Interview by Ivan Kuster, originally posted on Uplifting Curaçao on May 11, 2020.
Influencer Anil Sadhoeram: Trendwatcher, Innovator, Chief Philosophy Officer
Anil, would you share with us some information of your family life?
Sure, I was born and raised in Paramaribo a small tropical town in South America. Both my parents come from the west district of Suriname called Nickerie. In the past this was a Dutch settlement with different immigrants, mostly Indian immigrants who were lured by the British to come and work in the colony. My father comes from ‘the polder’ and my mother lived in the capital town, New Nickerie. One day my father, after studying and working a few years in Holland, came back to Nickerie where he met my mother. My mother was just graduated from the Mulo school as the best in class. It was her last holiday from school in Nickerie. My parents got married within two weeks and then left to live in Utrecht in the Netherlands where my father’s work was.
Depressed by the cold weather my parents returned back to Suriname after 6 months and started the family in Paramaribo. First they had my sister and then me and after six years twin sisters joined our family. My father worked as an accountant at Moret, Ernst & Young and my mother worked as a primary school teacher, they are both retired now and still live in our family house in Maretraite.
How come you ended up become a Philosopher and engineer?
Well I guess I was always curious as a kid. What I remember is that I first wanted to become a car mechanic, then influenced by television series, I wanted to become a heart surgeon, then later on I wanted to become an architect and finally, I guess I got influenced by popular magazines, I wanted to learn how to build computers so that’s when I ultimately decided to become an engineer.
The only problem was that I failed a crucial secondary school exam in Physics due to my lack of preparations and being too overconfident, while Physics was a requirement if I ever wanted to become an engineer. I remember my dream crashing big time.
It was my father that came to my rescue. After many unsuccessful attempts of him trying to convince me to become a registered accountant he got a brainwave and came up with a perfect solution for me at that time: He helped me to get enrolled at the LOI, the Leidse Onderwijs Instellingen, from the Netherlands which was a distant learning school that would sent me my weekly Physics classes by mailorder. So under the mango tree at my parents house I schooled myself in Physics and in the meantime I was writing letters to the deans of e.g. the University of Amsterdam and the Technology University in Delft to inquire about the computer science studies they were offering.
So finally when I was 18 years old, I flew to Holland to become a physics engineer at the TU Delft, which was the best and oldest available Technology University in the Netherlands according to my research as a kid. But when I finally arrived there and as soon as the classes started, I fell in a figurative ‘black hole’, it was so hard to grasp all the complex knowledge. Nevertheless I continued my journey leaving Delft, going to the University Groningen where I continued to study Physics.
Nowadays I sometimes call myself a “digital nomad”, but those days I literally travelled a lot. Because all my friends where studying in different places I was traveling by train crossing the Netherlands. So it happened that I landed in Utrecht and switched both the city and my study to become a teacher of Physics.
One day on my way to my classes, I forgot to step out of the bus and then something awesome happened: the next stop of the bus was right in front of the Philosophy building. I got curious straight away and stepped into the building and followed a lecture that was given at that moment.
Philosophy, or “Wijsbegeerte” as the Dutch say, immediately resonated with me. I still remember vividly how I would feel sparks in my brain hearing my Philosophy professors explain. So I started to combine the two studies by myself. Most people tell me that they find it an odd combination. To me it’s a natural fit. Look at Einstein, he was more of a natural science philosopher than most of the average physicists. To make a long story short, two years later some marketeer sent me a brochure of the University of Twente and it turned out that what I was trying to puzzle on my own they already offered in a formal curriculum. That’s where I ultimately graduated as a “Wijsgerig Ingenieur” as we say it in Dutch.
Looking back now I realize that Physics helps you to answer the question about “the How of things” and Philosophy, being the Mother of all Sciences as my professors used to say back at the University, was centered around “the Why of things” question. I was always curious so at very early age I asked myself and remember asking my mother things like: “Where does life come from? Why are we on earth? Who or what is, what the people call GOD? The latter issue had fascinated me since way back, when my two younger sisters were born. My mother had told me that if I wanted a brother, and I wanted a brother, I should pray to GOD and behave well, GOD will then grant me my wish. It turned out that my mother got, not one, but two baby girls, at the same time! Can you believe it!? I was very devastated, I can still remember that very clearly. Today, still not knowing what it is to have an actual brother, I must say I am so grateful to have such wonderful sisters.
Philosophy is accepting to not having all the answers. It is about the art of asking great questions, so that one can discover the truth by oneself. You gain insights by asking questions, even if there exists no certainty that these insights that you get are the truth. This constant struggle is really what is so fascinating, because some things might seem fixed while at the same time other things are constantly changing. These insights are helpful in times like these while we are experiencing so many transformational changes at the same time.
What is you opinion on the COVID-19 pandemic and how will this affect the world where we live in right now?
COVID-19 has made us so aware of how vulnerable we are as a species. Our governments also don’t know what exactly to do next and how the pandemie will effectively play out as this is totally new for all of us.
To me the pandemie asks for a multidisciplinary approach not only, with all respect, from the medical community or virology experts. And the central debate certainly should not be hijacked by over the top political entities and fakemedia outlets. That will result in narrow solutions that will potentially cause greater harm to the society as a whole.
While we were gearing up for the “Smart Cities of the Future” by harnessing internet based technologies, implementing city surveillance systems, artificial intelligence and telehealth we suddenly got caught by the Coronavirus and the “Angst” it created that came as a thief in the night.
Digital Transformation evangelists that have been preaching all these decades about the benefits of the Digital Society suddenly see masses of people jumping online as if they jump on a stool and start screaming because an ugly rat just entered the kitchen. Now we are jumping online as a panic reaction that potentially exposes the governments and the general public to lots of cybersecurity risks while they are trying to cope with the Corona threat. Our data and privacy is already under a lot of pressure but that is nothing compared by what lays ahead given the reflex of governments and commercial enterprises to solve everything with stricter regulations or an app to do that, so to speak.
Lets take a minute to look at the foundations of Physics and Biology in the context of the current COVID-19 virus. In physics many truths about nature are discovered not simply by using your “common sense” but by something different in the faculty of our mind. Things that were once considered the truth such as Newton’s theory about the existence of an absolute Time and an absolute Space are now considered wrong.
Since Einstein proofed that E= Mc2 we know better. Time and Space are not separated from each other but together form what is called the Space-Time Continuum. Physics furthermore teaches us that certain phenomena in the macro Cosmos and the phenomena in the micro Cosmos are best understood with Quantum Physics.
According to Quantum Physics there is something “weird” or counterintuitive going on. We have to deal with a fundamental uncertainty called the Heisenberg principle. And there is this famous thought experiment called “The Schrödinger’s Cat” which leads to pretty freaky conclusions about the true nature of us and the universe that we live in. Quantum Physics deals with the so called elementary ‘particles’.
Now when we look at Biology we learn that a virus is in fact a nano organism, or if you will a living nano particle so basically when it comes to really understanding viruses and how they interact with other organisms it’s not bad to know something about physics and possibly other sciences.
I also remember reading a Dutch quote when I was studying in Utrecht: “Een statisticus waadde vol vertrouwen door een rivier die gemiddeld één meter diep was. Hij verdronk.” You can ask Google to translate this for you.
This pandemic brings us together on the same page. In a certain sense it created a level playing field because no one, no country is immune. In 1947 the french philosopher Albert Camus published a novel called, “The Plaque” which is in essence an allegory of France’s struggle during the Nazi occupation. It’s also a story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence.
So that’s why I believe that only by applying a dynamic multidisciplinary approach of multiple natural sciences such as physics, biology and computer science combined with history, sociology and economics, about how people really live and interact together in groups, we will be able to deal effectively with the pandemie moving forward.
Can you expand a little more on this Chief Philosophy Officer position in a company and how it can add value to a companies business?
While working inside some of the world’s very amazing corporations and having had thousands of meetings and conversations with business leaders and the regular employees I realized that almost everybody in the company and even in the board or in the management team is just focussed on their part of the business.
So when I created this role for myself I was probably one of the first people worldwide calling themselves Chief Philosophy Officer. I slowly but surely went on a mission to proof that applying Philosophical Thinking, which is in effect critical thinking about the true nature of things, would simply lead to better insights which leads to higher chances to reach the strategic goals of the company.
The way I see it is that a Chief Philosophy Officer is trained and used to deal with ‘crisis’ from a multidisciplinary perspective.
Let me give you an example. Once upon a time I was working in Amsterdam at Forrester Research, a Boston based firm. Their events business was in a crisis, the CEO, George Colony, that is mister Forrester himself wanted to shut down this unprofitable part of the business but he gave it one more year to turn things around.
I remember when I got on board I didn’t know anything about their business or even anything about events business as I was previously working at Oracle, a titan in the IT industry. Actually coming from a complete different type of business I had the advantage of the complete outsiders view so I was able to add value from the start simply by looking at the same problem from a totally different perspective. Together with my team the events business results broke all previous records and I got into trouble because I earned more money than my manager that time…
The 21st Century just began and it is already full with inconsistencies and paradoxes. So the Chief Philosophy Officer should offer help to individual leaders and companies to see the bigger picture of what is really going on, create a culture that allows employees to ask the right questions and help them develop or acquire the tools and mindsets to create a meaningful experience and existence.
People nowadays are more informed yet more confused than ever. Nietzsche once said “God is Dead”. Mind you that his father was a pastor. What he meant by that is because of the enlightenment of the people and scientific discoveries the church and religions don’t have the authority anymore that they used to have in the past. Science and corporations slowly but surely took over the authority and the role of the church and religion.
We human beings, because of our growing knowledge of natural sciences and advances in medicine and technologies such as vaccins, electricity, the industrial revolution, the internet revolution etc. started to believe that we could make or break anything we wanted to as long as our knowledge increases. There is a very persistent illusion going on that makes us erroneously believe that if we get to know the forces of nature better we will be able to control nature and eventually dominate nature.
On top of that the social scientists assumed many theories of physics to be true without really understanding what the physicist is really talking about. So they mixed and matched a lot of the natural empirical sciences that created this collective illusion that if we develop our societies toward the highest technological levels that we can imagine, we will be able to steer society also in the desired direction AND stay in full control at the same time. Some people even want to use all this vast knowledge to live forever.
The COVID-19 is teaching us how vulnerable we are. What human beings make or do, doesn’t always lead to a better equilibrium for our own species, while nature always is going for an optimal equilibrium where multiple species coexist with or without us human beings. If we want to survive we need to become a bit more reasonable, humble, respect nature much more and accept that we are mortal beings that have to learn to live with uncertainties in our lives. We have to deal with that.
We have to navigate based on a bigger picture view of the crisis. We have to transform our mindsets and define our purpose. Here is where a Chief Philosophy Officer can add value.
We as humans love to have a strong hold to something, to prevent drowning in a tumultuous world. The question is: “What can we know for sure?”. We are dealing with a world where not everything that exists can be seen with our senses. The virus is just one example.
The good news is that we can experience synchronicity or we can have moments of serendipity. This is maybe the best tool we can have in a world full of noise to come up with out of the box solutions for the greater good. The coronavirus and how we deal with it is the biggest challenge today but tomorrow it might be something else that challenges humanity.
So better start sharpening your organization today. Ultimately, and this is not a message just for a company or for a society as a whole but for each and every single one of us, to Know Thyself!
What are some of the ideas that you are also exploring right now?
I have lots of ideas, but I need to collaborate with others to translate that in value and impact for businesses and society. Many years ago I had a brainstorm with a colleague of Oracle. We started to think about the future of work and organizations. So I asked the question: “what is a business equivalent of a LAT, Living Apart Together relationship? That is a WAT, a Working Apart Together relationship, or to make things more powerful: we created the concept of a 100% Working Apart Together Tribe, a.k.a. 100WATT©.
So that is how I work, depending on the task at hand I create a tribe by using digital platforms to collaborate in order to compete more effectively with the large corporates in the market.
During my time at Oracle, I was working in their Dublin office in Ireland. That is the place where I’ve I learned a lot about the whole idea of the internet and how that would change the world. A key take away for me from working at Oracle was that you can work, study and play anywhere independent from where you live as long as you have connectivity. Anydata, Anywhere, Anytime, Anydevice and Anyone. This was in in the year 2001. Today we call this On Demand.
Truth to be told this is exactly why ten years ago when I moved from the Netherlands I choose Curaçao as a perfect destination given the submarine fiber optical connectivity of our Island. Using the 100WATT©, Working Apart Together Tribe Organizational Philosophy, I signed up a partnership with a company in the Netherlands because of their technical resources and capabilities and simply moved to Curaçao. Didn’t know anyone on the island back then, but nevertheless started my company here with a wireless internet connection of just one Mbit per second.
Did not need any office building or other traditional things to start. I became a member of the Canto.org started to network and managed to find my way. I was offering end to end internet television platforms which at that time were super innovative and I was fortunate to sign up some of the National Telecom operators in the Caribbean region such as Telesur in Suriname and UTS here on Curaçao to name a few.
Today my company is mainly focussed on Digital Transformation, Smart City solutions and next generation Cybersecurity solutions. One of the ideas that I am also currently exploring because of my teachers background, is the creation of a platform of talented teachers that could offer their services on-line to different schools in the Caribbean. We all need to adapt to the new realities and start blending our online and off line worlds. All Smart City initiatives will have to be re-assessed by the way. We have to re-iterate a whole new paradigm, one that incorporates for example the new rules of our 1.5 meter distance society and all the new hygiene requirements into the program.
Another thing that we should be looking into is the (digital) platform economy. Companies like Uber and Airbnb are examples of a platform business in the platform economy. Because of COVID-19 these companies are also losing their market value and laying off many employees but the trend is clearly in favor of platform companies that re-iterate themselves to the newer realities of today. Contactless and frictionless are going to be key drivers for the new platform players.
The problem with the newer Silicon Valley companies today is that they are not really successful in other countries. So global platform companies that truly respect local cultures and invest in the local community will have a better chance to get a footprint in Curaçao. And Curaçao and it’s people have the opportunity to capitalize much more of the connectivity capabilities of the subsea fiber optic network to become an important hub for local and regional platform companies. This of course won’t happen by itself, we should all try to become forward thinking. This is the opportunity for the next wave of entrepreneurs.
What is your companies name?
Nx(t) Wave Inc. as a tribute to the better part of Silicon Valley and the game changing visionaries like Steve Jobs.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
‘Life is a Journey, not a Destination’, I once read in the office at Andersen Consulting, now Accenture where I had my first job. I was hired one year before graduation in a time when there was a recession in the Dutch labour market. It was branded as the paperless office and I was sent to their Head Quarters Training Facilities in St. Charles close to Chicago where I did the Human Performance Design School. I was the only recruit from the Netherlands so I gave a presentation about Amsterdam.
I showed a commercial of Rolo, a Dutch chocolate candy, it was a commercial of a boy that once teased an elephant by offering him a Rolo and then when the little elephant tried to take the candy the boy took away the candy and laughed at the baby elephant. Years later in the commercial, the boy is a man and he suddenly hears an elephant’s trumpetting. He turns to look and suddenly he gets a smack in his face. It was the baby elephant now grown up and part of another parade.
I guess my memory is not that great as the elephant’s because somehow along the road I forgot about my Why. So to be honest I am not so sure what my BIG WHY is, I just know that I am driven strongly by curiosity. When I was child I used to reverse engineer my toycar that my parents gave me as a present. I would dismantle it and study it in all it’s details and was unable to fixed it back in it original state, but I learned a lot in the process. When my sister got a singing doll I also reverse engineered it only to realize that there was a small music player installed in the back of the doll. Nothing really magical or am I missing something?
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
At this moment I am dealing with almost the same issues that everybody is dealing with. Staying in lockdown modus and trying to make the best out of my personal life and my company, trying to re-inventing myself continuously, letting go of the things that are not helpful for me anymore and being genuinely happy with the things that we now have. It gives me somehow comfort to know that I am not the only one. Like I said before the COVID-19 Pandemie somehow creates a level playing field for all of us.
Trusting the future although I know that we don’t have everything under control. I love to take long walks with my dog to clear my mind. I also love to walk together with other people in the business community, these are what I call the “CEO walks”. These walks often leads to a very interesting exchange of different points of view as they spark the creative mind in a different way. Meditation is also helpful.
How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels and how do you use your inner voice?
The internet is the biggest library in the world. So I read and watch a lot of stuff online. I also read all kinds of books and netwerk a lot with other people. I am online since 1996 so I guess I am also able to network with people on the other side of the ocean. I also use my own inner voice or my own thinking capabilities. In the evening I sometimes sit on the rooftop of my house looking at the stars. It’s like connecting the dots and letting my imagination wander freely.
We have met in 2015 at first and I received a WhatsApp of you this week where you shares a presentation that you have made one year ago. In this clip there where certain projections made regarding a pandemic outbreak that was kind of an implicit message in the text of the song of your presentation and furthermore you mentioned one year ago, that apart from the oil found in Guyana there will also be Oil found in the atlantic waters north of Suriname.
Both of these predictions are now a fact. I have always found you to be “not the average guy around the block”, you are different as you are a trendwatcher and you want to offer companies services as a Chief Philosophy Officer, could you expand a little on how you have made your predictions?
Well I don’t really make predictions about the future. I just blend different ideas from different sources and I just use my smartphone mainly. But I guess having worked for companies such as Oracle, Forrester and also Gartner where I had first hand access to some of the smartest people in the world and they also made me aware of certain big ideas and big trends also helps. So I guess I combine a few trendwatching techniques and also use my own imagination.
In fact I study other analysts so I am doing some meta analysis if you will and I am data driven in the sense that I understand how to look at numbers and use critical thinking but I also try to incorporate information coming from other domains such as the music and entertainment industry as they have some pretty good understanding what drives the end consumers. The way I see it is that we will get more and more predictive capabilities as we are all entering the world of Big Data, Machine Learning and general purpose Artificial Intelligence.
At the same time I am aware of the uncertainty principles that somehow are fundamental in nature. So to be frank the only prediction I want to make moving forward is that the words “Downloading” and “Uploading” will disappear from our vocabulary. In the future internet connectivity will be so fast that it would be like switching on a light.
Feel free to check my video on Youtube.
Perhaps it will inspire you to start predicting or better said influence your own future.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I like reading and listening to music. I used to love dancing and swimming but never on a competitive level. Nowadays, I love networking and talking to people about all the new ideas out there and what they think about it. This gives me the energy to keep on going.
If you as Anil would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Vietnam or Thailand) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?
I can give you an example that already happened in the past. I was traveling through south east Asia when I met this guy from Australia in the bus. We just started a conversation. He asked my name and where I was from. I told him simply that my name is Anil and that I am originally from Suriname. I also told him, assuming he would never guess that if he could tell me where Suriname was geographically I would buy him a beer. He looked at me and said you are the Paramaribo man! He once read a book that only had one sentence in it that made a reference to Suriname. Later after my trip when I was back in the office in Dublin I received that book by mail. He did sent me that particular book: ‘Children of Kaywana’.
How would you describe Anil in one word or one sentence?
Most Probably the World’s first Chief Philosopher Officer!
Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
There were more than one, some of them I met in person some of them are public figures.
My mathematics teacher when I was in the 5th grade at the secondary school in Suriname, my father because of the role he played in crucial moments in my life like suggesting the LOI to catch up on Physics. My mother is also a inspiration for me because she is such a people’s person, everybody loves her.
Other persons that have inspired me are Nietzsche, one of the greatest philosophers of the western world and Einstein of course. Another great mind that inspires me is the great indian mathematician and astronomer Brahmagupta that was the first person to give us the rules to compute with zero. He published this in the year 628. As strange as it might sound it took many centuries for the western world to understand zero. The church considered it a number of the Devil. Today all computers depend on this discovery of zero.
I am also inspired by Steve Jobs and last but not least the software Billionaire Larry Ellison. He is the founder of Oracle, the company I have worked for in the past. There is this book about Larry Ellison with the title “What is the difference between GOD and Larry Ellison”. The answer given is very simple: “GOD doesn’t think he is Larry Ellison”.
What is a trait that is still work in progress?
To let go of things that are holding me back, work on my patience when things are not going as I wanted and at times even let go of too much science, as we can’t control everything.
What was a defining moment in your life?
Everytime I moved, either from Suriname to Holland or from Holland to Dublin to work for Oracle, or moving to Curaçao to set up shop here.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
Please, you should in fact ask this question to them when you meet them by that time.
We are shot down now because of the presence of the Corona virus in Curaçao. What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao and humanity in general?
This is not an easy question to answer but have I full confidence in Curaçao. The struggle of the people is real. When I was a student in the Netherlands I was struggling with many things. My father back then sent me a handwritten letter, he tried to motivate me and told me that if things didn’t work out over there I could always try to set up myself in Curaçao.
I completely forgot about that letter which my father wrote in 1996 until a few years not so long ago when I was going through some of my old papers while already living on the island. I have often asked myself why Curaçao?
Now I believe that it had to be this way, call it synchronicity call it whatever you want to. I came here as a complete outsider and saw the opportunities that others living here maybe didn’t see. Einstein said that “Logic brings you from A to B, and Imagination Everywhere”. Imagination brought me to C, the C of Curaçao.
Think about this: “Dushi Kòrsou” to me means “Schat Eiland”. So I believe in Curaçao, the island and the people, that is it’s real treasure.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Anil Sadhoeram is a living example of an innovator who walks his talk. He was innovative in chosing Curaçao years ago, as his place where he would work and live from.
From here on he closed million dollar deals with regional clients. As a digital nomad, he considers himself in essence being a Chief Philosophy Officer and offers services as a CPO, which in itself is innovative.
Philosophy taught him acceptance, which is, not having all the answers and still live with uncertainties in our lives, while still asking good questions and discover. Anil is also passionately looking to find the killer “app” as next business breakthrough in collaboration with a new network of regional players.
Being an innovator, as he is, he is still very much involved in exploring new ways to offer services to diverse groups of customers on-line through platforms of collaborating parties. We deeply respect Anil and consider him one of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao, representing the technology and business sector.
You can connect with Anil on Linkedin.com/in/anilyzer
The goal of the core group of Share2Uplift for 2020
The goal of the Share2Uplift movement is to: “Identify 250 leaders from all walks of life to connect, align and create impactful changes in all walks of life, which includes intergenerational collaboration by the end of 2020.” We will use interviewing Influencers, meet-and-greet events, “train-the-trainers”-programs on “Emotional Mastery” and “Intentionality “as national intervention strategies, to reach this goal on top of our goal to scale up the possibilities to connect, align and create impact via a virtual platform.