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Apr 4 2019   4:16PM GMT

SuiteWorld 2019: I’m a geek and proud says, Shaquille O’Neal

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald

Tags:
"Angel investor"
"Board of directors"
"diversity in tech"
boards
Diversity
geek

Ex-basketball star, philanthropist and entrepreneur Shaquille O’Neal made an interesting appearance at SuiteWorld 2019, not just to DJ at the show’s closing party but also to talk about his various activities in the business world.

NetSuite has a history of inviting sports personalities turned business experts to talk about their adventures in the business world – sometimes it’s relevant to the technology industry and sometimes it isn’t.

Last year, for example, Magic Johnson shared his thoughts on adapting to the millennial customer, especially in the wake of a technology driven world.

This year was the turn of Shaquille O’Neal, and his session highlighted to me the connection between this particular NBA Hall-of-Famer and diversity in the word of business.

As part of his Q&A session, O’Neal explained how he is an investor in various different businesses, and has advised some of his more recent partners he wouldn’t be involved unless they implemented more diversity in its boards and leadership roles, which will eventually filter down to those running the franchises.

He used his partnership with Papa John’s as an example of this attitude: “Papa John’s pizza, everyone is welcome and we accept everybody.”

There is often an emphasis on how people in privileged positions, the white men who hold c-suite positions in tech companies being those most often mentioned in Computer Weekly, should do what they can to use their privilege to shift the world towards a more balanced and fair place.

O’Neal shared details of other investments he has made too – those more focused on the tech sector.

His first investment? Google.

He invested in Google, and he did so by accident.

O’Neal claimed his involvement with Google came out of a simple conversation about an idea that sounded cool.

Ring, the smartphone-connected doorbell with a built in camera, is another firm the sport titan has invested in and offered help to after using the products in his home.

Professional security firms were offering O’Neal extortionate prices for home monitoring equipment, so he went to a local store, came across some Ring products and now has 30 of them across his property.

He said: “I see this doorbell thing and I thought I’d try it out. The crazy thing is I installed it, I don’t install anything. That’s how easy it was.”

After meeting the people from Ring at tech event CES, he began to do what he could to give the firm exposure, including appearing in commercials.

Quoting Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, O’Neal said: “If you invest in things it’s going to change people’s lives. It’s a win win.”

This quote has formed his strategy as an angel investor, and he said it’s going well.

 

 

O’Neal admitted: “A lot of times it’s just about meeting people and it’s just about having conversations with people and I have a lot of people working for me that are really into this stuff.”

And apparently, he’s into this stuff too.

He’s a self-confessed geek, and proud of it, sharing his experience in a computing class in the 80s.

Role models is another topic I cover regularly, so I feel it’s particularly relevant for O’Neal to talk about the “geek that saved [his] life” in a class he was failing.

He admitted: “I just looked at it and I figured I couldn’t do it. But there was a guy and his name was McDougal, and he broke it down for me and showed me how to use it and ever since, being intrigued by that I always considered myself a geek. I always wanted to be at the forefront of new technology.”

By the end of the session, he said he wanted to do an internship at NetSuite. He quickly gave up on the idea when asked if he could code.

O’Neal shared two pieces of advice during his talk that resonated with me in particular:

  • Make people laugh
  • You can’t make it on your own

Claiming the world to be “too serious”, O’Neal wants to be the person in the room who will make you laugh to forget the modern day stresses that impact us all.

He claimed: “It’s a proven fact that when you laugh it releases endorphins in your face, in your body and it helps you relieve stress.”

As for the importance of others in one’s success, O’Neal began with a sports analogy to explain why teamwork is so important.

“You have to utilise your teammate for ultimate success. I’m not here by myself,” he said. “Nobody can win a championship by themselves.”

Tying in (loosely, I’ll admit) with the women in business event that ran on the same day, it was said many women find it difficult to lend each other a helping hand, but could go so much further when banded together.

O’Neal is under no impression he could be where he is without his team, and those he has worked with in the past.

And it seems now he’s using his privilege to try and be that helping hand for others too.

Yes he’s rich, and yes he’s famous, but there are just as many people in his position doing nothing to support others who don’t have as much as them.

Say what you will about sports personalities sharing their experiences at technology events – his advice was relevant, and I liked it.

I’ll leave you with a final quote from O’Neal that everyone should keep in mind: “If I had tried to do everything by myself, I would have failed miserably.”

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