Tuesday, 31 August 2021 11:52

Part 2: IT execs share the best pieces of advice Dad gave them and its impact in honour of Father's Day 2021 Featured


The second in our series of articles featuring IT executives and the great advice their father gave them in life, as well as lessons they've learned from fatherhood (and have applied to their IT careers) is here, and this may yet grow to into a three-part series, but here's the next set of top tech commentary!

Earlier this year, iTWire ran articles celebrating International Women's Day and female leaders and entrepreneurs in tech and IT execs sharing great advice their mums gave them, and yesterday, we did the same for IT execs celebrating their fathers, fatherhood, great advice they had received, and more, in a Part 1 article, with Part 3 now here and a new Part 4 too.

This year, Father's Day is on Sunday, September 5, and as we did with International Women's Day, we'll also have content celebrating International Men's Day on Friday, November 19, in mid-November.

As noted yesterday, we put out a call stating it would be great to hear from fathers, along with men and women in the world of tech, and we asked the questions below. Note - Father’s Day is still several days away, so if you’re in IT and would like to make a contribution, you still can - send it to editor (at) iTWire dot com, and we can have a part three to this series.

Here are the questions:

Q1. What lessons did you learn from your father, or the fathers of others in your life, that have helped you get to where you are today?

Q2. If you are a father, what lessons has fatherhood taught you that you've been able to apply to the world of IT and business?

Q3. How has the COVID crisis and modern technology shaped how you've had to juggle fatherhood, work and family?

Q4. What advice do you have for other fathers on how tech has helped you to be a better father?

Q5. What do you wish technology could do, but isn't yet doing, that could help you to be a better father?

Q6. Do you have some good questions you think should be asked of fathers that I can ask others also contributing to this article?

Question 2 was asked “if you are a father” because I was leaving the option open, in the spirit of inclusivity, for women, and men who aren’t fathers, or fathers yet, to reflect on lessons their fathers had taught them, or lessons they had learned from other fathers, but only fathers responded, which seems to be the most appropriate thing for Father’s Day anyway - but I didn’t want to leave anyone out if they wanted to make a contribution.

With Question 6, I didn't get a chance to ask this question of the other respondents, however, the questions offered up are good for our own reflection, and we can answer all of these questions for ourselves.

I also asked the respondents to feel free to answer as many or as few of the questions as they wanted, and as noted, this article has been split into two parts because of the volume and quality of responses.

So, in part two, we are hearing from the following IT executives and fathers, in first name alphabetic order.

1. Benjamin Balk, founder and CEO of KindiCare
2. Dean Mao, CTO and co-founder of Beforepay
3. Jeremy Smart, Vice President of Sales, Asia Pacific & Japan, Acoustic
4. Mathew Baba, Art Director, Lightspeed
5. Stuart Hislop, Managing Director, AMR Hair & Beauty 

So, let's get started!

1. Benjamin Balk, founder and CEO of KindiCare

Featuring Benjamin, Julini Halim-Balk (Benjamin's wife), and their two daughters, Amelia and Annelise

I have always been very independent, driven and career focussed. I never expected I might have children but am now the very proud dad of two lovely daughters.

When I started my fatherhood journey, I never could have anticipated how much influence fatherhood and COVID were going to have in reshaping me, my life and my career for the better. There are two key things fatherhood has taught me:

One, time is short. Whilst I still work hard as the founder and CEO of a start-up, there is a big difference since leaving corporate life. I am very fortunate that I now have the flexibility in my life to do daddy drop off, to take a bush walk in the middle of the day or to play hide and seek after school. These are moments you can’t get back – they are so important for my girls and so rewarding for me as a father.

Two, the importance of early learning. It takes a village to raise a child. Having never experienced early learning prior to having children, I’ve been able to watch my girls learn, grow and develop on a daily basis through their experiences at home, and their experiences with their educators and friends.

My wife and daughters are the reason that my business, KindiCare, now exists. Before finding childcare for my children, I did not realise the challenges parents have while navigating childcare in Australia. Fatherhood has enabled me to improve this experience for all parents.

2. Dean Mao, CTO and co-founder of Beforepay

2nd photo - Dean and son

I grew up in a Chinese village and my father was a businessman who was a jack of all trades - from being a construction engineer to running a cotton factory. He would always encourage me to try new things, and made sure I stay focused on the task at-hand and to never be afraid of failure. His agility and grit inspires me every day to push further and work harder.

Today, I am the proud father of an 8 year old boy and it has taught me a few things.

Problem solving: Like with business, children change every day and so do the problems they face. I am helping my son learn how to problem solve for himself. This is carried throughout my own work, and through my team.

Attention to detail: Kids pick up on everything so it’s important to be aware of what they’re learning. In business, it helps you produce high quality work and to ensure your team can roll out releases safely. A small bug can impact thousands of users and result in the loss of millions of dollars.

Enjoy what you do: Try and be as present as possible and make sure you celebrate the wins as an entrepreneur and as a father.

We’re lucky to have access to technology through the COVID crisis. Our team gets to operate as usual because technology has allowed us to do so. In the same vein, it has also allowed my son and I to stay connected and spend more time together - we play lots of online games including Minecraft and Feed and Grow: Fish and he’s already started building games from scratch.

There’s still some way to go for technology and I do wish it could provide richer virtual reality services to fathers so they can have more fun with their children - Think experiencing different lifestyles, exploring planets, going under the ocean for example.

3. Jeremy Smart, Vice President of Sales, Asia Pacific & Japan, Acoustic

Over the years, I've learned that my father’s significance didn't stop after he passed away at only 48 years of age. The phrase "actions speak louder than words" ring true with the influence he played in supporting and listening to me. As a highly skilled carpenter his expertise was completely foreign to my career, but he did teach me that, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail".

This advice has guided me throughout my career as a leader, ensuring I continue to listen, learn, and remain adaptive to people and environments. Happily, I can share that my tool kit has graduated from a single hammer.

Patience, calmness, and perspective are three-character traits Dad embodied. He never raised his voice and was an incredible diplomat with how he engaged and connected to people from all walks of life. The corporate world labels this "strong EQ", or "excellent soft skills". I suspect tradies have their own labels but I focus on continued development of such skills professionally in the workplace with my team, and personally at home with my three kids, wife and friends.

Navigating the last 18 months with Covid has been incredibly challenging for the world. The lines of work and home have never been more blurred. Juggling home schooling, relationships and our professional careers has placed stress and strain unforeseen since the second world war. The importance of listening to your team and observing for signs of stress and anxiety are mirrored like that of a father (or parent) watching over his children.

The best is yet to come was a mantra my father echoed through life and remains a guiding principle within my domain. Let’s hope this remains true as we come out the other side of Covid.

4. Mathew Baba, Art Director, Lightspeed

My mum and dad arrived in Australia in the early 80’s, fleeing the uncertain future they had in Iran. It was hard for them, not knowing the language, no family, no friends and very little money. But together, they created a new life - one that I’m forever grateful for. The journey, the sacrifice, the challenges and the freedom.

Growing up, I was always a little shocked at the difference between my dad and many other immigrant fathers that I knew. He would never push the cliche idea on me of becoming a doctor, surgeon, lawyer or engineer. All that ever mattered to him was that I was happy.

We have always shared a special bond over art, creativity and craftsmanship. It’s also what has inspired me to pursue a career in design, and after many long conversations, he finally understood what being a Graphic Designer was. Since then, he knew that I had found something that brings me joy and fulfilment, and that was all that mattered.

When I think about the influence these experiences had on me, I remember the patience and space he provided to help me find what brought purpose to my life. In the fast-paced and forever evolving tech industry that I’m part of, I look to these values to provide me with clarity, confidence and inspiration

5. Stuart Hislop, Managing Director, AMR Hair & Beauty

Becoming a father of two changed my whole outlook on life. Before having children, I was almost entirely self-reliant. I executed my personal and professional tasks as I felt best in the moment, without considering potential long-term consequences.

Many things changed once my two little ones came into the world - the main one being how I saw my day-to-day tasks. Both in my personal and professional life, I now approach all things with an understanding that I’m simply part of a larger picture - and this is such a humbling realisation! This shift in my psyche has made such a positive impact on my life as a whole and I’ve experienced more harmonious and fulfilling results.

COVID-19 has of course added a level of complexity to raising children while working full-time. Like so many other parents in this country, the onset of lockdown and restrictions actually increased my workload at home. Homeschooling two children while working full time is no easy feat!

However, thanks to technology, this period has been much smoother than it may have been even a few short years ago. Certain platforms and tools have allowed me to manage my professional time more effectively, and, as a result, spend much more valuable time with my children.

Fatherhood is an incredibly challenging yet rewarding experience. The pandemic has thrown many curve balls into this journey, but has also cemented just how important it is to enjoy the simple things in life, spend as much time with your family as possible, and embrace the things your children can teach YOU throughout it all.

You can see Part 1 of this Father's Day 2021 series, here, part 3 is here and here's the new Part 4.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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