Oct. 19, 2021

Lessons from Sondership


In this special bonus episode you will hear from Danny Attias, the creator and host of the Sondership Podcast give a 15 minute (TED style) talk called Lessons from Sondership which was recorded in front of a live audience on the 15th September 2021 at East London’s iconic Tobacco Dock.

Watch the video on Vimeohttps://vimeo.com/628283664/1bb90fafc5

The talk itself is focussed on the lessons he has learned from speaking to people with purpose since launching this podcast, covering three key themes:
-   turning your empathy, and those sonder moments, into purpose,
-   how imposter syndrome, or imposter phenomenon appears in the lives of almost every guest
-   and how there is a recurring theme of using privilege and turning it into allyship. 

The talk is followed by a question and answer session covering topics including privilege, sonder, imposter syndrome, diversity and inclusion as well as staying authentic while developing your brand.

A transcription of each episode, as well as guest profiles and much more, is available on our website www.sondership.com

Credits
Bizclik Media for inviting me to speak and hosting the event: https://www.bizclikmedia.com/
Title music - Buddha by Kontekst https://soundcloud.com/kontekstmusic
Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported — CC BY-SA 3.0
Free Download or Stream: http://bit.ly/2Pe7mBN
Music promoted by Audio Library https://youtu.be/b6jK2t3lcRs 

Transcript

Danny:

I'm Danny Attias, the host of the Sondership podcast. Thank you for tuning into this, our first bonus episode of the Sondership podcast, where you will hear a recording of a talk I gave called Lessons from Sondership on the 15th of September, 2021 in front of a live audience in East London's iconic Tobacco Dock. The talk itself is focused on the lessons I've learned from speaking to people with purpose since launching this podcast, it covers three key themes. From turning your empathy, those sonder moments into purpose, how imposter syndrome or imposter phenomenon appears in the lives of almost every guest and how there is a recurring theme of using privilege and turning it into allyship. The talk itself is just 15 minutes long and it's followed by a question and answer session in which I respond on topics, including privilege, sonder, imposter syndrome, diversity and inclusion, as well as staying authentic while developing your brand. A video of the event, including slides is available on our Vimeo and YouTube channels and accessible through our website at sondership.com I don't often get an opportunity to talk directly to you, our listeners, and so I want you to say thank you, whether you're tuning in for the first time or you've been following us from episode one. Thank you for listening and welcome to the Sondership podcast. I'm your host, Danny Attias, and this is Lessons from Sondership. So when I was about 12 years old, I remember noticing an attractive woman crossing the road and how the traffic stopped for her. And I thought to myself, I wonder if she experiences a world differently to the way other people experience the world. It didn't get me thinking about how lucky she is or what's her privilege, but just how she'll have a different perspective on life, on interaction. Now that's a grand statement and probably she doesn't, but it was the first time that I started to think about how other people view the world and how other people experience the world. It was probably my first experience of sonder. Now, sonder is a word created by John Koenig in his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. And John puts together lots of different words to put, put a sentiment on something that doesn't have a word yet. Like sonder. So sonder is this realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. We all have our own stories playing through, and often we'll think about other people and other people's stories and interactions. But how often are we thinking about their whole story, their whole experience, where we don't feature in it. Now I learned this word from Seth Godin who runs the altMBA. I did that course earlier in 2021, and it really resonated with me. It made me think about how people can think about other things. And how that can go on to make them think about how they are an influence on their lives. So I created a podcast called Sondership. Sondership takes that basic principle of sonder and the intention is to create a global community, sharing their experiences of sonder, their stories about empathy and having a positive impact on society. Now a little bit about myself. I'm a chief digital and information officer, I'm a technologist by trade but it's not a technology podcast. We don't really talk about technology. Albeit there are quite a few technology focussed guests because they're in my network to start with, I'm also a mentor for women in technology. I'm very passionate about diversity and I'm also a digital advisor to various different charities and social enterprises as well. To give me more perspective on the world. So since starting up Sondership about two months ago, I've released 10 episodes. And what I'd like to talk to you about today is what have I learned so far, it's just the beginning, but what have I learned so far from talking to these people about their life experiences, their sonder moments, the social impact that they're trying to have. Now, what I'm trying to achieve here is getting people to think about, what your purpose is, and whether you're following that purpose and you're putting as much effort into that as you want to, not as you need to, but as much as you want to. And I've spoken to a wide variety of people, with very different backgrounds and very different life stories and experiences, and there are three key themes that have come out of that. So far, one of them derived from those Sonder moments is about empathy. It's about your regard for other people, your regard for the rest of society and how you can turn that into purpose. The second is about imposter syndrome. It's a running theme in almost every single one of the conversations that I've had. You see these people achieving outstanding things and you just think, oh, I couldn't do that. And in fact, there are some of these people that I have looked at and thought I can't do that. There's Rav Bumbra, who has created Cajigo, which is a platform to mentor, coach and encourage young girls into STEM, technology related careers, because that's where the future is. And that's where they can be most empowered. And that's where we can benefit from increased diversity in technology. There are others that I haven't interviewed yet, like Claire Priestley who created CIO+1, a lot of people in my trade go to CIO events, but they're surrounded by typically white male and pale people who are leading technology and organizations. And she said, I'll run an event, but bring a plus one with you, bring someone from within your team. Who's got the potential to go up the ranks, but don't look and sound and think like you do. And I've looked at those platforms and I thought, well, what's my platform. What can I create to have an impact? What do I care about? And I care about sustainability, equality, diversity, and social impact. And that's why I created the Sondership podcast. The third thing is about privilege. Privilege is not something that we need to be embarrassed about, but it is something that we can harness to make good. So how do you take your privilege and turn it into allyship? So those are the three things that I'd want to talk to you about today. So the first one is about taking those sonder moments and that empathy, looking at other people and thinking, how can I make a difference and how can I have an impact in their worlds. So an example that I'll use is Elena Sinel, Elena, in fact, her interview was so good. It was an hour and a half long and I just couldn't cut it. So there are two episodes with Elena part one and part two, and they are two very different sides of the same story. Elena was born in Uzbekistan. She hadn't seen a computer until she was 18, but now she runs events all over the world, encouraging teens to enter hackathons, to develop new artificial intelligence concepts. And what she's trying to do there is say on one hand, how do we get these kids to get the best quality of education that isn't just reading from a textbook and then passing exams? But it's actually about learning, coaching, developing, experimenting, and failing and learning from that experience. But on the other hand, how do we inject the much needed diversity into the development of artificial intelligence, which is absolutely essential. There's a lot of talk about that at the moment. And AI is just at the starting stages. So we've got to make sure we don't get society's biases into artificial intelligence. Now Elena's story takes her from age 18 in Uzbekistan helping her mom out at a museum, having learned English because her mom told her, learn English it's going to make a difference to your life. To ending up going around the world, working with the UN, going into Ethiopia and various other, underprivileged communities around the world and seeing how different people live and also seeing, helping, taking what she knew and helping them, make their lives a little bit richer, a little bit better. And I don't mean richer in terms of money. So Elena had a real strong sense of purpose, right from the very beginning, and that stuck with her. When, if you listen and get to part two, you'll find out that after seven years of doing all of that, living in the south of France on yachts and having this pretty incredible life, she always felt more comfortable helping people, than indulging in luxuries and actually ended up in a women's refuge with her daughter, trying to escape a very controlling husband, not having a passport in the UK, real hard work, but what's she doing? She's still sticking true to her principles. And even while in the refuge, he's coaching women on how to develop their own businesses, how to help themselves rather than be dependent on other people. It's a really good example of someone who is so purpose driven and that empathy from a very young age, following all the way through the second is imposter syndrome. It's really easy to listen to people's stories and to see people who've achieved great things and go well, that was easy for you, or you must be natural or you were privileged or you had opportunities I don't have, but actually most, if not all of those people. are suffer from imposter syndrome, which many of us do they are riddled with self doubt. The story of Avril Chester, who is an incredible ball of energy, she now runs a platform which is a AI conversational platform for cancer sufferers. It's called Cancer Central and it helps people who've been diagnosed with cancer. Like she had been. Start to answer some questions. Where can I find a wig? How can I help the rest of my family understand what's going on? Lots of different questions that people that have been diagnosed with cancer have, and Avril created that from nothing. She had pretty serious condition. She is now a cancer thriver. She doesn't like to use the word survivor, but she suffered from crippling imposter syndrome. The first time I saw Avril, she was standing on a stage wearing a sequin dress, winning an award from the women in it awards for entrepreneur of the year. And I sat there and just thought, this is incredible, you know, this woman is absolutely got it nailed. She knows what she's doing. She's got drive. Actually, what I didn't know is two days earlier, she was sitting at home, emptying a box of tissues, crying, doubting, fundamentally doubting, whether she could do what she wanted to do, whether anyone really cared anyone paid attention and whether she was able to achieve their thing that she was so passionate about, but she kind of brushed herself off and has gone from strength to strength, to strength and has become an inspiration for many, including myself. So you can't suppress your imposter syndrome, but another interviewee Debbie Forester who runs the Tech Talent Charter. She says that she tangos with hers. She dances with it. She has a conversation with it, but she doesn't try and shut it away. The next person, and the next theme is about privilege. And I, I think this one, this one, I resonate with a lot. I'm a white, British, privately educated male. I went to university. I have a huge number of benefits at my disposal that I've been able to work my way into a top CIO role at fabulous organization. But how can I turn that privilege, rather than be shy of it, how can I turn that into allyship? So this is about taking your privilege and being a better ally for other people. Now, I personally am very focused on diversity and also bringing people's messages so that others can learn from them. This example is Howard Jones, now Howard, great, strong family upbringing, great education, went to medical school, didn't finish medical school. He ended up in the army and Howard, over a number of decades actually served across five different continents. He did incredible things that you wouldn't just can't even comprehend. I know I couldn't, I was absolutely in awe when I was listening to his story but he saw a lot of inequality in the world. He would sit with the Kurds and hear their stories and look at what the Western environment or Western society we're doing to those people. He eventually thought to himself, this is not good enough, I can do more. He actually ended up at the Eden project, which is a millennium project, creating geodomes of tropical and rainforest type environments. He actually ended up selling banana plants to visitors of the Eden project. You just think, well, okay, you've just been around the world in the army and now. Banana plants what's going on here. And very quickly, he got involved in that project and he created his own platform using it. He was involved in helping homeless people build garden in the Chelsea flower show to help show people that everyone is the same, and that that homeless person on the street could have been you in a different set of circumstances. He was very conscious of his privilege and his position and his experience, but really being able to help other people. He's worked with ex offenders and youths who hadn't had a brilliant upbringing, getting them into football clubs with the premise of getting into a football club to do a program, but actually putting them on technology programmes so they can learn some basic skills which can get them into better jobs and then give them better outcomes. These are the kinds of things where you can take your privilege and turn it into allyship. So that's Howard's story. So I've given you three different examples, lessons that I've learned from this experience. So the first is empathy and how you can turn that empathy into purpose. The second was about imposter syndrome and not letting that hold you back. Be really confident about what you're doing and that you can make a difference. And then the third is about privilege and turning that privilege into allyship, being a better ally. So what I'd like you all to think about, is how does that feature in your life if it does at all? And if it doesn't that's okay. If it doesn't resonate, that's absolutely fine. I certainly don't think everyone has to have their purpose and they need to figure out what it is and they need to do something about it. It's simply saying, what am I passionate about? What do I get excited about? And most importantly, what makes me really angry. What inequalities do I see and do I sense that I get angry about? And is there any way that I can do something about that? Can I have a very small piece of the puzzle, but a small influence on having an S social impact on that thing that I get angry about? The second is don't let that imposter syndrome hold you back. Uh, people are nervous about what they do. They often doubt their capabilities. Uh, I don't design stuff. So I designed my logo. I don't really do questioning very well. So I created a podcast where I interview people and it wasn't easy. There's a huge amount of self doubt and nervousness behind each one of those things. But it's just about just experimenting and just testing it. And then the last one. It's about that privilege. What privilege do you have that you can use to help other people? What privilege can you use to make a difference? Now, if you're a technology leader, you know, the bare minimum is ensuring diversity within your teams. It's about talking about diversity, but doing something about it. And I don't just mean gender diversity. I mean, ethnic, socioeconomic, all types of different types of diversity. And the other thing you can do is also ensure you get lots of different input into the development of the platforms that you do. And particularly when it comes to artificial intelligence to try and eliminate those biases. So that's the example. So my ask to you is to have a think about your purpose, where you can make a difference, maybe act upon that and potentially also tune in and have a listen to a few episodes of the Sondership podcast.

Scott:

okay. Thank you, Danny. Really, really? Great session really insightful as well. Going back to the concept of sonder as well. It reminds me of something I've seen called Humans of New York. I don't know if you're aware of that. Um, it's on Facebook I believe. And what they do is they interview people that, you know, just randomly off the streets and they get their life story. And, you know, they, they're always just fascinating, but you sing, you know, we go through life and walk past people in the street all the time. And you an unaware of the amazing stories that you might have to tell, but you know, what, what inspired you to write. Celebrate this empathy with people,

Danny:

I think partly. I'd always try to help other people and try to make a difference. And, um, in this instance it was just the opportunity. You know, it was really leaning on that privilege. I was in a position where I had this incredible network. I could, I could access these incredible people that I could speak to and share their stories. And just constantly thinking about what can I do? What little bit can I do? So whether it's increasing diversity within my team as an example, but that's just one example of many. Um, being there to listen to other people and hear their stories just generally, I suppose I, I said earlier that I I'm a white privileged male, but actually my parents are north African refugees, uh, they traveled through Israel. They came to this country, not knowing the language and had very little money at all. I realize I am incredibly privileged because I didn't just come from money, but my parents worked really hard. And so we have this sense of, um, family, of support and of community that is so important. And so I've, I've had those role models in my life where, you know, my parents have always been very warm and, and, you know, being middle Eastern, being very friendly and welcoming. Um, and that's, that's rubbed off, I suppose.

Scott:

So do you think organizations should all be a bit more sonder.

Danny:

Yes. So I, my opinion, uh, on organizations, you know, right now you generally have your big organizations and some are doing stuff around social purpose and, uh, CSR responsibility and so on. And then the other end of the scale, you've got, your charities that are kind of walking around with a bowl saying, please give me some money so I can do good in the world, and that's just not sustainable. Neither of those two models, it's sustainable going around and asking for money it's not sustainable. And just, you know, pillaging the earth and, and consuming is not sustainable either. And the reason it's not sustainable is because the consumer won't stand for it. But more importantly, the next generation of employees won't stand for it. So there's a thing in the middle, this void in the middle, which, uh, if you've heard of B Corp's, um, is just the beginning of that is saying, okay, absolutely make profit, but don't forget about purpose. Don't forget about planet. Don't forget about people. And I think all the big organizations need to work their way towards that, where they can make their profit by all means, but really be sustainable about that. Uh, and then charity is also probably becoming more commercial and becoming more social enterprises, uh, so that they can sustain themselves and they can deliver a service and, and earn money from it and continue to do good things. So absolutely big organizations have got to go in that direction. Otherwise they're not going to find anyone to work for them in the future.

Scott:

Interesting. Okay. Um, a few questions here that we've had come in over the app. Um, why do you think imposter syndrome is so prevalent now? Or is it just that we're more aware of it?

Danny:

I says it's probably a combination of the two. I'm no expert on this. My good friend, Dr. Marc Reid is he's just written a book called the imposter phenomenon and you can get involved in his research online. I think it's a combination of the two. I think we're, we're talking about mental health more. Uh, so I think that that language is there, but I also think talking about AI, social media has got a huge part to play. There were recent documentaries on Netflix, which talk about AI and the impact of, of social, um, sorry, the impact of social networks on the way you think and the way you behave. After watching that, I deleted all my social networks, just like right. I'm out of it I'm on LinkedIn, but that's it. And, um, you're just look looking, you're comparing yourself aren't you. You, you, you, in the old days, how many people could you compare yourself to a very small number, and then, celebrities,, real celebrities, not fake celebrities like we have now. And, uh, whereas now you're just constantly seeking that confirmation, that gratification. So I, I think it probably is accelerating, but it has to a degree always been there and we just need to be more confident in ourselves and, and really, uh, reduce the weight of importance that we give on those social interactions and that, and that social confirmation.

Scott:

Okay. Did you say you designed your logo by the

Danny:

way? Did the, um, the, the, the, oh, was on top of the eye and my sister-in-law who's a graphic designer said it would look better in the O and as soon as we had it, absolutely, he was right. It looks really good.

Scott:

Thank you. Okay. Um, now is it easier, I mean, being devil's advocate here, is it easier for people of privilege to pursue purpose?

Danny:

I think on one hand. Yes, it is. Of course, because you have more and resources at your disposal, but in reality, you see people who have very little doing incredible things and because they're going well, hold on, I've got this and they haven't. So I'm going to share what I have with them, or I'm going to open a door for them. Um, so I think, yes, people who wealthier people will have more resources at disposal and they can have a greater impact more quickly, but that is absolutely not a barrier to really identifying, defining and pursuing your social purpose.

Scott:

And I was just thinking about this as you were talking then, I mean, do you think the pandemic has made people more empathetic towards others?

Danny:

Yes. So again, just my opinion. Um, I think that the. Up until the pandemic. Yes. There was an increasing discussion about mental health. Um, but it's always been somewhat suppressed and maybe considered a weakness. I suspect that there are very few people who have lived through the last two years that haven't had a little bit of a wobble here or there. Haven't had a little bit of self doubt, a little bit of exhaustion. Um, and so hopefully that can give them a sense of the bigger picture and really put more value on mental health.

Scott:

Okay. Um, are there any questions from the floor by the way? I got a question at the back. We'll take two. So go first. It's Glen isn't.

Glenn:

Yeah. Uh, Danny, um, Glenn White CEO, basically, but, uh, I have a question, uh, over the last two days, we've heard a lot about, uh, diversity equality inclusion in technology. Uh, we've also heard about. The big skills gap. Uh, and you were voted CIO, number one in the CIO 100. So I just wonder what would your advice be to people who potentially see themselves as the future CIOs? Okay, and the tips that the might take towards their careers.

Danny:

Okay. Great question, so, uh, if you're listening to this live and you pick up a copy of The Times today, there is an article I'm featured in that talks exactly about that topic. And it's about the future CIO. I think there again, everything's got two sides to it. So I think as CIOs, we need to look at that pipeline and create opportunities that are not traditional opportunities, whether it's through the use of apprenticeships, um, It's through retraining, uh, making sure you've got that variety in your, in your recruitment practices for the next generation, then these schemes like Cajigo and Teens in AI and the tech talent charter things that I've mentioned, really getting involved in stem. I've got a 15 year old daughter. She's now thinking about high levels and she thinking about degrees. I'm always going to say she's asking for advice, but no 15 year old asks advice from their parents, but if she were to offer advice and the advice I am giving her is consider technology, but also consider sustainablity. Really immerse yourself in that. And I spoke to a lady this week, an episode that came out this week, Dr. Hynd Bouhia in Morocco, it's absolutely incredible, woman's got a PhD in environmental engineering from Harvard and many other things. And she's written a book called African girl, African women, woman, but it really focuses on tech. Right. You think, you think you're talking about empowering the continent of Africa, but she is saying you got to get on the, on the first step with tech and get familiarized. So there are so many free resources from Udemy to coding camps, to other types of literature. Just, uh, for, for, for the next generation, really just take the opportunity to understand technology beyond the iPhone, right beyond the iPhone. And Amazon, just understand how technology is, why together. You don't have to be a coder, but understanding how it all fits together is definitely going to help you in whatever career you go into. And I think there's a statistic and I don't know how accurate it is, but 70% of, um, jobs in the future will involve some kind of technology. You just can't avoid it. Okay. I think we had

Scott:

one more question. Was it, um, from Alex?

Alex:

Hello. Hi, I'm Alex also from Bizclick, from the technology brand. Um, I just want to have a question about personal branding, because I think this is something that's been somewhat hijacked by the corporate world somewhat, and there's a bit of a con do you see. There's a bit of a conflict between that notion of, of personal branding and living an authentic life and how there can be a fear of doing that for it being, not in line with the culture of the company that you might work for.

Danny:

So it's something I think about a lot. I've worked very hard on my own personal brand over the last year. Winning becoming top of the CIO 100, I had that opportunity for me, it's about creating a platform. So I can then use that platform to do greater things for other people. But, uh, yeah, you can get pretty sucked into that. And then where's that balance. Uh, I knew for me that I'd hit the right balance when I had feedback from a few different people. I was, I didn't even realize as developing a personal brand. Um, and people were coming to me going, I really like your brand. It's very authentic. And I'm like, oh, great. And I think that's the key message is be true to yourself and show your whole self, bring your whole self. So by all means develop your personal brand, but it can't just be, you know, lights, camera, action all the time. It's just gotta be about your whole self and what you bring to the table. But absolutely there's, there's this, there's this risk of just kind of glorifying everything and then sometimes you look at it and go, can I live up to my own brand? And then you've, you know, you've got an imposter of yourself and that's really not healthy, so personal branding within moderation, but keep it authentic. Okay. Really good.

Scott:

Really good. Okay. We're going to leave it there. So everyone please, thank Danny.

Danny:

Thank you.