JAW Speak

Jonathan Andrew Wolter

Archive for April, 2010

Being Part of ThoughtWorks: Pillar 3 Social and Economic Justice

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Reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

At ThoughtWorks, we have many great technological projects, and brilliant coworkers. But beyond all that is a power for social good that is out at work in the world. Today, many of us are involved in ongoing projects with UNICEF and other non-profit organizations, helping solve fundamental human issues with technology. Last winter North America had an all-hands, and we brought in people like Merrick who’s helping the world with mobile SMS based apps at UNICEF. And we have Jeff Wishnie who is a Silicon Valley veteran, paragliding instructor, and now our Director of Social Engagement. He brings both socially aligned clients, and goes out and leads missions into all parts of the world using technology to better humanity.

ThoughtWorks has three distinct pillars that describe it:

  • First it needs to be a sustainable business.
  • Second it champions software excellence.
  • Third it has a passion for social and economic justice.

Our founder and chairman, Roy Singam, sent a great email out a few days ago that inspired this post, and reminded me the importance of how each of us choose to spend our working hours. Over coffee and engaging life-beyond-mere-profitability conversations he gave me permission to quote him:

“Being part of an organization that advances a cause is an important. Associating with people who collectively encourage moral behavior is one of the most important decisions one makes in life. To ignore this and treat these decisions as simple career decisions (or give a little guilt money) is avoiding moral responsibility.”

We have ThoughtWorkers on the ground in real projects working with global and local NGO’s that allow us to directly apply technology, process design, and lean management to changing the world. The mobile space is especially exciting.

I believe future proof, profitable corporations, with reason beyond profit will retain the most capable employees, and provide lasting global impact as 100-year socially-positive companies. Profit, smarts, and growth is essential, but the meaning of work-life must extend beyond the bottom line.

Written by Jonathan

April 29th, 2010 at 1:48 am

Posted in career, thoughtworks

Future of Work at London Business School: My Take on ThoughtWorks Globally

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Reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

Thanks to Roy’s urging, over the last 6 months I’ve been involved with London Business School’s Lynda Gratton in a consortium on the Future of Work. What will work look like in 2020, and how can companies become “future proof?” Specifically, what will global corporations look like? We kicked it off in London last November, where we met and discussed with people at several dozen companies. It’s been an honor, and a time to meet many interesting people.

Today, looking back at it, I am extraordinarily proud to call myself a ThoughtWorker. As an employer, we have a unique positioning of a global culture, lived out social values, and world changing technology.

Go visit any ThoughtWorks’ office in the world and you’ll find many people on international assignment. Further globalization and virtual-globalization will permeate work in 2020 — but today we clearly stand out as a leader amongst our peers. On vacation last winter in Beijing (pictures), I visited our office. It felt no more like I was in China then if I were in our offices in Bangalore, San Francisco, London or Chicago. It was not an “American culture,” but a “smart, interesting, passionate” culture of people with deep and varied interests — surrounded by great technology and delivering some game-changing products.

We encourage frequent cross-pollination of ideas and experiences through short and long term transfers. I felt right at home, met some amazing people (fellow TW’er and father of the Chinese internet Michael Robinson), got set up with daily Chinese lessons, and returned to visit in the office (for said lessons) almost every day.

There are so many more things to write about. It’s inevitable for work in 2020 to involve more cultures, countries, and languages. The marketplace for your goods could be half way around the world. Virtual-workers and virtual-meetings will explode. Yet, I also predict more face time with global coworkers. (Think how the world will change when we have US to Asia, or Europe to South America point to point travel in a few hours via spaceflight.) This will usher in increased complexity, and security measures; however I am excited for the future.

I have many more ideas, especially about the social values side of work in 2020 — but in true agile fashion, I’d like to see if anyone is interested in this before putting in more time up front.

Written by Jonathan

April 9th, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Posted in career, thoughtworks