Yes, I’m back looking for my next big opportunity. For context start below, for the details head to the bottom of this post.
Five years ago I sat on the Unreasonable at Sea ship, docked in Ho Chi Minh City, planning next steps in a life and career that’s taken me from programming Commodore PET computers, running primate sanctuaries and developing messaging tools to mentoring tech startups and students on a ship with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. If it’s all about the journey, then I think I’ve done pretty well.
Despite all of that, as time passes the destination inevitably becomes just as important. After almost 30 years working in technology – 25 years of those in conservation and international development – I’ve been rewarded with some amazing friendships, many wonderful experiences and more than my fair share of (unexpected) recognition and awards. But now feels like the right time to once again see what might be next.
My last attempt to find it was halted by some great opportunities to work with a bunch of other people on their projects, and to publish “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator”. In between the paid work I’ve continued the trend of doing a bunch of talks and guest writing, and helping mentor students and early stage socially-focused technology startups, usually in my own time. I’ve been fortunate to be able to do that.
When it comes to change I could, of course, continue as I have done for the past twenty-odd years and see where my journey takes me. But that now feels a little too risky, not to mention the uncertainty of having to cobble together a salary year-on-year (even though I’ve done pretty well at it for well for fifteen years). I now have responsibilities, and a journey which has largely been just about me is now about others, too. I’m no longer travelling alone.
I often highlight in my many talks that back in the beginning my ideal job didn’t exist, so I had to create it. My passion for technology, anthropology, conservation and development are enshrined in everything I’ve done with kiwanja.net for the past fifteen years, largely based on my experiences over the previous decade or so. Looking back, I probably wouldn’t change a thing.
But now it feels like time to make better use of what I’ve learnt, and take it forward somewhere else. I’m not entirely sure what or where that ‘somewhere else’ might be, but I have a little while to find out.
What might I offer that ‘somewhere else’?
- Over twenty-five years experience working in emerging markets, mostly across Africa
- Thirty years experience in the IT sector
- Fifteen years at the forefront of mobile-for-development (m4d)
- A wide variety of multi-industry and non-profit contacts
- Deep understanding of innovation and (social) entrepreneurship
- A track record of speaking at international conferences
- A track record in blogging and writing for websites, books and magazines
- A solid understanding of appropriate technologies
- A track record in the successful development and roll-out of FrontlineSMS
- Various competition judging and Advisory roles
- Experience from Entrepreneurship in Residence roles at CARE and DFID
- An inherent belief that technology, designed and implemented appropriately and sensitively, can have a profoundly positive impact in the world
- Ridiculous amounts of enthusiasm and a ‘can do’ attitude
- (Click here for full bio and list of achievements)
What does the ideal opportunity look like?
- It can be in the corporate or social sectors – I don’t mind
- It has a mission I can believe in
- It gives me freedom to think
- And a little freedom to write
- But importantly, freedom to be creative
- And opportunities to share and learn with others
- With colleagues who also believe in what they do
Where might there be a fit?
- You’re a charitable foundation looking for someone to drive your technology-themed grant giving
- You’re a large technology company needing someone to manage your CSR programme
- You’re a design company working on developing or implementing technologies or services for emerging markets
- You’re an education establishment in need of someone who’s spent a lot of time getting stuck in on the ground, with a strong interest and understanding of technology and development
- You’re a startup in need of a helping hand to get your technology or service off-the-ground
- You’re looking for an Entrepreneur in Residence
- Or you may just like what I’ve been doing over the years and have the resources to financially support kiwanja.net so it can carry on doing it, and build on it. I continue to do a lot for free.
There are no doubt many other options. I’ve always quite fancied politics, too. Or a career in documentary film making (anyone want to make a film about technology and social innovation?). So anything and anywhere are on the table right now.
For the time being I’ll be finishing off some work with the Disasters Emergency Committee, working on a series of social innovation books for children and catching up on some reading. I’m in no immediate hurry for the page to turn, and think the right next step is out there somewhere. It just might take a while to find it.
If you have any ideas, would like to chat, or know anyone else who might be interested in talking feel free to share this post with them, or drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you. My LinkedIn profile is here.