Introducing R “Ray” Wang: The ultimate Silicon Valley insider
R “Ray” Wang (pronounced WAH-NG) is well-known across the technology and startup hub of Silicon Valley in the US. With a 30-year career across software, consulting, and business research, his analysis of workforce trends and technology advances is sought after from business leaders across that broad spectrum, and he has some unique, data-backed ideas on workforce management in the digital age.
That’s covered in great part across his A Software Industry Insider blog, that is a must-read across Silicon Valley. From the sprawling campuses of giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, to the startup businesses still based in the garages of hopeful founders (and their parents), Wang’s observations, advice, and insight are part of the unseen infrastructure keeping the US technology industry constantly evolving and growing.
Wang is also a prominent, and dynamic, keynote speaker, delivering keynote addresses at the biggest tech conferences around the world, as well as more intimate executive settings such as the annual World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland.
Also on his calendar for 2020 is the HR Tech Festival Asia. Held over two days in May at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, Wang will be delivering a keynote address on the current state of the technology industry, and the ways it is helping HR teams to get the most out of their staff, and themselves.
The key question on tech
Wang says much of the application of workforce technology comes down to one question. “Can a work process be augmented with technology, or should it be automated because humans are actually not very good at it,” he asks. “All those kinds of things come into play.”
Wang considers his five years with Forrester Research as vital in coming to the realisation that there is a wide range of stakeholders in every HR technology decision.
“While I was there I started to understand how clients view the world, how vendors view the world, and most importantly, how partners view the world,” he said. “Looking at it like a three-legged stool is really how we try to help everybody.
“You typically have these technology scenarios where the customer is trying to solve a problem, partners are there to help him out, or a technology vendor is trying to help. And somewhere in between all that, you get to the answer.”
On the horizon
With such a rich history of experience and continuing analysis, a common question that Wang gets at every interview focuses on the future of HR technology, and what is getting him excited at the moment. Wang says that right now, it is the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence that he is watching most closely around the world.
“it’s really transforming how work’s going to be done; and how insights are being delivered to democratise decision making across the organisation,” he tells HRM Magazine Asia.
But as in everything in technology, it’s possible for Wang to take things a step further. The exciting thing about artificial intelligence is how it creates digital feedback loops – these digital networks that allow organisations to think about what’s next,” he says.
“This could be used to improve anything from figuring out which employees should be given more training, or more opportunities to be promoted, or which employees actually need more motivation or more incentive so they’re more aligned with a particular organisation and what’s actually happening.”
“Artificial intelligence is playing a huge role in terms of creating these opportunities for organisations, but we must also apply design principles for digital ethics for the sake of humanity.”
Wang says these applications have most recently been used to great effect in regulatory and compliance efforts for complex organisations with large numbers of employees and projects.
“Oops! It turns out we hired people under the age of 18 and didn’t pay them appropriately, or we were supposed to calculate benefits a certain way,” Wang lists as common scenarios that a well-considered examination of data can help an organisation get ahead of. “Also, if you’ve got CSR initiatives that you’re trying to go after, algorithms can help you know where you stand in terms of your organisation and compliance.”
Singapore-bound for 2020
Wang is set to be one of the headline acts at HR Tech Festival Asia in 2020, and says he is looking forward to sharing some Asia-specific insights to the Singapore event.
“I’ll be talking about the changing dynamic that’s happening in Asia, right now,” he says. People like to talk about the war for talent, but I like to look at it a little bit differently. I think all across Asia, the skillsets for the future are being built, right?
“Every company, and every university’s playing its role, and along the way employees are learning from each other.”
There are also the social aspects of being back in Singapore, which Wang finds himself in just once or twice in a year with typically over 500,000 air miles of travel. He says he’s looking forward to a refresher course in local cuisine, from both sides of the opulence scale.
“I’m looking forward to getting my $4 Hainan chicken rice, and $400 Chilli Crab – all on the same day,” he says. “You can’t beat that!”
Catch R “Ray” Wang live as a speaker at the upcoming