Jon Smith (Head of Performance, Engagement and Culture, London)
Jon is a people lover who enjoys being creative. He loves sport, and if he had to take a different career path, he would probably be a pilot. He loves seeing the earth from a different perspective, going to different nations, and experiencing different cultures.
What kind of person would you say you are?
Interestingly, there’s always the self-perception versus what others say, but I think I’m an empathetic individual who is genuinely interested in the people I come in contact with, and I enjoy deeper things and meanings.
Could you name a passion of yours that’s impacted on your life?
I’ve always loved TV, drama and the sense of being creative – a passion of mine has been to try to make dull things interesting by presenting them in an innovative way. I guess this started when I was a teenager, and I wrote a couple of plays for the all-school assemblies that my friends and I acted out. What drove this was the desire to make boring assemblies (that usually consisted of a teacher lecturing us about something less than memorable) more enjoyable for everyone. I saw that training sessions could also be similar, so when I was given the opportunity to train (as part of a sales manager role), I tried to make it interesting, interactive and visual. Since moving into learning & development roles, this has metamorphosed into thinking about how to present ideas graphically, designing videos and podcasts etc.
Can you describe your journey to FintechOS?
My journey is nothing unique and similar to many others who are here. Since leaving sales roles, I moved into sales training with insurance companies and banks as both an employee and as a consultant. I have seen so many different corporate cultures, management styles and leadership approaches both in the UK and internationally. I thrive on a challenge, and having experienced so many things at this stage in my career, fresh challenges were difficult to come by. But I had worked with Rads (HR Director) at Rackspace years ago and we had kept in touch, so when she asked me how I’d approach the challenge of FTOS I found my imagination suddenly fired into life and have loved being allowed the freedom to put all of my ideas into action.
What’s your favourite thing to do?
I’m a sporty type. I have played a lot of sports in my life: from football to cricket, from volleyball to golf and I’ve even set up an American Football club at college! I still play, but I watch a lot of sport too and I spend all day with my faithful dog beside me — I miss taking him for walks when I’m in Bucharest. It may surprise people, but I’m actually the creative type and I enjoy designing things (which is an urge that’s satisfied by presentations).
How would you describe yourself?
In a working context, I believe that one of my key attributes is to explain the complex in a way that’s simpler for people to understand. The world has become a very complicated place and some individuals seem to make it more challenging to understand by the way that they explain things. The ability to take a broad, ‘big picture’ view to provide context and then drill down to the details in a logical manner is actually a skill that I believe I have been able to build over the years.
Any advice on handling new challenges?
We all have bias and prejudice based upon our experiences in the past. We may subconsciously even try to shoehorn all challenges we face into things we’ve been through before in order to both make sense of them and also to deal with them. But when challenges arise, do we take a step back before jumping into solution mode to truly understand the root cause of the obstacle or issue? We can save so much time by handling the origin of the challenge rather than reacting to the specific problem that may have suddenly come to light. So, reflect – plan – and then do!
If you had another job for the day, what would it be?
I’d be a pilot. I absolutely love flying and always have since I was a child – I’ve lost count of the number of flights I’ve been on, but I adore seeing the earth from a different perspective, going to different nations and experiencing different cultures!
Do you have a favourite type of music?
Interesting question to ask because before coming to FTOS I thought that my son and I were the only people who loved Imagine Dragons, but I’ve found that half the company also enjoy their music, but my taste spreads wide from Coldplay to The Beatles, Maroon 5 to Bruno Mars or the Lighthouse Family to AJR! You may have even enjoyed some of my chill music before the town hall sessions!
What’s your life philosophy?
I try to be my authentic self at all times – so, the training you see me take reflects my philosophy on life: people are the most important resource we have, so we need to care for them, not control them, not force or coerce them, but nurture them to be the best versions of themselves…and hopefully (if we do that) they will help us too. And if you open that out wider, we spend too much time fretting about being a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’ which is not only a very short-term view, but it also forces us to fight with aggression and dominance over those we perceive as competition. In my philosophy, my competition is there for me to learn from, develop and grow – in other words, they’re ‘worthy rivals’ (to quote Simon Sinek) who will do some things better than me – so to annihilate them would cause me to be worse off!
What are your expectations for the future?
Less of an ‘expectation’ and more of a ‘drive’ but what excites me is thinking about how to make things better (for people) and generating a strategy to do that. I’m not a detail person, nor am I a project manager – but I can frequently see what needs to be done and how we can do things and would love to focus more on this side of my work in the future, because seeing such ideas become reality, and then making the company and the world a better place, is the most rewarding thing in life.