How Do We Make Work Better?
A conversation with Roy Bahat about being a VC focused on the future of work, making work better, the skills of the future, and cultural differences
For this new episode of the Building Bridges podcast, I’m excited to share my interview with Roy Bahat, who as the Head of Bloomberg Beta has been “obsessed with how we make work—the thing we do with more waking hours than any other—better”. He’s been an inspiration for me at least since I watched this video in which he speaks about two key drivers for workers: “stability and dignity”.
Roy is used to making short, insightful and actionable pieces of content about work, careers, entrepreneurship and personal development. I recommend his series of to-the-point #thisisnotadvice interviews which you can watch on Twitter. They cover a wide range of topics like “Should I mentor someone and, if so, how do I do it?” or “How can I be the type of founders that VCs want to fund?”.
But I confess I wanted more time with him. I wanted to hear him in a longer format so he could tell his career story, what it means to be a VC specialised in the future of work and so we’d still have time left to speak about the future of work and how we can prepare for it. I’m so grateful he accepted!
As he explains in this podcast, he hadn’t planned to become a VC, let alone one who focuses on the future of work! But after doing tons of reading, talked to thousands of people and given the subject a lot of thought, you could say he’s become quite the expert. (More exactly, he’s reached that level of expertise where you become humble again. It’s a bit like Japanese martial arts: when you reach the highest level, you can wear a white belt again like a beginner!)
I simply love how he adresses the most simple yet profound questions. Here’s how he sums it all up neatly on his LinkedIn profile:
I've had a messy, hand-wringy career (in non-profit, professional services, city government, big media, video games, academia, day-zero startup, investing), where I was never hired for any job for which I was qualified (including starting a company, where I guess I sort of co-hired myself and was still unqualified). Only later did I realize the one thread that tied it all together -- making work better.
In 2013, Bloomberg L.P. gave me the opportunity to turn my obsession with the future of work into my job when we created Bloomberg Beta. I believe the fastest way to make change is to build extraordinary technology companies (and, these days, machine intelligence companies in particular).
We talked about a lot of things, including feminism and why it’s important to embrace it. Among the many themes covered were also the skills of the future. How do you make yourself “futureproof” in a fast-changing world? I asked him because in his book Futureproof, NYT journalist Kevin Roose thanks Roy profusely for the inspiring conversations he had with him. (Check out this article I wrote about the book.) Here’s Roy’s conclusion:
How do we prepare? Most of the past thinking about preparation for the future that I learned growing up what “point preparation”—”here’s what the world’s going to be like: prepare yourself for it” (…) But if you believe that the pace of change is going to be more rapid, then learning is the most essential skill, rapid reinvention… In the tech world, I call this being the CIO of your own life… constantly looking for new tools and trying to integrate them and experiment with them. Another one is setting your own priorities. We don’t learn in school that this is a skill. The third one is the scientific method applied to everything around us. If the world is going to keep changing, scientific method is our best way of understanding how.
I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast! Do not forget to share it with people who might be interested 👇
Also Building Bridges is part of a network of Substack newsletters, which you may want to discover: there’s Laetitia’s Laetitia@Work (about the future of work, with a feminist perspective), and my own European Straits (about the Entrepreneurial Age, viewed from Europe).
(Credit: Franz Liszt, Angelus ! Prière Aux Anges Gardiens—extrait du disque Miroirs de Jonas Vitaud, NoMadMusic.)