Predicting the future with Peter Williams
It’s not often you meet someone with a job title that reads “Chief Edge Officer,” but that’s exactly what happened when Launchpad interviewed Peter Williams at Deloitte’s Centre for the Edge. If the position and the place sound futuristic, it’s because they’re meant to. The Centre for the Edge is designed to “help businesses profit from emerging technology.” Their primary focus is to discern new frontiers in the digital space by identifying and exploring opportunities that “aren’t yet on senior management’s agenda but should be.”
This objective is simple in ideology but complex in action; however if anyone can achieve it it’s Peter Williams. After graduating from RMIT’s Bachelor of Business, Accounting and Finance, in 1987 and spending several years working as a chartered accountant Peter’s career progression took a very important turn – one that was highly influenced by the emergence of the internet and his instant recognition of its influence. Having developed a clear interest in the online space, Peter found himself driving Deloitte’s digital revolution during the internet boom in the late 90s, combining his technological understanding with an accountant's knowledge of how the internet was, and would continue to, become integral to the business world.
Knowing the internet as it stands today, It’s not surprising that this role – after a few twists and turns – has evolved into an entirely new subsidiary for Deloitte. Currently working with the Centre for the Edge, Peter is now recognised as a global thought leader on innovation and the use of online technologies, and is one of Australia’s most sought after guest speakers on social media and digital strategy. Something that should excite students and recent graduates is Peter’s interest and respect for young people and what they can achieve. Sitting on the board of the Reach Foundation, an organisation that, at its core, is all about “supporting young people to make sure they get the most out of life,” Peter is keenly supportive of the idea that young people can be their own best teachers.
“We do a lot of study on Millennials, you know hopes and dreams sort of stuff, and there’s this stupid middle-aged attitude of ‘oh kids these days are really selfish’ and [I just want to say] stuff off! They’re so much more aware than we were,” says Peter. “The kids today are much more about purpose [than my generation]. They have a greater world view of what’s important. So how do you bring that into the workplace? How do you make sure that you’re giving them a sense of purpose? In my day we just didn’t have the same concept of rapid development and this deep desire to learn.”
Coming into the workforce, particularly to large graduate employers like Deloitte, Peter’s advice is to refrain from “champing at the bit” and try to gain an understanding of the workplace’s rhythm. Being open to learning and development is the key to success, and it’s important to remember that in a graduate position your role isn’t likely to be totally defined. “It’s more than just having a technical skill … the ability to connect, the ability to collaborate, a commitment to niche – like mine to the digital space – is important. Not necessarily just ‘I have this technical skill.’”
Peter is the first to admit that he once stood out within Deloitte as one of the only creative thinkers, but these days the company's focus has shifted to a place where all their employees learn about design thinking and the creative process as a rule of thumb. “Innovation has become one of our core values,” says Peter. “In 2002 we were really struggling, but now we’ve had magnificent growth because we took the view that if we just do what everybody else does we’ll grow, but we’ll end up oscillating – so we decided to do things differently.”
Peter Williams completed the RMIT Bachelor of Business (Accounting and Finance) 1987 and is an integral part of the RMIT Fastrack Innovation program.
"Don't be afraid to get in harm's way." -Peter Williams