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The future is human: inside how a Master of Technological Futures can change people’s careers

Project management by remote control
Seamus Barden, left hand of Fr@nk Innovation & Transformation

For Seamus Barden, the Master of Technological Futures was literally life-changing.

Seamus moved from construction project management to IT ten years ago and thought he’d reached the top of his game.

“I’d gone as far as I could go with IT Infrastructure project management and actually was pretty overloaded with work at the time. So it was quite ironic when the course was recommended to me. But I went along to the interview and signed up the day after. The idea of listening to a whole lot of industry ‘doers’, that’s what excited me the most.”

And that’s when the transformation began.

“I thought I’d come out with a working piece of software and it would be my business model going forward but actually it’s opened up so many different doors. At the back of my mind I had aspirations I’d be the next Facebook, don’t we all! But there really is that level of excitement and I hadn’t got that level of excitement from my work for quite a while. To be able to sit there and dream about the ‘what if’ and be exposed to all these new ideas, you realised you had this chance to create a brand new future.”

?Through his Master’s, Seamus created a project management platform that allows consumers to manage their small land holdings remotely. 

?“My Master’s project was inspired by a block of land we own on Waiheke Island. I was getting local trades to go and have a look at a job and I wouldn’t be there to hand it over to them. We were getting lost in translation on the phone, and I couldn’t monitor the property when I wasn’t there. We’d have a big storm come through and I’d have to get on a ferry. So I wanted to see how I could put that all that onto a dashboard. If there was a fence broken, I wanted to be able to take a photo of the fence, geotag it, explain what I wanted, send it off to a custom trade, get them to go straight to that geotag location and then for me to be able to live track that they’re actually on the job when they say they are, for them to photograph it, send it back, close it out and then put in an invoice without me having to go back to follow it up.”

?He got it through to the prototype stage and now it’s waiting to be developed. Waiting, because Seamus is flat out. Since finishing his Master’s, his business Fr@nk has doubled in size.?

It’s made a massive difference to my life – how I interact with other people, how I learn and absorb, it’s made me a lot lighter on my feet in terms of the way I problem solve. I’ve had a few people come up to me and say I’m like a different person.

“I’ve now got my certification in running design thinking workshops, got Scrum certified, got Agile certified and become an Agile instructor. And I’m almost about to become DevOps certified. It’s opened a floodgate really. It’s also made a huge difference to how I spend my free time. I got rid of all social media and I must have read or listened to 150 books since I left the course.”

?Seamus says the Master of Technological Futures is an absolute no brainer.

“I didn’t know how insular I’d become. I think for males in particular, you reach your mid 40s and you get a bit time warped. I’d got to this really comfortable place and thought yeah I’ve cracked it but then I realised no, I haven’t cracked it at all, start again. Once those blinkers come off and you start seeing all these new opportunities, it’s very exciting.”

Taking her career to new heights
Ellen Yan, business development manager, Stuff

At Tech Futures Lab, we often talk about finding purpose or your ‘why?’ For Ellen Yan, it was to reach new heights in her role as Business Development Manager for leading media giant Stuff.

“My why, was to elevate myself within my workplace.”

 And elevate she did.

?Having seen first-hand how quickly the customer service landscape was changing, she decided to develop a chatbot to improve and future-proof Stuff’s customer experience.

“Stuff currently employs a team of nine customer service staff.  On a pro-rata basis, the business would need to have a team of 47 customer service staff to service 50,000 customers.  For business operations, the use of a chatbot would help optimize customer service efficiencies to manage customer needs as well as mitigate the potential need for significant added headcount. 

“Essentially, this is about preparing for the future in order to continue customer support as the company scales up. In addition, adding value to the customer experience to increase customer loyalty. Strategically it can be treated as a testing ground for a potential rollout to other Stuff business entities, ultimately adding substantial value to the entire Stuff portfolio.”

?The iteration, testing and development of a chatbot has not only provided untold benefits for Stuff; for Ellen The Master of Technological Futures has instilled a new sense of purpose. “It’s given me confidence and open-mindedness in emergent, disruptive technology space, but also enabled me to explore an area outside my skill set and allowed me to move within the chatbot space. It’s given me a boost in confidence and work have seen that, and I have been given a promotion!”

Ellen had been contemplating a MBA, but was  converted by  the practicality of the Master of Technological Futures: one year study as opposed to three and the applied elements versus 100% theory. 

 I look forward to my project going live. I can proudly say I played a significant part in bringing the project to life for Stuff Fibre. It’s a great feeling of achievement.

She was also drawn to  Tech Futures’ unique learning environment.

“I was impressed from the very first time I walked into the Lab. I resonated with both current students and advisors, engaging in very easy, intelligent conversations.” 

Other highlights  included exposure to industry experts at the forefront of new and emergent global trends and the opportunity to apply a real-life business project within her company that extended beyond her normal scope of work.

?“I was very fortunate to be supported by Stuff, not only for the time off during the initial immersion phase. They continued their support by allowing me to perform my current role over four days, and spend the fifth day on my project. It was a no brainer.”

?And Ellen’s message to others is to urge their employers to support them too. “You have to be brave. Talk to your current employer. A lot of employers don’t have time to explore the emerging and disruptive space, so it’s a win win for the employer, to have someone to dive into that space so they’re not left behind.

?“I’ve carved another option in terms of my career.”

Tech Futures Lab is enrolling now for their November Master’s programme. Find out more at techfutureslab.com.

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