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“I want to inspire a movement to develop a call to action for American Government to truly take tech seriously”

Leadership Lessons With Robb Hecht, Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Baruch College in New York City


If I could inspire a movement in the current era that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be to develop a call to action for American Government to truly www.TakeTechSeriously. What does that mean? Basically, while the US via Silicon Valley has led in global technology innovation, we are falling behind in execution via our manufacturing base and our government’s lack of invasively embracing technology. To remedy our business models, our future society and our foundations of democracy — we need #USTechSupport


I had the pleasure of interviewing Robb Hecht, Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Baruch College in New York City


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Surprisingly, given all the movement to the in house client side, I’ve been in marketing on the NYC ad agency side my full career; alongside that I’ve been an adjunct professor of marketing at Baruch here in New York City helping students get in to marketing careers.

As Baruch is one of the most diverse colleges in the country, drawing a lot of students from Europe and China, I’ve always been intrigued at what I can pick up from the Millennial and GenZ European & Chinese students in my classes and learn about the trends in their respective countries.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

An exciting project I’ve been doing research toward over the past months has been a pitch to be on the SXSW 2019 Edu Panel Picker for a talk called www.TakeTechSeriously.com.

The panel provides a call to action that with the arrival of the Chinese 2025 vision to lead global tech and A.I., how the U.S. should better prepare American students for the technology fueled future

The talk outlines that our U.S. government and laissez faire capitalist market economy isn’t fully able to provide an American national tech leadership vision needed to remain competitive in light of the strategic technology and AI plans of the Chinese state capitalist system

It proposes that critical insights be addressed supporting why America, like China, needs to have our government step in and provide a strategic national technology vision, with goals backed by standardized core STEM technology student motivations and requirements.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve had excellent bosses in the agencies I’ve worked at who have inspired me to help transform brands with technology.

I always knew I would be in the ad business since I was a teenager and I am probably most grateful to Martin Sorrell for inspiring me into advertising back in the early 2000s. I started emailing Martin about some technology forecasts back then I was betting on for the future of online advertising technologies applied to politics back when I worked with an online ad agency called 24/7 Media.

Aware of his association with Maurice Saatchi and the “Labor Isn’t Working Campaign” back in the day, to his character he would respond to every email I sent to him, which was completely inspiring. Probably five years later, after I had moved on, he ironically ended up buying 24/7 Media for WPP.


What do you think are the new untapped markets in China that may become the next “big thing”?

As read in Kai-Fu Lee’s new book “AI Superpowers China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order” the next big things in China will likely not be things American companies will be able to fully successfully execute on in China.

Why? China’s population is now experiencing the Internet, digital, social, commerce and mobile in a completely different manner than the U.S. — notably the fact that singular mobile apps like WeChat & Alibaba serve so many different needs of Chinese consumers, while in the U.S. we have different singular apps for disparate needs.

I’m not sure business models that are successful in the West will be able to be successful in China unless American firms truly study the Chinese consumer’s daily journey toward purchases and embrace mobile and AI like China is. As Lee notes, AI (artificial intelligence) implementation has begun and will flourish in China likely to a degree not seen in the West — particularly with the arrival of 5G. In sum, the new next “big thing” in China will be everything becomes digital, or more clearly — with AI integrated into it, backed by data

What challenges does that new market face? How would you address it?

Kai-Fu Lee outlines how data is the driver of AI. And China has a lot data. China’s government and companies are now able to capitalize on all the mobile user app data of its billions of inhabitants in ways that the US and Europe won’t be able to — due to the West’s data privacy restrictions through GDPR.

The insights Chinese companies will be able to obtain from all this data will provide AI with the calculations and decision making power to inform business decisions that will be unmatched. Previously unseen correlations and pattern identification, etc — will make AI-backed Chinese business decisions perhaps so spot on and quick to market — foreign companies not adept at AI or understanding the inherent behaviors of Chinese consumers — could fail in comparison.

Can you share the top challenges of doing business in China and how you overcame them?

In my weekly classes I hold a portion called “China Watch” where we discuss what marketing trends we are seeing coming out of Beijing and Shanghai. The topline jist is that China is digitally transforming itself in ways and at a pace the West is not.

I’ve noticed in pulling insights from my students that the Chinese population is just more open to using mobile tools and embracing technology holistically. This might be fueled by the Chinese government and its mandating of innovative digital technologies and AI being infused invasively across the economy in new ways every day.

American and European business seeking to be successful in China now and in the future are going to face an economy perhaps so advanced in technology that there will be challenges in even comparing Western customers and products at all to Chinese customers and products.

We keep hearing about the “Trade War”. What are your thoughts about it? Given the unknowns, how do you plan to pivot?

China was encouraged by the West to join the WTO back in 2001 and given access to the world economy based on a developing economy exceptions model — with the hope it would fully embrace democratic capitalism.

Now that China is no longer a developing economy and at #2 in a phenomenally short amount of time based on a state capitalism structure, the Trump administration has moved to pull back some of those exceptions (e.g. for the past 20 years due to these exceptions its been cheaper for a Chinese company to mail products to American consumers from China than it has been for an American company to mail to an American customer).

In terms of pivoting, in my class I like to focus on what we can learn about the Chinese taking tech seriously, about their fast paced approach, about their invasive government led embrace of technology and AI.

The Great Pivot is that China has put the world on notice that it takes tech seriously — and that its moving forward with or without the rest of the world. The question is, will the U.S. too TakeTechSeriously? I predict bad things for our economy (and democracy as we know it) if we do not.


Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson is by Steve Jobs: “The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” As I’ve always been in digital marketing since digital began as a word in the marketing industry — along the way its been too easy to just get caught up in all the fancy technology innovations, the gadgets — I soon learned that any product based on technology always has to be focused on the human experience. Thanks Steve Jobs. That said, with the rise of AI, we’ll see if the human experience will sure to be kept in the core interest of technology.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement in the current era that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be to develop a call to action for American Government to truly www.TakeTechSeriously

What does that mean? Basically, while the US via Silicon Valley has led in global technology innovation, we are falling behind in execution via our manufacturing base and our government’s lack of invasively embracing technology. To remedy our business models, our future society and our foundations of democracy — we need #USTechSupport



Originally published at medium.com

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