Hello and welcome to the Career Success podcast. I’m Jason Connolly, if you’re a regular listener, it’s great to have you back, but if you’re new, welcome to the show. In this series everything we speak to the biggest names in business all across the globe. We talk about their career stories, the lessons learned, how they overcome challenges, and what success habits they practice. If you have a passion for business, then this is the podcast for you.
In this episode, I’m delighted to be joined by Jeff Wald from Manhattan in the US. Jeff is the founder of work Market and Enterprise software. Platform that enables companies to manage freelancers. This company was acquired by ADP. Jeff has founded several other technology companies including Spinback, a social sharing platform eventually purchased by Salesforce.com. Jeff is an active Angel investor and startup advisor, as well as serving on numerous public and private boards of directors. Jeff is the author of the Amazon bestseller The end of Jobs, the rise of on demand workers, and agile corporations Jeff. It’s an absolute delight to have you on this episode. Thanks for joining me Jess and it is great to be here. Thank you for having me now your book. It’s really interesting, but before we kind of come onto the end of jobs and the rise of on demand workers and agile corporations tell us about you, Jeff, and give us a whistle. Stop tour of your career. Sure, well you know I started my career in finance working with J. Working for JP Morgan as a little lemon, a banker, and eventually moved my way to venture capital working for an Israeli venture firm called Glenrock, which was an amazing experience and got me very enamoured with entrepreneurship. So I left there to start my first company it. It failed miserably and left me basically broke. You know, it’s part of the startup world that a lot of people don’t talk about, but it is a very real and very high probability. Outcome is that you’re going to fail and you pick yourself up and dust yourself off the next company I started was an incarnation of that first company, and that was spin back. The dimension that got sold to Salesforce. And, uh, you know various other twists and turns which led to the founding of work markets, which as you mentioned, was purchased by ADP. And I actually just left ADP as my lock up period ended. And now I’m thinking about start up #5. Wow, and what was it about? I don’t want to kind of focus on failures here, but what was it that didn’t work out the first time but then did workout the second time? Well, my two Co founders suit each other the first time and the second time I decided not to bring the same team back together. So OK, seems quite logical there. That said, yeah, that makes sense and kind of you’ve obviously started these companies. You’ve had tremendous success. Obviously. You know, I’m sure there’s been so many challenges, tribulations along the way. But what made you kind of sell the companies on? Why did you not kind of stick around for the long term? That’s a really good question, Jason. I mean, you know when you start these companies, you’re always starting them with an exit in mind. Now that exit could be a public offering. It could be, you know, running it for some time. But you know, we’re not building family businesses. If you’re taking venture capital and you’re taking outside investors money, you have a fiduciary responsibility to produce. Return for them. And so you know we raised a lot of venture in each of the different things that I did for work market. We raised almost 70 million in venture from SoftBank. Union Square Ventures and a few others. And. And we had to deliver a return for them. So when ADP came knocking. They were very, very excited to join ADP as a part of their family for my team at work market and very excited to be able to deliver a return for our investors in work Market and Daniel exits from these companies. Did it always kind of work out to the plan at the beginning or did the exit from the companies kind of did it all? The goalpost change once it started up? How sorta the plan did these exits stick? You know there’s there’s maybe no better quote out there than the Mike Tyson. Everyone’s gotta got everyone’s got a plan until you get punched in the face and in startup land you get punched in the face. You know figuratively mind you again and again and so look I will say that of the many responsibilities of a co-founder. One is to always have your eye on that exit. You know where you want to take this company where you want to lead it and who might the buyers be and so overworked markets. Life is an independent company which is about 7 years. I spent a lot of time Jason getting to know the heads of Corp Dev at the different companies that I thought made by us and to show you how wrong I was. I never reached out to ADP. Never had a conversation with them and so we got to know each other. ’cause uh, through various other circumstances. Nothing to do with my thoughts as oh ADP might buy us one day. What what did you learn from the first kind of sale to ADP that you took with you to the second one? Because everyone’s heard of Salesforce.com, you know, each company that you build. You pick up. So pick up so many things. I will tell you the things that I’ve learned the most in this journey with the things that I got to learn while at ADP. I didn’t actually go to Salesforce after spin back was purchased, and so for me getting a chance. To watch as one of the largest, most well run companies on the planet. And you know, people can say a lot of things about ADP, but ADP dot size and crosses it sees. I mean they they know exactly what they’re doing and they’re doing it at a scale at which very few companies can even imagine, let alone operate at. And so for me, as an entrepreneur getting to spend 2 1/2 years as a part of their senior leadership team was such an amazing gift. Watching as this incredibly well run incredibly large global behemoth. Fixed all the things that we had built within work market fix them because they were broken but fixed them for scale and getting a chance to watch. As you know we thought about things in, you know, the millions. They’re thinking about things in the trillions. That’s really interesting. I imagine that was a great time for you, and I can’t imagine the amount of tools that must equipped you with to to kind of go on from there. I wanna delve straight into the book, Jeff, because it’s very topical and it’s really interesting. So it’s I. I’ll say at the beginning, like I did in the intro. It’s an Amazon best seller. The end of jobs. The rise of on demand workers, and agile corporations. And just from reading some of the. Press pack before as robots rise we are faced with the end of jobs but not in the way you might think. Now I could read on Jeff, but I’m gonna let you kind of give us an overview of what the book is all about. Well, the book is about using history, using data and using how companies actually engage workers in order to produce a thoughtful viewer version or prediction of how the world work may evolve. There are just too many people out there, Jason. That like to say outlandish things and like to make outlandish predictions that make for good sound bites. But that aren’t rooted in history data or how companies actually engage workers. And I think in the world of work that’s super dangerous. You have people, communities, companies, leaders that are thinking about and planning for their future. And if they’re not given the right frameworks to think about the future, I get a little concerned that that poor decisions might be made by families. By companies by policy makers and so the book is an attempt to use this framework of history data and how companies actually engage workers to make some thoughtful predictions about the future. What was the what? What inspired you to write this book? It’s not. No, it’s no mean feat to write a book in the 1st place, but where did they inspire, oh man, writing a book sucks. It just sucks. I mean, it took me like 7 years to write this thing. Now, granted, I was it wasn’t my full time job, right? I was building a company and then running it within ADP, but still it is. It is really, really challenging, but I’ll tell you what initially led me to start writing. It was just frustration and annoyance. Uhm, I had the opportunity to speak and at many conferences and and be on many panels and you’re sitting with these other, you know, quote unquote experts, and quote unquote thought leaders and they would make statements that I would just be like I’m sorry. What date are you using to support that statement and they would say, well, well, nothing, it’s just that’s where that’s where I think the world is going. I’m like, OK, well I think that’s ridiculous that you would open your mouth with that statement. You know or someone would say this happened? Just recently, somebody said, oh, I think half the world half the workforce is going to be remote post pandemic and I said, OK? Well, how do you Jeff suppose that against the fact that only of the workforce in the United States and it’s very similar in most other industrialised countries? How do you juxtapose that with the fact that 42% of people can work remotely? 58% can’t, and the guy that said it said, Oh well, I didn’t know that. I said, well, shouldn’t you know it? Shouldn’t you know those facts? Shouldn’t you know the data before you make a prediction and so all of that? All that frustration kind of led me to write a book using history data and how companies actually engage workers to make predictions. ’cause the book talks about the world has witnessed a free step functions in technological change. Now this is a bit of a mouthful, but I’m going to attempt to anyway Jeff electrification computerisation and mechanisation. And it’s interesting because it’s. It’s talking about with technological breakthroughs and how that relationship has kind of worked with workers in companies and it it seems to be changing at a drastic pace. I I I don’t Jeff, I’m not gonna quote data, I don’t know but I know that as technology keeps advancing, it’s getting quicker and quicker and quicker and quicker. So companies need to be very much kind of wide awake to this, but from what you’re saying it’s it sounds like. Still, a lot of people are sticking their finger in the air and hoping for the best. Well, I’ll say this. You know when we look at these previous industrial revolutions, I think it’s super important to do that because we’re in what many people are calling the 4th Industrial Revolution and it’s important understand we’ve been here before. We’ve had a situation where a new technology for us now this is robots and AI so drastically increases productivity. That the fundamental supply and balance supply and demand balance between workers and companies changes. And that’s happened before it’s happened as you articulated with. Mechanisation with electrification with computerisation. So how did companies, workers, and society react when all of a sudden we needed a lot fewer workers? And did we end up with technological unemployment? No. How did did we end up, you know, with tremendous dislocation? Yes, but was it in the end, a net benefit for society? The answer is yes, and So what can we learn from history about these previous technological innovations? These previous industrial revolutions that will inform us about what we’re going through now. And I look, you know, started to articulate some of the reasons it’s different. One of my other favourite quotes is the five most dangerous words in business, or at this time it is different. ’cause it’s almost never different, but there are reasons to think that it’s going to be somewhat different, at least of course. And you articulated one of them, which is the speed at which this change will occur. This will occur much faster, but do I think that we’re in for a very different conclusion? No, I don’t OK and and as we enter this, this fourth great leap forward in technology, robots and AI, what does do you think that looks like? Or what will data have you got that kind of indicates what the world is going to look like? I know your book does indeed talk about what has essays on the world of work in 2040, so I’m assuming this is from a very well founded place, Jeff. Well, the essays are from a very well founded place because they come from people much smarter than me and so back to our point about writing a book is difficult. My publisher kept saying you don’t have enough. You need to repeat everything. I’m like I don’t like to repeat things and so I came up with the idea to get some of the men and women who I had interviewed for the book and there were hundreds of them, thought leaders and heads of HR and government officials to get them to write what they viewed the world of work, how it might unfold and by 2040, and so their contributions really are. Quite fantastic and are easily my favorite part of the book. I and I appreciate you’re not going to be able to unpack this all, but what would? What should we be expecting from the next kind of 10 years in in the workplace, and what trends should we be looking out for? Well, here’s the important thing to note. There are three almost uninterrupted trends over the last 200 years in the world of work. One is almost every single year. 2020 was one of the exception years. We produce more jobs globally. More jobs are created every single year, save for a few anomalies. We work fewer and fewer hours, again, almost uninterrupted, over 200 years, and we have. 3rd trend, a higher standard of living. I haven’t seen any data that tells me that those trends will suddenly be interrupted. And so when I think about the next 10 years or 20 years, I think about will there be dislocation? Of course? Will some industries, some job functions across industries? Will they be displaced by automation, robots and AI? Of course they will. Will we create more jobs? Of course we will. The question and the challenge not only for today, but when we look in history. But the challenge has been. The challenges is how do you move the workers from the jobs, the industries and sometimes the geographies. Where there is dislocation where there is job compression, how do we move them to the places? Where jobs are growing because that has been the big challenge that society has gone through through the previous industrial revolutions. And I lament that it might be another challenge that we face in this one as well. I don’t want to kind of go into kind of geopolitics and things like that, but do you think that certain nations are really going to benefit and the the gap between rich and poor is going to grow ever wider? I will say one of the big concerns I have is the exacerbation of existing gaps in society and those gaps might be racial. They might be geographic within countries, certainly geographic across countries, and so that is a big concern that we will exacerbate those gaps. And you know when you think about them and you think about the ability to train a workforce, the ability to be flexible. Those are their kind of hallmarks that will separate geographies, whether they’re inside a country or. Country to country. The kind of winners versus the losers on this and unfortunately in a lot of for a lot of places the winners are going to be the ones that have historically been the winners. Hmm, interesting and on the front of the book it it’s very very striking. I think if you went into a book shop you would definitely notice this book. It has a on a key on a keyboard. RI P What’s the? What’s the takeaway from that? That that button on the front of the book? Well there are two takeaways. One is sensationalism sells, which is an unfortunate hallmark of our society, and so my publishers like, oh, we gotta put in our IP. I’m like, well, that’s kind of misleading. They’re like I don’t know that it’ll sell like, alright, well, whatever. Look, I did title the book. The end of jobs and people into it. That to mean that jobs themselves are going to go. And I hope I’ve made clear my point here that I don’t think jobs will go. What I am talking about. Is the end of the nine to five one office one manager job? That job we can say rest in peace to that job is dying and is going and COVID certainly accelerated that trend. The idea that we go to an office clearly that’s been a part of the conversation over the last. You know, know, 16 months remote work is is coming more to the for the idea that we worked for one company for an extended period of time. Of course that idea has become very antiquated. And we are moving Jason to what I would qualify as Fluid Team based work from anywhere always on jobs. And that’s that’s the new job and the old job that nine to five. One office, one manager job. That job is dying and thus the end of jobs as we’ve known them over the last 60 years. So do you think that there’s for young people now that there’s more opportunity than they say was 20 years ago when someone left school? ’cause it seems like a complex job landscape to navigate. Well, it would depend on that person skills and what are those people though those individuals have been trained in the skills that are in demand. If you are trained in the skills that are in demand, you will have a tremendously wonderful career and this goes not just for people leaving university, but people in their career journey. I will tell you there, there’s a phrase that some people were like, oh God, it’s being said too much and I’m going to tell you it’s not being said nearly enough and that is that everyone’s got to be a lifelong learner. The time in which a skill abates in which is no longer monetisable, used to be 30 years, right? You could go to university or trade school or an apprenticeship. You could build a skill and you can monetise that over your career and that’s it. You wouldn’t ever need to do any continuing education. That is not the case anymore. And so, whether it is people that are coming out of university or people that have been a job for 20 or 30 years, you need to be a lifelong learner and you need to make sure that your skills are still the skills that are in demand. Self development. He used to be kind of a a bit of a title that people would think oh OK. Self development there’s there is a market for that, but I’ve always said that you never stop developing and I think that really puts the point in case there. What do you hope? Obviously, we’ve discussed quite a few different aspects of the book, but what do you hope the biggest takeaways that you want people to take from the book? Well, I hope that people read it and take away that this is very complicated. There are no simple solutions. Anytime you hear any kind of simplistic answer in regards to the world of work, you should say alright. What’s your data? Anytime you hear that simple conclusion of oh, this new technology exists. Therefore this job is going to go. You should say, OK, where’s your data? Because that almost never happens. And so I hope people kind of bring a critical thinking lens once they’ve read the book to any discussion they have. I hope it equips them with the data to engage in the discussion and I hope that they realise that technological change in the world of work happens slowly. That we always end up with more jobs, and that retraining is going to be the most important challenge that we have very interesting. Well, what’s kind of being the reaction since the book was published as anything kind of surprised you. That’s happened since the book arrived for the world to read. Well, the book’s been out for a little over a year, and so the biggest surprise was obviously the pandemic, and everyone saying well now that there’s a pandemic. How do you change your point of view? Which is? I don’t change my point of view, right? The point of the book is that we have to look at these things over a long period of time. We have to look at the data, and so every you know at the beginning that pandemic people say, well, how was COVID change work? And I would say OK well. I don’t have the data yet. I I’m not really willing to draw any conclusions. I can call out some conclusions that other people have drawn because they fly in the face of all the data that we do have, like our friend that predicted 50% of the workforce would work remote. There is a 0% chance of that occurring, but until we see the data patterns over a few quarters post COVID and God willing will get to post COVID soon. Uhm, we just don’t know, but COVID has certainly been the biggest surprise and I think he’s taken us all by surprise. And I I imagine in some ways it’s kind of accelerated. A lot of, UM, kind of technology anyway, I imagine that’s it’s been, if anything, could kind of a positive for what a lot of companies are trying to do. And maybe companies that aren’t forward thinking enough or aren’t embracing technology and data they they certainly are now, if not before Jason, I think that’s. 100% correct, we certainly have seen remote work and we have a lot of data on remote work and being able to say that that is certainly speed up 10 to maybe 15 years. In advance of where we would have been without the pandemic in terms of people being able to work outside their offices. When you think about on demand labor, when you think about the adoptions of new technologies or an automation, it is highly possible that it is speeded up, but we we just don’t have the data on that yet, but remote work we actually do have a lot of data on. Now what I found really interesting. The future of work prize. Tell us about that, Jeff. Well, I’ll tell you this again. Writing a book is really hard, and so I you know when my publisher said you needed more, you need more pages. We came up with this idea too. Get these thought leaders. I asked about 50 people if they would consider writing a piece. I think it was about 40. Came back and said that they would. They would write a short essay about 2500 words as to what they thought the world of work looked like in 2040. And I believe about 30 were submitted and we selected the top 20 to go into the book and look. These are the men and women shaping the future of work. Jason, these are the heads of the largest staffing firms rose at some of the largest companies. Heads of trade associations. The people leading the regulatory environment heads the largest labor unions in the world. And they are doing their predictions. The part of the things that I get to do in my spare time is I’m advisor to the X Prize, and so I borrowed a page from the X Prize and we put up a $10 million prize forever. Is the most correct in their prediction. So in 2041, of the contributors to this book will receive a $10 million prize funded by me. I’m probably still the save and it’s I’m not sure what’s more attractive than $10 million. Or the fact you got it right. Well, you know, look, this is the one area of my life. I’ll root for inflation, which is currently a trend going on right now. But you know, we will. I will very much look forward to hopefully getting all of them together in 2040 hopeful. Hopefully all that will be alive and well and we’ll get to see who wins. And kind of. We talked a lot about kind of the skill sets that people need to have and so on, but what advice would you give to? Maybe someone who’s young? Who’s listening to this? Perhaps there at university and they’re thinking, OK, bye, I I I hear what you’re saying, Jeff. Yes, you make very valid points, but how do I identify the skills of the future? And how do I keep up with what skills are? But I need to be equipping myself with. Well, you could sit there and read through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the World Economic Forum and everyone else that puts out things. Or you could go hard. And here’s what I mean by that. You either go hard tech or you go hard human. Those are two areas that every single. Government agency NGO think tank. When we look at jobs by. By function, all the different jobs that are going to have unquestionable growth over the next 20 years, or either hard tech or hard human hard-tec easy enough to understand, right? The STEM jobs, programming and robotics and AI and all those things I mean. Job growth by leaps and bounds. Hard humans a little a little more difficult too. Into it hard human are the things that are friends in the robots and AI world are very clear that they are nowhere near being able to do the human interactions, the empathy, the creativity, the design. The idea that a. Robot is going to be in your home taking care of somebody is really just laughable. Like that’s not going to happen in the next 20 years and so jobs in healthcare, jobs and sales and marketing jobs and customer support actually will all grow because people want that interaction. I’ve never heard of the term heart human, but I I do take many agree with you. I really like it and I I really agree with you. I think that. Yeah, maybe a robot one day will understand empathy, but you know me personally, I can’t see it. If people want to find out more about you and Jeff are indeed they want to go and buy the book at the end of jobs, where can they go to? Well, these places. Obviously there’s a little online bookseller called Amazon. They they stock the book, but I’ll tell you this, Jason. I in 1998 bought the domain jeffwald.com and I sat on it for, you know, 25 years and I finally put something up just a couple weeks ago. A couple yet just a couple weeks ago so you can go to jeffwall.com and see all the information about the book and links to buy it and stuff about the future of work, prize and. The companies I’ve invested in the future of work and so it is a wonderful resource for all things. Jeff, Walt, and I’m surprised it’s taking you this long to get it off the ground. Jeff Oh my God yeah no I had I had to formally retire from ADP and and you know finally have some time before I got to actually building my own website. It’s funny ’cause I bought my own domain but the thought of even having time to do it right now I I’m in exactly the same boat Jeff. It’s been a delight. Thank you so much. It’s been really interesting and I’m sure. People listening really enjoyed his half hour. Thank you so much. Rapping that was Jeff Wald from Manhattan in the US. I’m Jason Connolly. This is the career Success podcast until next time goodbye.