The fascinating thing to me was how different this is from the sorts of technology conferences I've been to. For example, I popped into JAX this week (albeit in the evening for drinks). At technology conferences (<gross-generalisation>) people tend to subscribe to a variety of dress codes and fashion clans, usually from jeans through the range of business casual, including your fair share of goths and alternatives. Suits would be unusual (</gross-generalisation>). At this place, people were scarily conformist. A few years back, the suits at least would be different colours – navy, greys and black – and may or may not include pin stripes. On Thuresday, almost everyone was wearing a particular shade of tasteful dark grey.
I was also pretty shocked at the time people snuck off to go to the pub. Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of imbibing alcoholic beverages as frequently as possible. And I prefer networking in the pub to poncing around in some conference centre. But I feel it's Bad Form, and I was surprised (and a little bit jealous) that it seemed to be the norm. I felt for all of the later presenters.
The Baroness was talking about leadership during times of crisis – she was in charge shortly after 9/11. What I found interesting, and resonated with me, was her focus on her people. An intelligence organisation is all about the people who work for it. She stressed that it was important to bring fun into the work place, especially because it was a particularly traumatic period to be working. She instigated family days and helped the employees show their families what it was they did. I'm not quite sure how much they could show, given the nature of that industry. But I liked that she understood the people were more than just minions, workers in a hive, that they had families and that they wanted to be proud of their work and share it with the significant people in their lives.
She also refused to take credit for anything for herself, but talked about her team, about the people around her and in the organisation. I like leaders who recognise that it's not all about them.
The thing that stuck with me the most is she said that leaders who take themselves too seriously are not taken seriously by their underlings.
Ultimately he gave some advice for how to reduce the impact the rest of the world might have on your trading strategy, which is applicable to all of us:
- Maintain healthy routines
- Take time to reflect daily
- Letting go
Anyway enough corporate plugging.
Overall I came back from TradeTech with lots of ideas of things I wanted to do at work and ways to help us market the platform in future. I also came back with a certain cynicism for these types of very vendor-heavy events. However, I did meet some interesting people, and it was a different crowd to my usual technical comfort zone.
And it did get me thinking, which is really all these things should do.