A REGIONAL tech entrepreneur joined global business leaders to discuss solutions for returning to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mike O’Brien, CEO and Co-founder of Opencast Software, was a guest panelist on a Virtual Town Hall Summit which featured 16 global leaders from three continents.
The two-day summit was organised and hosted by American businesswoman India Gary-Martin, a leadership expert who has held global director roles for JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers, Deutsche Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
“I’ve known India for many years and first met her when the company I was then with was doing some work for Deutsche Bank. Her idea was to get a group of senior people from a variety of industries together to discuss a way forward out of the pandemic,” said Mike.
The summit was hosted on Zooms and broadcast live on YouTube, with pre-submitted questions being sent via email. Panel discussions included: Leading in the new normal; Innovation and entrepreneurship; Purpose driven leadership and Being a founder CEO during a crisis.
Mike explained: “I was a panelist for the founder CEO discussion and we covered subjects like how to rapidly shift your team to work remotely, what companies would have done differently if they could turn the clock back, and how to grow in the current environment.
“I think there is a huge amount of opportunity, particularly for the tech sector. Many businesses hadn’t faced up to the hard thinking about digitally transforming their organisations and services – now there’s no avoiding it. There has been a massive sea change and that brings opportunity.
“Some sectors, like banking for instance, have been ahead of the curve and have been using what we used to call video conferencing for many years. Other sectors have had to catch up with the available technology. I think the pandemic has also been a wake-up call with regard to disaster planning – again the banking sector has been good at this, but it hasn’t been enough of a priority for businesses and organisations in other sectors.
“Our panel also discussed very practical problems, like how to recruit in the current climate, and then if you do recruit, how to introduce remote induction/onboarding processes.”
He was joined on his panel by three other CEOs, one from another UK IT company, one from an American management consultancy and another from an American tech company.
“The intention was for the summit panelists to share advice, ideas and experience of organisational leadership, entrepreneurial growth and innovation, during and after the pandemic,” said India Gary-Martin.
“Now is the time for corporations to step up and for leadership to emerge in new and exciting ways. It’s much easier to lead when we are operating in business-as-usual environments, but disruptions like the Covid-19 pandemic pose a test that separates the wheat from the chaff,” added India, who left her role as Global Chief Operations Officer of Investment Banking at JP Morgan to launch her own nail bar business. Now living in London, India has been named one of the top 50 businesswomen in Europe and one of the Top 100 black executives in the UK.
“The whole event was very well organised and went very smoothly,” said Mike. “There were producers who checked picture and sound quality and the live audience were looking at screens that looked like a news channel, with ticker-tape information along the bottom.”
Opencast, based at Hoults Yard, Newcastle, currently employs more than 70 members of staff and works with a number of major organisations, such as Betfair, Insure the Box, Newcastle Building Society, Barclays, Sage, RBS, the Department of Health, and the NHS.