperson. Okay, and the reason why I say that is I’ve got several clients and connections who’ve invested in a whole load of things that I, me as a regulated person and my colleagues as well, in the industry would would find incredibly questionable. I mean, but simple things like putting in place a protection plan, okay? Let’s say 50 grand protection plan that pays out at the right time, that could do wonders for that particular family. Imagine if you didn’t have it.
Imteaz: I think exactly and I think you know the main thing for me when I reached out to Muhammad was you know my particular family situation back in Australia where my sister has an intellectual disability and one day you know she’s going to become a responsibility of mine I simply was not aware of all of the facilities and benefits available to my family back in Australia. Like my parents had a very simple will put together which transferred assets to both myself and my sister, but there were all of these provisions specifically in Australia and imagine that the same in the UK and in many other Western countries and if not in many other countries as well where you know you have a special disability trust that is not uh, taxed the same way as, um, you know, a regular person would be. Um, so, you know, there are so many things that are involved in terms of inheritance planning and wealth transfer that people are just not aware of at all. And, you know, my parents are going to pass on a house, a business, et cetera. But, you know, not having that information would have literally cost. um, me in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions over the, over the course of my sister’s lifetime. Um, had I not done this just a little bit of planning, right? So, you know, in terms of understanding this and getting your, you know, if you’re just starting out or, you know, you, you have a family who owns some property, how do you kind of get started in terms of updating your financial literacy to become aware of all of these things that are very accessible and available to everyone. And let’s park that question for a second. I think the other side of this equation is, in terms of understanding inheritance,
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yeah.
Imteaz: I think the big gap that I found out by speaking to you was your accountant doesn’t necessarily understand inheritance. Your lawyer who does your… who does a will doesn’t necessarily understand tax and an estate planner might not necessarily understand everything that’s available to you. So when you’re doing this stuff, it’s so important to have somebody who understands all three things at the same time, otherwise you’re going to get misinformation or not enough information to make the appropriate choice. How do you get started if you’ve got absolutely no clue what to do here?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yeah, really good question. Okay, so I’ll answer it at length, but it all comes down to two approaches that, or two goals that we have at ADL. Or ADL, bear in mind, it’s now effectively a group who have got subsidiary companies underneath that does different things. They’ve got the regulated wealth management side, and then you’ve got the legal services side. But in combination, the goals are two. Okay, number one, improve financial, financial and legal literacy, okay? So people can be a hell of a lot more confident with the specialist advice that they actually receive. And it’s not just the quality of the advice, but speed of implementation, it is crucial. Because for the right person, or for certain persons, they may not have sufficient life expectancy in order to mitigate inheritance tax. If they die before seven years, which relates to gifting rules in the UK, then it’s classed as what we class as a failed pet, a failed potentially exempt transfer. Or the other term that one needs to know about is the two-year rule. and the two-year rule relates to how long you actually hold certain investments. But without going into technicalities about strategic inheritance tax planning strategies, the seven-year rule and two-year rule are fundamental. Now the other goal that we actually have in addition to improving financial and legal literacy is reduce absolute inheritances. What I mean by that, do not give your children a single penny. All right, don’t give them a single penny. It is one of the worst things you can actually do. All right, if you were to give your child or your daughter a decent amount of wealth that is in their personal name, so they hold legal title and they hold beneficial title, it exposes them to a numerous number of threats and they include things like divorce settlement claims. All right, heaven forbid they divorced. 50% of that inheritance is gone. They may not be as good with money as you are. 100% of their inheritance could be gone. They may have alcohol problems, drug abuse problems, which a few of my clients have had, and they don’t want their child to receive sizeable inheritances. What do you do in those situations? Okay? Then you’ve got… things like generational inheritance tax. That is where you’ve got inheritance tax that is charged at 40% on the wealth that cascades from one generation to the next generation. It’s essentially a hidden tax. Now, if you can solve inheritance tax at the first stage, at the first generation, maybe solve is the wrong word, but if you only have to pay it at that… first generation point of view because you haven’t been able to do anything else. At least structure your affairs in such a way your future lineage for at least 125 years won’t need to pay it. And the way to actually do that is to put in place strategic planning during your lifetime. And that includes, well it can include trust based structures, it can include family investment companies too, or a combination of both. So yeah, don’t give any of your children a single penny, pass everything ideally into trusts and… appoint professional trustees along with lay trustees to manage the underlying assets.
Imteaz: And specifically on this, I’ve moved around a couple countries now, so across the US, Australia and the UK, and I’ve had to do this exact process in each one of those countries because the legislation and the setup of such trusts are completely different per jurisdiction, right?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Correct, correct. So yeah, so someone like you, who’s a nomad effectively, so you’re going to need specialist advice throughout your life until you begin to reside in one particular area permanently. Because one of your issues is going to be confirming where’s your domicile. And even now that’s not necessarily quite clear. All right, I would say your domicile would remain in Australia. but you could acquire something called deemed domicile status in different jurisdiction based on the time you’re actually staying there. And that can have an impact on a whole host of your investment holdings in various locations. But yeah, so
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: effectively,
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: good advice is really important, all right? And you highlighted something a little bit earlier, the fact that you’ve got multiple professionals who are specialists in their own fields, but… they’re not necessarily conversant in others and it will actually impact the client. So what I say is that particularly in the private client domain, you ideally need a professional who holds to, sorry, you need a professional who holds high levels of qualification in at least two disciplines. Okay, two of the three disciplines would be fine. but they still need to be conversant in all three areas. And those three areas are effectively legal services, particularly with specialization in trust administration, trust management, trust taxation, regulated wealth management services, and also accountancy and tax. All three of those disciplines are fundamentally important. Now, I’m dual qualified on the regulated wealth management and also… I’m an associate member of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners. But I’m also well aware of accountancy practices and also taxation implications on various different strategies that take place. Now your accountant though may not be a tax specialist. Okay. Don’t think you go to an accountant and you’re going to know about that you want to learn about tax. different strategies to actually mitigate tax. Now, accountant’s role isn’t that. An accountant’s role is to file your accounts every year compliantly to the relevant authorities depending on which jurisdiction you are. Mitigating tax, that is where it requires different types of discipline. An accountant who holds chartered tax advisor status, they would be the type of person you’d speak to, but you’d also… speak to regulated boss managers too, and you’d also speak crucially to members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.
Imteaz: Um, and step is exactly where I found, um, outside of yourself, obviously in the UK, um, but back in Australia, as well as here in the U S, um, that’s where I found, um, local step members to kind of guide me through the process for the, um, local jurisdictions when it comes to setting my affairs here as well. So.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: You can probably appreciate he thinks differently as well. I mean, he approached the subject very differently from any accountant that you’ve actually dealt with previously.
Imteaz: Oh, for sure. Like my accountant, you know, doesn’t necessarily have any clue in terms of, you know, the implications of tax when it comes to, you know, money that I would be receiving in my inheritance. Like when I spoke to my accountant about this stuff, he was completely unaware of all this stuff. And their job is to file your annual income tax and not necessarily wealth managers or tax finance, right? Okay, so what’s the most important thing that people can do to get started or start to prepare for their financial future?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: All right, so fortunately, right, I come from an industry, okay. I’ve got a lot of positive things to actually say about it as well. Right, most of my colleagues in the UK, okay. And I’m not talking about colleagues who I just work with, I’m talking about industry colleagues here. They are among some of the most highly qualified financial planners in the world, based on the standards that have been set now by the UK regulator. I would say, near enough, any one of them would be willing to have an initial 30 minute conversation with somebody. They may not take you on as a client, but within that half an hour, you can probably get a really good insight on what you should be thinking about based on your current financial context. Many of them are actually quite resourceful as well. So when you’ve got complex financial planning needs, they will be able to point you in the right direction of somebody like me, let’s say. But yeah, it’s taking the first step, picking up the phone or going online and just booking in that initial consultation to have a review of your personal financial situation. I wouldn’t trust Google, by the way. All right, so Googling ways to reduce your inheritance tax bill. Googling ways to reduce your corporation tax bill, right? It’s not gonna come to much, right? If I were to say protective cell companies, if I were to say define benefits SaaS arrangements, okay? You’re gonna find very little information and how that can actually apply to individuals and businesses in the UK to a high degree. online because
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: it’s actually really bespoke because you need to structure these type of solutions very carefully for that particular individual. And also, particularly when it comes to some of the strategies, it also requires knowledge of multiple disciplines as well. And many wealth managers in the UK will not have access to the knowledge in-house to implement some of these type of solutions.
Imteaz: Like I think about this particular situation when it comes to you know investing in said advice in terms of ROI and You know, yes, you could just go to wheels calm and get a will set up for 50 bucks hundred bucks, whatever But you know, had I not and my parents had already done that But had we not got the specialist advice and yes, it did cost you know in the thousands of dollars I would be missing out on and my sister would be missing out on hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars worth of Benefit over the course of a lifetime. So yes, it was a steep price to pay initially But it pays multiples if you know do it properly and at the right time as well
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: I’ll give you an example, each other, right? You structure your planning well, okay? Let’s say your parents set all assets into a trust, or into several trusts. It should never be one trust, by the way, for various different reasons. Ideally, it should always be multiple trusts. And they’ve got a few children, okay? And the children get along. Assume the children will get along. And there are grandchildren here as well. The trust has its own trust tax rates. But what you can do, you can mandate the income from the trust fund to a grandchild, okay? That is very powerful. Why is it very powerful? Because I’m probably sure that most of you are not gonna be putting your grandchild to work if they’re minors, okay? And… if they are minors and they’re not at work, they will have their personal allowances available to them. So the income that’s now been mandated to that particular child or that particular grandchild because they’re not paying any tax, right, could be received legitimately tax-free. That will be crucial in relation to funding, let’s say, private school fees, okay? That could be crucial for funding those private school fees. you thought you would never have been able to afford for your child. But now you can because you’re not paying 40% tax.
Imteaz: Bang on.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: game.
Imteaz: Okay, when it comes to on a personal front, shifting the conversation a little bit now, what are the productivity hacks that you use in your life? As a founder and as a person who’s leading a business and has got a family and all of these things going on, what are some of the productivity hacks that you use on a day-to-day basis to make your life more efficient?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Good question. All right, first of all, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re in that phase of growing your business, okay, you’re not gonna find a balance, all right? You have to be all in, right? All in. And your family are also going to need to make sacrifices. So you need a hell of a lot of support from the children, from your spouse, if you want to invest the time. energy, money, effort into setting up a particular business. Now that doesn’t take away from the importance of improving your productivity. Now I spend a lot of time in how to make my work that much more efficient. Now the setup that I have, particularly with the nature of my work. is I’ve set up a whole host of different systems to make my work a lot easier. So I have a CRM tool that I use, which is fantastic, which is ActiveCampaign. I also combine that with a tool called Zapier. And Zapier, I think you introduced me to Zapier some couple of years back. Yeah,
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: of course.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yeah, indeed.
Imteaz: I introduce you to a lot of things. I should have set up affiliate commissions, man. I would have made
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: You
Imteaz: a lot
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: probably
Imteaz: of money
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: should.
Imteaz: out of that.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: You probably should. So yes, I’ve connected a whole load of different types of software. So all of our lead gen that happens on the landing pages, the Facebook, all of that feeds into the CRM. And then I have our caller who calls the lead. So I don’t actually have to be involved in any of that until I get a ping on my phone saying, call has been booked into your diary for X date X time with all the relevant notes and I just enter into it enter
d them, dude, I’ve done this, I’ve made this investment, don’t copy me, don’t do this, they end up doing it anyway. I’m like,
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yeah.
Imteaz: you know, why did you just waste your time and money doing something that… you could have leveraged my experience from, or you could learn from someone amazing, for example Warren Buffett when it comes to investment strategy, and take the same thing, take the same principles from that and just believe, rather than thinking that you’re better than 99% of the world.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Yeah, no, good point and good observation. It’s something that I’ve observed as well. And I don’t know what to say other than a lot of people have a gambling type of innate disposition.
Imteaz: when it
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: And
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: they
Imteaz: to investing.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: feel
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: when it comes to investing correct. You know, the irony is, all right, because I’m very much in the regulated space. So it’s… very controlled the type of work that we do by the regulator and rightly so, even though my industry colleagues, many of them do lambast the regulator quite a lot, but having worked on the regulatory side as well as part of my background, I can most certainly see the value add of the regulator, particularly in the consumer space. But putting that to one side, all right. when it comes to investors who then seek to go into some incredibly high risk initiatives, I mean investing in small startups when they don’t have the capacity to handle the loss of that particular investment. And it’s not just the loss of that investment, it’s also the lack of liquidity. So they invest in a particular business or invest in a… in a tech fund of startups, and there are so many of right now, okay? And they can’t get their money out. And their money’s locked in for like 10, 15 years. They can’t do anything. It’s as good as gone in any manner of speaking. So yeah, so I would actually say it is very important to do all of the boring stuff first. and the boring stuff is actually quite straightforward. Protect your lifestyle. How do you protect your lifestyle? Okay, you put in place the right type of protection policies, okay, which are affordable. Some policies you may not need. Other policies you would. It will free up your mental energy. It will free up your need to do sophisticated planning later on in life if you. set up some of these protection policies while you are younger, healthier, because they are so much more affordable. Okay? If you do, if you, in addition to the protection planning, if you do things like utilize your annual allowance for your pension, that is a step in the right direction. Because if you were to do that, you’re benefiting from income tax relief, potentially corporation tax relief. and you’re also building up within a particular tax wrapper, which is free from inheritance tax. But…
Imteaz: which in the US is very similar to a rough IRA for
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: correct.
Imteaz: US listeners.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: But the issue here is people don’t want to go down that particular route and what they do is invest in property. They invest in property and they forget the fact that this low interest rate environment, i.e. a few years ago, isn’t going to last forever. Okay, and that’s a whole other subject area that we could actually talk about and that is very much linked to… the nature of global economics. I mean, the US debt ceiling right now, I think it’s like Congress has granted it to like 31 or 32 trillion a couple of months ago. Maybe it was last month. That cannot continue to be extended year upon year upon year. Now, when it stops being extended, what do you think the reverberations are going to be globally? It will be immense.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: So the other thing that I mention is that our social contract with our government is going to be radically changing. Oh yeah,
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: maybe one for another video.
Imteaz: your thing. So wrap up, one of the things I want to say is that, you know, just like you would get a coach or a personal trainer when it comes to your health and, you know, building muscles and building your fitness regime, I think it’s very important to have the right advice from the right people who actually understand the trifecta that we talked about. So tax planning, estate planning. as well as the legal implications of having a will. So you need to find someone who knows this stuff in and out for your local jurisdiction, so that your family doesn’t go through a nightmare when the inevitable happens, right? So, you know, I’ve personally gone through this in three countries, and thanks to Muhammad, I’ve done this properly now across the three countries that I’ve lived. So that, you know, there’s nothing else that you take from this conversation today. Please do this properly for yourself and particularly for your family. To close, Muhammad, do you have anything else you want to share with the audience before we close out?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Let’s see. I would say… me sing. This is the bit you’re gonna have to edit.
Imteaz: Yeah, that’s fine.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Alright, so… I would say, let me think. Yeah, so what I would share with the audience that we have here today would be, like, it’s never too late, okay? At the very least, something can be done, okay? It may not be the most optimum solution, particularly if you’ve left it till you’re within two to seven years of you passing away, all right, but something can actually be done. To mitigate a whole host of different types of threats that could affect your family. The crucial thing is to get advice as soon as possible. W.
Imteaz: super cool. So in closing out, how can people reach out to you if they want further information?
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Cool, they can connect with me on LinkedIn. They can also connect with me via the website, www.adlestateplanning.co.uk, and on the site,, there are options to actually book a 30-minute no obligation conversation with one of us. Cool.
Imteaz: Thank you for being on this week’s episode of Applied Intelligence. It was always a pleasure to chat with you, man, and I look forward to coming.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Good
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: night.
Imteaz: the ditch and visiting you sometime soon.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Looking forward to it, bro.
Imteaz: All right,
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Take care, man.
Imteaz: thank you.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman: Bye.
Imteaz and Pete Roxburgh discuss the importance of developing meaningful relationships in personal and professional contexts in this podcast. Pete, a life coach, emphasizes the importance of genuinely investing in your clients and colleagues to achieve the best outcomes.
To build a meaningful relationship, one must share information and feedback. Pete stresses that this goes beyond simply sharing work-related information but also includes personal information that helps build trust and a deeper connection.
Imteaz shares that the friends he admires the most are willing to give honest feedback and help him improve. He emphasizes that flattery is not helpful and values quality advice over empty compliments.
Both Imteaz and Pete stress the importance of following through on commitments. Pete quotes Zig Ziglar: “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” Imteaz adds that committing to something and not following through is worse than not committing at all.
To Pete, the essence of a meaningful relationship is not necessarily friendship, but instead operating beyond a transactional level. He emphasizes finding meaning in life and focusing on the big picture. Stephen Covey’s advice to “start with the end in mind” resonates with Pete and Imteaz.
Ultimately, building a meaningful relationship takes work. Pete encourages people to reach out to him on his website, petecoach.com, to learn more about his approach to life coaching and building meaningful relationships.
Building a meaningful relationship takes trust, honesty, and follow-through. One can make deep and meaningful personal and professional connections by sharing information, providing honest feedback, and committing to follow through.
Hosted by: Imteaz Ahamed
Podcast Transcript: Imteaz and Pete Roxburgh
Imteaz: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Applied Intelligence. I’m Imti, as our major host.
Imteaz: Pete is a personal development and startup coach, working in the field for many, many years. And today we’re gonna have a wonderful conversation about the importance f having a coach in your development. And… what they can unlock for you. So Pete, welcome to the show.
[Pete]: Well, thanks for having me. Great to see you again in Tiazans. Welcome everyone else.
Imteaz: So let’s get into who Pete is and how he got to being a coach. I think becoming a coach is an interesting journey given you don’t necessarily wake up or go to school thinking that you’re going to end up being a professional coach. How did you end up here?
[Pete]: You’re completely right. It is a journey because, you know, when we first met, I gave you the story. And everyone has their story, which is just really an extended elevator pitch. And I don’t know. Maybe we want to go a little bit more into the non-pretty fine version, the actual journey today. Sound good?
Imteaz: Sound good, let’s do it.
[Pete]: Okay, well, you know, you’d said to me previously, what if I broke it, my journey into five chunks, five chapters, if you like, which got me thinking because of course, there’s lots of ways to do it. Chapter one, two, three, four, five, for example. But I really looked at it and thought more about the emotional state that I was in.
[Pete]: It’s probably quite a nice way to look at your life. for anyone. Mine started with this kind of strange mix of anxiety and adventure. As a kid, I was a Peter Pan character. And yeah, I was living in a fantasy world a lot of the time, and I think maybe quite a few of us are. But that kind of swings and roundabouts because it made school very difficult at times. I was also very small. I was like the smallest kid in the go
Imteaz: I’m gonna
[Pete]: class. And I was vegetarian in the like 70s and 80s, which was kind of a bit freaky at the time. And I didn’t like sports. It wasn’t the greatest time in school but got through it mostly by just selling things, hustling, surviving. And I think there’s probably a lot of people that have that of sentiment of surviving school. What about ourself?
Imteaz: To me, school, from a primary school point of view, I went to four different primary schools because my parents and I, you know, we moved around a lot in my younger years. And then, which, you know, meant that every, you know, so often, I would have to learn the skills of making new friends and working out how I was going to fit into the new social clique. In high school, however, I went to one high school.
Imteaz:Which you know, I had to work very hard to get into it was a government It was a selective school for boys, but it was a public school which had to do an entrance exam to get into that school I would say Equipped me in a lot of ways to Really learn how to learn and appreciate learning So, you know every kid goes through bullying, everything goes through social issues and whatnot.
Imteaz: ut overall, my high school experience was very positive in terms of forming who I am today. You have the challenges that everyone has, but the teachers that I had really understood what education was meant to be for.
Imteaz: Right. So my most influential teacher, it was in the 11th; she was my English teacher in the 11th and 12th grades.
Imteaz: And she would typically start the lesson by saying, okay,the first half of the lesson will focus on how you answer the questions in the HSC, so you actually do well and get the marks you need to get into the university course that you wanna get into.
Imteaz: The second half of the lesson will actually learn how to learn and how to critically think. And how to critically analyze the text, how to understand, you know, what a power play is when we’re studying like Shakespeare,et cetera.
Imteaz: Um, and that level of critical thinking is now what I do on a daily basis and has certainly set me apart from, you know, a lot of my peers in terms of critically analyzing situations or, you know, business opportunities, et cetera. So, you know, I loved my schooling time. And I think.
Imteaz: The fact that we don’t necessarily teach logic rhetoric anymore in the school curriculum.
Imteaz: And it’s all about answering tests and exams and route learning stuff and regurgitating stuff is not producing the level of. Level of problem-solving that we need to really maximize what the future entails, given all of the technology that’s coming.
[Pete]: I think you’re absolutely spot on because it’s that thing that in today’s world, probably two of the most important things, being able to communicate, in fact that’s always been the case, and being able to problem solve.
[Pete]: So actually, those are two skills that every kid should have.
Imteaz: for sure. What’s chapter two, Pete?
[Pete]: Yeah. Okay. So chapter two, leave school. And in the UK it’s a little bit different to the US and other places so you can leave at kind of 15 16 years old. I left school,
[Pete]: I’ve gone off the rails, I’ve passed some exams, I failed English, which of course is a… I got
Imteaz: That a D is an English
[Pete]: which is for the
[Pete]: same as failing. Yeah, yeah, it’s a D which is the same as failing because only a C or above counted.
[Pete]: It’s a kind of shock, and we also relocated across the country as a family.
[Pete]: The family then imploded, and it was kind of a rough time, but for me, probably that whole era started by being marked with a lot of despair. I was in a very bad place for a few years then, and it’s kind of slowly… filtered out, but those early years, really bad because everything just seemed pointless, and I was just consumed by kind of darkness.
[Pete]: But kind of the very end of teens, maybe 20 years old or something, there was a little turning point, and that turning point was I was introduced to this kind of world, fantasy world if you like, but in this fantasy world were all these characters that were superheroes, and of course Zig Ziglar, Jim Rowan, Tony Robbins and all these characters were bigger than life, and they were saying you can just do whatever you want to do.
[Pete]: The choice is yours is you can choose to have mediocrity or you can choose to be anything and I was in a bad place, but these people spoke to me, resonated and that was a turning point, a slow turning point, not a rapid pivot, more of a kind of decade long shift.
[Pete]: But I just consumed everything that I could from those people because it was sensible, it was reasoned and it offered something else. It was the promised land and a way out of where my head was. That’s really chapter two.
Imteaz: I’m like, when people speak of, you know, turning points, I always try to understand what was that particular moment. What was the situation that first got you there?
Imteaz: I’ll give you an example. Like I’ve worked for the same company coming up to 15 years, and for the interview, I was actually running late, and I missed the turn onto the street. Um, with the interview was happening, and I don’t like being late.
Imteaz: And I had already gone through so many interviews, um, that I was like, ah, stuff that I’ll just go home. Uh, it’s a group interview anyway. They won’t miss me.
Imteaz: Um, and then the HR lady, uh, she gave me a call as I was driving off. I was like, you know, two, three minutes away. Um, she gave me a call, and she asked me, you know, where are you? And I’m like, uh, I missed the turn.
Imteaz: I’m just driving down Victoria Road. She’s like, oh, I know where you are. Just take a U-turn.
Imteaz: When you see the McDonald’s, take a left, and you’ll be at the office. So had she not called me on that day, I was going home, and I wouldn’t have had the job that I’ve had for the last 15 years. So.
[Pete]: Yeah, sometimes you get those tiny points that you can identify.
Imteaz: Yeah. So do you think there was like one, it doesn’t necessarily have to be one thing that inspired you to go down this path, but was there something that like just clicked when you discovered all of this content that really changed your mind?
[Pete]: Well, it’s funny because I can probably, probably because we know what our memory is like, especially when it’s a long time ago, but I can probably remember the moment.
[Pete]: And one of the things I did, which was probably quite,
[Pete]: I don’t know, rash at the time, was I got married when I was 20—divorced a couple of years later. Neither of us were ready for it. It was just like… But my father-in-law at the time, he gave me this tape. And you know the kind where you get the pencil in there to wind it up, that kind of tape, because of course, a lot of people. In fact, it’s one of those things. If you know what a pencil and a cassette are for, you’re old.
[Pete]: But he gave me this tape. I can’t remember who was on it. I think it could have been Zig
[Pete]: Ziglar or someone quite similar. So it was very motivational. And it was really about putting the work in, and you have to just keep at it and at it and at it. And you can have anything if you want. And that was probably that moment because it was just a completely different world. Putting it in the cassette player in the car, which
[Pete]: I think at the time was like about £150 for the escort. Yeah, probably is now. It’s probably worth
Imteaz: Thank thousands you.
[Pete]: And so, yeah, and actually, through that journey, we have a couple of things.
[Pete]: So I then remember going to some conference in Brighton and seeing some of these speakers in the flesh and feeling the energy in the room.
[Pete]: And to me, it didn’t matter what people thought, because of course, a lot of people think that a lot of this stuff is like a cult.
[Pete]: But the thing is, It’s positive emotions and people feeling better, living better lives. And yes, sometimes they dream about things they might not get, but so do all the people going by the lottery tickets every week. So I’d rather be happy.
In a recent video transcript, Brian Davis, a busy father and full-time professional, chats with Imteaz about his experiences with generative AI and personalized learning. Davis explains that he is fascinated with the idea of having a tool to make life easier. He uses chat GPT, a generative AI tool, every day. He describes it as his new little assistant.
Davis explains that he initially started using chat GPT to understand better how it worked. He did not intend to incorporate it into the technology he was building. He wanted to take what he was already doing in his job or at home and improve it. For instance, if a task takes him two hours to complete, he wants to know if he can complete it within 10 minutes with chat GPT.
Over time, Davis found that personalized learning was the key to his success. He loves skill stacking, learning something new, and applying it to something else. For example, when his daughter struggled with chemistry, he used chat GPT to teach her the concepts she was working with. He found that it was a way to personalize her learning and help her understand the images in a way that was meaningful to her.
Davis also discusses the challenges of managing high-performing, difficult employees. He explains that he has had many experiences with these types of individuals in the past. He approaches them with a different mindset, recognizing their unique motivation and drive. He focuses on protecting their space to live in their creative genius and blocking requests that are coming in, so they can be hyper-focused on their work.
Ultimately, Davis believes that the future of productivity lies in personalized learning and AI. He explains, “Finding worthy problems or things you’re passionate about is key. It’s important to use the skills you’re learning and what you’re doing already, not to take away from the time you already have.”
Davis’s approach to productivity reminds us that we can use AI tools and personalized learning to make our lives easier and achieve our goals. By focusing on what we’re passionate about and learning new skills that we can apply to other areas of our lives, we can be more productive and efficient in our daily lives.
Guest’s social handles: LinkedIn – Brian Davis
Hosted by: Imteaz Ahamed
Podcast Transcript: Imteaz and Brian
Imteaz: Hi everyone, welcome to Applied Intelligence. Today, I have a dear friend, Brian Davis, joining me. Brian’s currently the Director of Technology at LSU. He joins me from sunny Louisiana. I’ve actually only known Brian for a couple of days. We met last year when he was running StartupBus USA, which is something we share in common. I love for
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: startups, I love for competitions, I love for helping people. build solutions. So we’re gonna have a fascinating conversation. I’m really looking forward to it. Welcome to the show, Brian.
Brian Davis: Yeah, thank you, Imteaz. I’m super excited to be here. I definitely appreciate the invite.
Imteaz: So this is a question I love to ask. I typically ask this in interviews, so I’m going to put you on the spot.
Brian Davis: Okay.
Imteaz: What’s your story and how did you get to where you are? And to give you more context, the question I typically ask in an interview is, if you had to write an autobiography for yourself and it only had five chapters, what would the chapter titles of each one of those chapters be?
Brian Davis: Okay, yeah, that’s a great question. Let’s see. I think the chapter one would be achievement. So like I said, I’m from Louisiana, born and raised, a little city in North Louisiana, and there sports is a very huge thing. Everyone plays sports to pass the time, and it’s serious business there. I grew up as an athlete and I love competing. So I was involved in track and field and love running summer track. And with that, I got a chance to travel all over the country and meet some amazing people and do some pretty cool things. And at one point I was nationally ranked, believe it or not, in my event. And yeah, loved basketball and football and got a lot of awards and recognition. doing those kinds of things. And on an academic side as well, I was almost a straight-A student, got great grades, and wanted to be the best in whatever it is that I was involved in, and always had people pushing me along the way. And so, and had a lot of support for my family. The neighborhood that we grew up in wasn’t the greatest neighborhood in the world, and I was always the little… the nerdy skinny kid and my older brother, he was always pushing me to be tough. My dad was just always present and he was the one that kind of showed me the impact that your presence can have on someone. You don’t have to say a whole lot of words, but just being there meant a lot. And my mom was my biggest cheerleader. And she was the one that would tell me, I can do anything. She was always there for me and no matter where I was, it could have been a crowd of hundreds of people in a stadium somewhere. I can always hear her screaming for me over anyone else. And so she really helped develop in me this delusional optimism that I can do anything, which served me very well as a kid. And I would say coming into my senior year or so, Um, that, I don’t know if that optimism necessarily worn off that, that was always there, but I suddenly became more aware of where I was in the world and aware of how, how I fared against others. And for whatever reason, I, you know, I started comparing myself to, you know, a lot of different people and I noticed, um, a lot of the kids as we grew up in puberty hit and all of a sudden they’re 15 years old with a full goatee and like rippling muscles and that just wasn’t me. But still was able to compete but got in, started to get into my head a little bit and you know doubting myself and had a couple of run ins with different adults and coaches who you know would scream at you and almost belittle you a little bit. I didn’t really, that’s not really my style. I didn’t really resonate with that. And so. As I graduated high school, kind of left that achievement phase and I’ll say the second chapter would be pursuit. I found myself in the search of something. At the time I didn’t really necessarily know what it was. I had questions about faith and about God and I started wanting to know more. I found myself just being interested in and concerned about, you know, starting a family and what I even, you know, be good enough to, you know, to be a good dad or be a good husband and all those different things. And I also started on the academic side, started to figure out pretty quickly what it is that I wanted to do. And I started pursuing that. So I remember the very one of the very first, the first video game console we had was the old the old school. Nintendo and I remember playing Super Mario Brothers and I was like yeah that’s it I want to make video games and so I started on this quest to say okay well if you want to make video games like what do you have to study in order to do that so I figured out it was computer programming okay well I want to be a programmer because I want to make games and you know I got into to LSU and Um, programming was, was really hard for me. It, it wasn’t something that I, um, took to right away. Logic always came easy. Math came easy, but for some reason, the syntax of a language was, that was just a foreign concept to me. I didn’t understand that computers really weren’t as smart as I thought they were. Right. Like it will only do what you tell it to do and nothing else. And so I struggled quite a bit. And so I found myself. Um. I felt at least behind from a lot of other kids, right? So a lot of kids were in these computer science class at LSU and they’ve taken classes in their high schools and this was my first time ever doing anything like that. So it was a lot of, you know, trying to get up to speed and trying to prove to myself that I can do this. And so, yeah, so after college started my, Yeah, I got married. We got my wife and I got married right after school. No jobs. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. But we started our young family and I started my career right after that. And it was almost like I arrived. And so as I started going through my career, started learning and I would say maybe chapter three would probably be. revelation. And I say revelation in the sense that I started to realize how things really work. Like I started to realize what it meant to have a family and to lead a family. Finally I started to realize what it was like in the in the quote-unquote real world to be a professional developer. I started Um, realizing that, you know, I was a little bit more capable than, uh, than I thought I was. Um, I realized that I had a lot of insecurities. There were things about myself that I realized that I didn’t like and, um, that I wouldn’t dare admit. And, um, yeah. And just, just in general, there’s a lot of things that I started understanding. It was almost like when Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz and she peeks open that curtain and she realizes, you know, how things really are, that that’s kind of how I felt. Um. So yeah, I feel like I’m still at the tail end of Revelation. Like I feel like there’s still a lot of things that I’m realizing about myself and the world. And I’ll say the last two chapters are still unwritten. So we’ll see what those happen to look like.
Imteaz: Super cool. I like the chapter of Revelation and realizing insecurities that you have. And once you realize the insecurities you have, you also realize that the majority of humanity is in the same boat.
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: Everyone’s got insecurities. I’ve met the most confident, overconfident, crazy people that know how to speak to anybody in a room, but then you talk to them one to one. And then they tell you all the insecurities that you have. And you’re like, hang on, your external facade will say, is completely different to what I pictured
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: you to be. But then you realize everyone’s got their own demons. Everyone’s got things that they’re concerned and scared and worried about. At the end of the day, only human to be like that, right? So, you know, we have a common humanity. And sometimes I think the grass is always greener on the other side when you think, you know, that person has this.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: I don’t have that. But at the end of the day, it’s all puts and takes.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: You got to work with what you got
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: and realize that the majority of us, specifically, if we’re fortunate to live in the West at this time, we have a pretty good make it, we’ve got to make do with all the opportunities that we’ve been given thus far.
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: I also liked how you broke down achievement versus pursuit and the importance of upbringing and the importance of family. And similar to you, I actually got married straight out of college
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: as well. And we started our family young and it’s tough.
Brian Davis: Mm.
Imteaz: And there’s a lot of growing up and a lot of maturing that you kind of have to do when you leave home. Will leave all of this stuff and there’s no book or no like… training manual that kind of prepares you for that
Brian Davis: Absolutely,
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: You make so many mistakes.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: And if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. So
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: like, I remember one of my funniest memories is when I got my first place, I moved out of home when I was 20 years old,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: and I didn’t know that you had to call the electricity company to get the power connected.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: So this was on a Friday afternoon in Melbourne. Melbourne is like a 12-hour drive away from Sydney, which is where I grew up. So about an hour flight. Anyway, so I get the keys to this place on a Friday afternoon and I check, I get into the apartment and I realize there’s no power. So I call the power company and they’re like, oh, we need two business days’ notice to
Brian Davis: Uh.
Imteaz: send somebody. We’ll see on Wednesday. So I went to the supermarket. I had to go buy some candles. Thankfully,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: there was gas in the place so I could cook some stuff.
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: But I had five days of cold showers and no electricity. And I was
Brian Davis: Oh yeah.
Imteaz: trying to do that. So it didn’t kill me. It was character-building.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: But it’s a funny memory. But it goes to show you like… nothing really prepares you for life, you kind of have to go through the things that you have to go through. And as long as you have that grit about you, you can kind of pursue and do anything you want to do.
Brian Davis: Absolutely. It’s one of those things too where, just like you said, like no one teaches you these things, right? Like you, and you have this, at least for me, like I just, I had this unrealistic understanding of the world and what it took to survive. And we just found out things as we went. And, you know, we dealt with different things. And just like you mentioned, simple things like… getting your electricity turned on. Like no one talks about that, right? And there’s a lot of things that we did, again, just mistakes that we made and growing up, you know, just as a young family that we just, it just happened on the fly. And to everyone else, it seemed like, at least to, you know, your parents and that generation, it’s like, oh yeah, it’s obvious. And the whole time I’m thinking, well, why didn’t you tell me these obvious things, right? So, but it was. It was interesting, but it was a challenge and a lot of fun learning as you went.
Imteaz: Um, one of the things I think about, and I’d love to get your perspective on this, um, is experience for kids. You have four kids,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: which is a huge congratulations. I don’t
Brian Davis: Ha
Imteaz: know how
Brian Davis: ha
Imteaz: you do it.
Brian Davis: ha!
Imteaz: And you look at someone with four kids. Let me tell you. Um, but one of the things I think about is, you know, with the way the world is changing, I have a 10-year-old and, um, you know, she’s got. versus the childhood I had, she’s got a lot more than what I had when I was 10 years old. But how do you prepare your kids for the future that is coming? How do you prepare your kids to obviously be lifelong learners, but how do you kind of teach them grit when they don’t didn’t necessarily or don’t have to struggle as hard as we did or maybe our parents did before us and our grandparents before us? They’re interesting. see how do you kind of discern or not teach but at least give the perspective to your kids that you know the rosy colored glasses that they may have or how everything is so easy now
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: what isn’t going to be the case when they’re on their own
Brian Davis: Yeah, that’s a great question. I feel like we are still figuring it out. So we’ve been, you know, being, we’ve been parents for 17 years now. I can’t believe it. My oldest daughter just had a birthday Sunday. And my wife and I, we talk about this all the time. Like we feel like in the beginning, we tried to give the girls a lot of what we didn’t have. And so, and then I think a lot of it too was, probably went overboard, right? Because we were subconsciously or maybe even consciously trying to undo some of the things that we experienced or protect them from some of the pitfalls that we fell into just growing up. And I feel like now we’re making a course correction to try to bring a little bit more balance there where we allow them to experience some. hurt and disappointment, you know, a little bit more because I feel like that’s very useful for growing up and like you said, building grit and helping them understand that life isn’t fair all the time and that’s okay. So some of it for us is, again, allowing them to fail, allowing them to make mistakes, you know, within reason. I talk to them a lot. We talk to them a lot about meeting. new people opening themselves up to the different cultures and so they can understand, at least here in the United States, I feel like we have this view of the world that’s very unrealistic. It’s our view of the world from the United States. It’s almost like the rest of the world is like the US, but that’s not the case. And so… trying to get them exposed to other people and other cultures that have a different worldview. And I think that helps a lot too. And one of the things that we always try to lean into with them is values of faith and just good family values in general. Like I feel like those things will never go out of style and they’ll help you no matter what age you’re in. you know, being kind to people and, you know, sharing and, um, genuinely having concern for other folks and, um, you know, that kind of thing. So we definitely try to lean into the basics, the world that’s, that’ll be here 10 years from now, it’s going to be, it’s already changing so fast and there’s no way for us to, it’s hard for us to predict what that’s going to look like. Um, so a lot of those core values, we definitely try to, um, hone in on and develop in them. Cause I just, I feel like that that’s going to serve them no matter what.
Imteaz: One of the things I I’m trying to install in my daughter is financial responsibility.
Brian Davis: Hmm.
Imteaz: She’s 10 years old but
Brian Davis: Oh, absolutely.
Imteaz: But like, you know, she’s used to Grandparents and you know extended families that Enormously spoils or anything that she wants right
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: so And I don’t want to be a no-dad like
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: no to everything so we got her um, it’s called busy kid and there’s lots of other versions of this
Brian Davis: Okay.
Imteaz: but It’s basically like a debit card. You deposit your, their pocket money in there.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: And then, you know, anytime we go out to shopping or for a coffee or whatever,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: you know, buy something it’s kind of like, okay, you’ve saved up your pocket money, use your money, right? Like you have a debit card, you can go, you can do it. You can buy whatever you want, manage your own money. It’s not my job.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: But that. Ever since we started doing that, she’s just become a bit more conscious of, you know, dollars and cents and the impact that has on her bank balance,
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: not just my bank balance. So, you know, I think we have a lot of these tech tools
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: out there to help people along or to help children along. And I think financial literacy specifically is not something that is well taught at school, if taught
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: at all, when they decide to do finance. So yeah, we’re trying to instill that as well.
Brian Davis: Yeah,
Brian Davis: that’s a great idea. Yeah.
Imteaz: let’s pivot to StartupBus. Tell me, let’s talk about StartupBus. What is StartupBus and how’d you get involved?
Brian Davis: Yeah, so Startup Bus is a usually an annual competition. And the best way I can describe it is it is our hackathon, our entrepreneurial bootcamp, a little bit of shark tank, and it all happens on a bus. And what happens is typically there are, there’s a selection process and. developers and UX designers and project managers or just general technologists and entrepreneurs, they apply to be a part of a competition where essentially what you’re tasked to do is come up with an idea and create a working prototype, working software in three days. And usually you are grouped together with complete strangers. And like last year’s competition, that’s the last time we had it in 2022, we had, I believe, five buses, different parts of the US, and there was a bus coming from Mexico. And folks came in from all over to join one of those buses. And what happens is teams are formed and you pitch for your idea to get selected and you try to form teams and then you… You have the next three days where you’re traveling across the US to the whole city and you’re literally that very little internet connection. And, you know, there’s so many challenges along the way. It’s hot, you’re hungry and all these kind of things. And you’re trying to get a product done. It’s the first six months or so. Think of, you know, building a startup. A lot of that is simulated on the bus. And then what happens after that, you get into your host sitting, you have two days for a competition where you’re pitching in front of other Startup Bus alum like yourself, or there may be VCs there who are interested in looking to fund the business, and then there’s a winner declared. And I tell you, for me at least, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done professionally and personally. But yeah, we’ll get into that, but I’ll stop right there.
Imteaz: No, for me, it’s obviously the competition. And I did it back in 2014
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: when I had been a career corporate person for six plus years and I thought I knew it all. And I did start up Boss in Australia, the first competition when it happened in Australia back in 2014. And then… It, you know, like in neuroplasticity, um, on neuroscience, they talk about rewiring your brain
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: in those three days. My brain was rewired completely
Brian Davis: Yeah. Yep.
Imteaz: because you learn that you can make decisions very fast
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: and if you are put in a high pressure environment to do those decisions, to make decisions that actually matter,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: you’ll break. process all of this stuff.
Brian Davis: Yep.
Imteaz: And it’s not for everyone, not everyone can, you know, adrenaline for three days straight,
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: or four or five days straight, straight or two, three hours of sleep. But once you go through that process, you can effectively supercharge your decision making process
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: for anything and everything. So that’s part one. Part two, one of the… most fascinating things about this for me has been the community
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: around startup. Um, in the sense that, you know, most of the people that are involved are volunteers
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: and they’re doing out of the kindness of their hearts. And you know, anytime I’ve rung up anyone from the community to help me with something, it’s always been yes. And this is what you should all. So, you know, from, it’s just, Firstly, they’re just crazy people to begin with.
Brian Davis: Yep.
Imteaz: Everybody who, you know, they go through the neuroplasticity rewiring of their brain, and most people are super kind and helpful. But then it’s also this amazing group of people that actually wanna make a change.
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: So it’s, yeah, and anybody who’s gone through this competition, and I highly recommend, anyone who’s done any form of technical work from a death point of view.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: and involved in anything to do with digital or technology must go through this process, because if you don’t go through this process, you will be just another one of those, uh, just another developer, just
Brian Davis: Yep.
Imteaz: another UX designer, just another one of those people, um, that doesn’t necessarily understand how quickly and efficiently you can actually build product and actually solve problems. And then also be part of a really cool. community as well.
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: But tell me, oh sorry, go ahead.
Brian Davis: I wanted to say, just like your experience earlier, you’re talking, we’re very similar in that regard too. My past, my working career was all corporate America. It was 100% Fortune 500 companies. So I went on the bus in 2018 and a friend of mine, she got her way on the bus and she’s not technical at all. So a good friend of our family, Nodula Thompson, she’s awesome. She’s a great friend, she’s a serial entrepreneur. And she got on the bus and she got her invite and she told me about it. She said, hey Brian, I think this is gonna be great. And I was told I can invite somebody and here’s my invite, you should apply. I’m like, okay. So I look it up and I see everything they’re gonna be doing and you know, you probably gonna make apps and all this kind of stuff. And… business and a product in three days and immediately I was just like intimidated. I’m like, I don’t know if I can do anything like that. And I know I can build software, but I don’t know if I can do anything in three days. And I’ve never done anything outside of my company. Like I’ve never built a product that was public facing or anything like that. And to me, that’s a whole different animal. And so I get in and the folks that were doing the interviews, I let them know, look, I do know how to code. I don’t, at the time I knew nothing about React. I knew nothing about Angular. I knew nothing about those types of technologies. You know, can I still apply and I wanna try. So got on the bus and so long story short, I get on the bus, I get part of a team. One of the members of our team at the time was one of the principal engineers over at Tesla. And I’m just like, what in the world? Like, how do you find these people? And so, yeah, so I get on the bus, and there’s no way I’m going to learn. We chose Angular for our product, for our language, our framework. There’s no way I’m going to learn Angular in a couple of hours to be effective. So like, OK, how can I be effective with this particular competition? So I was like, well, again, I know I can serve, right? So I know enough about software development where I can help our engineers. Name was Harvey. I can help. RV, you know, talk through some things or get him what he needs. And, um, I can help our, the person that’s going to be doing our pitch. I can help them, um, perfect what they’re doing and, and all that kind of thing. I can be a runner, I can be a project manager, like all, all those things. And just like you said, Imteaz, I was, I was shocked at how quickly you can really build things. And because my. Again, going back even to school, when I was in computer science there, our programming language was C. And when you were, it was time to do an assignment at school, it was a blank blue screen and just white text. Like you just started from scratch and you just started cranking out code. But in my mind, I could not conceptualize how you can actually build a legitimate product from scratch. And I found out that, I mean, nobody’s really doing this from scratch, right? Like… I found out what Twilio was and how a lot of the messaging platforms back in the day, the underpinnings of that a lot of times was the Twilio technology. It was just repackaged and white labeled and sold somewhere else. I learned about all these different APIs and these frameworks were there and these different tricks of the trade. I had to suppress my corporate need to make sure that everything had to be perfect in a certain way before you can ship. And I understood that good enough is okay, you know, a lot of times. And it, I still, I was just blown away that at the end of it, we were able to make something, not it seemed like it worked, like it actually worked. And I was just, my mind was just blown. And my, and it’s like you say, like your brain was rewired into, into what’s possible and I came away with that, with a brand new confidence, it was. It wasn’t necessarily, I’ve never been like the greatest coder in the world. I’ve been pretty good. Um, but I came away with the confidence knowing that I may not, I can’t guarantee you that I’m going to be the best in the world or I’ll get this in a week. I do know that given the right amount of time, I can do anything. And so I started leaning, leaning into that, you know, a little bit more. Um, and. As a result, I’ve always wanted to do things on my own and have my own company and build products for clients. Really it was fear that kept me from doing that. After the startup bus, I told myself, because I always had people come up to me and they knew that I coded. They were always, hey, Brian, I have this app idea and could you help out? And they’re always declining. So I said, okay. The next time someone comes to me with an idea. and I think it’s interesting, I’m going to tell them yes. And I have no idea how I’m going to do it, but I know that I can figure it out. And so, yeah, so that’s what happened. So a couple of years later, someone approached me about an idea that they had and I said yes, and I’m actually finishing up that product right now. So, and I’ve never, maybe I would have done it, but maybe it would take me another 10 years to get ready to, or feel like I’m ready to do it, but. But yeah, Startup Bus really turbo charged that for me and gave me the confidence. Like saying, just rewired my brain to think a little bit differently on how to get things done.
Imteaz: Which is a great segue to the next question, which is about, you know, how do highly technical people such as yourself transition into leadership positions, right? Because it sounds like, you know, out of startup bus, it wasn’t just learning hacks or just learning how, you know, the internet is basically a giant pivot table with multiple API calls, just, you know, leveraging data from different sources. It’s also learning that, you know. solving problems is probably the thing that we get paid for, rather than just understand the technology. So, how have you made that transition and what advice would you give to highly technical people to become leaders within their space?
Brian Davis: Yeah, so I would say, so I’ve seen developers become leaders a couple of different ways. I’ll tell you the first way I’ve seen it’s, in my opinion, it’s a little unhealthy. I’ve seen developers as they progress in their career, because they’re really good at what they do, their leadership automatically assumes that the next role for them, the next level for them is leadership. that’s not necessarily the case. Because you’re a great developer, it does not mean that you are a great leader. There are two completely different skill sets. So I think that’s one tip for any leaders that are involved. Definitely consider a different approach when you’re looking for leadership in your dev groups. For those developers who are looking to become leaders. I think, especially in the dev space, I do think it’s critical for you to be excellent at what you do. One, you need to understand what your team is going through. Not that you need to tell them how to do it, but you need to be able to empathize with them. You need to be able to help them see some of the blind spots that maybe that they don’t know they have. So being excellent at what you do, I think is critical especially for these highly technical roles. And a lot of times, to be honest, the folks that are really good at their jobs in a technical standpoint, they a lot of times don’t respect leadership that don’t understand them, that can’t speak their language, right? So it’s kind of dual purpose there. And then the last thing I would say is, if you do want to become a leader and you are in that technical role, I think you have to lean into serving. service has to be paramount to what it is that you’re doing. For me, I had this idea of serving as whenever a problem came up or whenever my team was struggling with something, my idea of serving was to put on my Superman cape, jump in and solve the problem for them, right? And I was thinking that I was removing roadblocks for them. And once it was done, they could continue with their work. And I pat myself on the back, say, great job, leader, and kind of move on. And I remember my director at the time, his name is Mark. I still talk to Mark today. We talk about ideas and get his advice on different things. He told me, he said, hey, Brian, you are holding your team back. What do you mean, holding my team back? He said, yeah, you are robbing them the ability to learn. That really hit me because I never want to be the reason why someone isn’t progressing or someone isn’t getting better. He told me, he said, well, how did you get good at what you’re doing? How did you learn? There were problems that you had to solve and no one did them for you and you had to struggle a little bit and then that’s how you learned. He said that, could you do a better job? at what they’re doing? Probably. Would it be easier? You know, probably, because you know the system more than they do. That doesn’t mean that you’re smarter than they are. You have more domain knowledge. And your role is to set the parameters, make sure they don’t fall off the cliff, but allow them to make mistakes. And then you have to be comfortable with solutions that you may not necessarily 100% agree with. If it does the job, then it’s probably okay and let it go and kind of let them make their own path. So, but yeah, that was one of the things that I had to learn. And it wasn’t until I, and when he said that to Imteaz, I realized that I created this codependency that I never intended. And I found myself barely taking any PTO because I felt like my team needed me. Or if I did take PTO, I was constantly getting calls and. That was a sign to me that I wasn’t doing a great job of being a leader. Like I was creating, um, I was creating, I was creating dependents instead of autonomous developers who could make their own decisions and had the confidence to go out there and, you know, make mistakes and learn. And so that was, that was something that I had to, to learn, you know, early on.
Imteaz: That transition you make in your career from being like an individual contributor to like a team lead is a daunting one, especially if you’re one of those people that, I would say, you know, if you’re a perfectionist, but if you hold a very high standard
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: of your own work and you don’t see that being translated by the people that necessarily report to you,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: it’s very hard not to, you know, get your fingers into the weeds of like… you know, make sure that everything is perfect. I had to learn that myself. Like, you know, I was double, triple checking my team’s work all the time and,
Brian Davis: Mm.
Imteaz: you know, basically micromanaging everything. And yeah, they didn’t necessarily take responsibility because I was meddling in everything and then, you know, hunted their growth.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: And then I had to learn and I, you know, similar to yourself, I was overworking myself,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: not, you know, instead of. letting the team manage the work and me manage, you know, a strategy and,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: and business objectives. I was working way too hard and not necessarily doing my job properly.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: And I was doing my team instead. So taking that setback, being okay with most things being at 80 to 90% and
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: not always at 100% is such a hard transition to make
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: when own up succeeding or achieving very high marks at school or very high quality of work as an individual contributor. And then you come to being a manager and you’re like, Oh, I have to be okay with 85% of that, even though, you know, he’s trying his best, he’s doing this thing, but not to my standard, but like, I can’t lose my life and lose my time
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: by, by perfecting other people’s work. So
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: it’s a hard transition. You got to do it.
Brian Davis: Yeah, absolutely. And again, it’s, I feel like too, it’s, it’s one of those things where we’re taught in school, one thing. And then again, you get into the real world and you have this revelation that just things don’t work that way. And like you said,
Brian Davis: sometimes 80% or 85% is amazing. And, but you know, 80% in school is, is not. So like you’re, it’s,
Brian Davis: it’s weird how that, how that works. And Um, it’s, that’s almost, it’s almost like you go through the education process and then you have to wake yourself up and, and teach yourself and you have to learn a, like a brand new way of doing things. And that, that was definitely interesting for me.
Imteaz: Have you ever had to manage, it’s called an abhorrent genius, somebody who’s like ultra smart at what they do, but they’re a complete a-hole.
Brian Davis: Yes.
Imteaz: Tell me about that because I’m sure everyone goes through that at some point in their career. I’ll share your story too. But tell me about what it’s like managing a high performing. Crazy person.
Brian Davis: Yeah, it’s, so what I found with, and I know exactly what you’re just saying, with those, I feel like for me the approach is a lot different. If I have someone who is high performing and they may be a little rough around the edges personality wise, my thing with them is I do want to understand what their motivation is and why they do what they do. what it is that they’re doing. A lot of times it’s, they enjoy being on top, if that makes sense. Like they enjoy being the 0.01% of technologists out there that, that are involved in what they’re doing. And that, that’s definitely admirable for them. A lot of times it’s, honestly, it’s protecting them. And it’s some, it’s not anything that you necessarily that you say, but it’s trying your best to make sure that they have the space to live in their creative genius. That’s what I mean by protecting. It’s blocking the requests that are coming in and trying to make sure that they can be heads down and they can be hyper-focused on what it is that they’re doing. Sometimes it’s just sitting and letting them vent about frustrations that they have because… A lot of people don’t understand their world and they don’t understand what it’s like to be them and they don’t understand the level of genius that they’re putting into their work. And so sometimes it’s acknowledging, like truly acknowledging the work that they’re doing. It’s getting involved and, hey, show me, I want to see this code, like show me what it is that you’re doing so that you can really understand and appreciate that. And they need to know. that you know that they’re amazing, right? So that’s what I found with dealing with those. And, you know, so yeah, I’ll let you go ahead and tell your story.
Imteaz: Yeah, similar kind of thing. I had the pleasure of working with someone like that who, from an output point of view, was delivering the work of 10 people hands down.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: Right? The next 10 people that were working would not provide the same level of output as this person, but I could not put this person in a room with anyone else. Right? So
Brian Davis: Yep.
Imteaz: I could manage him and protect him
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: and shield him. and kind of do the interpersonal work on his behalf.
Brian Davis: Right.
Imteaz: But putting him in an audience, he would just literally tell everyone else that they were stupid and they had no idea what they were doing. And his idea was the best idea. Unfortunately, every time he opened his mouth, it was the best idea.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: But it’s just the interpersonal skills weren’t there. And there’s only so much coaching, feedback, blah that you can give to someone. For some of these people, it’s just a little bit too much, right? So if you do get that blessing of managing someone, I call it a blessing because
Brian Davis: Absolutely,
Imteaz: I actually like working
Brian Davis: absolutely.
Imteaz: with people at that caliber. But yeah, you just gotta completely change your management style and work with them and work for them
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: in some capacity. rather than just try and make them fit into your generic like middle manager or, you know, individual contributor type archetype from an employee. But yeah, super interesting
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: and super fun.
Brian Davis: Empty is quick question. Have you, have you ever, I’m not sure if you’re into sports or basketball, have you ever seen the Netflix series, The Last Dance?
Imteaz: Yeah, I’ve watched, I want to say I’ve watched the first half of the series, but yes, tell me.
Brian Davis: Okay, so second, towards the second half of that series, they get into Dennis Rodman. And if you’re familiar with Dennis Rodman, he’s this super eclectic character and he has this wild lifestyle, but just excellent at rebounding, defense, and one of the people that truly gives you everything that he has. And the coach of the Chicago Bulls, you know, Phil Jackson, he talked about that. And I remember when he came in, you know, Michael Jordan was, you know, to me, the greatest player that has ever lived. He was against, you know, getting Robin on board and, you know, he was just, you know, so different and the way Phil Jackson managed him, you know, cared for him was completely different than everyone else. Like he gave him his space and he let him be himself. And. long story short, once Dennis realized that Coach Jackson was going to let him be himself, he gave everything that he had to the team to win. And if he wasn’t there, there’s no way they would have won those championships. So yeah, to me, those types of developers, technologists, they remind me a lot of Dennis Rodman. They are excellent at what they do. It might be different than the rest of the team. but extremely valuable and you definitely have to let them be themselves. And like you said, don’t, don’t try to change them.
Imteaz: Very cool. So talking about hyper productive, hyper smart people, what’s your kind of process for learning new things and applying them in what you do?
Brian Davis: Yeah. So, yeah, so for me, I have the tendency of if I’m trying to learn something new, I want to consume as much content as I can in the beginning. And I, my friends are probably tired of hearing me say this, but I always talk about learning Spanish. I took, started in 2020 learning Spanish and I’ve always had this goal to be able to speak. And one of those things, you know, you putting the attention to it. And at the time, I just, I consumed as much content as I could. There’s so much out there and there’s the good, the bad, and there’s things that don’t work and things that work for you, but I wanna consume it all. From that, I usually can start recognizing the patterns of what truth looks like. So there’s one school of thought that says that, Oh, you don’t ever need to pick up a grammar book and you just need to immerse yourself in the language. And there’s others that say, no, before you say a word, you need to know all of the grammatical structures and the truth is somewhere in between that. And so usually I start recognizing what the patterns really are and I kind of hyper focus on that. And then I start trying to understand what resonates with me. So what ways of learning are really aligned with my energy and so I can make it seem like it’s effortless. And so for me, so once I get that and kind of realize the patterns there, after that I am setting a goal. I am time boxing myself. I wanna make sure I’m hyper specific once I feel like I’ve found the content. For me, I found this platform, it’s called baseline.com. You can get on and talk to native speakers and you can have, it’s all one-on-one sessions and you can either do classes of grammar or you can have conversations. And for me, I didn’t realize the thing that I needed was the conversational, you know, part. So for me, I needed a little bit of structure. So I signed up for classes. I time-boxed myself based on the budget that I had. I was like, all right, I’m going to give. I have two months to get this done. So what do I need to do? And then I’m researching if I have two months and my goal is to be able to have a 30 minute conversation with a native speaker, how like, how much time do I need to put into this in order to get this to work? And so then I figured out I needed two hours a day. And so after that, it was eliminating everything else in my life other than my family and my job, you know, business. and really putting the time in to do that. And so anyway, I did that six weeks later, I was able to accomplish my goal and I was able to have a 30 minute conversation with someone completely in Spanish. It was the weirdest thing in the world because it was, of course, you know it’s possible. There are people that speak all kinds of languages, but it’s because you’re not doing it, it’s like, man, I wonder what, is this possible for me? What is it going to be like for me? So actually living that was, was fantastic. And so, um, so once I got out of that, usually when I’m out of that time box, that hyper-focused period of time, I usually like to set, you know, micro habits that I can sustain, you know, for, um, you know, for forever. Right. So now for me, it’s consuming 30 minutes of Spanish, you know, every day. And, and I’m constantly listening to podcasts or learning different things. And so now. I just do most of it in Spanish. And so that way I can continue the things that I like doing and continue learning things. But at the same time, I’m continuing my Spanish as well. So anytime I get a chance to have a conversation with somebody, I usually raise my hand to do that. Cause I just, I just, I love it. So, but yeah, that’s
Brian Davis: a little
Brian Davis: bit how I learned.
Imteaz: No, but you know, the question, a lot of people that I come into interact with, especially from corporate and when they have like startup aspirations and ideas and they’re like, oh, it’s too hard.
Brian Davis: Mmm.
Imteaz: I can’t do it or blah, blah. And I’m like, how much do you really want it?
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: Right. And you know, what you’ve kind of just demonstrated is you really wanted to learn Spanish
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: and you really wanted to get it done. And you did.
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: So a lot of the time people would say that they want to get fifth,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: they want weight, they want to do this, they want to do that, but they’re not focused. They just say things, because it’s the right thing to say rather than dedicating the time and energy to achieving those goals. Incredible,
Brian Davis: Yep, absolutely.
Imteaz: very cool. So this leads me to… you know, the, the raging topic of our times right now, which is generative AI, and all the craziness that’s surrounding generative AI. How are you looking at gen AI? And, you know, what are some of the applications that you’re thinking about in terms of your day to day now?
Brian Davis: Yeah, so I am fascinated with the idea of having a tool to just make life easier. Um, whether it’s work, whether it’s at home, I’ve been so fascinated empty. It’s with, uh, with talk about like chat GPT. I use it just about every single day. Like I think of it as my new little assistant. I tell my people, yeah, it’s my new best friend. And there’s so many different applications out there. Like honestly, it’s, sometimes it’s overwhelming the possibilities. And so for me, at least when I have so many different options in my mind, it can definitely just like freeze you. And so I started out using it just because I wanted to understand It had nothing to do with building systems or building products or incorporating it into the technology that I was building or anything like that initially. Initially it was how can I take what I’m already doing either in my job or at home and make it better? So for instance, if it takes me two hours to do a task and I can do it within 10 minutes with Chad GPT, then yeah, let’s do that and let me figure out how to how to use it for that. Quick story, my oldest daughter, she was a junior last year. She started taking chemistry. Throughout her entire career, she’s been a AB student and she has made good grades in school pretty easily for her. One day I was working and kind of finishing up, she came home, she’s like, hey, dad, you know, I gotta tell you something. She was like, what? I got a D in chemistry. Okay, got a D in chemistry. So again, that’s odd. She’s made A’s and B’s for forever. So I’m asking a bunch of questions, trying to understand what is this that she’s not getting. And so she seems like, at least when we’re talking, she seems like she has a good understanding of concepts in general and things like that. And I’m like, okay. And I started digging into a little bit more of what her process was for studying. And I found out that she did not know how to study. So what she was doing with What she would do with all her classes was the day before, she just kind of review everything. It’s like, all right, close the book up, roll in the class and make an A on a test. So I was like, well, you can’t really do that with chemistry, right? Like you have to like study and that kind of thing. Anyway, she was on like a spring break and we had like a week. I said, look, this is what we’ll do. We’ll take this next week. I’ll show you how to study and why we wanna do it that way. And I’m gonna show you how to use chat GPT. I know y’all. keep hearing me talk about this and you’re probably tired of hearing me talk about it, but you’re going to learn. So start up an account and let’s get going. So I opened it up and I was like, all right, chat GPT, you are an expert in high school chemistry and I need you to teach me about XYZ topic, whatever she was learning. And it kind of broke it down for her. She was like, okay, well, that’s pretty cool. I was like, all right. So now chat GPT. I need you to create for me a three question quiz. I’m gonna answer the questions. Tell me that I’m right or wrong in the character and personality of, and then I named this character from My Hero Academia. It’s an anime that she likes. And it did, and she got a big kick out of it. And she took my computers, okay. She started asking questions and, you know, kind of based on some of the things that she was learning. And over the next week, she… started studying alongside of chat GPT asking it to break down concepts for Explain things different ways and she did that over the next set like month or so and then Every test that she had there after she made a she made an a on every test on every quiz And she finished the semester She had a final on her an a on our final exam and she finished the class would it be a couple of points away from It was to her, it was mind blowing. To me, it was mind blowing. And so for me, finding worthy problems or like things that you’re passionate about, like I’m passionate about my kids. So how can I use this to help them out? And so I was already a believer anyway, but finding something that was important to me and really using that there. It motivated me and opened my mind up to other possibilities about things. And so now I’m looking for different ways to incorporate it in other areas of my personal life and then also with work as well.
Imteaz: That’s amazing. Like in terms of personalized learning, um, you know, each kid, each person learns very, very differently. And, um, you know, we don’t have enough teachers in this world to give one-on-one service to
Brian Davis: Mm hmm.
Imteaz: each and every student we have. Right.
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: So having this as a supplemental aid in terms of the learning journey
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: is insanely powerful. All
Brian Davis: Absolutely.
Imteaz: right. Like this. personalizing down to, you know, what are your gaps,
Brian Davis: Mm-hmm.
Imteaz: right? Which is a very efficient way of learning any topic, I guess. Very
Brian Davis: Yeah.
Imteaz: cool. Okay, so on a personal front, Brian, what are like some productivity hacks that you use in your life to make your life easier? As a busy dad and as a busy professional, I’m sure you’ve got many.
Brian Davis: Yeah, so kind of go back to my previous example. I love skill stacking. So usually if I’m learning something, it’s not something that I’m gonna use. It’s a one-off thing. It’s something that I’m gonna apply later on to something else that I’m learning. Like for instance, before my daughter came to me about her issue with chemistry, I was already learning about Chad GPT and understanding how it worked and understanding more about prompt engineering. And, and for me, it’s a way to apply that to other things in my, in my life. Like for instance, I told you, you know, learning Spanish and I want to keep that up though, the skill that I learned with learning Spanish, I use that same skill now for other things, I’m consuming Spanish content to, to learn other things. And so. For me, it’s important because like you mentioned, my time is compressed. I don’t have a ton of time. I have a large family and a full-time job and an app that I’m building. And so those are the things that I like to do. So if I can find a way to use the skills that I’m learning and what I’m doing already, if I can find a way to not take away from. the time that I have already. Those are the kind of things that I’m that I usually kind of look to do and that’s what helps me to you know stay productive and also to stay available to my to my family and work and things like that.
Imteaz: Cool. Brian, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting to you today. How can people reach out to you? They wanna learn more about you and all the crazy things that you get up to.
Brian Davis: Yeah, so I’m not on TikTok and Instagram a whole lot. So probably the best way to get in contact with me is through LinkedIn. So just look for Brian Davis on LinkedIn. You will see a nice AI-generated picture of me smiling big and bright. I’m definitely not hard to find.
Imteaz: Again, it was a pleasure chatting to you today, Brian. Thank you so much and we’ll speak again soon.
Brian Davis: Thank you so much, Emtis. I appreciate it.