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Our CEO's interview with UKNews

This week, our founder and CEO Laura Degiovanni sat down with The UKNews for a fireside chat about her professional past and her vision for the future of work.

1. Who is Laura Degiovanni?

If I had to sum myself up in three words I’d say I’m a game-changer, an initiator and a resilient person.

A change-driven person: at age 14, while reading Leopardi (one of the greatest Italian poets and also a disgraced pessimist), I was impressed by the image of him looking at the dusty shelves of the family bookcase wondering: what is the meaning of a life spent without producing anything worthing at least a single line in one of the thousand books of the thousand libraries of the world. Since then I can’t avoid looking at things from a critical perspective, and wondering how the world could be changed.

An initiator: As a child, I used to take the bicycle and ride until I lost my way. It was exciting, the subtle fear of not being able to get back home, but always succeeding. This kind of exercise sharpened my ability to track and trace details. I see “patterns” that others don’t recognize and I connect elements that others do not.

A resilient person. I was born in Milan, my father was born in a little village famous for good wine. That reality that I experienced every weekend gave me an understanding of what resilience is. It’s all about how you prepare the ground, what you seed and how you cultivate what you seed. It's been 5 years now since TiiQu’s incorporation, and although every day brings in new challenges, resilience is key to overcoming them. I have always said that today is what we have done yesterday and our tomorrow is what we do today.

2. What's the story behind TiiQu?

I found myself participating in general meetings at my previous company and saying no when everyone said yes, and having my boss say I can’t take the corporate risk, but you can. While walking through my corporation’s corridors, I just met people who didn't love what they were doing and thought “life is outside”. I realised that life is everything we do, anywhere we do it. Most of all, life is our ability to have an impact. I felt that companies are only as great as their people feel safe and able to grow. Unfortunately, some internal mechanisms have made the workplace a place of fear, and work itself as a waste of time for the majority of people, regardless of how clever they are.

That’s when I started to imagine a future in which everyone could manage, cultivate and take ownership of their skills as assets, and enjoy the freedom to choose the work they want based on what they’re evolving into, their trajectory.

The rest of the story is about understanding the technology that could guarantee trust in whom that brave individual was. And do this instantaneously and fairly regardless of their nationality, race, gender or status. The result was TiiQu: a portfolio of proofs that represent who you are.

3. What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

Starting is not difficult if you have the enthusiasm, and the illusion that everything is thought-through, that the rest of the world is just waiting for what you are ready to give them. 90% of startups fail, 66% of them within the 3rd year and inability to fit the market is the number one reason for failure.

What may be difficult is being persistent and keeping the people around you motivated when inevitably you discover that the journey will be much longer than what you expected. The market does not anticipate innovation: people have to make it happen.

Back in 2018, I took the decision not to go for an ICO while everyone else in the blockchain space was doing. I felt the trust could not be tokenized. It cost me the team at that time. The lesson learnt is: make sure that everyone onboard dreams the same dream.

4. What are you most proud of regarding your business?

Probably the same thing: being able to stick to the dream. Values can't be compromised.

5. What is your vision for the future of TiiQu?

I see TiiQu as a new way of thinking about one’s identity. It is a way to prove and be recognized for the multifarious self that makes up every individual in our complex virtualized society and helps them to regain their self-worth.

I see new generations are determined to have an impact, but we have to prepare the ground for them to be recognized for their potential, and not to be suffocated by biased prejudicial mechanisms that divide the world into bad and good under highly subjective criteria. There is no bad and good, there is a right fit or a wrong fit, and “right” cannot be a subjective definition, that’s where the TiiQu comes in.

Currently, one's ability to gain trust depends on a multitude of factors. It depends on your skills, your work history and above all, your professional reputation. Reputation, however, is subject to various forms of bias, along the lines of age, race, sex and background. This can make it difficult for certain people to access the opportunities they deserve, and to get where they want in life. And regardless of bias, the way recruitment works currently is in the interest of neither employers nor job candidates. Too often the wrong person gets the job for the wrong reasons.

But imagine a world in which people could securely build, collate and represent their professional reputations on their terms. Such a system would have to enable users not just to represent the skills they already possess, but to acquire new skills and to gauge their aptitudes in a way that people can trust. The end goal, however, would be to eliminate both bias and ineffective hiring practices and to provide individuals with the tools they need to put their best foot forward in the jobs market. This is TiiQu’s mission.

6. What's your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

Trust, invest in and empower the people you work with.

You will get much more from them in return. Reactivity and understanding the patterns and trends are key for competing at a global level, and that is something every company needs to be able to do. Even SMEs, because platforms project them on the global market.

Every company needs to establish a relationship with whom they work and build a safe environment that maximizes contribution. When I say safety I refer to the context where failure and risk-taking are awarded, freedom and personal growth are shared values. This necessarily requires companies to establish fair rewarding mechanisms and accept new working practices based on freedom, responsibility and recognition.

7. Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business

Blockchain is the founding layer, gamification and machine learning is the second layer, the quantum-resistant algorithm is a longer-term requirement.

Blockchain technology, with its immutability and privacy-preserving transparency, allows making proofs impossible to be falsified and easily shareable despite the high level of cyber risks we are all exposed to.

Gamification allows consuming learning in a way that is enjoyable and continuously builds upon one's TiiQu score, machine learning allows connecting the dots of increasingly complex sets of skills of an individual and signals the most precious skills: the soft skills. Finally, we need to make sure that the information remains securely in the hands of the legitimate owner, and that’s where I see quantum-resistant algorithms coming in.

8. What books do you have on your nightstand?

The Network Self, by Kathleen Wallace, is a study about the relational process and personal identity. I am fascinated by how Wallace came to very similar conclusions to those that motivated me to create TiiQu but coming from a different perspective. It makes me think that the truth is simple but overwhelmed by unnecessary mechanisms that make human beings' interactions unnecessarily complicated.

The art of war - Sun Tzu. We are always in the process of winning or losing a war. Every issue is a war, and we need the right strategy to surround, surprise and attack the problem.

The business of Belonging: a walkthrough across community creation. It is from communities that TiiQu begins: ecosystems in which stakeholders are willing to add value to each other. It could be employers, professional associations but also peer2peer reviews and platforms willing to recognize their members' worth, contribution, skills, and achievements.

See the original interview here

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