Thanks for writing me off, Mr White.


Have you ever been written off by someone or told you’re not going to make it?

When I was seven I got incredibly sick and it took me about a year to fully recover. When I finally got back to school we had a parent night with one of my teachers who told my parents that I could get my GSCE (year 10 exams) but as far as my A’s -Levels (grade 12 exams) or college, “Forget it”.

I want to take this moment to say thank you to Mr. White. His total lack of self-confidence lit a fire in my stomach that carried me through all these stages with flying colors and throughout my career.

During APAC Advertising Week, I was fortunate enough to sit down with acclaimed author and international business leader Rishad Tobaccowala. We talked about his career “toolbox” – something that constitutes the navigational supplies you need throughout your career.


This is an important topic because the world of work has never been more open – technological and societal changes have converged to make us the first generations whose professional CVs are going to be very different from those of our parents.

So I was a little surprised when I asked the audience how many of them had a career plan and less than 10% raised their hands. Clearly there is a great need for more people to adopt these tools for themselves.

This is my personal experience on how to apply the four tools described by Rishad in his toolbox: a map, a telescope, a first aid kit and the compass.

Not all who wander are lost

Buses come and go, but would you board a bus without knowing its final destination?

Well, that’s what many do with their careers. Instead of planning where they want to go, they hover around hoping that particular bus will take them where they want to go. This is why the map is the first tool in the kit, it’s the importance of planning your career.

You’ll probably be working in some capacity for over 50 years, so it’s a long-term view of your life and career for longevity, the skills you want to develop, where you want to live and why.

For me, that has meant understanding the kinds of companies I like to work in, and even identifying that we want to leave the UK and come to Sydney to raise our sons.

But to read this map, you also need to use a few other tools.

Keep your eyes on the prize

For example, you need to study the terrain – and what better way to do that than with a telescope? Consider what’s coming and plan how you can use it to your advantage.

The telescope is your way to identify key megatrends driving structural change and understand how they fit into your map and what you need to adapt. From there, you can develop the skills you’ll need to thrive and lead.

When I look at my career over the past 25 years, there has been a lot of digital transformation. In fact, when I started, the Internet had just been created, USB sticks were in the beta testing phase and the first MP3 format was invented. Things are moving fast. Staying relevant is imperative.

Looking to the future, the next trends I see shaping our world are things like privacy and data policy, omnichannel, and Web3 technology.

Defining True North

Identifying these trends is one thing, but being able to navigate them to where you want to go is important, and for that you need a compass. It’s basically about identifying your niche in the world of work, where you can make a real impact.

For me, this technological breakthrough plays into the niche I have identified – helping businesses embrace digital transformation. I’ve worked in radio, television, print, and now in a basic internet business. I played an increasingly important role in each of these companies to help them seize the possibilities created by new technologies and to change mentalities.

The other niche I’ve found is people – the passion to help. It’s something I’ve naturally evolved into in my career, whether it’s listening to a colleague’s woes in London or more formal mentoring roles.

Our passion for doing good in the industry, creating a people-focused culture that gives back – that willingness to help others – is now something that spans the entire company for which I work. Essentially, these two things go hand in hand – doing good is good for business.

A frog in a pot of boiling water

We’ve all heard the inspiring stories of failure. JK Rowling was turned down 12 times before being picked up for publication. Walt Disney was told he “lacks imagination” in his first job. Bill Gates’ first company went bankrupt early.

Giving up is easy, dusting yourself off and starting over is the hardest path. Everyone fails, and that’s why the last tool, the first aid kit, is one of the most important. Finding people and tools to help you get back on your feet is vital.

My approach has been to create a personal board of directors. They are mentors from diverse backgrounds who really care about me as a person. Even now, these people provide a network, or safety net, that I can turn to when I’ve fallen and need encouragement.

Trying and failing is how you learn, and if you refuse to take risks, you will never progress. As Rishad pointed out at Advertising Week, the world is always changing, but people often forget to adapt and keep doing the same thing.

“You can suddenly wake up and say, ‘Oh my God, I’m a frog in boiling water and I think I have to jump’. But when you jump, you don’t know what to do. And that’s why you need a first aid kit, in order to fix yourself,” he said.

Taking a measure of the intentionality of our careers is, I believe, the key to finding professional fulfillment – ​​whatever that looks like to you.

Paul Sigaloff, Vice President and Head of APAC for Yahoo


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