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Phil Simon

Award-Winning AuthorDynamic Keynote Speaker
Workplace-Technology Guru • Advisor Professor

Who Needs a Big Data Thought Leader?

Musings on whether my Big Data expertise would make me a good employee.
Apr | 3 | 2013


Five years ago, no one would have ever called me a thought leader. Sure, I knew a thing or 20 about technology, but that term just wasn’t apropos. After all, I didn’t keynote conferences, write books, blog for high-profile websites, or maintain an active social-media presence. People didn’t seek out my expertise, at least beyond people on my consulting gigs.

My, how times have changed.

Fast forward to 2013, and I often get introduced to people as a thought leader. People want to me to contribute to their companies’ sites, speak at their conferences, and pick my brain (far too often without paying, but that’s a separate discussion.)

As I think about the buzz building over Big Data, it’s evident to me that many organizations and professionals are looking for guidance, advice on how to navigate an increasingly noisy and crowded terrain. In fact, I was talking about this with a friend of mine recently. The question came up, Would you work for a company on a full-time basis as a Big Data thought leader or evangelist?

It was an interesting chat and, after some back and forth, I decided that I’d be open to the right opportunity at the right company. In a way, providing thought leadership around Big Data for a specific company wouldn’t be entirely different than what I’m doing now: learning, speaking, and writing about Big Data. The only differences: I’d receive a biweekly paycheck and I couldn’t call myself independent or vendor-neutral anymore. Everything is a mixture of pros and cons, right?

There’d be conditions on both ends, to be sure. For my part, here goes:

  • I’d prefer to work for an agile company. I just couldn’t see being one of 30 thought leaders on Big Data in a stodgy, bureaucratic organization.
  • The company would have to let me honor my current writing commitments, some of which may be with potential competition. (While I don’t write “Buy Product X because it rocks” posts, I’d be naive to ignore the possibility of conflicts. I’m not about to break my existing contracts.)
  • Next, I would think about the job in terms of months, not years. Big Data isn’t going anywhere, but I’m not finished writing books on different topics. I’m not looking to pigeonhole myself for the next five years.

I’m really just writing this post to see what’s out there. I’m very content working for myself. My boss is pretty cool. Still, sometimes I wonder about full-time gigs.

Who’s looking for a Big Data thought leader or evangelist?

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