My Digital Hero: Nadya Powell

The digital industry’s not really about technology, it’s about people. The digital economy is supported by technology but is conceived, created and developed by people, the heroes of digital.

But who are their heroes? Who inspired, supported and taught them along their journey and to become digital heroes?

Nadya Powell is one of the true heroes of digital. Co-founder of Utopia, helping businesses rewire for the age of creativity, she’s the co-founder of Innovation Social and founded The Great British Diversity Experiment and #thesowhiteproject initiatives to drive diversity in communications.

Who is your digital hero?

Mark Collier.  He founded Dare when Digital was just a glint in everyone’s eye.  He also founded it in 2001 when digital was crashing around everyone’s ears after the dotcom boom ended, but had so much belief and passion he rode out the storm.

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?

Mark brought kindness, proper manners and a dedication to craft to an industry that needed some old-school style to win new-school respect.  He took a bet on so many people (including me) knowing that together we would help him take this new communication media forward to change the world.

How has his heroism helped drive digital?

Dare defined digital and Mark defined Dare.  We won Digital Agency of the decade under his stewardship.  And now when I look at the leadership of the agencies across London, and also the world, many of them started out at Dare.  

What the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

The days of heroes are over, something which Mark himself knew way back then as he would hate to be called a hero.  If there is any heroism needed it is to take responsibility for the future we are now building with technology. 

We’re building a data-based surveillance society and leaders need to ensure it is ethical, responsible and for the good of humanity.  And instead of hero (sadly a gendered word) can we say ethical and vulnerable leader – that’s someone I would follow into a burning building.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

My most memorable is when, with Flo Heiss, we crushed a desk over and over again.  For real.  It was to demonstrate that with mobile working we would no longer need a desk and rather than fake it we built a real desk crusher which incinerated, and accidentally set fire to, many different types of desks. 

The irony is I no longer, since setting up Utopia with Daniele, have a desk and can.not.wait for every business in the world to catch on that fixed-desk based working is redundant.  The future of work is personal freedom to do good in the world.  Something I also undoubtedly learned from Mark too.

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