Friday, 03 September 2021 14:11

Part 4: IT execs share the best pieces of advice Dad gave them and its impact in honour of Father's Day 2021 Featured

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The fourth 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 as always, there is great content within!

Earlier this year, iTWire ran an article celebrating International Women's Day and female leaders in tech and IT execs sharing great advice their mums gave them.

Earlier this week, we did the same for IT execs celebrating their fathers, fatherhood, great advice they had received, and more in a part 1 article, part 2 here and part 3 here.

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 in the other three articles, 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.

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 KAAof 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 - and it was great to see that in Part 3, Lisa Teh, made a welcome female 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.itio

Here we go:

So, in part three, we are hearing from the following IT executives, fathers and a daughter, Lisa Teh, sorted by first name alphabetic order:

1. Adam Frank, Solutions Consulting Director, Australia & New Zealand, SugarCRM
2. Alok Kulkarni, Co-founder and CEO, Cyara
3. David Walsh, Founder and CEO, CIM
4. Julian Pullen, Co-Founder and Head of Automation Experience, CiGen
5. Michael Cross, Asia Pacific and Japan VP of Alliances and Channels at Software AG

1. Adam Frank, Solutions Consulting Director, Australia & New Zealand, SugarCRM

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?

My father is a principled man and someone who naturally gravitates towards leadership positions because he cares about the people around him, and genuinely seeks the best possible outcome for as many people as possible. I’ve seen this evidenced in his family, his work, his church, and now as of a few days ago - he has become president of his local badminton club! He is soon to hit 70 years old and originally joined the club a few months ago to provide free coaching to disadvantaged individuals. Now he runs it.

My father has shown me that it is okay to make unpopular decisions if you do it for the right reasons. Sometimes, the beneficiaries of these decisions are the very ones who may criticise your choices and don’t even realise what you have done for them, or at what cost it came. But your knowledge of the reasons, and the impact you’ve had, doesn’t require their praise or acknowledgement for it to have been the right thing. He taught me to not just say ‘yes’ and blindly follow, but to have courage to stand up for your convictions.

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?

While putting my young son to sleep, I’ll often tell him things about my day. Despite the knowledge that he won’t understand the majority of it, I find myself simplifying the language. This process of synthesising many complex events down to bite-sized pieces can be cathartic at times, but more generally promotes mindfulness.

Explain it ‘like I’m a five year old’ mindset here is a good mental muscle to regularly exercise as we are being bombarded with content nearly every hour of the day, and separation from noise is a significant challenge. I believe some kind of activity like this is helpful in all professions.

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

As someone who finished parental leave right as lockdown first began, I’ve never really known what it meant to be a father without a pandemic. It’s just been a fact of life. The lockdowns mean there hasn’t really been a clear delineation between what is work vs family vs fatherhood.

My baby-now-toddler has joined me on Zoom calls with prospects, partners and customers of all kinds - from frontline workers to C level executives. My heart has been warmed by how many people welcomed his (often vocal) contributions. At times, I need to mute him (us) and am reminded by others “Don’t worry! I’ve been there!”, but I have to say, keyboard shortcuts to do this have been a lifesaver more than once.

Work isn’t all just meetings, we need some focus time too, so I converted a corner of our garage into a working space. The ability to use blurring/a background image has certainly meant the calls that I take there certainly look a lot more professional now.

The most impactful aspect of technology has been home delivery. Every second day, something else arrives at my door - dry goods via Amazon Prime and fresh food via Woolworths. Occasionally UberEats will bring something that we’re craving at the moment (yesterday, it was banana bread). I am just happy to have more time to spend with my family.

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

Something I want is for my son to know me. The challenge is that “me” is a fluid concept. The parent I will be in the future is different to the parent I am today. I believe we overestimate our powers of memory if we can remember every incarnation of a parent we are, along the way. Even now, my memory of being the parent of a newborn is faint and difficult to grasp.

From his first week, I began writing emails to my son. The emails are not there to document his progress - Google Photos does a fine job of that. It is to share with him what I am thinking, what I am feeling and what is important to me at that time. I want to paint a clear enough picture of who I am, so that at a later point in my son’s life, he has an ability to get to know what I was like during his childhood. Technology makes this relatively easy, it just takes time.

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

Something I think that can help everyone be better people, is being more present in the moment. I wish technology could do more to help with this.

I would love to put a “universal do not disturb” flag up, somewhere, and suddenly all digital forms of communication are paused across all devices/channels. A digital AI assistant continues to receive my emails, calls, texts etc, and does the triage for me to work out if there really is a reason why I should stop playing with my son right now. It helps me put my phone down and not be distracted by the buzz of there being something new.

If technology could capture memories that go beyond three dimensions - if it could capture thoughts/feelings at the same time - that would be amazing. We would be less obsessed with wanting to capture a tiny version of reality using our cameras, and instead, enjoy the moments for what they are.

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

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to these questions, I am very excited to read about the personal journey’s of other fathers working in technology.

2. Alok Kulkarni, Co-founder and CEO, Cyara

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?

My father taught me some valuable life lessons that have held me in good stead that have gotten me to where I am today. His mantra of not being afraid to chart your own course by being intrepid and to change the status quo where needed is something I’ve ascribed to all my life. My father also believed that it’s important to be the best at your craft and those are words that I’ve lived by all my life.

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?

Being a father has taught me many things, many of which I’ve been able to apply to what I do at work and in the business. As a father, the ability to venture outside my comfort zone has been key as there have been many moments in business where I’ve had to do just that. This has enabled me to be a better and more confirdent entrepreneur and to strive to be the best in business, be it locally or globally.

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

While COVID has been devastating, the one good thing that has come out of it on the personal front has been the ability to spend more time with my family on activities such as nature walks and board games. I’ve also been able to spend quality time with my family and cook for them. I try to lead by example at home by introducing mindfulness and physical fitness activities such as yoga to my family, which are important to our well-being.

As for work, I’ve had to change my routine slightly and become more of a morning person so that I attend work calls which cater to the US West Coast timezone. It’s actually worked out really well and I’ve been able to connect with colleagues in the US as well as with the Australian team thereafter in the work day.

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

Technology has greatly enabled us to sit down as a family and stay connected via video, voice and social with loved ones near and far. While we’re all working hard to do the right thing and stay at home during the pandemic it can become very easy to lose touch. Without realising it, so many people have ‘socially’ distanced themselves instead of ‘physically’ distancing themselves. Technology-enabled socialising has never been more important than right now; without it, we wouldn’t be able to check in on the people who are important to us.

Many of us have learnt the hard way that technology has the ability to chew into your day with very little results. But if used well, it can really increase your personal productivity and reduce the mundane, allowing you to pursue passions and creativity, giving you more time to do the things with our children that are all too often taken for granted.

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

Screen addiction remains one of the biggest concerns and day-to-day challenges in our family home. Better capabilities and options to help us safeguard our children still need to be prioritised and included as standard by tech providers. Apps have become dangerously good at gamification to keep children enthralled for long periods of time, which results in mental health and behavioural challenges that parents have to battle against.

3. David Walsh, Founder and CEO, CIM

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?

My family has been running its own businesses since 1883 in our home town in Ireland. My father, who passed away this time last year, was a true gentleman who always treated people with dignity and respect. He taught me the importance of integrity and honesty in all your dealings.

With the family being in business for over 200 years, he taught me values are critical in business - that success in business is a long game and not about simply nailing the best possible short term deal. How you treat people is of the utmost importance.

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?

I don’t like dictating things to my children - I want to nurture them. I want to lead them by example, be empathetic and allow them to be themselves.

Leadership is a lot like parenting. How you behave is not just important - it is the only thing that matters.

You can’t make anyone do anything. You have to lead and show. And, in Ireland, there’s also the value of craic - don’t take yourself too seriously.

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

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has created lots of challenges for people. But the silver lining has been the opportunity to spend a lot more time with my children who are aged 14 and 16. I’m seeing a lot more of them and have been much more engaged in their lives.

We often hear so-called experts talk about quality time. But nothing beats quantity time. Spending time together over meals, helping with school work and just being present has been a huge blessing during lockdowns and pandemic restrictions.

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

Being a good father is about being present. That means not being permanently attached to a phone or laptop. The most helpful thing I’ve done with tech is put it aside to ensure I give my kids my full attention.

Kids shouldn’t have to compete with technology to get their father’s attention.

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

Load and unload the dishwasher!

As my children grow older and become more independent in a post-pandemic world, technology will help us stay in contact more easily. With most of my family located in Europe, being able to quickly call or video conference is great. But I can’t hug my family or friends, or share a cup of tea with them. Maybe teleportation is the answer.

4. Julian Pullen, Co-Founder and Head of Automation Experience, CiGen

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?

The lessons I learnt, and are still learning, from my father is to never give up and to be true to myself. My father has always encouraged me to be the best that I can be and stretch myself, even when I think I’m at a good level. He’s taught me a valuable lesson - to try and look at life and scenarios from different perspectives and not just focus on what is right in front of you.

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?

Patience. Being a father of two young girls, who have very different personalities, I find myself having to be patient with them a lot of the time. This is a main aspect that I have been able to transfer into my professional career within IT and business, because, as much as we would like everything to happen right there and then, we need to have patience and sometimes wait for the right moment.

I am also in a rare position of having founded a technology company with my father and brother. We’re a true intergenerational business with myself representing the view of the millennial generation, my brother being a generation X and our father a baby boomer. The rich difference in perspective helps us to understand our clients and tailor unique solutions.

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

It has definitely given me another view on life. Pre-COVID everything was a lot more structured, whereby I would be in the office by 9:30am, home by 6:00pm, then have some family time before the girls go to bed.

COVID obviously has thrown all of that on its head, and now working from home the majority of the time, together with homeschooling, I’ve learnt how to manage and break up my time more effectively during the day so that I am experiencing more memories with my family.

Technology has also made things easier by being able to stay connected with my work colleagues, clients and loved ones.

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

Don’t be afraid to let your kids get to know technology. They understand and pick things up at a much faster rate than we did as children, and given the importance of technology in our day to day lives, it is important that they understand it. There are very good parental controls available now to help them learn technology safely.

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

I wish that we had some sort of holodeck style technology (like from Star Trek) so that I could see my kids could explore the world and the universe.

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

I think this is a great initiative and I very much look forward to reading the responses and learning more about other fathers personal work/life journeys. 

5. Michael Cross, Asia Pacific and Japan VP of Alliances and Channels at Software AG

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?

One of the more important lessons I learnt from my father is that you should think big and follow your dreams. Through hard work and persistence you can achieve many great things and if you don’t get there you shouldn’t have any regrets from not trying.

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?

A key lesson I have learnt from fatherhood is you need to be adaptable in life to get the most out of it. You can always have the best plans but things change and you need to adapt to the situation to make the most out of it. This rings true with the rapidly changing technology impacts on people’s lives and society impacts like COVID.

Change is constant and if you want to be successful you need to constantly assess the path forward. Children are growing up in an environment where technology change is dominant in their lives, they will need to adapt faster than our generation.

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

COVID has had quite a big impact on my fatherhood, work and family life. I went from travelling internationally and domestically weekly, seeing my family mainly on weekends to now appreciating what happens in the household during the week. Seeing my children during the week, taking them to sport and watching them learn through home schooling is the positive in the current crisis.

It has made me appreciate even more that children only grow up once. You need to make the most of creating the memories and guiding them to be the best they can be.

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

Technology has enabled me to be more connected to family no matter where I am working from. Whilst on the road using video calls to see and talk to the family has allowed me to keep in touch and still be part of the family.

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

If teleporting was real with the use of technology this would enable me in normal times to spend more time with family and still travel widely for work.

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

One of the questions I always talk to friends and family about is what is the smallest thing that you have done that has had the biggest impact on someone’s life. A simple smile or asking a person are they ok can go a long way.

There's plenty more in part 1, part 2 and part 3 here. 


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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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