Originally featured in Authority Magazine on 9 August 2022.
Human-centric technology and experiences: In today’s hyper-connected world, people expect the best from their technology and their devices. They want access to the latest gadgets; they want speed and high performance. When technology takes this into account, it’s a win for all: productivity levels soar and the business is likely to retain their talent because their technology affords them a positive experience.
There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.
To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.
As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview Martin McGregor.
Martin is empathetic cybersecurity and data protection expert and leader with a passion for helping organizations to leverage technology securely. With over 20 years of experience as a security architect, CISO, and security consultant, Martin has helped countless organizations to scope and build customized and cost-efficient solutions that facilitate business processes, while protecting and enabling stakeholders. Most of his career has been within large, high-risk industries including banking and insurance, government, wagering, and education.
Martin is also a successful entrepreneur, having co-founded Australian Managed Security Service Provider Secure Measure, which helps companies defend themselves against cybercrime and the risks posed by increasing layers of technology and remote workspaces. In 2019 Martin co-founded Devicie to make uncompromising device security a seamless and empowering part of the way organizations work.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
Ifollowed in my father’s footsteps and have spent the past 25 years working in IT. Through my father’s connections, I started working in tech jobs over the school holidays. I helped Data General who ordered thousands of computers for a customer to install network cards that had been forgotten. I also worked in their data centers, unboxing countless systems, and installing gear into racks — all the stuff no one else wanted to do.
Growing up, I originally thought I would become a musician and artist. My creativity has always given me an edge in computing. I was born in South Africa, and the family moved around mining towns where my father was building technology solutions. My mother’s family were farmers in Zimbabwe, where I would spend holidays and Christmas. When I was eight years old, the family moved to Manly in Sydney, Australia and as soon as we arrived, I thought it was paradise! Manly was an amazing place for a young child filled with a sense of adventure to grow up. I relished all the water sports, fishing, sailing, and diving, and that remains a big part of my life. I am passionate about fishing and being on the water.
After my education, I started working with Uniq Systems, a partner of Data General, as a contractor doing IT helpdesk and support for Kalamazoo — a company that made its revenue through paper goods. It was then acquired by Corporate Express, which was one of the first to sell office supplies online. I had a desk in a data center and maintained servers and systems running Citrix Winframe. After that, I spent years driving around to various customers fixing broken Unix systems and building new ones.
I worked closely with the business owners and dealt directly with customers. The exposure to customers gave me a deep appreciation of their business requirements and taught me how to do business cases. I also learned how to influence people and apply the best technology solutions to solve their problems.
These experiences helped me later in my career to spot a gap in how to solve problems in device management. In today’s hybrid workplace, businesses need their people to be able to work securely from anywhere, across multiple devices, at any time. But IT and security teams face a challenge. They must enable productivity anywhere and anytime on a wide variety of endpoint devices while keeping data and systems secure. This requires a delicate balancing act where security and compliance are important but can’t get in the way of employee productivity.
We set up Devicie to solve the problem of getting devices into employees’ hands quickly and securely. We created an innovative and cost-effective solution that quickly closes the gap. Our device management platform can be ready for organizations to use in a matter of days not years, without IT having to touch the device before it’s sent to end users. We’re able to support IT and security teams to gain comprehensive insight across all their devices to focus on actions that mitigate risk faster.
What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?
Device management systems haven’t kept pace with modern ways of working, which has created security and user experience gaps.
The problems we are solving today with technology, will not be the same problems we will be solving in another 5–10 years. If we examine what we need to solve today, such as technology enabling a secure working environment and enabling a productive workforce and user experience, this current wave of advancements will set the scene for what will emerge next in the future.
Businesses need to secure employee devices, and the rise of remote work and the work from anywhere trend will continue to accelerate this need. Cybercrime will not stop, and we are only making a tiny dent in the global problem, so more solutions need to be developed. It is clear for organizations that cyber security is too complex, too vast, and too costly to solve alone. We need to look at new ways and continue to innovate and automate as much as possible to build more robust defenses. There isn’t a silver bullet, there isn’t one piece of software that an organization can deploy that will solve the cybercrime challenge.
The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer”. But with the existence of many high-profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?
If a young person is interested in building a career in technology or cybersecurity, then continuous career-long learning is an absolute necessity. It doesn’t matter if this learning is a formal university course or through more bespoke training but learning and skill development is crucial. But just as important is a passion for technology. The best people in tech are excited, they talk about it almost non-stop even with their friends and family. They are constantly thinking, probing, and looking for new ways to do things and ways to solve challenges. First, you need to have that passion, then you need to develop technical skills through formal education or self-taught learning and then you need to also hone your soft skills — the ability to communicate, influence and collaborate because if you can’t articulate and influence the value proposition to the business, you won’t succeed.
Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment but employment that fits their talents and interests?
It’s important that you start by identifying what interests and engages you most. If you can pinpoint an area of interest then you can find businesses where you can focus on that area, build skills, and deepen your knowledge. Think about what you love doing and then try to build a career around that. Even if it doesn’t exist yet! Don’t take on a career just because you think you can earn a lot of money — let your heart, not your head, guide that pathway. Doing something you don’t love is a hard road, especially when you compete for roles against passionate people. You will need to change approaches, relearn, and invest a lot of time into this. The energy that will allow you to do that is your interest in the first place.
The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs appear frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?
There will always be a place for people in the workplace. At its best, automation enables us to achieve better things by giving us more time to use our creativity, intuition, and problem-solving. Therefore, when planning careers, people should always come back to their interests and talents and consider how they can build a career where technology simply elevates their ability to do what they love, well.
Ultimately, we need to ensure that the focus of AI is human alignment. Just like we have privacy regulations to ensure businesses do right by our personal data, we need to ensure the technology we build is aligned with our needs.
Resisting progress and technology isn’t the answer. Rather, we need to look at what’s coming next. Just like Apple now advertises based on their alignment to end-user privacy, smart companies will leverage human-aligned AI to make their products and services more attractive to consumers.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
Remote work is a trend that is not reversing, it will become the norm in the future for many workers. During the pandemic, Device became a remote-first team. With a completely remote team, we invest in technology and systems that facilitate as much automation across the business as possible and use tools that best support achieving a flow state when we work. We use Devicie ourselves to facilitate remote work in a way that is safe, productive, and low-cost.
Currently, we offer dedicated spaces where our team can have in-person meetings, workshops or planning sessions. We can support employees with an office close to their home if that model works for them, and we fly the team together when it’s needed and for events. Our people are driven and want to achieve, so we offer the maximum flexibility that supports whatever work-life balance means to everyone. Our team is free to structure their lives as they see fit, whether that means having offline time for the daily school pickups and drop-offs or for holidaying in a cabin in the wilderness.
Our remote-first model works because of the type of people we hire. We will hire the best people regardless of geographical location. This has provided us with many benefits including the ability to operate across time zones and punch above our weight with a lean team. Our goal is to enable highly capable and intelligent people to determine how they work best, for one person that might be coming into an office for the atmosphere and the engagement, but others they might find the office environment distracting and actually take them further away from a state of productive flow. We hire great people and listen to the ways they want to work for the maximum employee and company benefit.
Given we need to bring products to market faster each year, we can’t expect our people to maintain a social and family life, while demanding the additional speed to market. Something must give, and not requiring a commute is a no-brainer. That might be easier for our business than others. Yet no one expects a human pilot in a drone. We accept that it can be a remote role and I’m sure we can do the same with many others as technology advances.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
As a society, we need to smash the myth that employees are only productive and can only be managed if they are like sheep all sitting in little cubicles in an office together. Micromanaging is an unpleasant thing that needs to go away in future work. Instead, we need to value outcome-oriented work. Adopt the business advantages that can come from hiring the best people wherever they are in the world. Open up to a global talent pool, not a micro-regional focus.
We will need to rethink our major business cities and governments need to be creative to make them more a place for meaningful collaboration and an increased focus on cultural, artistic, culinary, sporting, and event attractions. There are many benefits for the environment if employees are freed from being tied to their desks five days a week, with less commuting leading to a reduction in carbon emissions.
What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?
Both employers and employees are becoming less tolerant to technology that is actually a blocker to ease of use and productivity. We are seeing a rise in people leaving jobs citing poor technology as a reason — something that never happened a decade ago. Employees expect employers to get their technology strategy right and provide them with systems and tools that make doing their job easier, faster, and more enjoyable.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion how should this be addressed?
In Australia when the pandemic first started, a lot of businesses reacted by making staff redundant. The Federal Government moved to support employees through Job Keeper payments and Job Seeker payments for the unemployed. The Federal Government also pumped in a lot of support to businesses, but as many Australians saw this just helped to make some businesses more profitable and didn’t do much to help ordinary Australians as some major retailer profits ballooned to levels not even seen before the pandemic. Many employees are now skeptical and believe businesses should have done more to support their people. Prior to the pandemic, trickle-down economics led us to believe that privatizing government services such as health was in our best interest. If governments made large corporations more profitable, society would improve on the whole, and the government wouldn’t need to intervene. However, the pandemic may have been the final nail in the coffin for this philosophy, and in my view, employee trust in corporations has taken its biggest hit in decades.
What should be done to address this? Well, as people hold corporations to greater account, and have less patience for unscrupulous corporations, a skills shortage looms in many industries. I suspect people will vote with their seats, leaving organizations that don’t align with their social values, as well as having less patience for a lack of corporate regulation when it comes to their roles in society. Public policy needs to continue to encourage competitiveness, supporting new businesses and innovation. The greater demand for employees means conditions are likely to be in order to attract them. Profit can no longer be the greatest ideal we uphold. The greatness of our people must be paramount.
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
That we are entering a period where end users will not be neglected anymore. The success of any new technology and innovation will succeed or fail based on how well it supports humans. The technology industry neglected end-users for most of the past decade and should have prioritized people and the way they work much more. This shift is being corrected and will give rise to an exciting change that will help shape the future of work.
Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?
During the pandemic, for almost two years, Australia closed its borders and sent home a lot of our seasonal workers and student workers, meaning that we now face major skill shortages and a lack of people in almost every industry. We currently have a situation where organizations are screaming for more people, and it is a job market for candidates where they can carefully pick and choose where they want to work. Australia has more jobs on record than we can fill and a very low unemployment rate, however, wages haven’t increased in a decade while the cost of living has dramatically. We are fast learning that having a job isn’t enough, it also must pay the bills.
This is an important time of adjustment for the world. We all need to learn how to do more with less, however, that burden cannot be carried by employees alone. We collectively need to deal with climate change, cybercrime, and pandemics. Wealth inequality is a part of that distribution of responsibility for the future.
Advances in automation may result in less job availability, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In my profession, there are many roles that are just awful and should be automated. The skill required is too high for such low pay. My ambition has always been to build new technology, yet I’ve experienced many roles where the work has been low value, repetitive and uninspiring. The solution is to ensure automation affords people the chance to do better and more meaningful work. We can improve the quality of work, while paying well, so that families need less jobs to survive. More jobs aren’t the answer, and we know that all too well in Australia.
Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Native system management: For too long organizations have applied a band-aid approach to solving device management and security issues, installing agent after agent. It’s a never-ending cycle of broken promises. Native system management, done well, ensures things like local administration is managed effectively. Research shows that poor system management can put an organization at significant risk of a cyber-attack. There’s a huge opportunity to improve native system management to unlock security and productivity benefits. There are no shortcuts. Native system management, done right, is where it’s at.
- Human-centric technology and experiences: In today’s hyper-connected world, people expect the best from their technology and their devices. They want access to the latest gadgets; they want speed and high performance. When technology takes this into account, it’s a win for all: productivity levels soar and the business is likely to retain their talent because their technology affords them a positive experience.
- Automation is critical to deal with securing employee devices in a work from anywhere environment at scale. The rapid rise of remote and hybrid work has drastically expanded the threat landscape, with employee devices becoming among the most exploited attack vectors. Around 90% of attackers are now breaching company defenses through employee devices. The smartphones, tablets, and laptops that were quickly deployed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic massively expanded the threat surface and the number of potential targets for cybercriminals. Automation is important to help secure end-user devices in a zero-touch way and to help lean IT teams focus on higher-value work, where the human touch is essential.
- interesting ways to ensure employee engagement in a remote team. We are going to see companies come up with more interesting, innovative, and creative ways to help employees stay connected and engaged in the new world of hybrid and remote work. Despite working remotely there is still great importance on keeping people connected and teams building rapport with each other. We might see a rise in social communities, team gaming experiences, virtual reality tools, etc.
- Improving mental health and physical health for remote workers. Technology will begin to be used more innovatively to help support mental health and physical wellbeing. This might be teams coming together to do yoga or Pilates virtually or technology enabling full blackout periods, that enable people to switch off, without the business being able to contact them with emails, texts, or Slack notifications. Providing a blackout zone for employees to have space to think and take a complete break from what can sometimes feel like workplace bombardment at all times of the day and night.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
Einstein said “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself” has been the most impactful. I think of this in business often, both from the perspective of how well I am able to explain an idea and get resonance with my audience and also when someone is trying to explain something to me. I have been in technology for 25 years and have learned that if I am hearing something and I can’t make sense of it, then it is likely that the person who is saying it hasn’t fully thought through their idea. The first step is to have the idea, then we need to mature and refine it and make sure it is easily understandable.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Brené Brown because I was fortunate enough to read Dare to Lead around the time, I was setting up my business and it has helped me immensely as an entrepreneur to understand that the journey is going to be really hard, and I will fail in a lot of ways and that is normal! Failure is not a scary thing; it should be embraced because we can learn so much and extract so many insights and it often sparks new ways of thinking and new solutions to challenges. Expect to fail many times at many things and don’t take it personally. Being vulnerable and humble is also key to true resilience in business and life.
Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?
Follow Devicie on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/devicie
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.
Thank you very much for this opportunity, it is greatly appreciated.