Interview: Cathy C. Smith Discusses Her Book “How to Become a Digital Leader: A Roadmap to Success”
Photo: Cathy C. Smith Photo Credit: Courtesy Cathy C. Smith
Cathy C. Smith | Courtesy Cathy C. Smith

Cathy C. Smith is the author of How to Become a Digital Leader: A Roadmap to Success.

Tell me about your background.

My career has been all about technology and people. Early on, I had a strong interest in computers, financial management, business and team work. These initial interests became passions. I later became – and remain – a staunch and committed advocate for digital leadership, technology education and entrepreneurship.

Not surprisingly, my career journey has been at the forefront of financial services and technology, where I have not only seen, but also played, an important role in managing change. I have worked in investment, commercial and consumer credit operations, all areas where automation and modernization have radically disrupted the status quo and made work faster and more efficient.

My first corporate position was as a computer operator with G A B Business Services (New Jersey). That’s where I had an opportunity to flex my COBOL and data-processing muscles, using an IBM mainframe computer. Later, at the U.S. Small Business Administration, I held various leadership roles.

The balance of my career has been spent with well-known global and regional financial institutions as a trusted adviser and consultant. Using best-in-breed technology solutions, I’ve developed digital strategies. And I’ve helped launch new products, reorganize mainline companies, upgrade legacy systems, centralize operations, automate manual processes and significantly reduce costs.

I have found that technology has helped me stay relevant. I don’t hesitate to acquire expertise in new technologies and to share with others. I enjoy teaching adult computer classes at various community colleges and technology institutes.

As a committed digital leader and entrepreneur, I am deeply involved in technology education. As CEO of Chameleon Consulting (New Jersey), I provide digital advisory services. I chair the Entrepreneurship Standing Committee of the Dean’s Executive Advisory Board for the College of Engineering & Computing Sciences, at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). I am also the founder of the Women in Tech Meetup NJ & NY group, with over 500 members, whose function is to educate professionals and business leaders on tech trends of the future.

How did you get the idea for this book?

About a year ago, I realized I had a gap in my knowledge of emerging technologies. To cure that blindness, I embarked on a journey to learn how advanced technologies like blockchain, cybersecurity, big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and robotics impact the financial services industry.

I realized that leaders in all industries need a digital mindset to carry their organizations successfully through the change that is happening. Thought processes and skill sets from the 1980s, 1990s or even 2000s are outdated and required revamping. I found that books on the market were very technical in nature, and there was nothing available to give leaders the basic awareness and skills to make decisions about the digital change within an organization. After numerous consultations with professionals who felt disconnected from what has happened, what is here now, and what is coming, I decided to write a book to bridge that digital knowledge gap and provide a one-stop shop  for reliable resources and information.

 How did you go about gathering material for this book?

I created my own curriculum that included online/offline classes, tech meetups, interviews, hands-on experiences and reports by research and consulting firms. Throughout my studies, I learned that numerous digital transformations failed because business leaders lacked relevant information to compete in the digital economy.

Who should read the book and why?

This book is a must-read for leaders in any industry who aspire to stay current and succeed in the digital era. With so much conversation around business transformation and new, revolutionary technologies, many are still unclear about what these terms mean and why they are important. If you suspect you need to catch up, if you are thinking of exploring new ways of approaching familiar challenges or wondering how to motivate your colleagues and business partners, this book supplies the reassuring strategies you need.

If you are stuck in the pre-digital age, with 1980s, 1990s or 2000s business strategies, trying to figure out what has happened in recent years that has left you behind, this book is for you. It tells you about emerging technologies: big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity, cloud computing and robotics. If the thought of changing your company from an “old-fashioned” business model to a digital business model keeps you up at night, the book will ease your concerns, bring you up to speed, and give you resources on how to become a digital business leader in the digital age. You’ll learn about what has changed and how to prepare for what’s here now digitally, and what’s coming ahead digitally in simplified language.

Is there anything else you want people to know about this book?

The book provides a digital ecosystem that addresses the leader’s needs from a holistic perspective: digital mindset, health, professional development, finance, security/privacy and online/offline branding just to name a few topics – and helps to prepare for a successful digital transformation.

“How to Become a Digital Leader” offers leaders the knowledge, insights and resources they need to become full-fledged participants in the digital era and connect with their business followers, teams and firms. People are the key ingredient here, not technology. This is a highly useful handbook, very readable and, for the digital leader, a great and often inspirational resource.

Added bonus sections are the DigiQuotes and Daily DigiEnergizers at the back of the book that will inspire leaders on their lifelong learning journey.

Please give the readers three takeaways from the book.

 

  1. Leaders can ramp up and get up to speed quickly on digital knowledge in simplified language.
  1. Change is both inevitable and mandatory for survival. Without adaptation to new circumstances, businesses and leaders risk obsolescence.
  1. The book is packed with helpful resources, courses, white papers, thought leadership articles, reviews, videos, webinars, podcasts, links and other authoritative sources of useful information and tools.

 What four quotes represent this book?

 

1. "A leader interested in creating a digital business will need digital ambassadors to buy into the digital strategy, especially in the early stages of adoption, because change is difficult.”

2. “Leveraging outdated skills in the new world of work can cause frustration and hopelessness. Lifelong learning is the motto in the 21st century."

3.  "Building your digital strength is key in this digital economy. To swim upstream and make progress, leaders need to navigate the technical terrain with their cognitive intelligence (IQ) and digital intelligence (DQ); however, they will need a strong emotional intelligence (EQ) and political intelligence (PQ) as well to travel through the people terrain.”

4. "Today’s customer is seen from a holistic experience. From the first contact your customer has with your organization (i.e., website, mobile app, social media, in-person, e-mail, etc.) to the last experience all are vital to retaining customers in the digital economy. Bad customer experiences can lead to bad reviews on social media, lost revenue, and a decreased market share in this microwave environment, where expectation is measured in seconds, not minutes.”

 

 

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