The goal: to train digital talents, because he is convinced that this is the only way to guarantee economic growth. Today he tells us his keys.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the previous prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, but the confusion was constant throughout his career, “especially during his presidency. I remember on one particular occasion going to a friend’s book launch where I ran into Mariano Rajoy who was in opposition at the time. We ended up having a little debate and the next day a newspaper published that Rajoy had gotten into a fight with the president’s brother,” he jokes. Javier Rodriguez Zapaterowhich may be better known in some international digital circles than its famous namesake.

It is not for nothing that he has held some of the most important positions at European level in two of the Internet’s flagships, first at Yahoo and then at Google. Ship, which he left to take over the presidency of the Higher Institute for Internet Development (ISDI), which he co-founded in 2008. His career has been plagued by changes that, from the outside, may seem almost dizzying, and in which, as he himself admits, “I’ve almost always earned less, infinitely less now, which is a very good sign, as it always has when I took the step of losing my salary, the change was positive,” he emphasizes. It moved from the mass consumer space to the world of the Internet when the network was little more than a promise. “I’m a curious type and I like anything that promises new ideas, new relationships, new systems. I went to something completely unknown. But I always knew that the Internet was the future, and I wasn’t confused,” he recalls.

With this change, he completed a stage in multinationals offline American companies, first at Propter & Gamble and later at Johnson & Johnson. “Basically, my changes have been more or less gradual because I’ve lived my 26/27 years as a leader in always American multinationals, which means I’ve already taken on 30%/40% of the cultural change. It’s true that the other 60% or 70% are new, but that’s what I like: understanding that moving in an environment different from the one you’re used to will accelerate your learning curve to the maximum”.

in continuous learning

He stayed at Yahoo for almost eight years. “Most recently I had a job as Vice President of Sales and Business Development in London. From there I managed all European businesses and it came at a time when I wanted to return to Spain to be closer to my family. Then Google came up to me and I left. He spent nine years in the search engine until he decided to join ISDI in September 2016. And the question is a must, why would a giant with global projection and reach give up to run a Spanish business school? “First, because I considered that I had already learned 90% of what I could learn at Google. He was CEO in Spain, Portugal and the Middle East. And second, because I wanted to learn something new. After so many years as a manager at national and international level, working for a company that I co-founded has made many new things possible for me. Now ISDI is growing fast and I can apply a lot of what I’ve learned in more complex organizations, but at the same time I’m learning different ways of doing things that are similar to what big companies will need tomorrow.

ISDI was conceived in 2008 and entered in the commercial register in March 2009 Nacho de Pinedo, Victor Molero and I for a long time. Google enables its employees to broaden their perspectives and this is very important so that an employee does not become a one-dimensional professional who only learns as he sees it in the company. A lateral view and the ability to understand what is happening in the world will always make you a better leader and will help you make better decisions, lead your teams better, understand and motivate them better and above all a much broader one to have vision.

His desire to nurture and educate more digital talent in today’s society has played an important role in this transformation: “My dream since I was little has always been to impart knowledge so that people can function better. When you see an environment like digital, where everything is changing so quickly and the volume of innovation is so fast, you know that this is causing a change in behavior throughout society. We’re in a society that lives in the moment, that communicates in the moment, that has everything in the moment, and to me that’s a radically different environment than what we’ve had before and there’s a huge lack of talent. There is currently no one prepared to help organizations adapt to this rapidly changing environment. Helping make this happen excites me. There is no money for that because it produces a much better society. I’m not motivated to make money here, just that the footprint of what we do is bigger.” At this point, the question arises: is there a difference between digital talent and raw talent? “Talent is having skills and making them visible in an environment where they can be used. In other words, you have to understand the context for those skills to shine.” Although it does credit the digital leader with some very specific qualities. Namely:

– Transparency. “In this fast-paced world, people need to make contextual decisions without constantly consulting their managers. To give them context, we need to be transparent and tell them what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, what motivates us and how we’re doing it.”

– agility. “It needs to be agile and adaptable because today’s environment is not the 20th century environment where you could make decisions by studying the ecosystem and making sure you minimize the likelihood of failure or maximize the ability to succeed. Now it’s more important to try and get out quickly.”

– curiosity. “You have to have an insatiable desire to learn new things, feel motivated by what you don’t know and be able to engage with it. And that requires stepping out of your comfort zone.

– modesty. “It’s something that’s very difficult for managers trained in the 20th century. Experience is a degree, but it doesn’t give you the right to prescribe things to be done a certain way. There’s nothing quite like asking for forgiveness when you’ve made a mistake. I’m 49 years old and I don’t find it easy with leaders outside of the digital environment.

A European digital market

He regrets that there is quite a shortage of digital talent in Europe compared to the potential demand, which is “largely due to the lack of political and social awareness that economic growth will come from the digital environment. In Europe, we have spent many years and a lot of regulatory energy defending ourselves against the big American companies, rather than uniting to regulate less and more, in favor of a single digital market that allows every person and every talent working in Spain, France or Italy can access a market with 400 million users like Europe without having to go through about 200 regulations. In other words, the problem is less the talent and more the fact that Europe is not a digital single market. Then, of course, talented people have to be massively trained from above and below. Doing what we do from above. But we are now transforming talent instead of training it, because talent is created from below, from school. The education would need to change in order for the students to come out with the skills I talked about earlier. If I had a university, I guarantee you that it would create more jobs than any current university. Then it would have to be 10 ISDIS. Because if not, we won’t be able to cope.” Although he defends that “the digital revolution is by no means over little used” when he ventures where the following shots will go: “The next revolution will be that of artificial intelligence.The capacity to generate data in large quantities is so high that when AI is applied to this data, the Possibility opened to generate hypotheses and test them in real time. In other words, we will be able to reinvent the scientific method and generate multiple trial and error systems. The other revolution will be the Blockchain, because it will revolutionize the world of transactions and eliminate many inefficiencies. And all of these changes require talent in abundance to be cultivated. And that’s why I’m here.”

management key

– Big dreams: “I was not born for an incremental world, but for an exponential world. I was born to think that if something is possible, you have to go for it and try to achieve it. You have to have dreams that are big enough not to lose sight of when you are pursuing them. And that has always helped me. The professional achievements I have had, which have been several and beautiful, have come from having very big dreams and being able to enthusiastically join the efforts of the teams I have worked with.”

– Avoid ash: “I avoid working with ashes, these are people who steal energy. I am a very positive person and I believe that the scarcest human resource is not time but energy because we are the ones who decide over time where to put our energy. There are people who are ashes, people who like to criticize, check who did wrong, intoxicate the environment instead of devoting all that energy to creating, thinking about what’s good about you, what you can contribute and what they can provide you. When you get into environments where people aren’t crap, the work becomes a lot more enjoyable, people trust each other more, and the work comes out. My advice: learn to spot ash early to get rid of it as soon as possible.”


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