Data Science – Growth, Opportunities and the Future

I actually have always been interested in learning how to code. I have built applications and managed many technology projects but realized that I was always very reliant on a programmer at times. Hence I have taken steps to learn to code, I understand the basics of HTML, CSS, R, Python and SQL (which I have had to build queries quite often) but I personally really want to learn this further mostly on the R and Python side. New programming languages keep popping up and it seems like for me it has been a while since I truly looked to understand programming again. Again I do not strive to be an expert or specialist but I do like to understand enough to be able to analyze data which is becoming more common. The truth is I need to upskill and re-skill as this area has been disrupted and data is now the most valuable commodity in the market. Often when disruption starts and items start to move it is difficult to catch-up as the curve often seems pretty steep.

Recently I saw a twitter comment after the Alberta election supporting a change to the curriculum summarizing that math needs to go back to traditional methods- it had thousands of likes and criticized algebra or calculus being thought at any level as well as computer science. I realized the irony now as this individual was using the exact tools he was criticizing without realizing what he was doing. Often programming and much to do with data science, AI and Machine Learning (ML) are misunderstood as it is not magic that can do what anybody wants. Current technologies are starting to help decision making and assist in speed with calculations like Monte Carlo simulations. Many analysis level occupations in finance, project management, marketing and other areas will end up leveraging data science as often these individuals assist in making data-driven decisions. The skillset of only approximately one-third of a percentage of people (estimated) in the world know how to code in some language means there is a large gap in demand for this skill and supply. You see tremendous growth in post-secondary and open learning resources to help fill the gap but it seems like the demand is higher than supply currently. That is why it is my opinion not even having a formal background in coding I believe my kids will be able to code and this coding will be as common as reading later in their lifetime. We are seeing more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Schools and from the twitter comment mentioned previously- I think if schooling will want to keep pace with technology there will need to be a pretty fundamental shift to fill demands of the market earlier. I was surprised to see the vocational programs that are now offered in high school in Edmonton and in my opinion the STEM schools and data science programs might be next. Unstructured data is now being leveraged more than it has in the past and items and qualitative data with metadata are now being organized and leveraged but this is in its infancy.

Data science is all the rage and I understand AI, ML and data science are not magic but in reality long term data-driven decision making will be driven by these as data becomes more and more valuable. As a society we are becoming more driven by convenience and in reality technology has been driving our lifestyle changes for a while which includes, smartphones, computers have gone from large items on desks to the tablet I am typing on now, voice-activated technologies are continuing to grow and social media was not heard of just a little bit ago. Technology now moves exponentially and this hyper-speed makes it difficult to keep up with what is next. In saying all of this to me what is clear is coding has moved along fairly slowly but I feel this might be the next disruption to many occupations including much of my experience in the past.

I have procrastinated to complete at least 100 days of code for almost 100 days now and I am starting this week. Spending an hour each day for 100 days will probably mean less sleep. This is a challenge as I realize that in reality to accomplish what I want to in this area it will take a lot more than an hour a day. I see myself spending a minimum of 500-700 hours in learning here through free websites starting with Freecodecamp, Udemy and other online resources. My goal is to brush up on my web-design but further, I want to review my SQL knowledge but also join it with Python to understand data structure, queries, analyze and visualize data better to make better data-driven decisions. With a 10 month old and 4 year old at home this might get quite difficult as I have figured out in working on my MBA that things can slip very quickly and therefore I am now using a time-tracking software (TimeCamp) to truly make sure I am putting a minimum of 10 hours a week into brushing up on programming languages or learning data science and visualization. Wish me luck as I need to also put in an hour a day starting next week into my MBA as well, sleep is important but sometimes a little less sleep is all you can do to gain new skills.

There are a lot of free resources to expand your skillset in these areas there are many more than the below (but these are the ones I plan to leverage mostly for R and Python are below)

Hands on Python Tutorial
Python For Everybody
Automate the Boring Stuff
The Python Guru
Python Course


If you enjoyed this content more of my content is here:

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

If you enjoyed this please share this below:

Learning has Changed: Re-inventing the Post-Secondary

I think of myself as a lifelong learner and I have noticed over the years how I learn and what I learn has changed very rapidly. All of a sudden I am considered an adult learner and have realized that I need to adapt how I learn. In working in post-secondary the institutions are starting to realize that they need to adapt and offer a more blended learning approach as everybody does learn differently. I am a strong self-starter and tend to learn well self-learning out of modules and books and can apply what I learn. I do not do as well when somebody stands up and tries to teach via lecture. I also noticed in my first degree many of my professors taught very traditionally (13 years ago) believe it or not I had to go to the library to photocopy handwritten slides for many of my economics courses. I’m pretty sure there would be a revolt if a professor was to do that currently. Teachers and instructors now need to be technology savvy and understand how individual learners digest information. For me, on a personal level, I have started to evaluate how I learned best and have tailored my learning to this. I just had lunch with somebody that I know is incredibly smart and he is a self-learner less concerned about certifications but it is incredibly bright and learns very rapidly. I have found that I have a lot of formal education but I have started questioning the return on investment if I was just going into post-secondary right now. We have been socialized to finish high school go to university or college and then a job and then get married. The question now many Millenials are asking is this the best route. Many of the largest companies currently including Google, Amazon, and Apple do not require a degree for employers and individuals that have taught themselves and are more than competent with a mix of learning, experience, and appropriate skillset are becoming more common.

The reaction from many progressive PSI’s has been positive as learning is available now through different means including from some of the leading PSI’s including MIT-Open courseware, many elite colleges and universities are on Coursera and you can even acquire master’s degrees from recognized colleges online. Udemy has also expanded as offering support for certifications and essential skills at a fraction of the cost of any college or university. Education is changing; the internet has already revolutionized how we learn as competition has increased but most PSI’s are too rigid and their management and organizational structures to bureaucratic to move with the market so the rise of entrants into training continues. If I want training right now on a topic I usually can go to Google and self-learn some and when I feel I need more and formally my options usually are an education provider online or a post-secondary that I need to get admitted to and then often wait until the course start date. In reality, this lack of agility often takes these education providers out of the market for time-sensitive customers. Still, many PSI’s and other organizations are now leveraging technology even for hands-on learning with the rise of augmented and virtual reality who knows where this will end up. Most of the money PSI’s see is also from governments so really tax dollars are used for diminishing returns now for students. With the changes of being a society of accessibility and convenience, it is shocking that many PSI’s have been so slow to adapt to the growing market. The question is now what can PSI’s do? In reality, many PSI’s can keep up with the market, they teach change management and are fully capable of analyzing the market and trends but often senior leadership are risk-averse and most often academics that are in charge have never had real-world experience in implementing enterprise change. I was lucky enough to report to an executive when at a PSI who understood change had come from the private world with a lot of experience in mergers and acquisitions (much like my background) but was not empowered often to make the necessary changes across the institution hence the speed of change was slow. You can read further on the need to empower staff for speed here. Budget cuts to PSI’s are seen negatively that education is being cut but often these cuts are needed to push changes and continuous improvement initiatives. The PSI I was at is evaluating and starting to implement blended learning but in reality, they are behind and tend to over-evaluate and over plan before they move on anything.

Saying all of this now when evaluating my learning I look at ROI and am starting to see the value of formal education at a University degrading. Not just from all of what is discussed above on how technology and the internet have changed learning and made it more accessible. I have paused my MBA studies to focus on other training after evaluation of ROI. Part of it is also the cost and the practicality of raising education cost now has to be evaluated more than ever as debt is getting even more common. Student loans are a crisis check out more here and another reason is now the opportunities for self-learning new skills and practical certifications have changed the value of my time. PSI’s are at a crossroads with hyper-competition as well as different mediums for training and they can choose to change their culture and move with greater speed and adapt to learner trends or have their admissions plummet.

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

If you enjoyed this please share this below:

Data’s Power and Danger

Data analysis and the need to be data-driven is disrupting many roles and organizations. Companies are starting to demand more experience and skills in not just understanding data and the business but being able to clean, visualize, evaluate and deploy data for use is becoming common. Many entry-level data science jobs are asking for 3 – 5 years of experience when the role itself is so new that many companies are hiring there first data scientists. About 5 years ago I worked with two individuals who were recently hired as data scientist’s both were very bright had masters degrees and were very adept at analyzing and cleaning data but did not understand the business nor were they data scientists for years so they were in the process of upskilling while they worked. There were clearly high expectations of these individuals to analyze data and come to solutions that would help managers and executives (some type of secret sauce) but the data was not extensive and executives clearly wanted the data to say what they wanted and often pushed for this bias and one of the two individuals usually followed this bias while the other individual who was more experienced decided to leave the company. Data is powerful but often can be weaponized with bias and in this regards it is important to have structure and objectivity when making decisions and using analytics. The other danger now with data-centred roles is impostor syndrome as the demands of organizations are becoming quite vast and the skillsets often are more siloed. Data roles are starting to converge and individuals are upskilling as organizations big and small are looking for assistance in making data-driven decisions. This often means the same individuals are playing multiple roles often being data engineers, scientists, analysts, testing engineers and developers. With the demand for data-driven decisions organizations’ roles will adapt and change from the bottom all the way to the C-Suite with the rise of positions like the Chief Data Officer to often complement the CIO the question now is what roles will adapt and emerge.


Data now is very powerful and companies like Google use your data to customize your experience. Automation and intelligence are starting to become commonplace. I actually turned off my data and automation to google and all my social media for a week and was surprised at the convenience I lost. Customized news that was targeted at me was starting to fade out- the biggest issue was google maps two days in a row did not notify me automatically of an accident and I was late to work due to an accident usually google would have automatically detoured me. So the protection of your data and security often comes with tradeoffs and people need to evaluate how much data they are willing to release for convenience. Individuals really need to understand if they really own their data in many cases they give up or agree to something they never read by clicking a box. Now data holders are becoming savvy and storytelling with data is becoming more common coordinated efforts can lead to risks again of bias and misinformation that can influence people of all sorts of things. We now live in an age where bots can help support misinformation as seen when Bolivian President Evo Morales eventually resigned thousands claimed it was not a coup and the hashtag #bolivianohaygolpe had over 17,000 tweets the day after and 5,000 were created the day before and most likely all were bots. In this case, there was coordinated misinformation that many ended up believing. Targeted efforts become even more effective as organizations sell their data quite often. Many marketers will buy data and this is more common than people think. Often when you attend a conference or even a webinar they take your information down, have you asked where this goes? When I worked within a marketing team it was often discussed buying conference lists and contact information of individuals at conferences and this data is commonly sold to many different groups. Digital marketers now collect data that some may even consider intrusive- technology and automation are making data a very valuable commodity a CRM with no or little data has a very different value than a CRM with robust information. More qualified leads can be quickly generated with appropriate data as well as targeted marketing and personalization become a possibility with more data.

With the sale of data ethics in the use of analytics and new technology (AI etc.) is becoming more prevalent as seen with examples like Cambridge Analytica and in spreading what many would say is fake news. Political campaigns are now being driven by data and often this data is contorted and used to influence and convince undecided voters. The question now with all sorts of numbers and data out there what do we believe. Often people now will use the excuse that they are “just doing their job”. Ethics needs to be ingrained in how data is used and it was quite clear in “The Great Hack” the documentary on Netflix shows how data mining and algorithms are really affecting large world decisions. Some of the unethical ways data were used was targeted at impressionable voters. The question now is will data be weaponized to drive world issues and bias? Data is very powerful and what Cambridge Analytica did show is it is dangerous if there is bias and the data is weaponized.

I recently took on learning how to code and learn some programming language. It had been about 5 years or so since I typed a line of code or queried any data in that way. In writing what I have in this post and my previous post I believe upskilling and increasing my knowledge will take significant time as I believe this will truly be lifelong learning. Data is becoming an asset and an opportunity the question now in this journey is who will be left behind.

I’m a big fan currently of Avinash Kaushik his blog is great and he is in charge of a lot of Google’s digital marketing and some great blogs on data strategy at a high level. Check it out here. You can also follow my blog here as well and share it on social if you enjoyed this post.

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

If you enjoyed this please share this below:

The Empathetic Leader (Strength in Compassion)

Each individual I have reported to in my career I have learned from. It did not matter if I agreed with their leadership at times. My last supervisor was a great leader that to this day I greatly respect. One of the largest things that I learned from her was the strength of empathy and truly caring about people and the effect this has. Empathy is very powerful as over time it can build loyalty with staff and help staff care and be more engaged. Empathy helps build trust and trust is essential in building healthy teams. I saw my leader quite quickly gain my loyalty and I realized that this was a skill that she had fostered. She truly cared about people and this helped her direct reports feel like they were heard. This employee-focused approach is a great approach when instilling change but compassionate leadership also needs to be managed as an extreme amount of empathy can lead to poor decisions and distort our judgement. Understanding your staff and people and having empathy is very different than letting it affect your decision making to the point where tough decisions are not made. It is my opinion that compassion can get in the way of important decisions but that is what makes us human- I have had to let people go of people that I would never have wanted to, good performers with family’s and having a personal relationship to these people it was uncomfortable and was difficult but it was tougher on them. I had compassion and often tried to keep in touch and do what I could to support the person in employment after I had to let someone go. I also felt like letting people go with dignity and continuing a positive relationship with their former employer is good for the brand of the employer.

I also have seen many situations where I feel the lack of empathy and compassionate leadership has caused the trust to be damaged in teams. This can often be the case when a manager becomes process driven with little judgement. I remember having to provide push-back when I was a senior manager and one of my direct reports had a large traumatic tragedy within their family- the employee in question suffered from depression after this and instead of offering support my supervisor wanted to let him go before he went on disability. I fought this and made sure this would not occur as felt ethically this was wrong and showing compassion is important in building a team. The employee never did return to work but what I did build was trust with my team- they knew I would have their back. I found that with this trust my team often felt empowered and we were accountable to each other- collaboration often was not forced and people openly spoke to each other. We did have some issues with other teams who saw us as a threat but went out of our way to work with them and tried to collaborate. Still, compassion and empathy can provide a pathway to leading with influence as trust instead of authority which provides more engagement and at the end more productivity.

Compassion has an important function in leadership as accountability and commitment can be affected by a lack of empathy and compassion. Listening, communicating and understanding other people will often help internal communication within organizations which provides multiple benefits. Compassion is essential for servant leaders and coaches who are trying to build compassion into their corporate culture. Getting personal at work is uncomfortable for some people and might not be seen as professional but individuals spend a lot of their lives at work and getting personal is part of compassionate leadership. Building bonds with peers and staff can help corporate culture foster a safe environment where collaboration and trust become seamless. Inspiring leaders often are the ones with the most self-awareness and trust within their teams and compassion and empathy is common in their leadership skill-set.

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

If you enjoyed this please share this below:

I Cared too Much (Work-life Balance)

In the current society, we often spend more time at our jobs than anywhere else. It is often difficult to count in overtime and work functions and forget that workplaces are exactly that and it is often important to separate work and other life events. In my last role, I had a large change and learned a lot- moving out of my comfort zone is something I am not afraid to do and embrace change. My last role was a large change (new industry- post-secondary and public instead of private) my wife told me I would struggle as it was slow-moving- I knew I would need to shift my mindset a bit and adapt.  Part of my role was to help the department I was working with to be more reactive to change and move quicker. We adopted agile methodologies but the only way we could really change the speed at which the department and organization worked as a culture shift that had been ingrained for years. I came from many organizations where accountability and deliverable-based cultures were prioritized. I had to adapt for and understand or as it was put to me “fit into the culture” I will get back to culture fit in my next post so I will not delve more into this here. In my first year as a public servant, I was still very deliverable focused and found that I might have been on the outside of the culture a bit but I tried to do what I could to adapt. Still, I took work home most nights and felt a sense of responsibility to move things forward. I noticed my supervisor often did the same and without realizing it she was fostering a culture of getting things done. Still, she would verbalize to me not to be taking work home after work hours and things could wait- I often heard this through the department. The institution I worked at itself had a great culture for people and they pushed “work-life” balance which I will get to later in this post. I have always truly cared about my work and taken a passion for what I do, my goal has always been to provide value to my clients or company I work for. When I have found my value being delivered was slipping I always tried to work differently optimizing my value or find areas where I could provide value. I mention this as again as often corporate culture can help in giving freedom to individuals to be agile in their roles really get sh** done or remind their employees to know their place and stay in their lane; empowering employees provides value and instills accountability but that does not destroy work-life balance as some people believe. Instilling a culture of action while giving flexibility to employees will help work-life balance which I will clarify further later.

I wanted to delve deeper into my experiences with work-life balance, job demands and the overall culture of an organization. Over the last 10 years, I have been involved in some way in changing cultures or accelerating the adoption of new business practices. I have felt accountable in my role always even taking my phone and company laptop on my 3-week honeymoon, I am not endorsing to not take a break or even taking work on a honeymoon but I am saying there needs to be balanced in work-life to not take away accountability. I would not call my endeavour into the public sector a failure but it was challenging as I had been accustomed to an environment where management worked in a heavy deliverable-based culture even if other employees were unionized. I will not say work-life balance and productivity are even related but it is important to understand the items that can compete in corporate culture. I remember in one of my roles being told I care too much and I would get used to letting deliverable dates go as well that it was just the way it was. There was a complacency built into the culture at times where you could always get things done the next day unless it was a pressing need from a higher executive. Unfortunately the work being done was not prioritized by ROI and the staff were often not empowered to prioritize work across the department until after some time. Improvements were made but many issues still festered and the excuse of work-life balance was often used. At times I grew frustrated as it was important for the institution to instill a work life balance- there were stretches where many of the leaders and staff were away on vacation at times where strategic planning was essential. There were also leaders on flexible schedules such as Friday’s off or every second Friday for some of the leaders and staff but processes were weak and support was not defined for individuals who were on break so many items stalled or were slow to develop. I also realized that working outside of work-hours was frowned upon so I tried to optimize my time and closely tracked my time (with AI based time software) (Timecamp- to make sure I was on task and could track my own time and cost and productivity analysis (CPA).  I wanted to make sure that I was focused on providing value as I realized that it was difficult with vacation, professional development and other breaks at an 85% factor of productivity I realized I was worked about 7 months. I always asked working at this employer if they pushing work-life balance at a corporate level but not helping enforce and foster a culture of responsibility and accountability affected productivity. I often found if I saw a call from somebody I responded very promptly when I was able to or if there was a voicemail I followed up. I am a large believer of the client, co-worker and customer experiences often being a key in building a culture where accountability and agility and productivity can thrive.  Cultural values in organizations need to be balanced as when they are not and you try to change or transform cultures without clarity there can be confusing. Clear communication of cultural values within a company is important but also living and acting those values is even more important in instilling the beliefs and environment of the organization. Leaders that are not accountable themselves truly set a tone where

I worked at a company also that did not hide that work and deliverables were the priority. I was told when I started that this would be the case and that if I worked 70 hours one week and 20 the next that was just how it was. Still somehow with everything I felt a passion for doing work there, they expected accountability and realistically to answer emails and calls promptly. This was clear from the environment and the culture- still working long hours at the company but they provided flexibility and I got to work at home when appropriate as well it was deliverable focused and I had no worry in regards to punching a clock. I also had healthy anxiety of making sure I was responsive and productive. It was easy to fit into the culture there was no confusion in regards to the direction that Executives were going there expectations were clear and if you met or exceeded them you were usually rewarded. I had very little need to track my time at this position as providing value to the company was priority number one. I really felt work-life integration but in a healthy way- even though I worked 30-40% more at this organization. I question some of the practices when companies expect employees to work excessive hours and I understand it is easy to say to move on. I also understand that many people are working just to put food on their family’s table and am not ignoring this as they feel forced staying at a job but I am not focusing on this scope I am focused on knowledge workers who are doing well enough and skilled enough to be mobile in their choice of employers. There can be a culture change in regards to work-life balance but it should be remembered often when you change X it will affect Y and there are levers and trade-offs I have seen this very commonly in my experience with acquisitions as company’s I worked for often purchased other company’s and the culture of the acquisition company changed significantly, this was often forced upon the organization being purchased as the cultures often could be quite different (for example four day work-weeks). The acquiring organization had quite extensive integration plans and this often meant introducing processes and changing how people fundamentally worked. This change often pushed people out of there comfort zone quickly and often they left on their own if they were unable to adapt. If an individual was deemed essential to operations there was definitely flexibility afforded to that individual.

Work-life balance has tradeoffs if not managed. Corporate cultures that do not instill accountability will ultimately have difficulties in implementing flexibility without negative trade-offs in the environment. Changing work-life balance done correctly can often instill more loyalty to the employer and allow the employee flexibility to provide value even more. Many of the so-called best employers hide behind a guise of work-life balance but instilling passion in their employees for the work they perform would be more beneficial. Work-life balance should not mean just giving more days off, balance can be gained by affecting many factors personalized to the individual. Stress and work pressure are parts of work-life balance and can be managed. The overall environment of the organization needs to be managed as employees also need the tools to do their jobs and to increase the engagement of employees. It is important to manage employees and culture this will have more impact than any other initiatives and benefits. Employees put a value on each work-life balance initiative and each employee does not place the same weight on each factor so managing this with some personalization will help employers make sure employees are more engaged in their roles.

For further reading on these topics checkout:

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

If you enjoyed this please share this below:

How do I respond? (To Inbox-zero or not?)

Currently, there are many mediums now that in the workplace you can be contacted with. Communication is changing rapidly and in the workplace, in my opinion, it is even changing more rapidly. I am a big proponent of inbox zero and find I am somewhat annoyed at times with people who use the excuse with clients that they have to many emails or take their unread email as a badge of honor when they have thousands of unread emails. In an ideal workplace, we would limit waste and in reality, an email or another form of communication would not need to be repeated or clarified and initiate or help provide value to solutions. What I have often seen in many (non-agile) environments is communication is a struggle as often bureaucracy and authority impede deliverables being completed with quality and speed. It has become easier now to communicate, delegate and empower employees with technology allowing for easier oversight and transparency. Often inbox zero starts with a culture of customer-centricity and responsiveness allowing for an expectation from sponsors to respond to email and often other mediums.


In my last position, I was trying to help solve some cultural issues and one of them was responsiveness to colleagues and clients. One thing I asked many people were how they organized their email and other communication it varied greatly but individuals who had a lot of email and communication and could stay responsive had some things in common they had a method they followed to organize there inbox an example I saw that worked is below:

  1. If a message requires no action on your behalf, archive it immediately.
  2. If a message requires a simple reply that you can knock out in a minute or less, respond right then and there—and then archive it immediately.
  3. If a message requires some level of thought or response that you can’t get to right away, snooze it to a time and date when you will be able to handle it—whether it’s later that same day, sometime the following week, or on a Friday two months down the road. That’ll get the message out of your way so it doesn’t serve as a constant source of distraction. And then it will reappear and grab your attention when the time is right.

I personally have often followed the above but to go further for any communication I have usually split it into DeleteDelegateRespondDefer or Do and experimented with different ways to get myself organized to be more responsive and customer-centric. I also found in many of my emails I started really clarifying for the person what I was asking or if it was an FYI right in the subject. I often introduced BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) to teams I worked with as the military uses very concise and clear subject lines that elicit action. (See here)

  • ACTION – Compulsory for the recipient to take some action
  • SIGN – Requires the signature of the recipient
  • INFO – For informational purposes only, and there is no response or action required
  • DECISION – Requires a decision by the recipient
  • REQUEST – Seeks permission or approval by the recipient
  • COORD – Coordination by or with the recipient is needed


I have found emails addressing the action needed to the person lets them understand what is needed and if it is just information then if the individual is swamped it allows them not to focus on the email. Let me say that I realize an email is seen very differently than many other mediums. I personally often do not expect a prompt response and would not use email too often on something I need a quick response on but I have noticed if I see someone is online I might shoot them a Slack or Teams message or something that we are socialized to respond to right away fairly informally. If I do not get a response I usually will pick-up the phone, I realize that there are so many channels now for communication with technology. Choosing the method of communication for me has been interesting as in my last 2 roles utilizing video calling has become more common for proposals as well as various meetings. Choosing a medium for myself for communicating is very dependent on my purpose and as well the level of touch I need to meet my goal or to be successful in the initiative.

I also want to state I understand there are those people who cannot get to the bottom of their inbox without assistance. Many times executives need assistance in getting organized and focused, often Executive Assistants can help if delegated to.

Is Inbox Zero Worth It?

Limiting my unread emails in my inbox has helped me get organized with structure and allow me to focus on actionable and value-added items. I often do not get to zero in my inbox but have made a commitment now for the last 3 years I have made sure at the end of each week I have made sure my inbox is cleared to a minimal follow-up. I understand that some people do not believe in inbox-zero and that is fine but everybody has been in the position when they send an email to somebody and are not sure if it will ever be responded to. I would argue if you want a culture where accountability and customer-centricity are important being able to consistently communicate with colleagues or customers in a timely matter is paramount. So when you look at your thousands of unread emails I would question if let’s say on number 500 there is something important that somebody should have called you about but didn’t how would you respond? I like discussion so if you do not really feel inbox zero is an appropriate standard for today’s workforce? (FYI – I have been in positions where I get over 500 emails in a day and have managed to keep my emails close to zero unread with some rules and organization). I think this level of email for me was not acceptable and I found I needed to delegate much more and empower employees to free myself up and have a larger impact.

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

If you enjoyed this please share this below:

Design Thinking Supporting Business Transformation and Change

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” 

Albert Einstein

Design thinking is a tool that is gaining steam as often business problems can be assisted with a different view of thinking in the new digital economy. I have been in many situations where individuals are brainstorming for solutions to issues and really look to what is the standard or best practice but sometimes this can fail. When there is an efficiency problem process is introduced or implementing technology to solve other problems. Many leaders are hammers and look for nails as leaders often looking to formulate solutions to problems that might be more complex. Design thinking process often has a level of due diligence that helps answer business problems as design, prototyping and testing ideas as a critical thinking framework that is flexible so information can be gathered, decisions could be made and solutions implemented rapidly. Design thinking is a powerful tool that can assist in diverse business issues and specifically transformations or re-inventions of business models and value chains in organizations. Design thinking is a great tool for these issues because it naturally tries to get to root-causes of issues and this form of critical thinking if the standard practice is the best solution it is usually validated. I will not go too far into this but to understand the systems thinking and design thinking approach you can check out two possible areas for a quick overview- systems thinking or design thinking.

Transformation and digital transformation are usually not solved by technology but by human factors as it clarifies problems as it is a user-centric approach that puts the user/ customer at the forefront.  Design thinking allows users looking to solve issues to engross themselves in problems leveraging technology but still with the user first. User-centered approaches for problem-solving has a very empathetic approach and digs in to truly try to understand why people do things and emotions of the users. Design thinking needs to be fluid and as a framework often in itself is a fundamental shift for organizations is not a choice. Most companies do not like to take risks and really have no other choice but to transform and most often this has to do with going more digital. But digital transformation and fundamental changes to a business are not about technology adoption to solve a problem but about problem-solving issues that require innovative solutions. Often many operation managers do not have the skillsets needed to fully adopt changes needed within organizations as the day to day management and skillset needed is very different than implementing key complex strategic initiatives. Business transformation is also changing as organizations in hyper-competitive environments are continuously changing to make sure they can still compete- continuous improvement initiatives for many organizations is constant and items need to be adapted often in iterations. The most successful organizations continue to look within and try to adjust and adapt as the feedback cycle never really stops. Requirements for organizations are changing rapidly and it is important to adapt- what I learned in my last role is often process, the specifically linear process is not the best solution. Design thinking is best when it is a guideline and ingrained into culture as this takes time and often leaders are not willing to truly take a chance on empowering employees and design thinking as a guideline. Instead, many leaders are used to providing a structured set of steps but this rarely gets the results they are striving to get. Learning and using lessons from iterations can often be difficult for leaders as there is not a defined future solution right away this can cause discomfort for leaders and to truly implement solutions in many cases that maximize the ROI this is needed as root-causes often are better solved with ideation. Technology and automation can be part of a solution but being people and user-focused will often help you understand the true problems. Leaders though need to be more patient and allow for experimentation and sometimes failure, a failure that can be learned from and can humanize technology and provide a culture that can embrace change.

Transformation of an organization is also helped with a diverse workforce as thought diversity and different opinions help design thinking and allow for critical thinking of problem solving. Groupthink, the loudest person in the room and the HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) affect can all still affect design thinking’s effectiveness if sessions are not facilitated effectively. I have been in situations before that people fall in line and are not able to speak their minds on business problems and solutions because they are affected by the previously mentioned issues. I have realized now that fit within an organization is a double-edged sort- yes like-minded individuals can sometimes allow for initiatives to move forward quicker but diverse workforces can come up generally with solutions that are better thought out with diligence and allow for true design thinking. Consultants often can be useful in cases like this when facilitation skills are not within your organization to truly develop plans that encompass a real solution to complex problems. Design thinking helps develop solutions and can help because it can be transformative. Flatter leadership structures in many organizations are also becoming more common as clients/ customers are demanding speed. Therefore most business transformation and change within many organizations is more of a culture shift than and operational shift. What is envisioned is a human-centered process not normally a technology-driven process and in saying most transformation in organizations is employee-driven and the technology is only the tool to help get there. If an organization wants successful transformation they will focus on changing culture and this is where training designing thinking within the organization can help transformation as employees can help take steps to the future. In reality the organizational culture shift and design thinking go hand in hand and diversity of thought will help design thinking as innovation and transformation become more essential for businesses as the digital economy provides them no choice. Changing to survive is set to become the norm for many in the near future.

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

If you enjoyed this please share this below:

Bootcamps, Self-Learning or Post-Secondary?

I wrote in the past on the value of post-secondary education and its need to adapt here. I also wrote on traditional examinations within the context of the CPA exam failures recently on testing there programs and usability. I was asked by somebody than where do I see things going in regards to education and that in my opinion is a difficult question but my take is below.

I really believe there is a large role for Universities and formal education institutions if they are able to adapt to learning. I remember on my first degree that I had one professor who still made students go to the library to photocopy slides and used an overhead projector and simply refused change and it was normal for at least 10 years prior to present with Powerpoint and have notes online. Now there is even more engaging technology for slides like, Prezi and keynote as examples. The refusal of one professor to modernize is a common issue I have seen with post-secondary institutions where one individual not adapting can change a student’s experience as tenured professors priority is often research and teaching is something that helps fund their priority. Organizational agility and change management is something government-funded, risk-averse organizations like post-secondaries might naturally struggle with as rocking the boat is often not rewarded and most often taking risks is not encouraged in this traditional environment. This has led to opportunities for entrants into training and education and more certification agencies. I am of the opinion that many vocational schools and privately owned certification bodies are gaining steam as employers often are looking for specific certifications and skillsets suited to their industry. Digital marketers for example now are probably very well served to have google analytics certifications and other credentials on top or sometimes instead of a traditional business degree. Some of the best digital marketers have no degree and many of the top respected experts in their field now are not academics like Gary Vaynerchuk or Neil Patel. Sometimes a degree is needed but a great thought piece on this can be read here.

So here we go, I understand there will always be a role for post-secondaries we are not going to go to a Bootcamp or self-learn being a doctor, lawyer or nursing. Many careers might be unable to shift for years to more agile learning but I will talk about this more below still on the opportunities of AR (augmented reality). My learning has shifted greatly over time to look at ROI and skillset I have realized with technology and trends moving so quickly being a lifelong learner is necessary to be effective for clients/ customers and employers. Often a 4-year degree has items you have no interest or would never use but is part of the requirements of a traditional University education – my first degree was an arts degree where I completed an Economics degree with a Sociology minor but  I had many statistics and math courses mixed in which I thought might have a use but I was forced to take fine arts classes and second languages to get my degree. I had no interest in them and they provided little value and I hear the argument of being a more rounded individual as for one of my fine arts classes in drama I went to go see plays and wrote papers that were enjoyable. But these courses really reduce the ROI on my degree- I also did a business degree later online where I felt the ROI was a little higher as I did very little that would not benefit me. Still, I will say my highest ROI was from certifications like PMP, Lean-Six Sigma, and Prosci Certifications mainly as these were specialized and provided knowledge that was applicable and helped me in my career as actionable knowledge. You cannot master or learn a whole subject area in 3 days as mentioned in the article here and I think the article makes great points but often these boot camps and certifications expect application and knowledge to be gained and give you the base to start. Upskilling is becoming essential to keeping up with trends as mentioned before and being in the workplace for a bit it is clear that often there can be a gaps in skillsets when organizations do not invest in their employees for growth and in working with many different organizations and industries I find gaps can be large when this investment is ignored. Recently PWC committed to spending about $3 billion on upskilling its employees which can be seen here. Just my opinion but this is forward-thinking even with technology and AI people are at the center of growth and success of most organizations.

One of the best posts I might have ever read in regards to the change traditional schools need to make is here. One thing that sticks out for me for traditional universities or Colleges to keep up is understanding the market and adapting with speed with technology but also designing their own curriculum for it to be relevant to their career goals. I am very interested in understanding what will occur in the future as have two young kids and with online degrees and certifications is it worth investing in an RESP. How greatly will education change with AR and being able to learn hands-on items from home? Currently, I am learning to code and it is incredible the free resources available and released by private organizations. Will knowledge be more free-flowing in this way and what will be the role of formal education. I am in the middle of my MBA and really question the ROI and value currently but want to finish as understand this is an indicator of certain high-level knowledge to employers. I also feel like at times things are changing rapidly and wonder if I will have to ask my kids how to program some random item like my holographic personal assistant. Either way, learning is different for everybody and is changing rapidly in ten years I wonder which tenured professor will still be using traditional PowerPoint. Or maybe Microsoft will adapt PowerPoint rapidly to how learning is changing.

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

If you enjoyed this please share this below:

Leading with Influence

Leadership can be complicated but effective leaders in today’s workforce need to now be less authoritative and now have the skills to influence others to gain consensus or agreement to move initiatives forward in a way where people are bought in and motivated. The ability to influence is an essential leadership skill that as a soft skill is increasing in demand as leaders need to inspire, persuade and rally their staff so they have a commitment to a shared goal. You may have the authority to make somebody do a task but that does not mean you can make them do their best that is often when influence becomes more important. Each day people are at work they make a decision on how much effort they are going to exert- I pride myself on my effort but I started to realize that leadership does make a difference as leaders can influence there staff and generate commitment from their employees. I take building trust incredibly seriously as have seen my own supervisors build trust with me and also fail to build trust. My last supervisor was very talented in building trust she built a trust where I felt accountable to her and I was committed and motivated in making sure I completed anything that supported her with speed and quality. I would be lying if I said I did not have supervisors who also lacked the skill to motivate and influence people in a positive way; as professional as people might be there is still a point psychologically that they become motivated or worn down and demotivated. I have also had this occur where supervisors take credit for the work of others and blame others for mistakes and truly break trust within their teams. Often individuals are motivated by career growth for themselves and forget that they are leading teams and that the best way to career growth is empowering their team and building trust.

The Skill to Influence

The skill of influence for leadership is no longer a “nice to have” it is essential to be able to engage employees and build collaborative environments. Authority does not motivate individuals the same way influence does so understanding the skills and steps needed to influence is important. Below is a base for understanding and ability to be able to be an influential leader in the workplace:

  1. Organizational Intelligence

Understanding the structure and processes of an organization is important in being able to navigate through and apply influence to move initiatives forward. There is a formal structure but to apply influence it is also important to understand the informal structure (ie. Politics). Leaders who understand how to navigate the informal structures of an organization can often accelerate initiatives and reduce friction and pushback; I will discuss leveraging network and contacts further below. Furthermore building social capital helps in being able to navigate organizations as politically savvy individuals have often taken time to foster personal relationships.

  1. Promotion and role

To gain influence often leaders need to know how to promote themselves and understand their role in the organization. Furthermore often they can gain the most influence by promoting and enabling their teams. Servant leadership, especially in agile environments, are gaining steam and this type of leadership often needs to use influence and negotiation to remove blockers that impede their team’s progress. To be able to remove blockers often influence is needed, in agile (scrum) scrum masters work to remove blockers for their staff in sprints often this takes influence to implement these agile practices across the organization to enhance efficiency. Roles are changing across organizations and influence is a skill that is becoming necessary to be successful in many new roles.

  1. Trust Building

Credibility is important when trying to exert influence and often this needs to be created over time as actions are what truly build trust. Likability is often a part of trust-building but credibility is the even a larger part of trust. This does not mean credibility equals trust but credibility is often a direct input of trust in the workplace. Trust is complex and often this is forgotten as it takes time and is a process. Leaders can do a lot to build influence as in the past I have found doing a lot of little things to build influence is also important. Getting to know people and

Accountability across teams also needs to be built to help trust but this is something that also is a bit of a science as to when in leadership roles expectations need to be set, communicated and allowed to be clarified.

  1. Network and Listening

Influence is complex and often is built from not trying to influence but to listen and to be an empathetic leader who can really make people feel heard. When people feel they are being heard they often become empowered to work harder and are more motivated. If people feel like there is no use talking to you they won’t and will not engage with you affecting how you network and your overall influence. It is important that in being open to listening you should also be open to being influenced. Building a network where you have credibility and trust and often knowledge can lead to your influence spreading exponentially across organizations.

To truly be able to influence and provide influential leadership you need to be seen and you need to show you care and empathy is a part but passion for the goal is also an important point as seen in Kouzes and Posner The Leadership Challenge “If a leader displays no passion for a cause, why should anyone else care”.

The Need for Authority (Sometimes It Is Needed)

There are times sometimes that authority is necessary to move things forward. In change management best practice it is imperative that a sponsor with authority for the initiative is established. Engaged sponsors can help accelerate initiatives and power change and even if individuals have influence often authority is needed to accelerate achieving company goals with aggressive timelines. Strong sponsorship can often help reinforce the organization’s commitment to the initiative and there are times that influence is not enough in moving initiatives forward in the workplace.

A leader who is focused on achieving mutual goals across an organization can be powerful when they have a skill set that can build influence in their organization. Understanding influence and how to upskill to gain influence is becoming more essential in the workplace and in my last role I often did not have formal authority in many of my organizations initiatives but was able to push them through or to get significant progress in continuous improvement initiatives by working with an engaged management team and using influence to gain consensus and move initiatives forward.

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

If you enjoyed this please share this below: