The Rise of Digital Humanity

This is a special episode of Tech Leader Talk because this episode officially makes the podcast an international podcast! For the first time, I welcome a guest who lives overseas – Sean G. Muller of New Zealand! Sean, although originally from the United States, currently works what he identifies as his dream job for IBM in New Zealand.

Sean’s background is in network engineering and network architecture and describes his experience entering the world of technology as having fallen into the role rather than having taken an academic path. Having taken a part-time job at Ericsson Telecommunications National Headquarters in Richardson, Texas (before, of course, moving to New Zealand where he is currently), technology sort of unexpectedly became his career.

Sean and I discuss everything from how 9/11 impacted a lot of people (including himself) in the technology industry by leaving them out of work, the importance of culture and effective leadership in a company, how the current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted technology and technology companies, how Sean expects the world of technology to change over the next couple of years and what he worries most about regarding the future of technology, and so much more.

He also shares with us the story of how he worked with the New Zealand police on a really exciting project named Ella. Ella is a digital human who was temporarily employed by the New Zealand police as an experiment to see how people would react to her, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Sean encourages us to search for Ella online to see what she looks like, and he also offers advice to newcomers to the world of technology, stressing the importance of factoring in ongoing and additional costs, not just how much you initially pay for a piece of hardware.

Be sure to visit Sean via his various social media profiles to say hello, and please do subscribe to Tech Leader Talk so that you never miss an episode!


Time Stamps

[0:07] – Steve introduces this episode’s guest – Sean G. Muller – to the podcast.

[1:03] – We begin to learn how Sean got started in the world of technology and how he got to where he is now.

[2:36] – Sean reflects on the difficult time that he and many other people in the tech industry endured after 9/11 but how he eventually got back on his feet.

[4:44] – Sean refers to his current job working for IBM in New Zealand as his dream job.

[5:27] – Sean credits IBM for having challenged him to do more than he had ever done before.

[7:25] – Sean comments on commonalities between the past companies for which he had worked, citing good leadership as what led to success.

[9:43] – Sean discusses how there are multiple levels of leadership, resulting in ineffective leadership at the very top trickling down to lower levels.

[10:20] – Sean describes what makes a leader effective, summarizing them as personable.

[11:45] – Sean theorizes that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely much more difficult for micromanagers than it was for more personable leaders because of the need to work remotely.

[13:37] – Sean posits what trends will impact the world of technology over the next couple of years, such as how artificial intelligence will continue to accelerate.

[16:15] – Sean predicts that augmented reality and virtual reality are also going to continue to be on the rise and hopes that power grids will become more reliant on reusable energy.

[17:27] – Sean explains his worries about where technology is headed such as biased artificial intelligence slowly breaking down civil liberties.

[19:08] – Sean stresses the importance of technology production companies being mindful of what they are doing to ensure that technology is being used for good.

[20:09] – Sean offers a couple of pieces of advice for those of us who are just getting into the world of technology.

[22:52] – Sean shares with us what is in store for him and IBM in the foreseeable future.

[24:23] – Sean backtracks a bit and narrates his time working for the New Zealand Police in the past, developing a digital human.

[27:00] – Sean reveals that Ella, the digital human project with the New Zealand police, was a success in that feedback was overwhelmingly positive even though the police decided that they weren’t ready.

[29:15] – We learn that we can look up what Ella looks like using the phrase New Zealand police Ella digital human.

[29:42] – Steve brings the episode to closure by thanking Sean for his time, and Sean shares with us how we can reach him.


Links and Resources

Soul Machines


Sean’s LinkedIn Page

Sean’s Twitter Page

The Kiwi Innovator’s Podcast

Sean’s Instagram Page

Sean’s Facebook Page

Steve Sponseller – Website

Steve Sponseller – Cracking the Patent Code

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