Life Lessons: Keep resetting your career goals

William Webb of Webb Search Ltd

Dr. William Webb, IEEE fellow and CEO of Webb Search Ltd is also co-author of ‘The 5G Myth: When vision decoupled from reality’. All of which has taught him to keep revisiting career goals. He likes to be given a challenge and the freedom to meet it. Extensive travel has also taught him to slow down, try to understand cultural differences, and ideally have informal chats to get help.

IoT Now: As a child, what job did you want to have when you grew up?

Dr. William Webb: Perhaps strangely, I can’t really recall ever having a ‘desired’ job. Like most, I just didn’t know what I wanted to be, and that stayed with me until I went to university, when I chose engineering that was more because I’d decided I didn’t necessarily want to do physics or maths. Even then, I suppose I dabbled with ideas that I might want to be a lawyer with a technical background, but I’m now very much relieved I didn’t make that choice. I was never good enough at sports, music, or anything creative to even dream of stardom!

IoT Now: If you had one business lesson to share with your younger self what would it be?

Dr. William Webb: Keep revisiting career goals! As you try different roles assess or consider how well they have worked and whether you really want to spend the rest of your working life doing it, then reset goals accordingly. We all learn and mature; someone starting out in the world of work is a very different person from someone who has tried a number of roles or are perhaps at the peak of their career.

IoT Now: Without naming and shaming, tell us about your worst ever boss

Dr. William Webb: I have had sufficiently few bosses that I suspect being ‘specific’ will be incriminating! But in general, I very much like being given a challenge and being left to it and despise micro-management. I suspect that’s true of most people, but in my case, I’m very happy to be given a 3–6-month challenge and then left entirely to it, reporting back when there’s something to report.

IoT Now: Which Internet of Things (IoT) use case has recently fired your imagination?

Dr. William Webb: I’m actually fascinated by what we can do in a number of use cases. Most are relatively mundane – reading smart meters, checking garbage levels, tracking parcels but, when the data is aggregated, then all sorts of insights become possible. Using various artificial intelligence (AI)-type tools, you can find some interesting correlations that I imagine could lead to really important insights. For example, one could find that commuting makes certain illnesses more likely, or data on weather, events and traffic patterns might reveal the causes of congestion in city centres.

IoT Now: What has been your most memorable business travel experience?

Dr. William Webb: There are so many, and they’re mostly memorable because of the ways that disaster befell me! But perhaps I should mention one of my very first trips. My then girlfriend, now wife, was staying out in Singapore, and my ‘perceptive’ manager at the time found a good reason for me to fly out there, so I managed to mix both business and a bit of a holiday with my partner. It’s something that has hardly ever happened on the hundreds of trips I’ve made since then. I used to love travel, but the hassle of it all was wearing me down and I’ve been glad of a Covid-induced break.

IoT Now: What lessons have you learned from doing business in other countries or organisations?

Dr. William Webb: I suppose that it’s important to relax. Obviously, other countries and companies have different ways of doing things, they aren’t going to change that because I’m there, I’m going to have to fit in with their way of working. The only way to do that is to slow down, try to understand differences, and ideally have some informal chats to get help and build internal advocates. I try and treat cultural differences as an opportunity as opposed to a challenge. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally get very exasperated!

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