External Relations - Shawn Kanungo
Written by: Tyler Keffer
As seen in the January 2018 Lazy Faire issue.
Shawn Kanungo is a past U of A graduate who has worked for Deloitte for over 11 years. He is obsessed with digital transformation and leads transformation projects across western Canada. He also helps organizations adopt new technologies, strategies, and business models.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I work at Deloitte in the digital transformation and innovation group. I lead all transformation projects across western Canada. I’ve worked on things related to machine learning, crowdsourcing, film, alternative ways of working — anything that falls under the innovation state, I’ve likely done it. I’m also a professional speaker on the topics of transformation and innovation.
What started your interest towards digital transformation?
I’ve always had a passion in it, but what started the entire journey was when [me and] my friends opened our own mobile app development firm. We started to build products and that eventually led the way into the digital transformation stage. We had a creative film group where we created amateur movies. You combine the creative with business with technology and you get innovation. That’s why I’ve been so obsessed with it, and that’s all I think about.
How do you feel technological advancements are transforming the business world?
Technology is disrupting and transforming every industry. Even if you’re in oil and gas, your business is fundamentally changing because of digital [and technology]. It’s a beautiful time to be in business because there will be tons of opportunities; however, it’s also a nightmare because of the speed at which it’s coming. The companies that don’t act quickly are getting left in the dust. 90% of the companies that used to be on the Fortune 500 are no longer on that list. Technology is really impacting everything.
How would you describe consulting and what can people do who are looking to get into it?
I’d have to say consulting is the worst career on the planet when it comes to having a great lifestyle. You travel, you go to all sorts of different places, there are crazy work hours — but at the end of the day, there is no other career on the planet other than entrepreneurship where you get the kind of experience you do from consulting. It’s literally night and day. Entrepreneurship is like modern warfare, while consulting is like being in the jungle. We’re looking for people in non-traditional backgrounds. You should be able to understand business well, but we’re looking for the extractor. That’s why we hire people who are graphic designers, app developers, blockchain enthusiasts. We want people who can add something we don’t have so we can learn something from students, rather than the other way around. Case competitions are not how we tackle problems in the real world. In a digital world, we use an agile approach. Instead of getting a case, we look at the future and obtain a hypothesis. We build prototypes and pilots that will help test our hypothesis to prove it works. I’d say getting an MBA is becoming increasingly irrelevant. I’d rather want to hire a hustler than a theorist. Of course, getting an MBA from a great school is a good idea, but if you really want to make an impact and want to get into consulting, go do something. Consider startups, learn skills like data science, development, get some practical experience. We need less people to think and more people to do stuff.
How did being an ASoB graduate help shape your career path?
I think I didn’t use university as much as I could have, and I regret not taking advantage of all the resources and all the talent at the university. I sort of played too much as opposed to connecting and utilizing resources and building connections, and I regret it. Society’s changed, technology’s changed, the leaders of the future are students, and there is great opportunity for students to make a difference. If I could turn back the hand of time, I would get involved as much as I can and connect with as many people as I could from people of all faculties — from engineering to health. The idea is a lot of missed opportunities and regret from not taking advantage of those.
What advice would you give to students or professionals looking to help innovate and change the world around us?
First, pretend that you’re going to die tomorrow. How would you go about making an impact in the world? What would you really want to do? Second, you are in the golden opportunity to make a difference. The truth is when you have a mortgage, a kid, marriage, and you have all these things weighing you down, your ability to move quickly radically diminishes. When you’re a student, you’re in a place where you can move quickly and act fast, connect with some really amazing people, and create stuff. I’d say take advantage of it now to experiment, test out ideas, collaborate with people. There are many resources around, whether it’s government or industry, to take advantage of. The best time to do this is now, when you’re younger and have tons of leg room.