The digital transformation bod’s infinite playlist
Blame Rob Hale. The first time we spoke, it took us less than half an hour to start talking about obscure 80s bands. Level 42. I will confess I had almost forgotten they even existed. Almost.
And he is the only person ever to congratulate me on working Frank Turner lyrics into a blog post. He is encouraging me and we all know that is barely necessary.
I only said we should create the Digital Innovator’s playlist as a joke. But before the words were even out of my mouth I knew I had to do it.
The reality is, I have a soundtrack to my life at all times.
Albums or songs that define a period of days, months or years. Songs that get played when a particular mood takes me. Or when I need to make it through the day.
And although I am no longer a banker (16 months into recovery folks, it’s possible) my heart is filled with pride when I see the corporate rebels stand firm and sympathy when I encounter their sleepless faces across conference room tables. The struggle they undertake daily to make change happen is heroic, invisible and thankless. And this is my playlist to accompany the cycle of emotions from the day you get the job to the day you deliver results (assuming you don’t go for the fire and brimstone “Office Space” exit to Johnny Paycheck’s “Take this Job and Shove It”. You know you thought of it).
Day one: We are the Champions (Queen)
We are the champions, my friends.
What is there to say? The day you get the job, the day you get the funding, the green light, the nod… that day feels amazing. You know there are hard days ahead. You know it. But that day you are on top of the world and the world is new. Cherish that day. That feeling of unadulterated joy doesn’t survive first contact with reality.
Day 7: Big Casino (Jimmy Eat World)
There are lots of smart ideas in books I never read, when the girls come talk to me I wish to hell I had.
I write about the million ways in which the body corporate trips us up but I haven’t yet written much about the moments of terrifying uncertainty, when things come at you thick and fast and you just don’t know enough about them, your team is tiny and you have no time to hire. You call in favours. You read. You sit with colleagues and learn, learn, learn. You feel out of your depth a lot. Stupid often. And terrified constantly of making a mistake that will cost your team the dream, so much so that you don’t sleep for the first few weeks.
But you learn. You learn fast. You learn deep. And you get good at this because it’s do or die, there is no try (this one is for you, Barb).
Day 29: Disneyland (Five for Fighting)
It’s a fine day, when you wake up in Disneyland.
You got this. The fear is behind you. You can do this. You understand this. Your instincts are right. The team is enjoying themselves. The client is enjoying themselves. Your sponsor is engaged and proud. The organisation isn’t playing silly buggers. Life is good.
Day 47: There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis (Kirsty MacColl)
Well he’s a liar and I’m not sure about you.
And then it comes. In the middle of everything going so well.
An entirely gratuitous stab in the back. From someone who doesn’t have anything to gain by tripping you up. Someone who has nothing to prove. And yet. In the midst of all your hard work and things going in the right direction someone plants an explosive lie, a malicious challenge. A maneuver that takes the wind out of your sails and has you spinning your wheels, mopping up and engaging in entirely unnecessary damage limitation (because nothing was actually damaged and yet you have to repair as if it had been) because a well-timed lie or soupçon started a chain reaction that is now yours to fix.
And while you do what you must, you rail. You are angry. You are hurt. And you look at everyone outside your team in a new way. Who can you trust?
Day 53: Life is Beautiful (P.O.D.)
She cuts with no intent to kill. This time she didn’t do it. But someday she will…
You shield the team. Above all, you shield the team. They are working away. They seem happy. That’s what matters. They still believe. That is what matters.
So you take the pointless meetings revisiting the stuff already discussed. You go head to head and knuckle to bloody knuckle to defend the budget that was secured and celebrated on day one. To protect the timelines that were agreed as necessary (I can’t build and prove a proposition in the time it takes you to put together a slide deck, it doesn’t work that way). You have the meeting. With the senior risk committee. With a fresh set of lawyers who felt left out. With HR who refuse to let you pay every member of your team the same for the same work. With Corporate Affairs because you want to work on the thing you were brought in to do, not host teddy bear tea parties all day long.
You are angry. All the time. And tired. And fired up.
Every fight is worth fighting.
You win. But it’s exhausting.
And after every fight you have to take to the stage: the face of provocative acceptance. The face of the future. The fickle organisation’s faithful spokesperson. Fuelled with passion and faith. That much is true. And conviction. That is also true.
You go from the battlefield to the limelight. And mean every bloody word you say. And then you come back and the work carries on.
Day 68: Can’t Stop These Things (China Drum)
My mind has enough to do without you on it.
It’s not worth it.
There is so much to do here. So much incredibly complex meaningful work that the petty politics and the backstabbing and the teddy bear tea parties cannot take up any space in your head any more. They just can’t. You know what? What if I don’t play the game, don’t waste my breath? Focus on the work. Focus on the team. Focus on the delivery. Sure, I won’t get promoted but surely, after all these fights, isn’t that bridge burned anyway? Focus. Breathe. We have really important work to do. Don’t let them distract you. Learn. Build. Deliver. Protect the team.
And then, of course, you get promoted. For your gumption. Grit. And stamina. Oh isn’t it ironic (yes, Alanis Morissette, but not on the playlist, because nothing in that song is, actually, ironic).
Day 135: A Long December (Counting Crows)
… and there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.
It’s been hard.
Not everything has worked out.
Some assumptions were wrong and you had to take a beating for misleading the SteerCo because assumptions on a slide are facts. Many assumptions were right. But we don’t celebrate that because, you got it, assumptions on a slide are facts.
The team is doing exceptional work, stuff never before done in the Bank. But somehow that has become their job and nobody is actively impressed. Plus quarter end, and regulatory reviews and this and that. It’s busy. And why are you guys not done yet?
Is that programme still going on? You guys still here?
The politics of neglect set in. You almost miss all the people fighting you. At least they knew you were there needing resources.
Now it’s like, “Hello…. Remember us?”.
Day 203: Our Song (Matchbox Twenty)
I don’t know if someone else could handle me, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be. You’re the only one who really sees. You get me.
Amazing how much you guys have achieved in such a short period of time. Amazing what is possible. And we haven’t made it easy on you, have we? You know how big banks are. But we always knew you’d do it. With such a small team. And so many external delays. And so fast. Amazing. What else can you guys achieve? This is incredible. What next?
We have a backlog.
Of user stories. And system builds. And battles with you lot on what you need to do to truly capitalise on what we built because us changing isn’t enough. You have to change too.
But yes. We have delivered. Despite your best efforts, Mothership.
But the sheer joy of Day 1 cannot be replicated. You stand a little apart from the Body Corporate. Victorious, sure. But that is not the point.
The battles you fought taught you more than the tech you built. And as you stand there with the senior management singing your praises you look at your team. And you see them. And they see you. Really truly see you.
And the next challenge comes down the pipe. And you are ready. And there is nothing you can’t do together.
How many times have I said it?
Trying to change organisations from within is hard, hard work.
It is possible. But it is hard and often feels thankless.
In the journey, the team is everything.
As is keeping on keeping on.
The work is never done. This is an infinite playlist for a reason. The cycle will resume before long. Each time a little faster, a little easier, as change takes root.
Keep going. Look after the team. And whatever you do, please don’t stop the music (yes, Rihanna).
By Leda Glyptis
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption as CEO of 11:FS Foundry.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!
Follow Leda on Twitter @LedaGlyptis and LinkedIn.