Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

The top skill you need to succeed in the Information Age

Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen famously wrote that “software is eating the world.” While digital transformation is everywhere, and even your coffee shop has an app, this doesn't mean we all need to learn STEM subjects and become coders.

The vast majority of jobs remain non-technical. 

To succeed in today's economy, ambitious professionals need to learn how to become Digital Collaborators. This means learning additional skills, rather than completely retraining.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Microsoft says that "the demand for digital skills continues to grow, and we estimate that digital job capacity – or the total number of technology-oriented jobs – will increase nearly five-fold by 2025, rising from 41 million in 2020 to 190 million in 2025. These numbers are in stark contrast, and they illustrate the digital skills gap that has accompanied the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
  • Being a Digital Collaborator means learning to...
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How I built Make Love Not Porn - with Cindy Gallop

Would you leave a high flying career in advertising to set up an adult content site? Most people wouldn't, but Cindy Gallop is not most people.

After leading one of the world's top advertising agencies, BBH in the United States. Cindy decided to try her hand at tech entrepreneurship. Her venture, Make Love Not Porn, is in the new category of "social sex" and aims to revolutionise how people talk, share and watch sex. 

As a non-technical founder of an adult content business, Cindy had to learn how to work with developers, get users despite being banned by advertisers and create a troll free online environment.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "You don't have to be a tech person to build something absolutely phenomenal in tech," says Cindy. Instead, you need a strong vision, the right team and the determination to keep going. 
  • "You do not need a technical co-founder from the beginning." In fact, delegating your vision to the tech person simply because they...
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How to innovate at a corporate: lessons from Apple and Intel

Every company wants to be innovative, but how do you balance the risk of innovation with the need to keep the lights on? Listen to this interview with Kapil Kane, Head of Innovation at Intel China, to find out.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Most tech innovations die because they do not have a solid business case. As much as non-techies need to learn to speak tech, techies need to learn to speak business. “No matter how smart you are, if you are not able to get your idea across in the language of a lay person, you are missing out a lot,” says Kapil.
  • To structure creativity within an organisation, Kapil advises learning from Apple, where teams often worked on projects that other teams did not know about. This meant that they could focus on their work, while upper management connected the dots.
  • The innovation accelerator at Intel China Kapil set up brings in revenue, but that is not the only benefit. It serves as a training ground for ambitious people “If...
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Lessons from the Netflix C Suite

How do you get to the top of a tech company as a non-technical professional? How can you drive innovation, when you’re not building the technology yourself?

That’s what you’ll learn from this interview with David Wells, ex CFO of Netflix and chair of the board at Wise.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • It’s called tech, or working in tech, but the entire economy is going to be this. So calling it tech is a little bit apocryphal at this stage,” David says.
  • Tech jargon distances people from the actual understanding of the concepts.” Learning core technology concepts is not as hard as the jargon has many believe.
  • Learning what data scientists do and how to work with them is the best skill set to develop for business people in tech. “Data science is the analysis of the lifeblood of the company and you have to ask fundamental insight questions against it. You do not have to build the models yourself, but you are at an advantage if...
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How to get people to be nice to each other on your platform

On Airbnb, people stay at strangers' homes. On Twitter, people get trolled. Both are global tech platforms, but why do people treat strangers well on one, and badly on the other?

The answer lies in platform governance: the rules you make to encourage good interactions and punish the bad stuff. Learn how to set up platforms where people are nice to strangers with this week's podcast episode.

Learning notes from this episode.

  • Platform governance touches product development, engineering and marketing. It isn't just a corporate mission statement nobody reads.
  • The logic we apply to creating good offline environments also apply to platforms, but just on a bigger scale. Ask yourself: how do I want people to feel when they get here? What do I want them to do?
  • The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker is an excellent book on how to create offline environments. You can apply these lessons to the online world you are creating. 
  • Community leaders and opinion...
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What makes platform businesses SO successful

Facebook disrupted the media market forever. The Apple App Store created the app economy, valued at $6.3 trillion today. What makes platforms like these SO successful?

In this episode, you will learn the core concepts behind platform businesses, so you can identify platforms in the making or build them yourself.

This is the beginning of a mini-series on platform fundamentals at Tech for Non-Techies.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Platform businesses have been around for millennia. A market square is a platform business. Technology just allowed these businesses to reach more scale and make more money than ever before.
  • Most traditional businesses are pipeline businesses. A pipeline business employs a step-by-step arrangement for creating and transferring value with producers at one end and consumers on the other. For example, Ford makes cars and sells them to consumers.
  • Pipeline businesses grow and prosper if they have Supply Economies of Scale. If Ford makes lots of...
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How to burn $2 billion

Does having $2 billion in the bank account and celebrity backing guarantee success for a consumer app? Not necessarily.

Listen to how one company burned through almost $2 billion and had to shut down their app after just 6 months. Learn what Quibi did wrong, so you can avoid their mistakes.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Success in one field does not necessarily translate into another, especially without training. Quibi's founders used lessons from launching Hollywood blockbusters to launching consumer apps. This did not work.
  • Follow the product development process, no matter how much money you have. Focus on the user. Do your research. Build in stages. Track user reactions at each stage and pivot if necessary.
  • Only invest in large budget marketing after you've proven user need at small scale. Focus on retention metrics first, then on growth. 

 

 

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You can't be half pregnant

Developers don't work in the same ways as non-technical professionals. If you don't know how to work with developers, you can waste thousands of dollars and get very frustrated, as you'll see from the story Sophia shares on this week's episode.

Learning notes from this episode:

    • A feature cannot be released when it is not ready. It is either ready to release, or it is not. There is no half way line. A feature can't be half ready, just like you can't be half pregnant. 
    • Developers usually work in two-week cycles, when they are focussed on a specific set of tasks. For example, in a two week period, developers may be working on a specific feature for an app. Then they release it, and start on another feature.
    • Since what developers do affects the rest of what the product team does, this lesson is relevant if you want to work with other people in the product team, like designers, community managers and data scientists.
    • Corporate accelerators for technology start-ups, which...
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How to commercialise innovation

Success in tech consists of two parts: making great products and using them to build a business. No matter how brilliant an app or algorithm is, if people do not want to pay for it, it is unlikely to live for long.

This is why all tech innovators need to learn the core skills of commercialising innovation.

Listen to this episode to learn how Salesforce, Starbucks and Xero commercialise their tech products, and so you can apply their lessons too.

The top 3 questions you need to answer to ensure your tech product has business success are:

  1. How will this product help people make more money?
  2. How will this product improve customer experience?
  3. How will this product improve efficiency?

Always focus on the benefits that the product will bring customers, not its features.

Tell Sophia what you’re working on and submit your questions to her on [email protected]

Or reach her on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

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"Don't be afraid of the tech," lessons from a non-technical founder

Nasi Rwigema doesn't have a background in software, but that didn't stop him from building his tech platform: Umwuga, a social network for blue collar workers in South Africa. To his surprise, he found that figuring out what people want is much harder than learning about tech.

Nasi is one of Sophia's students from London Business School. He took her course three years ago, and used his knowledge, network and resilience to build his platform.

If you have an idea for a tech venture, as a founder or a corporate innovator, or you want to invest in tech businesses, but don't have a tech background, this episode is for you.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "Don't be afraid of the tech and don't let not having a tech person hold you back," says Nasi. "Instead, focus on the customer and the problem you are solving."
  • Show traction from the start. This doesn't necessarily mean revenue or explosive user growth. It means doing whatever you can to solve the problem for the customer.
  • ...
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