Our Fluttr CEO Rhonda Alexander was recently interviewed for The CIO Circle - Read the full article below
RHONDA ALEXANDER – INTERVIEW SERIES
Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself
I am the CEO of the soon to launch dating app Fluttr and a Non Exec of it’s parent company, the Ethical Social Group. Both are founded from a passion to create safe, inclusive and fun online environments, removing the nasties which have become part of social media today. I’m a native New Yorker, based in Central London since I completed my master’s in Politics and Economics of Development at the University of Cambridge. Throughout my career I have brought together global business and political leaders and actively drive integration of a diversity and inclusion agenda, yielding healthier and happier work environments and a positive impact on the bottom line.
What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?
From my time at CEO Institutes in New York and then at World Congress, I have brought together public and private sector leaders to collaborate to drive transparency and innovation for the benefit of both their organisations and for the greater good. Connecting people and shaping the conversations became the cornerstone of my career and which continued when I co-founded The Chemistry Club in London.
As a fierce champion for female leaders and entrepreneurs, I believe female acknowledgment is a fundamental building block to enabling all women to be seen, heard, and respected. This passion extends into the integration of the principles of diversity and inclusion across countless spectrums.
My quest to support organisations who can purposefully make a difference led me to a role as Non-Executive Director of the Ethical Social Group. Our mission is changing how people use social media positively through creating next generation apps which place member privacy, security fun and wellbeing at its heart. It was a privilege to have been invited to become CEO of Fluttr and spearhead our first app to launch. I also happen to bring some interesting first-hand personal experience to this role as after being married for 28 years, I found myself navigating a new world of dating apps. And while I did have to field some wholly inappropriate behaviour, I also met some wonderful people including my fabulous fiancé. It is exciting and gratifying to be leading Fluttr which is changing the game and reinventing online dating as we know it. Designed with the customer at heart, Fluttr is where one can make real and authentic connections in a safe and fun environment.
Has it always been your vision to reach the position you’re at? Was your current role part of your vision to become a tech leader?
My ambition was always to be part of something that was bigger than me – to affect real change and facilitate commercial success tied to a purposeful agenda. I am hugely grateful for the journey and for the incredible colleagues, team members, partners, and mentors who I have had the good fortune to work with along the way. I view the journey as having three themes: Connecting, Purpose and Technology. Connecting people underscores all that I have done; Purpose has driven me to choose to work with organisations who fundamentally operate with a higher purpose in mind than commercial success and Technology is an arena that has always fascinated me and which I believe is the cornerstone of our evolution into the future. The Chemistry Club helped me to bring together all three effectively and especially support access to funding the emerging technology sector leaders in Europe. The Ethical Social Group and Fluttr empower me to harness Technology in order to be at the forefront of Connecting people authentically and affecting change to eradicate the nasty face of social media with true Purpose.
Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?
The first person that immediately comes to mind is the unflappable force of nature that is Jacqueline de Rojas CBE. I first met Jacqueline in her role at a leading technology company that was a member of The Chemistry Club. We became fast friends, she is an incredible source of advice and over the years she continues to inspire and motivate with all that she does. Her voice in the DEI space in particular motivated me to consult in this field. As the President of techUK and prominent supporter of all things STEM for girls and women, she sets the bar high for all of us.
Another that comes to mind is John Browett. We also met via The Chemistry Club when we first started in 1999 and John was setting up Tesco.com as its first CEO. John infused me with his passion for creating the perfect customer experience and taught me to imagine how to shape that without constraint—as ‘we will always be able to find a way to build the technology to support it’. That is precisely what he did across many companies since showing that anything is possible. I am thrilled to be connected with him again as he sits on the board of Yoti, one of our key Fluttr partners.
How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?
Whereas once the ‘technology leader’ might have been a purely technical role, now with technology and innovation at the core of all businesses and really at the core of all that we do, the technology leader of today is so much more. In a kaleidoscope of roles, technology leaders have many different faces with some having deeper first-hand technical skills and others understanding the technology but playing a more strategic role in its use.
What is most important is a self-awareness of the term CTO or CIO having a myriad of interpretations with deep understanding that leadership skills are paramount in this c-suite position. Now more than ever there is a plethora of emerging innovation super powering change at speed, if we considered AI alone. I believe that an honest assessment of technical prowess will allow for the CIO or CTO to build a team which respects their strategic leadership and affords access the deep technical skills required to deliver on the needs of the organization.
What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?
Leaders of the future will need mostly three things to succeed, innate creativity; an understanding of human nature; and the ability tolerate uncertainty. At the same time understanding these skills is not enough – it takes courage to lead people through what lies beyond. In order to succeed in the future, leaders will need the ability to listen and actively choose which information is most relevant before making a decision. In this way, they’ll be more efficient, create stronger bonds within their team to produce ground-breaking results faster than ever before. They will also need expanded emotional intelligence to remain human at all times. The better they are at empathizing with people’s emotions around them, the better their leadership skills can be measured and their empathy will be seen as genuine. Emotional intelligence has been shown to be predictive of success over cognitive intelligence alone.
How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?
It is vital that we all continue to learn, grow and develop ourselves to enable us to remain relevant in our fast-paced world. When it comes to staying current with new technologies, I use a combination of subscribing to newsletters and forums and attending events/conferences where these new technologies are discussed. I also take courses which can be a time challenge but always worth it. I just completed an course in Executive Coaching at my alma mater University of Cambridge and I came away with some invaluable insights which have already proved extremely useful in my role as CEO of Fluttr.
What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?
I think ethical AI has to be the way forward and the integration of mixed reality. Many organisations are thinking about how to integrate AR, VR and MR (mixed reality) into their strategies, but few seem to be doing it yet successfully. Those who unlock the power of using this technology without causing social isolation, will release unimaginable human potential. It’s not easy though- integrating three different realities into one seamless experience.
If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?
I would tell them to listen, really listen to the people they work with, to their clients, their suppliers, their colleagues and to go into every situation with an open mind. Listening is sadly an underdeveloped skill and is vital to enabling us to work together to achieve our goals and harness the amazing technology all around us.
I would also encourage them to be curious and ask questions, then ask more questions and of course listen to the answers to make informed decisions!
Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?
Fulfilling our mission of changing social media for the good is a far ranging and ongoing undertaking which I wholly committed to so that we pursue creating a truly inclusive online environment that is safe and fun and respectful for everyone.
I will drive forward to achieve great success for Fluttr in the UK before growing internationally, taking into account all of the different cultures of the countries into which we expand.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would accelerate the path of female acknowledgment, empowering women across all walks of life. I believe that the domino effect of gender equality would spill over into other under-represented groups who face discrimination or bias due to their ethnicity, sexuality or race.
A big thank you to Rhonda Alexander CEO of Fluttr for sharing her journey to date.
Originally posted in The CIO Circle