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Insights from our Network Insight Panel Event: Future proofing your career in a digital era

On Wednesday 13th March we partnered with Depop to host our network insight panel event, based on the topic of future proofing your career in a digital era. We were joined by our expert panel; Rachel Swindenbank, VP Marketplace Depop; Phill Burton, COO Bloom & Wild, Lindsey Nguyen, Digital specialist at Digital McKinsey.

The talks alongside the Q&A’s led to some thought provoking concepts around how to future proof your career and skills that require serious upskilling in order to stay ahead of the game in the upcoming digital world.

Rachel Swidenbank, VP Marketplace at Depop

“Learn lots of hands on skills, including how to structure a meeting and give constructive feedback”

Rachel started her career doing engineering at Oxford; she then was part of Teach First, worked at Bain where she learnt strong transactional skills, head of Intelligence at Code Academy, built her own company which was a marketplace for home cooked food, was an interim consultant at GoCardless where she became passionate about tech and finally her current position at Depop where she oversees a community of sellers.

Rachel believes that as the future of work evolves we will see a shift towards digital and we will need to upskill in particular areas. These include:

Problem-solving skills

  • Collaboration and joint ownership
  • Communication
  • Adaptability (Rachel has spent her entire career figuring out how to be adaptable)
  • An understanding of the tech landscape
  • The ability to consult- product teams were not a thing a few years ago but now are a new type of organisational structure.
  • Data will be the future – We need to understand how data is going to impact the future including machine learning and who is going to come out on top.

Phill Burton – COO, Bloom & Wild

“Test people for values and how much they care at all interview stages”

Phill’s career drastically changed and started very far away from the hyper-growth company that is Bloom & Wild. He started his career, completed a degree in philosophy before going on to law school where he built up a VC and tech network. After law school he proceeded to have a complete career change and joined an early stage startup, BirchBox where he led the UK operations and taught himself many new skills whilst on the job. He left this position to become COO of Bloom & Wild.

Phill spoke to us about what he learnt along the way and throughout his career:

  • You need to be super self-aware throughout your career and understand your risk appetite. Think clearly about your priorities as these will change quickly.

  • Understand the distinction between being an entrepreneur & being entrepreneurial (there is a bias to action and you don’t need to start a company to satisfy that.

  • Have zero ego – As a manager take full responsibility for your failures and don’t take credit for success.

  • Follow people who inspire you and not products.

What they look for when hiring for Bloom & Wild

  • Comfortable with data- understand it, clean it, manipulate and visualise it.

  • Bias to action, velocity and speed of action and collaboration.

  • Adaptability and flexibility- comfortable with ripping up plans.
  • Live and breathe company values, a big one at B& W is care. You should always ask for a company’s values to check that you are in line with the company’s core beliefs.

Lindsey Nguyen, Digital Specialist at Digital McKinsey.

“Keep an eye on the old and new world clash as this is the most interesting part of my role currently”

Lindsey works as a product specialist with a background in engineering, but this was too slow-paced so she looked at tech as it is a lot faster moving. She then completed an MBA in Dublin and wanted to broaden her business acumen so she started a tech startup accelerator. Now she has moved to London to work at Digital McKinsey as she can work with clients at scale as product managers are in high demand.

“Product Managers are the most coveted roles for MBA graduates”

There is a diverse range of product manager roles and there is an art between building a tech-based product and product management. You need to balance value, user needs & feasibility to the team’s tech capability.

PM’s focus and must haves include:

  • Collaboration and transparency. Tech is only as good as the people building it and you must recognise your biases. These include: testing and learning, customers at the heart of it and focus on their experience and the outcomes.

Q & A’s:

How can you spot good learners?

  • Open-mindedness/ coachability – how does someone react to feedback?

  • How someone expresses their curiosity? Do they ask lots of questions and are passionate about what they do?

  • The ability to be self-critical.

Dream job if the current one didn’t exist?

Rachel – Wish her start-up company had worked out

Phill – Start-up, social enterprise and would also love to be a product manager.

Lindsey – Something in the VC space for minority female founders and the social enterprise space.