The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: Melbourne local, Pete Williams — December 11, 2012

Interview: Melbourne local, Pete Williams

Our prolific ambassador Jacqueline Shields interviews the Chief Edge Officer for the recently-launched Deloitte Centre for the Edge AU, founder @deloittedigital, innovator, speaker, facilitator, provocateur, Adjunct Professor at RMIT, board member of Circus Oz and top end Angry Birds player.


Photo by Australia Unlimited

Pete, your business card reads ‘Chief Edge Officer for Deloitte Centre for the Edge AU’. Impressive title. What exactly does that mean?

The Centre for the Edge looks at what is happening at the edges of society and business, often driven by technology and helping people understand how things are changing and where the world is moving. As I’m the only person in Australia who is in that group, I decided to call myself the Chief Edge Officer. It resonated well. Research Director doesn’t sound that fancy.

It basically means someone who looks the edges and takes an ecosystem view of the world – at the clouds, crowds, gaming, social media, use of data, how to make information flow and how to get the most out of passionate people. Self-titled.

In your opinion what are some of the emerging opportunities that are at the edge of business and technology?

The main thing we are seeing is that the world is just moving faster and faster with organisations struggling to keep up while their customers and employees aren’t having the same problems. So you have Joe Public who has this wonderful array of gadgets like Blu-ray and Wifi, and is always on and always connected, but they come to the office and it’s like going back to medieval times.

We are saying to these organisations that the pace of change is starting to disrupt you, things have fundamentally changed, but you haven’t. We are seeing this in retail, IT, telcos and the media in particular. So we are asking the question: how are you going to adopt a different model?

Business can look at what is going on at the edges and look into how they would use a crowd or how the gaming world applies to them. It’s not so much building games but using things like levelling up, recognition and reward, badges, achievements, leader boards, kudos, those sorts of things and bringing them into the process to encourage your customers to do what you want to do with them.

What do you say to people when they say ‘I don’t do social media’? In particular those at senior executive level?

My answer to that is that the fact you don’t use it is irrelevant because your customers and employees do.

An organisation that puts the blinkers on is really like an ostrich putting his head in the sand. Social media is not going away. It’s a change in the way that people connect and collaborate these days.

We are seeing social media driving a fundamental change in the web. When the web first started it connected people to information stored on a remote browser. Then we then saw transactional capabilities come in i.e online banking. In the early 2000s we started seeing the rise of the self-publisher. In the old days it was hard to set up a website but it became very easy with tools like WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr and we saw a mass increase in that. We also saw the ability for people to amplify and discover through the likes of Twitter where you can get massive amplification, a huge audience of 40,000 before you blink, and it builds momentum and flows through the network by retweeting. People have become their own media.

Twitter is clearly the greatest source of real-time information ever known to humankind. News that used to break through traditional media now breaks on Twitter. You have people on the spot with any incident taking photos and sharing and seeing what is going on. So you have the ability to tap into what’s happening now without it necessarily being curated, maybe it’s raw, but still if you want to keep up with what is going on, what is happening and what is coming at you, Twitter is the place to do it.

The other thing we are seeing is that applying social media in a business context can add massive value. At Deloitte we use social media to drive our innovation program. We’ve been doing it since 2003 before the words social media even existed. We have an open ideas platform where staff can contribute any time day or night, comment, share and collaborate.

Chief Edge Officer is a far cry from what you studied, chartered accounting. What was it about the digital space back in 1993, when you started working with internet technologies, which saw this as your chosen career path?

I am still a Chartered Accountant, a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. That’s a qualification that’s useful. However I felt that I wasn’t growing as much as I’d like to with the work I was doing. I saw the web for the first time and after a few minutes got an understanding of what was happening and thought to myself ‘wow this going to change everything, this is going to change humanity’. That’s why I decided to immerse myself in it.

I had that feeling that I was in on the ground floor. There were seven million people on the internet when I first jumped on and I thought that’s on the top 1/10th of the world’s population. And back then the first web browsers appeared in the Mosaic browser. I had used the internet before and it was clunky but suddenly a browser made it easy and my sense was that we were leveraging through a massive telecommunications network, connectivity that people had that was in a way self generated. No real barriers and restrictions to people doing what they wanted to do.

And I immersed myself into learning everything I could around it and I realised pretty early that there would be people that would be elite programmers and that it was unlikely to be me!

I was intrigued with what you could do with the technology, the art of the possible and the capacity to experiment, prototype and play. That is what drove me. And since 1993 I have never really seen a reason to change.

Even through the Dot-Com crash. On that day I was shitting myself. I knew that it was inevitable. Because what has happened was you had seen a ridiculous bubble where anyone who came up with an idea and put in front of it seemed to be able to rake in multiple millions of dollars. It was flooded with get quick rich merchants. And all the dot.coms fell through the floor but to some extend it was a good thing because it cleaned out all the fly-by-nighters and it started to establish itself as mainstream.

Are you sure it wasn’t because you saw it as your ticket to wearing t-shirts and jeans to work instead of a suit and tie?

Not particularly. We had a CEO in 1997 who came up with a policy to just wear whatever makes sense for you and your clients, so I had that permission anyway but these days it’s better as a way of getting free clothes. That all started because it so happened that when I wore a client’s t-shirt they were soon a hit.

What are the common mistakes organisations make when they use social and digital media and they find it doesn’t meet their expectations?

Common mistakes are:

  1. They don’t have a clear understanding of what they are trying to do or a strategy
  2. They think that because someone has a Twitter account, uses Facebook and is 19 years old, that they are some sort of guru and entrust what they do with them
  3. Doing dinky stuff – crappy little campaigns that get followers but that don’t create engagement.
  4. Ignoring it
  5. Not monitoring what is going. Before you are on the front page of the Herald Sun, it starts bubbling away on social networks. So you should be being aware of what people are saying, where you stand and if there is someone coming at you
  6. The panic reaction. That if someone says something wrong the sky is going to fall in and we must stop using it
  7. Banning it. Organisations ban it and yet their employee is sitting there with a Smartphone. What we tend to see is that people who are given these tools and start to understand how to use them, not just in their personal context, then apply it in a work context. If you don’t allow staff to use it for work and you ban it, you are stopping information flowing and the capacity to amplify

Who would you put at the top of your list as Australia’s No 1. Digital Influencer?

Me. You look at that list and there was nobody there that was around at the start that is still around now. I look at that list and I see a lot of people who have done some fantastic stuff but not from the get go.

I’d say I am the most influential pioneer.

On a personal note, you have been instrumental in using social media to assist with the slow but steady rebuilding of Flowerdale, the small Victorian town which was devastated by the firestorm that was the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Five people died and four of every five houses in the town was demolished. What prompted you to use social media to tell the stories of survivors and to coordinate the rebuilding efforts?

Because the houses of my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law both got burnt down in Black Saturday. And they asked me.

On Black Saturday both the CFA and the DSE’s websites had crashed and the only way you could get information was via Twitter. I saw on Twitter that the fire was pretty close to where my parents-in-law were so I rang them and said get out, it’s just over the hill, and coming at you. The news media was hours behind. The radio even though they knew through the reports on the ground that there were massive fires going through the place couldn’t report them until the CFA had confirmed that there were fires. So the traditional and official communication channels were using out of date methods to get information to people. The only place you could really find out what was going on was through social media.

And the other thing was my sister came down with all these pages of hand written notes from the people of Flowerdale and I saw what wasn’t going on up there – which was any help. I thought, I have to get this message out, and the easiest way to get the message out was to publish it myself. Whack them all on a blog, let people know what is going on and use twitter to amplify it.

And the other thing was that how do we let the community know what is going on? How do we avoid population flight? What about the people who have moved out and don’t know what is going on and aren’t in the community? What about families of the people who are interested in the rebuilding and who want to get involved and help? Social media was the easiest and most appropriate thing to do when you don’t have any money but you have time and sweat.

What do you want for Christmas?

Whatever Amazon tells me what I want. They know me better than I know myself.

About our Ambassador // Jacqueline Shields. Luckily Jacqueline is not a cat. She’d be on her ninth life. Her inquisitive nature sees her say yes to pretty much anything – a  Tough Mudder, an African Safari, sailing down the Nile in a felucca and even a HTML workshop. And each and everything she tries, she takes great joy in writing about. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter @hillrepeats.

Interview: Melbourne local, Jennifer Frahm — November 9, 2012

Interview: Melbourne local, Jennifer Frahm

This week Jacqueline Shields chats with Jennifer Frahm – founder of Conversations of Change, change manager and communications pro, author, Bricoleur and eternal optimist.

Jennifer Frahm. Photo by The Itchy Eyes

Name: Jennifer Frahm
Twitter: @jenfrahm

You have decided to buck the trend, say no to negativity and focus on sharing stories of success in business and industry. What was the tipping point that motivated you create a forum [called Bright Spots] where we can hear first-hand from those who have overcome challenges?

Thank you! The tipping point? A partner in crime! It was a passionate conversation with Steve Vallas of Honey Bar. He was “over it”, (the negativity) – and I’m a firm believer in don’t complain, if you are not going to do anything about the subject of complaint. So we said “let’s do it!” Let’s turn it around! So we decided to create an opportunity to celebrate the positive and optimistic stories of business and industry in person and online by case studies.

At the Bright Spot meetups, we’ll have three people talk for 10 minutes on the challenges they have faced, how they countered the challenges and how they are smashing it in a time that the news headlines say they shouldn’t. And we’re particularly interested in the quiet achievers — those that don’t have a big PR machine behind them. There’ll also be facilitated networking. You’ll leave with more than just three great stories, you’ll have a whole handful to refer to and counter the negativity that you hear. It’s no cost to attend for those interested and initially, we’ll be holding the events at The Honey Bar in South Melbourne. We’ve had interest across the globe, so we’ll treat the first one in Melbourne as a pilot and then look at what it takes to roll it out further. We are busy identifying three speakers to get the ball rolling. So stay tuned for a date.

Through Conversations of Change you assist people deal with change on a micro level through coaching. Overall, what have you found are the main issues faced when introducing change to an organisation or overcoming resistance to change?

Change cynicism is the big one at the moment along with change overload. It’s fair to say we have a long way to go in building resilience within environments of continuous change.

Employees are increasingly cynical about the “next change” and that takes some work unpacking that. Often you hear “people don’t like change”. I would challenge that. People are often fine with change if it is introduced and managed well. When you have had people in the workforce who have been subject to poorly managed change over successive decades, you see a lot of cynicism about future change (“oh that again?, yeah we tried that”). Responding to change cynicism means having leaders who are prepared to offer acknowledgement of past transgressions, validate the negative experiences and demonstrate how the future change path will be different.

Your book The Transformation Treasure Trove offers insights into change management and communication. What are your top three and why?

OK, these are my top three because if you understand these ones, you’ll cope much better with introducing change and not get so frustrated.

  1. It’s not about you! Stakeholder engagement doesn’t start with getting armed with your key messages. It starts with an attitude of humility and a willingness to learn about your stakeholder.
  2. When you engage with resistance to change, you receive valuable feedback on how well your program is progressing. Be appreciative of the feedback – it’s the silence you need to be worried about.
  3. Patience and Persistence – the key to successful change? It’s pretty simple, patience and persistence. Be graceful, and determined. You’ll get there.

For those toying with the idea of becoming a change manager what pointers would you give for the uninitiated so that they reach for the Perrier instead of the Pinot Noir?

  • Be endlessly curious, accept nothing you are told, keep asking why.
  • Be proactive in professional development, seek out course, read books and articles.
  • Be prepared to have a lots of coffees. That’s how we do stakeholder engagement.

Being immediate past President of the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) Victoria, how have you found the members managed the explosion of social media right across the business landscape?

There absolutely is a much greater appetite for social media today than three years ago when IABC first started really driving social media awareness and understanding among members globally. The questions and discussions being held amongst the members locally reflect a much greater maturity and more relaxed stance on the issue of “losing control”. IABC Victoria now has many member organisations that are doing really interesting work in this space. Corporate members like Telstra who have significantly resourced up on social media teams are seeing tangible benefits in customer service, and creating sales opportunities with their monitoring of conversations. Alcatel Lucent is doing very interesting stuff with employee engagement and Yammer.

It’s not just the large organisations though. Many of the independents and smaller agencies are much more adept at using social media for community engagement, social recruiting, and online marketing. Once questions at IABC Victoria events would have reflected “what is [insert platform] and how do you use it?”. Now they are prefaced with an example of direct experience and questions on alternative perspectives on how to manage the outcome.

Do you believe change is as good as a holiday?

Hmm. Perhaps not. I guess it depends on if you are the thrill seeking bungy jumping kinda holiday seeker, or whether you want to be lying on a beach with a beautiful buttery chardonnay. I guess the difference is that the holiday yields immediate benefits, change often takes some time to see the benefits.

Where is your favourite stakeholder engagement location (café)?

Locally, I frequent Lava on Carlisle St, Balacalava. In the CBD, you can’t go past MOAT under the Wheeler Centre.

And finally, what is a Bricoleur for those readers who may not have googled the word as yet?

A bricoleur is some-one who uses what ever is at hand to make stuff. Part creative, part innovator, and part experimenter.

I tend to think of myself as having a very broad knowledge base (psychology, sociology, management, communication, change, sales, gleaned from multiple industries). When someone comes to me with a problem, I take a bricoleur approach, I draw from a number of experiences and give it a crack. I don’t tend to focus in one area or one methodology. It’s representative of my twitter experience too – I follow a wide variety of conversations, and tweeps from really varied backgrounds. It keeps me from being stale!

About our Ambassador // Jacqueline Shields. Luckily Jacqueline is not a cat. She’d be on her ninth life. Her inquisitive nature sees her say yes to pretty much anything – a  Tough Mudder, an African Safari, sailing down the Nile in a felucca and even a HTML workshop. And each and everything she tries, she takes great joy in writing about. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter @hillrepeats.

Take a peek at a Girl Geek Dinners — August 8, 2012

Take a peek at a Girl Geek Dinners

Girl Geek Dinners‘ tagline is ‘Definitely does compute’. Attending one of these events certainly does. Held at coworking space Inspire9, females working in IT congregate monthly to share their passion for the industry, ideas, knowledge and food – ok, mainly pizza.

And the recent meet up was no different. Over 15 women working as web developers, mobile UX designers, social community managers, online managers, bloggers and coders gathered for a 3-hour HTML workshop. Diana Macdonald, Technical Editor from SitePoint, gave an interesting and insightful overview of the main concepts of HTML, explained how to code simple pages and shared the open source resource material of veritable Queen of the Girl Geeks San Francisco-based Pamela Fox.

Learning about the anatomy of a website through to understanding HTML validators was made all the more palatable with the arrival of boxes of pizzas quickly washed down with a glass of wine. The wine was originally intended as prizes for the winners of the W3schools HTML quiz. Oh well… instead, threeof the tech savvy Girl Geeks had a choice of technical books, compliments of SitePoint.

The takeaway message from the night shared by Diana was to ‘keep reading and keep researching. Things change rapidly. What was best practice one year ago in the IT space won’t be best practice today.

Girl Geek Dinners, which started six years ago in Melbourne, is still going strong. The regular Richmond meetup provide a learning environment where professional women are able to come together and skill up on the ever-changing and ever evolving IT sector. The vibe is friendly, enjoyable and relaxed and it caters for women with varying degrees of IT knowledge.

Geek Girl Dinner organisers Tammy Butow and Jessica Lowry not only hold regular IT focused workshops but a hugely popular mentoring series. The Secrets of Success series involves a speaker or three covering a topical technical or business subject over a bite to eat. The format enables senior women with years of industry experience to share their knowledge and offer career guidance and support to those starting out. There are also opportunities to socialise at over Friday night drinks and movie nights, the last one being of course, The Social Network. There is also an invite only Yammer network available allowing for collaboration in-between meetups, as well as Girl Geel blog and Twitter.

So girls, no matter how tech savy you may or may not be, get involved. Get yourself along to a Girl Geek Dinner meetup – coming workshops topics include CSS and WordPress. Have some fun, have some pizza, maybe hold back on cracking opening the wine, but don’t hold back on hollering “HTML, CSS or WordPress” instead of “Cheese” when the group photo is being taken! And guys, good news. Men aren’t excluded. If you have an invitation from a girl attending the event, you are welcome. And this ‘Definitely does compute’ where the focus of the events is about uniting, supporting, learning and having fun in the technology industry.

Contact details:
Twitter: @GGDmelb
Upcoming events:
Yammer: Contact Tammy Butow via

Other networking options for Melbourne women in IT:

Girl Geek Coffees (GGC)
There are a number of GGC’s across Melbourne for females studying in the IT space. Students in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Information Technology, Multimedia, Computer Games and related disciplines (e.g. Science, Engineering, and Mathematics) can meet up over coffee. Supportive males accompanied by a female are also welcome to attend.

The ADACamp Melbourne Initiative
The Ada Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the participation and status of women in open technology and culture. It includes open source software, Wikipedia and other open data, and open social media.The group is named after Countess Ada Lovelace, widely acknowledged as the world’s first computer programmer and the world’s first woman open source programmer.

Melbourne Robogals
Robogals is a student-run organisation that aims to increase female participation in engineering, science and technology through fun and educational initiatives aimed at girls in primary and secondary school. There is a chapter at Melbourne university.

Women are I.T.
“Women are I.T.” is an organisation providing a framework upon which women in Information Technology can extend their network and expand their knowledge in an environment that encourages open conversation and debate. We want to encourage women to choose I.T. as a career and raise the status of women in Australian business, in the I.T. industry in particular.

Females in IT and Telecommunications
Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications [FITT] is a not-for-profit network established in 1989 that encourages and supports women in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. FITT holds events and activities throughout the year to support, encourage and inspire women in the Australian ICT industry.

Vic Women in ICT
The Victorian ICT for Women Network is an industry-driven initiative which aims to facilitate entry, retention and progression for women working in ICT.

Go Girl, Go for IT
Go Girl, Go for IT is a free IT career showcase run by the Victorian ICT for Women network for for Secondary School Girls in Years 8-11 to experience the incredible range of vocational avenues that are available in IT.

About our Ambassador // This article was contributed by Jacqueline Shields. Luckily Jacqueline is not a cat. She’d be on her ninth life. Her inquisitive nature sees her say yes to pretty much anything – a  Tough Mudder, an African Safari, sailing down the Nile in a felucca and even a HTML workshop. And each and everything she tries, she takes great joy in writing about. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter @hillrepeats.

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