Successful species evolve, says Virgin Mobile USA's COO, Marchbank

Just been to a talk by Jonathan Marchbank, COO of Virgin Mobile USA, which took place at Newcastle Business School (NBS), Northumbria University,, as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations. A former student of the uni just like me, Marchbank's success has been phenomenal (less like me). The presentation was a fascinating insight into his career and the challenging pace of technological change that all businesses face - particularly those in the mobile sector.  Serious issue: Marchbank says businesses have to change every 2/3 years to survive.

Key career points that I took away were as follows:

  • When building a career, you don't have to know it all immediately.  Everyone gets in "over their head" before "getting it together"
  • Experiential learning can't be accelerated - it's accumulative, so take your time and ensure you have a combination of theory and practice under your belt
  • The best businesses embrace and lead change so show ambition, knowledge, know how and be tech savvy to get yourself known
  • When you're heading up a large organisation, manage politics and people's perceptions of you well.  Build a reliable team beneath you to provide the support required.

In terms of technology:

  • The landscape has changed significantly and will continue to do so through convergence.  This is already well underway - just look at the abilities now boasted by pc's, netbooks, smartphones, cameras, iPods and iPhones, e-books etc
  • User generated content will continue to be the "killer app"
  • Convergence between social networking sites and the media industry is already happening and will gain real momentum.  There are greater numbers of segments to target with differentiated products and services (audiences are broken down differently nowadays) - TV advertising no longer does the trick so the key is reaching people in their own space. Newspaper owners are desperately trying to purchase parts of sites like Facebook to achieve this
  • Ultimately in such a competitive environment, brands need to develop advocates by creating a high quality customer experience.

There is one statement by Marchbank  that remains of particular interest as it resonates with something identified by another prestigious NBS keynote speaker, leadership guru, David Taylor. When discussing 'success', he reminded everyone that it's about how this is defined. Not everyone wants to be a global entrepreneur - after all, one man's dream may be another man's nightmare. Maybe I don't need to worry that world domination doesn't appear to be for me after all!