Designing the Future of Work

Archive for the ‘Digital Culture’ Category


The Mother Ship

Recently two colleagues shared their tales of woe when they were forced to relocate to the Mothership of their companies. One had recently moved to a new company and the other had received a promotion to a global role.


Rarely is the location of the Mothership a desirable option, either because the location quite frankly sucks, or the existence of the Mothership has made property prices astronomical. In both cases, these were technology companies that should have known better. Why would you force people to uproot their lives when technology allows people, and the global world we live in requires people, to work from anywhere.

“Teleconferencing and other advances in communications technology make it easier to split up a workforce among several locations”

GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt in GE is huge, but its future headquarters will be anything but..

I have had my own tumultuous experiences with location dependent management.

While working at a technology law firm’s Palo Alto office (literally on Stanford’s campus) I was forced to commute on three of the busiest freeways in the area. Exhausted by the stress of it, I asked my partner (who by the way, although right down the hall, only came into my office once a week) if I could start working from our San Francisco office. He responded, “I don’t believe in telecommuting.” This was doubly ironic because our clients rarely came into our offices. All of our work, including deal closings, was done online or on the phone.

Later I worked for a biotechnology company that was obsessed with facetime. People spent at least an hour a day on shuttles going from building to building for meetings. When a senior leader, who had been performing brilliantly, failed to uproot his family and move to San Francisco within the deadline he’d been given the company let him go. “Seriously?” I asked, incredulous. I didn’t last there long  either.

Basecamp founder David Heinemeier Hansson, a hero of remote workers, made fun of Reddit’s 2014 decision to force remote workers to relocate to the pricey San Francisco Bay area or face termination.

Basecamp Tweet

Employees Don’t Want to Move

According to a survey done by the Worldwide ERC there are many reasons employees are reluctant to relocate:

  • 91% say it is because of slowed real estate appreciation and depressed housing market in old location
  • 86% say their old location is in negative equity
  • 28% say they and their family are resistant to the move
  • 28% blame high housing cost in the new location
  • 20% say their spouse is reluctant to leave their job
  • 17% cite the high cost of living in the new location
  • 13% say the new location is undesirable

There are far more Cons than Pros to forced relocation to the Mothership. Let’s take a look.


  • Build Trust – facetime allows you to build trust more quickly.

    Apple 2 Campus

    Future Apple Mothership

  • Spontaneous Innovation – co-location increases the likelihood that you will have impromptu meetings with partners and stakeholders

(think Steve Jobs’ circular building design – he was obsessed with this concept and moved the bathrooms as far away as possible to make employees walk about).


  • Productivity Loss – most corporate headquarters have multiple buildings and massive campuses which means that increasing facetime requires significant shuttle time. You’ll get to know the van drivers by name. A massive loss of productivity.
  • Lower Engagement – the reality of two career couples and the impact of employees having to uproot children makes this requirement especially painful. Engagement has to take a hit here.
  • Expensive and Complicated – relocation is complicated and expensive, especially if companies are in a place where the location of several Motherships has priced common folk out of the market. Examples, Seattle/Redman, San Francisco Bay area, Boston, New York.
  • Lost Opportunity to Build Critical Skill – your senior leaders are managing people all over the globe. Why do they need to do that from home office? Everyone needs to learn how to use technology to lead, manage and collaborate.
  • Limits Your Talent Pool – the company limits its options because the high performing talent may not want to relocate. See statistics cited above.

Teach the Global Mobile Way

There are lots of resources to improve the way you work remotely. I’ve shared several in this blog and here is one more from my buddies at Hubstaff. So, don’t move your leaders – upskill them and the rest of your team to be prepared for the Global Mobile Workforce.

How to Run a Remote Meeting





No Place Like Home


It’s natural that I would take stock of my time in Seattle on the day of my departure. It’s been an impactful trip. I am glad my reintroduction to the United States was in a city I didn’t know well. I could say hello to my country with a fresh perspective. With the same sense of wonder I greet each new city in my travels.

For Digital Nomads a sense of home is always a challenge or at least a peculiar idea. Home in any traditional sense, the country of your birth, is often a storage space or friend’s and families basements and garages. It is always a conversation, at least in our heads, where is the place we should plant every last possession we own. Each city you visit is answering that question. Is it the place you want to get nest like in the old days. So, when I touched down on the land of my birth it was a test of belongingness.

It has been a wonderful adventure. I’ve explored the city just enough to want to come back. I’ve had brilliant surprises like running into a SWA friend at a coffeehouse in the city. I’d gone there to write and had forgotten my converter for my now Czech laptop charger and it was just about to die. I was lamenting how I would entertain myself for three hours, before I could head to Oyster Happy Hour at Flying Fish. And then, a miracle. A friend walked by, looked about, our eyes met and we screamed. “Ray?” “Robin?” We were both incredulous to see each other in a Seattle coffeehouse. He was in town for a wedding and I was in town for work.

Robin and Ray Take Over Seattle

We spent three delightful hours learning about each other’s lives. It felt like kismet and karma and a plain good time. Ray was my people. Someone who loves travel as much as I do and integrates it in his life in powerfully creative ways. Ray is a dancer who uses his body as an instrument, and treats it well so that he can dance all across the world. Ray shared the amazing video he had made in cities like Paris and we talked about the travel show he is born to do. You can see his brilliant work @ Ray Takes Over the World

I’ve enjoyed the city. It surprised me with its beauty. Seattle is a town begging the sun to come and doing it justice when it arrives. The city is filled with balconies, rooftop gardens and restaurants with outdoor seating. Seatlites are prepared to celebrate the sun. I shared several sunny days while nesting in this city. Every outdoor deck was filled with smiling citizens. And, I saw Seatlites tuck under when the rain came. Umbrellas optional. There are plenty of fun and funky places to shelter, so it’s not so bad.

Two Tech Cities on the Bay

Seattle has been an amusing opportunity to see another city built by tech, whether it was internet or aerospace. And, the one thing Silicon Valley and Seattle have in common is traffic. So, I’ve enjoyed Seattle. At the same time, I have felt good about moving on. Two minutes on any news channel in my 700+ channels of nothing to watch, the reminder of how things have become dark in America settled my thoughts on exploring other pastures. I packed all the goodies that I could only get here in my suitcase (astonished it all fit) to head back to the city I’ve fallen in love with. That’s the life of Digital Nomads, we can love many cities. We enjoy each one for its unique beauty, tastes, and entertainment.




Illustration for Techonomy by Clara Kirkpatrick

How many times have you clicked on an app, went in search of that photo you took back then, or went to Spotify and thought “I hope it remembers me?” Hours later you may curse the invasion of your privacy at the hands of technology. But in that moment you want technology do what it does best, recall who you are and what you like.

I first realized how dependent I had become on my customized user experience when I had to do a system restore and YouTube forgot who I was. See  YouTube Doesn’t Know Me Anymore. It had become time consuming and just plain annoying to reintroduce myself to my technology.


Target Ads

It was always a love hate relationship. When I did internet research for client blog articles and I was pestered for weeks with ads related to my search I was annoyed, and frankly creeped out. However, when these ads actually reflected my true desires it was a different story. Like my recent good fortune when Facebook recommended the group “Prague Hamburger Lovers.” I discovered an entire group devoted to the search for the best hamburgers in Prague. It was an active group, with very current information, and detailed descriptions of sumptuous beef burgers with “real” cheddar cheese (the Czech version tastes a bit rubbery to some Expats). I hadn’t searched for this gift – it was handed to me on a Facebook silver platter.

A new study conducted by Accenture found that the majority of consumers in both the U.S. and UK are willing to have trusted retailers use some of their personal data in order to present personalized and targeted products, services, recommendations and offers. While 86 percent of those surveyed said they were concerned that their data was being tracked, 85 percent said they realized that data tracking make it possible for retailers to present them with relevant and targeted content. Almost half (49 percent) acknowledged they were willing to allow trusted brands to track their data in return for relevant recommendations, targeted offers, and information on future product availability.

FACEBOOK Wants to Shape Me

It was by accident that my partner and I discovered that even when we had the same friends, we did not have the same Facebook feed from them. Facebook collects user reactions to fine tune its News Feed. There is enormous power in that Like button.

The News Feed has hooked users on Facebook. According to a Time article nearly a billion people around the world now look at Facebook daily. The company runs the second-most-popular website in the world and the most-used mobile app in the United States. American users spend nearly as much time on the site per day (39 minutes) as they do socializing with people face-to-face (43 minutes). That has turned Facebook into an online advertising behemoth ….

I even surrendered to Facebook just to avoid constant logins and passwords, and answered yes to any offer to logon with Facebook. Which is even more troubling given the fact that I listened to podcasts about Facebook’s social experiments and I still gave them a key to the door of my life.

Radio Lab on Facebook

See NPR’s “Lab Rats One And All That Unsettling Facebook Experiment” and All Tech Considered. At the time the Internet was overwhelmingly outraged. “Even the Editor of Facebook’s Mood Study Thought It Was Creepy,” Adrienne LaFrance wrote, at The Atlantic.

The Price of Connection

Many of our favorite apps ask for a series of permissions upon download that should scare us; Contacts, media files, location, photos and ability to share with Third Parties. They do have some legitimate reasons for asking. Why we say yes is another matter.

I confess that I like it when my phone remembers my last google search, especially if it is the restaurant I now search for in the windy, twisty Prague streets. I’m happy that Podcast Addict recommends things for me based on my obsession with Serial, Tim Ferris and Girlboss. I even appreciate Google Maps saving that place I got completely lost trying to find last time.

But, now we also have to contend with facial recognition software. The current U.S. TV hit, Person Unknown, is in no way science fiction – its science fact. Facebook has built it into its system and the future uses on a platform that is the third largest country on Earth are mind boggling. Not even the infamous National Security Administration (NSA) has that many faces on record.

Apple has come out as somewhat of a privacy champion. Apple kicked out over 200 apps that collected personal data in violation of the company’s privacy policies for its online store. The iPhone maker made the announcement a day after researchers discovered hundreds of apps using Chinese advertising software that extracts ‘personally identifiable user information.’ Not everyone considers that a smart move on Apple’s part.

Apple is going to realize very soon that it has made a grave mistake by positioning itself as a bastion of privacy against Google, the evil invader of everyone’s secrets. The truth is that collecting information about people allows you to make significantly better products, and the more information you collect, the better products you can build. Apple can barely sync iMessage across devices because it uses an encryption system that prevents it from being able to read the actual messages. Google knows where I am right now, where I need to be for my meeting in an hour, what the traffic is like, and whether I usually take public transportation, a taxi, or drive myself. Using that information, it can tell me exactly when to leave. This isn’t science fiction; it’s actually happening. And Apple’s hardline stance on privacy is going to leave it in Google’s dust.

Developer Dustin Curtis

Who-Let-the-Cat-Out-of-the-BagThe Cat is Out of the Bag

Although it may be too late to get the cat back in the bag, last month the European Union passed new comprehensive data protection laws –some of the most progressive and stringent in the world. In the United States, the FTC is taking on an increasingly active role of policing the data-driven activities of companies under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibiting ‘‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.’’ In China, a draft Network Security Law released over the summer notably included requirements for Chinese network operators to safeguard personal information and obtain consumer consent to use personal data. Read more at

According to a study from the University of Texas, we can attribute our preference for personalized experiences to two key factors: desire for control and information overload. However, consumers are increasingly aware that their data has significant value to companies who keep the vast share of the derived economic benefit to themselves. A Eurobarometer Study published in June 2015, revealed that 67 % of respondents are concerned about not having complete control over the information they provide online. Will there be an “Internet Spring,” or are we destined to remain under the spell of technology.

Honestly, the people who are concerned that all of this personalization is too great an invasion of privacy still believe that they have privacy. I say go for it international privacy organizations. But, the Genie is out of the bottle. The days of personal privacy – unless you are living off the grid – are gone. Ask Angela Merkle, who will never look at her smart phone the same way again thanks to Edward Snowden. How ironic that the most UnAmerican activity has been aided and abetted by U.S. Tech companies. Even Phil Donahue was worked up (remember him?).

I’m not confused that connecting all the information in my life could be used against me in hauntingly powerful ways.  Am I simply lazy or do I just accept the reality that privacy doesn’t exist. The internet of things makes it even less likely that privacy will prevail. The internet is driving my car, sending me a cab, and suggesting where I eat. It will now know how warm I like to keep my home and what I’m watching on TV.

The UX experience, which has begun to track where my mouse hovers to dish up content that is most likely to seduce me. Next my laptop camera will track my eyeball movements and reveal to a stranger that I secretly crave the chocolate bar in the ad on the sidebar, instead of the green drinks recipes I went to the page for. Just don’t share that information with My Fitness Tracker and the five friends who keep wondering why I haven’t lost that last 10 pounds.



You Can Win on Both Sides of the Chalkboard

Not even ten years ago, all that came to mind when I thought about online courses was dodgy internet degrees from exotic places and online licenses from churches you’d never heard of so you could officiate at a friend’s wedding in the mountains. Now Edtech is booming. A huge $2.51 billion was invested into edtech companies in the first half of 2015. The long list of education startups at Web Summit 2015 was testament to a thriving industry.

Shock was my response when my sister announced she would be teaching all of her classes online this semester. My sister did not own a computer until two years ago when I moved out of the country and she had no other way to keep in touch. The delivery and installation of this computer was a carefully coordinated mission between my techie brother and I. Something close to a Martian landing. Now her college had offered this solution so she could work from home and recover from health conditions, since she only had one year to go until retirement. Online education had arrived and officially impacted every demographic.

How Digital Learning Technology Will Change In The Next Decades

According to a 2015 Babson Research report one out of three U.S. college students is taking at least one course entirely online.

Digital classrooms are reshaping more than colleges and universities. Just as technology has blown open the music and publishing industries, learning is now an open source experience.

Digital Learning BoxDigital Learning Goes Open Source

Companies like Khan Academy launched a movement for free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Khan Academy, founded by Salman Khan is funded by donations, now with significant contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google.

Online programs like Khan Academy are known as MOOCs, massive open online courses. These are generally free and available to anyone with an internet connection. Itunes University is a good example of a MOOC. You will find thousands of courses on a broad range of topics. Of course, because its free, you may study by yourself, usually without any feedback or accreditation.


Some Freelancers find it helpful to demonstrate their skills. Sites like Upworth and offer free online tests with scores.

Two high-profile companies have pursued a badge-based future: Coursera and Udacity. Both began their lives as providers of MOOCs. Coursera has bet on content and brands from top universities. The launched “Specializations” in 2014 and now offer 75 different programs, the vast majority from a single U.S. university.

Coursera CEO Rick Levin – former President of Yale came onboard last year, in part due to his unparalleled connections in China and throughout Asia – and has said that the Specializations/certificate model is “financially sturdy enough that it should pave the way for Coursera to become cash-flow positive in the foreseeable future.”

See PC Magazine Review of Coursera

Udacity pivoted in 2013, when it announced “Nanodegrees” developed in partnership with top technology companies like Google’s involvement in the Android Developer Nanodegree. Udacity has done the same with iOS (Apple) and Tech Entrepreneur (Google). Back in September, Udacity revealed it had 10,000 students enrolled in Nanodegrees – a number growing by 30% every month.

teach onlineThere’s Money in that Knowledge in Your Head

There are other online education marketplaces like CreativeLive, General Assembly, Treehouse, and Skillshare that offer freelancers the opportunity to get paid for what they know. Bloggers and “thoughtleaders” make money with online courses on these platforms. See “Why Top Entrepreneurs Will be Teaching Online in 2016.”

In the heavy weight division are emergent online providers like Udemy and PluralSight. Like the Uber of education, certain platforms, like Udemy, allow global teachers to create and benefit from their course content.

Udemy is a website that enables anyone to teach and learn online. Launched in 2010, Udemy tries to democratize online education by making it fast, easy and free to create online courses. Like Amazon with eBook publishers you keep 70% of the revenue from your courses (or 85% if you directly refer the customer to the course). How 10 Instructors Earned $1.6 Million on Udemy in One Year.  If you are a visual learner go to Slideshare – 16 Tips to Make Passive Income on Udemy.

Former high school math teacher Rob Percival, the company’s top instructor, has made more than $2 million since 2014. And Percival’s friend and tennis partner, Ben Tristem, says he earns in the high six figures teaching game development.Not everyone gets to Malta, though: Average Udemy teacher take-home pay is $8,000.

Read More in Fortune.

Another online teacher success story is Kunal Desai, founder and CEO of Bulls on Wall Street, a company that teaches people to trade stocks online. Desai came to his idea to launch Bulls on Wall Street while working as a successful stock trader. Read more at Why Online Education is a Popular Path for Entrepreneurs in 2016

Pluralsight began as a provider of online technology training, and recently acquired the Orlando, Fla.-based Code School, which offered dozens of instructional courses and videos for developers. The $36 million deal was Pluralsight’s sixth acquisition in the past 18 months, as it continues its strategy to buy up smaller companies to expand its footprint in the online learning industry, and strengthened its position against companies like Skillsoft, and new competitor, LinkedIn.

online learning providersWith LinkedIn’s acquisition of, Pluralsight is geared up for an online education fight. In early April, professional social network LinkedIn shelled out $1.5 billion to acquire, one of the largest and oldest online learning marketplaces; their goal to become the professional enrichment destination of choice.

Pluralsight surpassed $85 million in revenue last year and roughly doubled its revenue every year. The company is prepared to IPO early this year. While LinkedIn’s shares recently fell 42% on news of larger than expected losses. If you are curious about how LinkedIn tries to make money see more at LinkedIn Financial.

So freelancers can both feast and be feasted upon in the online learning market. If you are in the market to upgrade your skills take a look at The 10 most popular free online courses for professionals.

If you think you have something to offer here are a list of additional resources.


  • Another way to earn money teaching online is YouTube. And, of course there is a YouTube Video to tell you how. “How to Make Money Teaching Online Courses on Udemy, Skillshare, Skillfeed”


I Speak Technology


I speak technology

Pressure to Learn the Language

When you actually settle in a place there is a subtle pressure that builds month by month to speak the native language of the country. Speaking Czech is practically a political issue in a country whose language has as interesting a history as the country itself. The comment I often hear from Czechs, “why would you want to learn a language that only 10.5 million people speak,” could be said by someone from pretty much every country in Europe and Asia. To be fair, knowing only one language is unheard of here. Czech and English are just the beginning, and at least the minimum. Or it’s Czech and German, Russian, French or Polish. A little Dutch and Hungarian.

Speak a Universal Language

So while I sit in three hours of Czech classes each week, my head spinning at the challenge, I hope to bridge the gap with my shared language, technology. I have loved technology since I was young, although never encouraged as a girl, in college I cheerfully carried my punch cards to the data center, yes it was Cobalt and we had to code on punch cards. Although I headed in another career direction, law, I took my love of technology with me and knew every software program any of my law firms used, was a Palm Pilot early adopter, joined a startup on a wild ride (unfortunately months before the first dot com bust), and blog about technology here.  I speak technology, and that may be the most important language on the planet.

The New Digital Divide

Defin Technology GapWhile most see the digital divide as a generational issue, it’s not. It’s a mindset, a value statement. I had lunch with a smart guy who told me how he makes a living at online education. Spends hours of his day at a computer, yet draws the line at a smart phone. He proudly tapped his indestructible long past warranty Nokia on the table. It’s true, they used to make damn good phones that we were seduced away from with pretty icons and the promise of continual connectivity.

I encounter people of all ages on one side or the other of technology. Everyone has their boundaries. As more and more of the world becomes the Internet of Things I have to wonder what will happen to these people. His resistance futile or am I the fool.

Read this hysterical interpretation of the digital age gap – I am guilty of none of these things and my daughter better shut up.

A World Without Technology

RevolutionEven in the apocalyptic worlds without digital technology depicted in films and television, like the U.S. TV series Revolution, humanity seems to find a way to gather together enough technology to blow each other up. Hell, fire is technology, especially in the wilderness.

Yet, technology has been a game changer for poor countries and disempowered people. The Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, the first woman ordained in the Southern Congo Conference, understands the power of technology.

“My cousin, a villager in Congo, cannot even write, cannot even read, but she has a cell phone,” she said. “That is powerful.”

At Game Changers Summit, a conference on using information and communications technology for development, Revi Stering,  whose work with NetHope centers on gender inequity in technology, reminded us that technology is considered so empowering there are examples of villages barring women from using phones or punishing them for using them too much.

“Women have been killed for using technology.”

I worry for the citizens distanced from technology, which has opened up so many opportunities for developing countries and individual enterprise. Only an apocalyptic event will stop the bullet train of progress, and what happens to those who don’t get on?

One of two startling projections in the World Bank’s “World Development Report,” released last week:

The probability of certain jobs’ nullification-via-technology is extremely high. Most likely to be affected, according to the report: agricultural jobs, clerical jobs, and service industry jobs.

US Tech Job Growth

The Technology Gap will Become a Canyon

Is Technology the Answer to the Technology Gap?

The U.S. is, by design or sheer bad management, not prepared to supply the talent of the future.

US High School Computer Science

Not only is the U.S. not skilling up the next generation of workers, there is a wave of former middle class Boomers, who lost industrial jobs and don’t have the technology skills to get back into today’s market. If the issue is ignored, it will create a permanent underclass at two ends of the population.

Here in the Czech Republic there is a generation of women whose transition from a communist economy did not include an upgrade of their technology skills. These women, in their fifties or older, find it difficult to sustain employment in this highly transitional economy. There are limited resources to address their technology skills. Organizations like Czechitas work to find ways to support women in this demographic.

The World Economic Forum thinks that technology is the solution and highlighted the companies that are filling in the grid.

World Forum Online Ed

At the ‘Summer Davos’ World Economic Forum last year in China, the “employment and skills: discussion confirmed language as the largest barrier to online learning for the majority of the world’s population.  The group discussed the opportunity to leverage technology to create a universal language that could break down the linguistic communication gap. Top Seven Gaps in Education and Learning that Need to be Addressed over the Next Decade

YouTube ButtonLearning online doesn’t have to be fancy. I am a huge fan of the University of YouTube. Whenever I need to learn a new tip or trick, optimize my phone, or learn how to draw a box (for my book cover), you can find it on YouTube. I even set up a training program on Word and Excel on YouTube for my technically challenged partner.


So, to the technically challenged, or to those who struggle to  learn another language, hop online and learn how to speak technology.

WebSummit 2015 had an entire track on education online. My lunch companion  is staking his economic future on the industry. It’s worth a look from both sides of the equation, teacher and student. Next week – ONLINE EDUCATION – WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME.




Digital Nomads – Crazy, or Crazy Like a Fox

A Fox

I realize that for some the idea of packing your life up and moving outside the U.S. without some fat job offer and a relocation package sounds crazy.  Yet living outside your comfort zone by thousands of miles can sharpen your skills and your marketability.

During my travels in South and Central America I met a large swatch of the population who had never left the borders of their country.  It was economically unfeasible.  Of course in Cuba the desire to see the world was palpable, yet for most impossible. Americans are not ones to cross borders in droves.  My birth nation is vast and has enough things to do and space to roam that it can be enough to satisfy a wanderer. European Immigration

In Europe, it is odd to find someone who has not crossed at least one border in their lifetime.  Even if just to travel to a neighboring country to visit family or take a holiday.  Prague is a city filled with people from everywhere else mixed with people from a village in Moravia.  I talk to twenty-somethings who have already lived and worked in several countries.

There is an understanding that comes from trying to make yourself understood in a different culture.  A tolerance comes from knowing that you are not an expert in other people’s countries.  It is that extra something that has made immigrants in America so successful, so tenacious, and so important to innovation.

The U.S. is filled with expat success stories, from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright (a Czech) and Henry Kissinger, and Indra Nooyi (CEO of PepsiCo)

Crossing borders teaches you a lot about the subtleties of just how business is done. Björn Jeffery, among the world’s most successful digital toy developers, was humbled when he went to Silicon Valley thinking that English would unite him with its inhabitants. He learned some fast and funny lessons.  Read more at:

Beyond America there are lots of success stories of Expats who’ve created success in their adopted countries.

Being a Digital Nomad, in addition to learning the finesse of border crossing, forces you to build some very valuable skills:

  • Productivity – if you don’t do the work you can’t get paid.
  • Communication – you have to communicate with clients around the world and adapt to the style of your current country.
  • Online Marketing – unless you have the magical work from anywhere full-time job (and they do exist) you have to market yourself to get gigs or generate passive online income.
  • Connectivity – to be successful you have to build networks that are global – this is not a role for hermits – or someone who is not savvy about social media.

Read More at Making It Anywhere – Digital Nomad Skills

Just some of the things that make Digital Nomads so valuable to global companies. If you are are going global, you should look local.  And look for people from your home country who have learned how to translate your culture into something people in your target country can understand.

Digital Nomads are a bit crazy, crazy like a fox.Still Crazy like a fox

“Modern” India Not Quite Ready for the Digital Nomad

I travelled to India for the holidays to meet my daughter.  We are both living a nomadic life and had not seen in each since she packed up all her things with one months notice and moved to Bangkok to pursue startup gold.  She needed to leave Thailand for visa purposes and we picked a place that had a Thai Embassy.  I won’t elaborate on the reasons that landed us in Goa, but there we were on the southeastern coast of India for Christmas.

There were many lessons to learn about travel in India and this time I could be a more casual observer than my daughter because I had chosen to leave my electronics at home for the first time in two years; only brought the mobile phone.

My daughter on the other hand was living off consulting contracts, having abandoned her start-up for freedom and independence, and needed to work to meet her deadline.  So, she would be the one working in hotel lobbies to get better Wi-Fi this time and not me.

Zuckerberg and Modi

We learned quite quickly why Mark Zuckerberg, wearing a suit I must note, had recently visited Prime Minister Modi to offer help on India’s Digital India initiative.  Wasn’t the country’s economic explosion due largely to the internet?  Well apparently that ability was limited to a few choice cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. Outside the core using mobile data was an exercise in frustration.  While Modi is focused on terrorists using social media, a tool he himself uses to affect social policy (he used it during his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat to track missing children with wonderful results)  Zuckerberg wants to save humanity.  He agree to start with building the Clean India Mobile App.

India Express – Prime Minister Meets Zuckerberg

The Prime Minister appealed to Zuckerberg to promote India’s rich tourism potential through Facebook.  Newsflash for Modi, the critical word is potential.  Only the heartiest of travelers is ready to see the sights outside Mumbai and New Delhi.

India’s power problems are public knowledge.  Nearly 300 million people in India have limited or no access to electricity, according to the World Bank. .President Pranab Mukherjee promised round-the-clock power for all by 2022.

WSJ: Scorching-heat-exposes-India’s-power-woes

The challenge is working with state-run electricity systems overseen by India’s national government and its 29 state governments.  Largely confirmed over a beer in a beach café on Kovalam Beach by local explaining modern Indian politics, I2014-12-25 10.01.57ndia is a fragmented country with powerful state governments and 20 officially recognized languages making getting things done impossible.

One also has to wonder if the sheer number of people national leaders must care for makes them less careful with their lives.  What else could explain the news upon our arrival that India had just stuck a deal with Putin to have Russia build four nuclear power plants?  This is the same Russian that is sweeping Chernobyl under a radiation blanket.


Bloomberg:  Putin Promises Oil, Weapons and Nuclear Reactors to India


Indian Summer - The Beaches of GoaAs we sunned ourselves on beach chairs and sipped fresh coconut milk from real coconuts we watched the locals struggle to serve the tourists needs during daily power outages.  We frequented the Café Hard Rock  in Goa (no official affiliation) because their generator keep the Wi-Fi humming and the drinks coming despite power outages.  The generator was paying off; they were often full while others sat sad-faced under their umbrellas waiting for the power to come on again.

The transportation system is largely offline for foreigners, a term you will often hear from Indians.  The outside world is tolerated in tourist ports, but foreigners seem to feel, well foreign to many Indians.

So, while Goa and Kerala provided us with digital nomad friendly prices and some of the most beautiful clean beaches of our world travels, they are best enjoyed without the need for mobile data or Wi-Fi signals.  India will just have to be the place digital nomads go to unwind, not to work.


%d bloggers like this: