Read my story

Business advisor,
author, entrepreneur.

I help many of the world’s most ambitious companies – from disruptive start-ups to Fortune 500 giants – break through to better ways of working, higher performance and growth.

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My Story

Some of the key stages in my own journey of learning and unlearning

Finding my fit
1999

While studying at university in Dublin, I was lucky enough to get work experience as a software engineer in San Francisco at the start of the .com boom with a company that almost merged with Elon Musk’s first company, Zip2. So Elon and I go way back… This gave me my first glimpse of how technology can improve business models and connect people.

Embracing uncertainty
2001

My first real job was in Scotland as a software engineer at a pioneering mobile games development startup. We were a tiny team sitting in a little prefab building, but we had clients like Sony, Sega and Disney knocking on our door because we were some of the first people making multiplayer mobile phone games. Business was crazy and I was figuring out on the fly how to build, test and iterate using early Agile methods. This taught me how to shift our business mindset from a ‘can we build it’ to ‘should we build it’ and find ways to manage the uncertainties in building products.

Time to think
2003

We just didn’t know how to scale a company, and eventually it sadly went bust. I spent 6 months backpacking around South America – a great learning experience. I was completely outside my comfort zone – traveling on my own in places where I didn’t speak the language. These experiences taught me the magic of leaning into the unknown and the confidence this gives you. I had time to reflect on what I really wanted to do next.

Learning through teaching
2004

From South America, I went to Australia to see the Rugby World Cup, loved it, stayed and started working on an $800m Asia Pacific government-funded education initiative – essentially using digital gameplay to teach kids everything from math to languages. This gave me great insights into building and leading cross-functional teams across cultures and the power of purpose to inspire and motivate.

Exploring to stay curious
2008

I travelled around Africa and Europe and then lived in New York for a short time before working again in Australia and then in the Philippines for the World Health Organization. I’ve always believed in working to live, and my experiences in these places gave me a really good perspective on the world and my place in it.

Engineering to enterprise
2010

I joined ThoughtWorks in London, pioneers of technology and product development practices, and ended up running business transformation globally with huge brands like British Airways, Barclays and The Economist – working with and learning from some of the most talented people I’ve met. I could see many large corporations struggling to respond to changing market conditions and customer needs – unable to adapt their businesses and products to keep pace, especially at scale. These experiences laid the ground for Lean Enterprise. The book took off and led to work with senior leaders all around the world.

Enterprise to entrepreneur
2015

I moved back to the US and started building my brand and working with amazing leaders in all types of companies. ExecCamp was born to help leaders understand and model change, and I joined Singularity University as a way of empowering an international community of leaders to address global challenges through tech. The more I worked with leaders, the more I realized that the biggest problem was not teaching them new skills, but helping them unlearn the ones that are holding them back. This led to me writing Unlearn.

Expanding as an entrepreneur
2018 to now

The publication of Unlearn opened doors to more consulting work and non-exec director roles at places like Just3Things, ThoughtForma and AgileCraft (bought by Atlassian). Whether at large global corporates or exciting new startups, I guide executive teams who are doing something I believe in – working with leaders in the US, Europe, and increasingly Asia. All of this, of course, feeds back into my writing and my work to help people grow and do good things.

Want to be part of my next journey?
Work with me

My core principles

The beliefs that drive my life and work

Explore your edge

Innovation happens on the edge – at the threshold of our knowledge, skills and capabilities.

Embrace uncertainty

Uncertainty is opportunity – to grab it you have to act, not wait and see what happens.

Stay curious

Curiosity is the key to creativity; feeling slightly uncomfortable – vulnerable even – is the key to growth.

Learn and let go

Innovation isn’t just about the new – it’s about adapting and letting go, unlearning stale habits.

Start with yourself

You can’t change a company or product without changing what people think and do – yourself included – and then learning from what happens.

Learn by doing

Trying and making mistakes isn’t failure – doing nothing is.

Build in bravery

Good leaders design and model ways of working that encourage courage over comfort, bravery over fear, excellence over perfection.

Be nimble

Being able to continually and quickly adapt to change is crucial for success – in business and in life.

Ask better questions

Smart isn’t having all the answers, it’s asking the right questions and having the systems to help you find the answers.

Information wins

The business that gathers, interprets and uses the best information wins.

Get in touch

If you’d like to explore how we could work together, let’s talk.

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