Regular readers (and those who have just randomly come across my LinkedIn or Twitter profile) will know I like WOW projects. The term comes from Tom Peter’s article in Fast Company magazine back in 1999 that explained that in the new economy, all work is project work. And you are your projects!
He said: “Your goal should be to work in perpetuity with Wow people, on Wow Projects, for Wowable clients.” It’s still true today – and will be in the future.
From the start of my working life, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in some Wow projects with some Wow people. I’ve been reminded of this a couple of times in the last 24 hours.
Firstly, I picked up the paper this morning to find a story about the Toxteth riots being 30 years ago this week. That was the week I started my first job
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– a Trainee Press Photographer at Mercury Press Agency in Liverpool.
I’d not bargained for my first week in employment to involve the coverage of some of the worst rioting on mainland Britain.
I can always remember the phone ringing late at night after the family had gone to bed. I was told that another photographer would pick me up (I didn’t have a car) and would take me to Toxteth where there were some sort of disturbances.
The first pictures that I took were of riot police dragging away an injured colleague as buildings burned around them. It was scary – but exciting for an 18 year old who had dreamt of being a press photographer. It was what I’d wanted to do through my adolescence.
My mum and dad were concerned – especially when I didn’t arrive home for another 20 hours (that meant I had worked through the night and had no sleep for 30+ hours). I’d photographed the aftermath of people trying to put their lives back together after the riots.
I was back out in Toxteth the next night – and for many more nights over the next month. I witnessed CS Gas being used to quell a riot on the streets of mainland Britain for the first time; photographed a policeman stabbed in a related demonstration; and recorded a protester run over by a police van and then dragged in to the back of the vehicle with his back broken.
I also photographed “Minister for Merseyside” Michael Heseltine being pelted with food by children. It was a baptism of fire for a young photographer – but remains a Wow experience in my life.
This week, I’ve watched quite a few hours of Wimbledon coverage on BBC HD. The quality of images is superb – nearly as good as having a courtside seat. Looking at the background of the TV images, about 60% of the photographers sitting at Wimbledon Centre Court this week were my colleagues up to 1994, when I hung up my cameras. So they’ve continued to have Wow time for 17 years since I left this work behind. I got immense enjoyment from having the best seats in the house at Olympic Games and World Cup Finals with these photographers. It was a Wow!
From Toxteth Riots through to world class sports coverage – I had a Wow experience. Since those times, in the last 17 years, I’ve been fortunate to work on some Wow projects. Including growing and selling a business, winning a National award for technology – and most recently managing to find “funemployment” projects helping a Duchess and creating a children’s cricket charity.
I’m currently on the look-out for the next Wow projects. First step, as you might expect from the title of my blog, is developing my Personal Network for the new challenge. Do contact me if you have anything Wow that I might be able to help with!
In my exploration of Personal Networks, I’ve come to the conclusion that the process starts with a fair degree of self awareness. I’ve always been a “self help” addict – and many years ago I became interested in psychometric testing after undertaking a Myers-Briggs MBTI test. Since then, I have worked with a business psychologist in a number of ventures – and it’s added terrific value. Interestingly, the most pleasing thing with psychometric testing is the synergy between the individual gaining self awareness, the team involved having a shared “score” to communicate around – and the organisation seeing the economic benefit of building long lasting teams with complimentary skill sets.
I recently stumbled upon a start up called Identifii, based in Singapore. It’s an interesting business that focuses on a young audience
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to make sure they start on the right career path. The key to this is helping with self awareness through psychometric testing.
I chatted with Identifii’s founder Usman Sheikh about his new business. First off, he gave me his vision for Identifii: “The right people in the right jobs results in a better world.” That’s a big idea – I like that!
Usman has recognised an issue – and wants to solve it. “The primary problem we aim to solve is one of incorrect career path selection. I graduated from college nearly 5 years ago and when I catch up with old friends, I estimate that over 70% of them, are not entirely happy with what they do on a daily basis. However, they are at a point in their lives, where change has become an extremely difficult option and the decision to ‘just to live with it’, is how they resolve the issue. Many of them selected career paths at graduation, paths which were not always suited for who they were, but rather paths chosen and based upon other factors, such as employer brand or monetary compensation.”
Identifii is focussed on Gen Y – the 16-25 year old college graduate, Facebook generation. In fact, after applying to be part of their Alpha test group, the only way to log-in to the system is via Facebook. So I dusted by FB ID off (an old git like me only uses it to keep an eye on the kids) – and gave the service a try. Five minutes and 20 questions later, I had my psychometric test done – and guess what, they had got me 100% right. See the analysis below!
I’ve been called many things in my life – but I think that I like “Colourful Storyteller” the best! From Identifii’s dashboard, I found out that famous people of my “type” – ENFP (Extrovert/iNtuitive/Feeling/Perceiving) – include Charles Dickens, Robin Williams, Sandra Bullock & Meg Ryan. Cool!! Top three career paths were Journalism, Public Relations and Entrepreneurship. I shared the comments with a couple of friends – and they chuckled at the weaknesses … “Lack of discipline in following through on important detail”, “propensity to focus on what’s achievable rather than what’s doable” and “tendency to become bored or side tracked after creative process is done”. How they laughed – got me in one!
I thought back to when I was leaving school and had a difficult time choosing between a career as a civil engineer, social worker or photo-journalist. Luckily, back then I somehow selected the right career path – with Identifii it would have been so much easier!
I asked Usman why he had created Identifii. “I was at University finishing my Economics degree and thought that I would become an investment banker. Luckily, I did an internship before I graduated and realised it was not for me. I went off to Cambridge University (England) and got my qualification as a certified psychometric consultant. It let me explore how people made choices.”
“I then build a relationship with Psytech – a vendor of psychometric tests – and in 2007 they granted me a license for their products in Pakistan. One of the opportunities I had in Pakistan was to work with 200 graduating MBA students. These graduates felt destined to work at the big multi-national companies (MNCs) like Unilever, P&G, Standard Chartered, etc. I understood the attraction of the large brand and the paycheck – but realised that for 60/65% this was not a good long-term fit.”
Usman could see the opportunity – but felt it was not the time to pursue. He headed back to Singapore and worked with friends developing Hatch Media in to the leading Youth Marketing Agency in the country. He discovered a lot about the 16-25 demographic from his experience there – the Generation Y.
When he saw the exponential growth in Facebook in 2009-10, Usman realised that the time was right to bring Identifii to market. He knew his idea needed major distribution – and FB was the channel.
As with all start-ups, it’s not been plain sailing. He explained how joining the Founders Institute in Singapore was a turning point. He made connections, found mentors to help refine his ideas – and was able to secure the funding needed to start things rolling.
Usman’s perception of Singapore, South East Asia and the surrounding areas was compelling listening for me. “LinkedIn awareness in Singapore with the youth audience is close to 0%. People here are still choosing careers based on traditional pressures like parents wishes, brands and the paycheck size. I believe that there is an opportunity for SMEs (Small & Medium sized Enterprises) to stop the traditional flow of talent to MNCs. We aim with Identifii to job match young talent with more satisfying jobs in the SME sector.”
I was surprised that the Identifii platform only allows access via a Facebook log-in. Usman explained: “We chose Facebook as a way to filter who came in to the site. LinkedIn also has very little take up in the region. However, in the future we will offer a straight forward log-in process and customer validation with Twitter and LinkedIn.”
Usman has a very intuitive feel of the youth audience. “Graduates have typically 6-800 friends on Facebook – it’s a new personal asset that this generation just takes for granted. It’s ‘just there!’. These links through their lifetime will be the links that will create partnerships, job offers and other opportunities.”
Identifii is currently in Alpha testing. He’s opened it up to about 150 people who he knows – or in my case have registered interest. It’s already seen a viral effect with 2,000 folk now using the service. I must admit at the end of the psychometric test when you say “you’ve got me dead right” – it does make you want to get your pals to give it a try. Quite infectious marketing.
Usman’s target audience is a graduate 2 years out of university or college who has just realised they have taken the wrong career path. Identifii will be there to help them get back on course.
As well as the many job sites on the web, Identifii faces competition from newcomers like Roundpegg, OneDayOneJob and BranchOut. I think Usman’s focus in English speaking Asia is a good strategy – and we might well see it transfer around the world too. As he identifies though: “The biggest challenge is building our relationships with employers to provide jobs for Identifii’s users. We currently have 25 businesses involved – and are aiming for 200 employers by summer. It’s essential we can prove we can match the new found awareness with a suitable job.”
Usman is intending to roll out a whole range of self-assessment/psychometric tests for Identifii. He wants to “democratise” this sort of testing by making them free or low price. He also intends to make them fun – so that people enjoy taking part.
I really like Identifii – and Usman’s vision of making the world a better place by getting Gen Y in to the jobs that match them! Do give Identifii and their psychometric test a try. Please do come back here and tell me what “sort of person you are”!