My Digital Hero: Mo Lishomwa

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?

We want to find out. So, we’re asking some of our industry’s leading figures to nominate their digital hero and to explain what’s so special about them.

Creative and technical genius Mo Lishomwa is Director of Strategic Alliances at Publicis.Sapient. In a digital career spanning over 15 years, she’s held leadership positions at companies including Adidas, Saatchi & Saatchi and Adobe.

Who is your digital hero?

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some incredibly inspiring and talented people over the years, but I nominate my inadvertent mentor and now friend Felix Velarde.  He probably doesn’t see himself as my inadvertent mentor either.  The advice and support from Felix have had a significant impact on my career and decisions made over the years.

What have they done to win hero status in your eyes?

Felix is a pioneer with more than one first on his CV.   He was at the forefront of developing platforms and approaches well before we knew what was ahead of the curve.

All the work he did had tangible outcomes for the companies he ran and for his clients, a rarity.  To do what he has done requires fearlessness and tenacity.  He stands up for what he believes, he’s straight talking and has always been generous with his time. 

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

He has been at the forefront of developing communities and approaches.  He took a strategic approach to answering client problems when no one thought in that way and a bog standard website was the answer to most things. 

He advocated a community-based platform before anyone even thought of “social media.”  All these were precursors to a lot of what we see in the digital space now. He continues to lead in this space to this day with the People Centred Internet, which is taking us back to where we should be in relation to the internet. 

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

I think we will need a collective of heroes for this one. AI is a hot topic, but the ethics, control and regulation of it require a formal and uniform introduction.

We know this digital age is not neutral, and more often than not is presented to us mainly by big corporations who want to make some profit.   AI is commonly used for benevolent reasons – but with the machines sharpening their cognitive skills and with cases of bias already bubbling to the surface i feel there is a cause for concern.

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

I wouldn’t call it heroic – I see it as the geeky side of me having some fun!  I was dabbling with AI back in university as part of my degree – I wasn’t convinced entirely but then had the opportunity to work with the Adidas intelligence team as they were then called in the early 2000s to build one of the first health and sports systems from a brand. 

It involved an elite NFL, and German football coach’s training regimes, some kit from a global telecom manufacturer, a global watch company, a data transmitter, some Adidas kit and a website and getting bits to talk to each other and the training “coach” to learn and help the user improve.

There was a community that ran alongside it.  It became an Adidas business unit.  The business unit still exists, but the kit has been updated.

And I worked building PiPs, the database that powers the iPlayer!

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