Category Archives: BritTech Chicago

Chicago Mayor & Shadow Chancellor Visits

Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor with Sean Gilligan, Founder & CEO, Webanywhere

I had the honour of meeting with state dignitaries. Firstly, Lori Lightfoot the Mayor of Chicago, was in London on business at the offices of Mayer Brown. Secondly, Rachel Reeves the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer visited the Webanywhere office in Leeds.

Sean meets Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago in London

Webanywhere has strong connections to Chicago with customers and staff and the windy city has been a soft landing for our business growth in the United States. World Business Chicago is an organisation attracting inbound investment to Chicagoland. It was great to see the CEO of 1871 Betsey Ziegler the most prominent tech incubator in the city. The tech incubator 1871 brings together startups, universities and venture capitalists under one roof at the merchant mart building in Chicago. Mayor Lightfoot discussed a number of wide-ranging issues from, how school districts are run in Chicago, the need for the regulation of bitcoin to diversity and inclusion when it comes to job creation. We will be visiting Chicago in the near future to grow our connections and business opportunities.

Rachael Reeves visited Eagle Labs in Leeds as part of her drive to engage further with local businesses. Chris Winn of Barclays Eagle Labs invited the Shadow Chancellor to meet a number of tech founders. I showed Rachel Sound Branch and explained how this can be used to give everybody a democratic voice. Sound Branch can help politicians from all walks of life listen to massive open online conversations. Whether it’s the cost of living crisis, Brexit, the Ukraine crisis or environmental issues, these short form voice notes can be used to understand what people are thinking. I hope that by listening to more people, more often, this can shape policy thinking and level the playing field on who’s voice is listened to.

One burning question that lots of business leaders currently have is the issue of hybrid work. On the one hand, the cost of petrol at the pumps is the best advert for remote work. Conversely, Eric Schmit the former Chairman of Google says you can’t build world class management remotely. I asked Rachel what her view was on hybrid work. Rachel said “I go to the office every day” which I think is important if you are in a leadership position. I also think if you are early on in your career, the in-person office experience is invaluable for learning and development. Hybrid work is still evolving and office occupancies are halving. I don’t think a remote first policy or turning up to the office each day solves the problem. The danger with too much home office work is the work itself becomes more transactional. This is dangerous as a business is only as good as the relationships fostered. Leaders need to strike the right balance of flexible work with in-person time to build company culture.

Overall listening to Lori Lightfoot and Rachel Reeves was inspiring. It’s great to see prominent women in positions of power trying to make a difference either side of the pond. Who knows? Rachel might end up becoming the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Only time will tell.

BritTech, xAPI and Hamburger University, Chicago

On my last visit to Chicago I suggested to Emily Roden, Vice Consul at the Technology and Creative Industries at UKTI, to create a BritTech group to connect UK tech companies in Chicagoland. Our own Jon Perkins had previously met Lord Francis Maude (the UK Trade Minister) on a Chicago layover en-route to Silicon Valley and this spawned the idea.

The BritTech group is certainly helping UK companies make their mark stateside. Simon Bryan, Americas Managing Director at Lumi have a complementary product to our product range. Their product MeeToo is a mobile polling app, which could quite easily by linked to Moodle, our learning management system of choice. This partnership, although in its early stages, could prove to be mutually beneficial on both sides of the Atlantic.

One evening we met Aaron Silver, the inventor of xAPI – the next generation of SCORM for e-learning content. The Experience API (xAPI), also known as the Tin Can API, is an e-learning software specification that allows learning content and learning systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences, with learning experiences  recorded in a Learning Record Store (LRS). It was interesting to understand what Aaron’s views were on the future of learning management systems and how new technology is transforming learning.

On another evening on the edge of the city, myself and the team visited the McDonald’s global headquarters. McDonald’s have been through a turbulent time of late, having had two CEOs in a short period of time. The brand is looking to re-invent its fortunes and the Chief Learning Officer Rob Lauber challenged the ATD (Association for Talent Development) meeting to come up with some ideas around the future of Hamburger University. Hamburger University is where all McDonald’s managers get trained, but questions were being asked around its viability and whether it was still relevant to the business. Of course, digital learning on mobile phones probably isn’t appropriate in McDonald’s when customers are waiting for burgers, but it was suggested that perhaps learning could be delivered through the tills and point of sales devices, as is the case in Domino’s in the UK.

McDonald’s need to enable collaboration across geographies. They currently have 15 learning management systems and this needs to be reviewed. Adaptable content which is learner-centric is needed. The learning has got to be easy to create and easy to execute. McDonald’s hires 800,000 new staff each year, which shows you the scale of the challenge. The learning system needs to link with business-based measurement systems to drive sales and customer satisfaction.

Meeting new people at McDonald’s, the BritTech group and being introduced to the founder of xAPI shows how new countries and new people can give you new insights to change your thinking and open up new possibilities.