Leadership Edge with Joe Atkinson, US CTO at PwC
For my leadership series, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview Joe Atkinson. Joe is the Chief Product and Technology Officer at PwC US, enabling teams to develop products and drive strategies that have an impact on the way people work — to change how work is done at scale. Joe helps the firm and its clients navigate today’s rapid pace of tech transformation and sets the strategic agenda that guides PwC’s Products and Technology team, with the goal of providing tools and technologies that help companies move faster, reduce complexities and fuel growth.
At a time of great uncertainty for many industries and, indeed, the world itself, Web Summit gathers the founders and CEOs of technology companies, fast-growing startups, policymakers, and heads of state to ask a simple question: Where to next?
Politico has said we run “the world’s premier tech conference”, the Atlantic that Web Summit is “where the future goes to be born”, and the New York Times that we assemble “a grand conclave of the tech industry’s high priests.”
Web Summit also hosts events across the world: Web Summit in Tokyo, Collision in Toronto, and RISE in Hong Kong.
Can you please provide a brief introduction to yourself and your role within PwC? What brought you to this specific career path?
I serve as a Vice Chairman and Chief product and technology officer at PwC US. What brought me here is a combination of fortunate finance and business background combined with a passion for technology; these things brought very different variations in my career.
The thing that shifted my mind to this career path was the fact that my father was a technologist and engineer, and it was he who inspired me towards this specific career path. I want to be able to follow in his footsteps and hopefully make him proud.
What is your blueprint to success? Can you share an example of how you have implemented this into your work at PwC?
My blueprint to success is that the only thing that matters is how you connect people in teams, and once you have them assembled, the next thing that matters is the unlocking of their best so that they can focus upon every challenge with sheer dedication. To me, that’s the blueprint of success.
What is/are your life philosophies? Are there any social causes that you are particularly passionate about?
My philosophy of life is based upon the community we build and the daily interactions we have with people in that community. Life is all about people. The people you meet, the people you support, the people who coach you, and the people you can coach, and if you are open to this thing in your life for your friends, family, and neighbors, your life will be all set.
Talking about a social cause, I would like to say that my daughter has severe intellectual disabilities, and this thing has naturally locked an empathy for the difficulties not only of an individual but the issues a whole family face. We have an incredible passion for providing organizational and individuals with such kinds of disabilities. It’s a part of our noble cause.
Lastly, everything that I am today is because of my privilege of getting the best education, and a lot of people don’t get such privilege and for that, my wife and I will be actively working in the future to provide financial support to those who are in dire need of getting a good education.
Are you working on any exciting new projects right now? What positive impact will these new projects have on PwC’s employees and customers?
Well, the good thing about PwC is that we are always working on some new project, and that’s pretty exciting for all of us. There are a couple of things that I would like to share with you.
We currently offer a product called “ProEdge.” It’s a digital platform that helps bring digital transformation and an upscaling journey that we have been taking around; it will help bring that transformation to our clients.
By doing this, it is going to benefit those PwC investors that are providing educational opportunities to support our noble cause.
Can you share more about The New Equation? How has PwC brought this new strategy to life?
Think of “ProEdge” as an example of The New Equation. The New Equation is what we believe PwC is bringing to the market, including building trust with the stakeholders and providing the outcomes expected and deserved. The stakeholder can be any person, group, or organization. Our prime focus is to help upscale by building a trustworthy relationship and helping you by using our technological approach. That’s what The New Equation is all about.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Now, that’s the question that I love to answer. The first thing I wish someone had told me before I started was that “It’s okay to make mistakes.” The people that I admire the most are the ones that get over their mistakes and keep moving forward. There were times when I felt like giving up, but I knew deep down that I was capable of doing more. Even though it is okay to make mistakes, you need to learn from them and move on. You will fail and make mistakes, but at least you will be able to get back up and try again.
The second thing, as any entrepreneur will tell you, business (no matter your age) is hard work. Don’t expect to make millions overnight; the top companies didn’t happen overnight. It took lots of hard work and dedication for them to get there. Nobody owes you anything; only through your hard work and perseverance will you be successful.
The third thing is about how you endure the problems in your life. Everybody has problems. The key to success is not avoiding the problems but rather how we deal with them and endure the circumstances so we can achieve our goals and win in all aspects of our life.
Do you have a life hack that’s always come in handy?
It’s kind of a funny answer but let me tell you. My wife is a paper calendar person. She likes to keep it in front of her eyes, marking and crossing all those important dates and events on a calendar, and she got married to a person whose life revolves around technology. From time to time, I would tell her that there is an automatic digital calendar that has been a lifesaver for me. It gives me all of my reminders for birthdays, anniversaries, and important meetings, and I think if you just keep a digital calendar with you, it’s going to help you a lot in your life.
What do you want the readers to know (any calls to action)?
Well, to my readers, I would like to tell you that there are a lot of things happening in artificial intelligence and the power of automation, and people tell me that it’s going to replace human beings and make them unemployed, but this is a very wrong thought. AI is not the future, human mind power is the future. We must all be willing to accept the technological evolution that is coming, and along with that, we must be willing to learn about how this works. Only by learning and embracing new technologies will the doors of opportunities going to be unlocked for you in the future.