Brendan Hooft, a seasoned expert and the CEO & Managing Partner at ESPER, conveys his experience to bridging the substantial digital workforce gap. In this insightful interview, we delve into Brendan Hooft’s vision to uplift the coaching space for digital teams and his approach towards professional development. ESPER shares compelling insights into why most digital strategies, programs and initiatives are currently failing. It’s a talent and culture divide we should pay attention to.
Could you recount your career trajectory, emphasizing pivotal moments or decisions that have been instrumental?
“The most pivotal career decision, after 2 personal traumas in 2022 and 2023 was to establish “ESPER”. I was really looking for a new life of meaning, purpose and impact. With some founding CIO’s and exceptional individuals, we pinpointed the problem and built something that could address it. Namely the first, and only comprehensive academy to attract, retain and build a high performing digital team. We built it around the concept of Digital Fusion – an organizational state, powered by great talent and an engaged culture to deliver sustainable high performance. The only real answer which we explain here in a short video more comprehensively.
What motivated you to pursue a career in this particular field?
“Leading MEA for Gartner across 9 years exposed to me that digital was not working, and traditional approaches of both government and enterprise simply did not achieve the expected results. We commissioned research and found that 93% of technology executives stated that people and talent were holding them back. This is referenced in our most recent Forbes publication, where I am a Forbes Council Member.”
How do you handle setbacks or failures in your professional journey?
“I would say there are three essential aspects that I follow. Firstly, I always try to remember why I do, what I do, and for what purpose. This fuels my resilience and perseverance which we all need. Secondly, I value relationships and am grateful to have family, friends, and business relationships as my support.
And lastly, my business relationships believe in ESPER and what we do, and they have taken a bet on becoming a client. That trust and faith is highly appreciated, and is an absolute priority to reward by being great at what we do and create for them.”
Can you share a project or initiative you’re particularly proud of?
“My greatest pride to date is launching ESPER Ignite – the only L&D platform for Digital Teams to become who they can. The academy is powered by thought leadership from Gartner, well designed by our thought leader Elise Olding, and powerful in its partnerships.”
As a seasoned expert, what projections can you make about the Gulf market’s trajectory in the next decade?
“The Gulf remains volatile in some respects, across geopolitical aspects, and with some economic instability. That said, the region is set to explode from a growth standpoint, with enormous opportunities across all sectors. Particularly in the non-Oil domain as the region is focused on growth, but with strong diversification focus. Digital is a large component of this.”
What’s your approach to continuous learning and professional development?
“As the Founder and Managing Partner of ESPER, L&D is at our core. In a rapidly changing landscape, change is constant. Learning new sustainable skills is necessary for those looking to prosper and grow. One personal note on L&D is the younger generation; at ESPER, we are always proud to take extra measures. One example is we have a specific service for ‘high potential’ talent within technology teams; they are our future.”
How do you foster innovation and creativity within your team or organization?
“Innovation and creativity are closely related to some key concepts. Let me share two relatively high-level for executives to consider:
- Driving a culture of innovation. I would specifically highlight creating a culture of vulnerability & open collaboration. This also means rethinking rewards and traditional incentives around performance management and workforce design.
- Secondly would be investing in talent. Traditional CVs don’t correlate to performance in most organizations.
Old skills are helpful, but less so, particularly in the world of rapid development – like AI. New skills need development. For example, communication and social intelligence are known to become more critical than ever.”
Finally, what book or resource has had the most impact on your professional life?
“I would say this to be “How To Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. This book has profoundly impacted my personal and professional life because, in the end, we’re all human and build our future together.”
Follow Brendan Hooft on LinkedIn.