The next generation of ‘digital’ jobs won’t be digital at all

my next chapter: a shift away from pure digital


I’ve got some exciting news to share.

I’m returning to one of my professional passions, financial inclusion. It has been more than five years since I wrote stuff like this, before going on to scale up social media for the World Bank Group. And then to lead digital transformation at UNICEF. But if you were to trawl my Twitter timeline, you’d see that I actually never stepped away from #fininc and #fintech.

This fall, I’ll join the leadership team at Accion, a global pioneer in financial inclusion. Helming communications for Accion will give me a hands-on role in a highly entrepreneurial organization that supports grassroots approaches to development. UNICEF is among the few international organizations that is working to embrace such an approach, and I have learned a great deal that will stand me in very good stead.

Innovation and support for sustainable, locally-driven solutions are two fundamental aspects of Accion’s 54-year history. It is the only organization I know that has both a leading think tank and a venture capital fund. So the future is something that people at Accion — with amazing and diverse partners — are actively contemplating, analyzing, building. Globally, some two billion people still lack access to safe ways to save and send money, take out a small loan, or buy insurance. Accion is a key actor when it comes to expanding access to such services in responsible, sustainable ways.

I’ll miss the passion and intensity that my friends and colleagues at UNICEF have for the rights and welfare of children around the world. I’ve had a great adventure working with incredibly creative and talented folks — we’ve even won a few awards in the process. We’ve set in motion a major project to reimagine UNICEF’s global digital presence, including a (pretty awesome) blog, digital strategy, governance framework, and completely new unicef.org. If you want to join this team — look here.

This move marks a shift away from pure digital and into a broader strategy role. My friend Sree Sreenivasan and I often joke that the job title “Head of Social Media” could eventually be as unnecessary as “Head of Water Coolers” or “Director of Fax Machines,” as everyone would become social media savvy and so there would be no need for a specific digital team or social media lead role. The world’s not quite there yet.

That said, there’s no question that digital has become the driving force behind communications and marketing. As millennials and generation Z begin to dominate the workforce, the logic of stand-alone digital teams will become ever more challenging and in need of constant reassessment. Ideally, digital is strategic — for example, leveraging social media and big data to create strong feedback loops to inform messaging, strategy, even operational decisions. Most of the Fortune 500 get this. Those who don’t — well, I surmise they may not be in the Fortune 500 in the not so distant future.

The next generation of ‘digital’ jobs won’t be digital at all, as distinctions between what’s offline and online further blur. The planet’s becoming dense with cheap, mobile internet. Ultimately, the reputation of any organization will be as strong or as weak as the collective online reputation of its people and actions. Everyone has a role to play in digital literacy and online reputation.

I’m thrilled to bring this perspective to Accion. I hope you’ll watch this space and chat with me via @jimrosenberg as my excellent new adventure gets underway.