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7 Questions with Charles Shaw
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7 Questions with Charles Shaw
Name: Charles Shaw
Current title: Director
Current organization: FixedPoint IO
Founding director of a machine learning startup. We are on a mission to enable products without data barriers by pushing the limits of cutting-edge computing and machine learning, with minimal engineering overhead or privacy risk.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
There are many challenges one can expect to experience as a startup founder. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to understand the multidimensional mandates of their role. Founders have the expanded
responsibility of optimising the product, influencing the customer experience, and mitigating business risk.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I spotted a gap in the market for an affordable software as a service solution to help PR and marketing teams monitor media coverage across both news and social media and enhance brand management. I had an initial vision of eliminating the costs involved in offering such a service and eventually was able to create such a platform. Then I left my job and things just went organically from there.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
This is actually an interesting question as I have been thinking about how best to optimise my work-flow and personal well-being. People, according to common wisdom, have a different work experience on Mondays than they do on Fridays. But if one looks at the organisational behaviour literature, few academic studies distinguish between workdays, implying that the employee experience is consistent throughout the week. This is clearly not true, since people's job satisfaction and job stressors change over the workweek. I personally found that separating one's week into two parts yields results in the long run. Around 70% of my time is spent dealing with practical business issues, for example dealing with current or prospective clients, answering emails, and so on. Then, around 30% of my time -- this is usually towards the end of the week is spent on matters relating to technology. To achieve maximum productivity it helps to minimise distractions (phone off!) and tap into a more abstract thinking style, which I call being 'in the zone'. This feeling of being 'in the zone' is marked by an elevated yet effortless sense of concentration. It is similar to being in a state of flow, which can be described as an enjoyable feeling of deep absorption in a task. It is very important to minimise distractions because you want to achieve a high degree of concentration and focus on a limited field of attention.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Leadership has a range of definitions, but at its simplest it is concerned with the ability to influence others to achieve goals. The most successful technology leaders tend to have an active and abstract thinking style. They are willing to challenge the status quo and consider novel alternatives. Entrepreneurial and fluid in their approach, they are not likely to be hindered by process and bureaucracy; they have the keen ability to see the big picture. Perhaps the most significant leadership lesson I learnt came from looking at what Ginni Rometty did with IBM. Rometty has led IBM's transition to a data company and made cognitive computing the center of its strategy for the future with Watson in several verticals. She is one of only 3% of women executives in Fortune 500. Half of IBM's revenue comes from the emerging, high-value segments of IT versus its legacy software products. The lesson here is that nothing is set in stone and there is room for change and improvement around every corner.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Discourses and Selected Writings, by Epictetus
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Leadership is the ability to successfully manage transaction costs of an organisation. Prominent amongst organisational transaction costs are agency and coordination costs. The balance between these two types of costs depends on the purpose of the organisation.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I am afraid I do not have any stories to tell.