How Education Systems (Don't) Prepare Us for Work with Uma Gopaldass

From our primary education to Corporate America, we're taught that our success and our worth can be measured. We go from tests to assessments, and we're assigned numbers and results that put us into boxes. In those boxes, there's little to no room for things like critical thinking and emotional intelligence. 

In our first ever in-person episode of Uncover The Human, we sit down with Uma Gopaldass and a few glasses of wine to discuss everything Education: how math is different now, Social Studies aren't actually all that social, and how to transcend the boxes we're put into throughout our lives. 

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human









 Alex Cullimore: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives. 

Cristina Amigoni: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves. 

Alex Cullimore: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.

Cristina Amigoni: This is Cristina Amigoni. 

Alex Cullimore: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in.

Cristina Amigoni: Let’s dive in. 

Authenticity means freedom.”

“Authenticity means going with your gut.”

“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”

“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”

“It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”

“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”

“It's transparency, relatability. No frills. No makeup. Just being.”


Alex Cullimore: Welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. This is our first ever live in the studio. We've got wine. Things are going great. Cristina is already suffering.

Uma Gopaldass: Composure. Composure, lady.

Cristina Amigoni: I have to move chairs by myself.

Alex Cullimore: Which has been a struggle.

Cristina Amigoni: Open wine by myself.

Uma Gopaldass: She's never squeezed in these many people. 

Alex Cullimore: Live in the studio.

Cristina Amigoni: We're struggling with a topic. It's all good. 

Uma Gopaldass: What do we talk about? 

Cristina Amigoni: Something about kids’ education, Generation Z. 

Alex Cullimore: While it may not seem like it, we're actually only one sip of wine in each. So things are great. 

Cristina Amigoni: I thought this was a prop. 

Uma Gopaldass: I haven’t drank yet. 

Alex Cullimore: The two of us are one sip in.

Cristina Amigoni: Our guest, Uma, is still wondering what to do with it.

Uma Gopaldass: Yes. I’m still holding it like a prop like – 

Cristina Amigoni: It’s not a microphone. But you can still put it up to your lips.

Uma Gopaldass: Yes. Brought to you by life and Prosecco. Lambrusco. Sorry. Lambrusco.

Alex Cullimore: Sparkling red wine. That's the first tip of the day for you. If you would like sparkling red wine, Lambrusco. It's fantastic.

Uma Gopaldass: It’s amazing. Oh my God.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. It's not very sweet. Just sweet enough. 

Uma Gopaldass: It’s from Italy. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yes, it is. From Emilia Romania

Alex Cullimore: That sounds official.

Cristina Amigoni: Alright. So, kids.

Uma Gopaldass: Kids, kids, kids. Huh! Kids.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. We wanted to talk a little bit about education, the state of education when we were all growing up, when we went through the education system, and what it's doing for the workforce now, and how it's changed, and what maybe we'd like to see. So, all of the above.

Cristina Amigoni: Small topics.

Uma Gopaldass: We're not trying to solve anything big here. Well, it's a curiosity for me, the education system today, the current system in US, right? I'm from Singapore. You're from Italy. You're from generation yes. Generation yes.

Cristina Amigoni: End of alphabet.

Alex Cullimore: Technically, millennial, I believe.

Cristina Amigoni: You skipped the alphabet.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. I’m the one on the outside of that.

Uma Gopaldass: My thought process was what's going on with the education system today that what are we going to see tomorrow in the workforce? Because currently, that's what how many generations? Five, six generations? 

Cristina Amigoni: Like five in the workforce. 

Uma Gopaldass: Five in the workforce, side by side.

Alex Cullimore: And it's definitely it feels like it's changed. I do tutoring. I have done tutoring before and done it for a lot of Rachel's family. And so, they've done like – I've done high school math, which now they've changed, which I wouldn't have thought would change that much. 

Uma Gopaldass: New math. 

Alex Cullimore: Yeah, it's all new math.

Uma Gopaldass: Math. There’s new math.

Cristina Amigoni: Actually, it’s a Singapore math. 

Uma Gopaldass: It’s a Singapore math. Yeah. It’s all math by my standard.

Alex Cullimore: It’s new to us. We just learned this the hard way of them saying, 
 “This is how you do it.” And then we said, “I don't know.”

Cristina Amigoni: It’s hundreds of years old in Singapore. For us, it’s new.

Alex Cullimore: So, you experienced it. How is it different? Do you find it to be better? Is it different than what you learned?

Cristina Amigoni: What's the finish of better, I guess.

Alex Cullimore: I guess does it help? I think of education nowadays. And this is a fairly recent thought for me about more. And how do you learn how to critically think more than repeatable skills? You can Google any skill you need. It is very discrete. So, is it prepping less procedural knowledge, more – I don’t know? Structured critical thinking?

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah, that's interesting.

Cristina Amigoni: That’s an interesting question. 

Alex Cullimore: Maybe not math is maybe not the right place to start on it.

Cristina Amigoni: I don't understand the new math. Let’s starts that way.

Alex Cullimore: Which is not better in that way.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. It may be an age thing. I'm not six and learning it. I’m 47 and learning it. Maybe you shouldn't learn math at 47. There's a reason why you should learn it at six. It's not easily memorable. Which the math I learned was memory. There was reciting, multiplication tables, until you, I don’t know, fall asleep at night, every day, all day.

Alex Cullimore: Until you know nine times seven is 63.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, I kind of stopped after the six times six is 36. We start getting into the 7-8s and the 9s. It’s all a little bit ambiguous.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. Well, yeah. Actually, the big difference is going into Cherry Creek School District and helping out with training special needs kids. That's what I'm doing today, which is when I walk into a classroom, it throws me off, because there's too many stuffs all over the wall. Like you have ABC – I mean, like, there's no blackboard. Okay, so there’s whiteboard. But the whiteboard is covered with stuff, right? There're pictures, and words, and contractions, and grammars. And I mean, it's like kindergarteners and grade one. 

And it's like, if you have your wall covered back-to-back, how much do they zone out of what they're looking at, right? And if you go to school in Singapore back in the day, it was very clear. There’s some Blackboard. You have the A-to-Z alphabet, and then you have one to whatever, do whatever series they could. And it was by memorization. Which was ancient in Indian culture way before colonization. There was no pedagogue. It was just sitting among – The children would come in. The teacher would be sitting there. And they would be just word of mouth memorizing. All of your textbooks were word of mouth, and which delivered geniuses like Sri Ramanujan, if you guys heard of. The man who kind of delivered the most powerful understanding of mathematics eons ago, right? This was back in like three centuries ago. And he didn't even go to school. I mean, his school was basically sitting out with a priest and him reading out numbers. 

And he sent a couple of letters to the British university, to some of the top-notch mathematicians. And they admitted him to college. When he went up there, he wrote a lot of formulas, and it was crazy formulas. Nobody could understand them. Today, that's the basis of your multiverse, your physicists using that to figure out astronomy and stuff like that. So, it's a powerful tool. 

 When I go into a classroom today, and I'm looking at the teacher’s teaching multiplication, the way you count, it's like, “How do you –” It's very foreign to me, I guess. That's the word. And I don't if the kids are getting it, because I mean it's like they look blur most of the time. And by blur – Blur means they're dazed and confused most of the times.

Cristina Amigoni: That's interesting. Yeah. I never thought about it. It's true. When I go into my kids’ classrooms, they are just covered walls. There's stuff everywhere. And if I think about me in those classrooms when I went to school, when there was nothing on the walls. There was like desks and chairs and nothing on the wall, the blackboard. And I still daydreamed. I still managed to daydream with blank walls and windows. So, if I were in today's classrooms, there's zero chance that I would actually be listening to anything that teacher will be saying. 

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah, exactly. 

Cristina Amigoni: So too much structure. 

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah, too much stuff on – What about you?

 Alex Cullimore: I went more towards the age there was a lot of stuff on the walls. So, I think maybe it was distracting. I can't necessarily remember all these things on the walls. But I also can't remember listening to what was happening. So, I don't know that it is a record of having paid attention. I think I'm curious, like how much help it is to do the memorization stuff. I think there's some things that benefit that. But we learn language before we even go to school, we can start to communicate, and we do this through just, A, osmosis exposure and just continual learning. It's easier, of course, when you're like under five to like learn languages. We talk about that all the time. But is it better to learn things like with stories and through actual speaking it out, learning it that way, learning it through comparison and experience rather than memorization?

Uma Gopaldass: I do agree that there has to be a balance. Application is needed. And that's the one thing that I like about the American system, is they do make the kids apply problem solving skills at a very young age. But I think it's so much on one side that they don't remember anything. Their memory is not – It's not developed enough to hold on to call memories that much.

Alex Cullimore: That’s true. Yeah. Which is a good point, because we do still retain knowledge from times where we don't have core memories. Obviously, we learned a lot of motor function, we learned a lot of language. So, it's a good point that at what point does that become skills? And memorization can certainly help, and learning tricks certainly helps. I guess I'm curious how much – Because the world seems to move towards – Well, this is a big, generalized statement. There's a movement towards like knowledge work, right? It's more towards now there's a lot of complex problem solving. We have lots of different levels of organizations. Rather than making a decision and trying to figure out how to make it work down the line. So, are we prepping people well?

Uma Gopaldass: That's a good question. What are you seeing in the workforce?

Cristina Amigoni: That's a question. I’ve been thinking about critical thinking, mainly because it’s a – I would say it’s a pretty essential skill to have. And it's fairly obvious when it's present. And it's fairly obvious when it's not from a working perspective, on the receiving end. And yet, I don't know how you teach it. How do you teach critical thinking? I mean, part of it is the class we were guest speaking last night.  Royal "we" as I did next to nothing. Alex was speaking last night. It was on data benchmarking. And really, at the core of what was being taught was critical thinking. Like, yeah, there's data. Look at it. Figure it out. And ask questions. But none of it really makes sense until you use critical thinking. 

And I don't know how you teach it, because, again, I think it's obvious when somebody is not applying it. When it's very mechanic, would they do – Like, whether it's like, “Here's directions,” and they follow the directions. And again, there's no critical thinking over like, “Well, okay, did you not notice that that sentence doesn't make any sense?” But you said nothing. So is it a safety problem that you don't feel like you can? You noticed it, but you cannot say, “Hey, that doesn't make any sense?” Or is it that you're just haven’t been practicing or haven’t learned to look beyond the directions? To go beyond the steps, that checkboxes?

Uma Gopaldass: That's a great question. What are you seeing? So, the two of you have a company. You work for big corporations and corporations of all sizes that have human capital as their core asset to deliver their business strategy, right? So, you all have workforce. You have employees? What are you seeing as the biggest issue? And let's not talk about the great resignation. That's a whole different topic. People are resigning, even in teachers’ system. But what are you seeing in terms of performance in terms of employee? Generalization, I guess?

 Alex Cullimore: That's an interesting one. One thing we noticed a lot of times is that there is kind of that checkbox culture of how do you get to the “What do I do? What do I need to do?” Which that's one thing I can definitely feel like comes from my personal education experience. There was a lot of emphasis on, “Do well on the test. Do the assignments. Get the grade. Make sure you meet the rubric always.” And so, then you get out into the real world where it's like, “Okay, well, let's solve problems that don't have a rubric. We're all trying to figure out what's going to happen. We're trying to make this work together.” It feels like it misses the mark. And there's a lot of desire, I think, for some structure. I think people want autonomy. People want the ability to have some say in this, but they also want to be able to progress. We see a lot of people needing, “Okay. But how do I succeed in this? How do I even show that I'm doing well or not well?” 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. I think that we've gotten to a place where there's so much obsession over KPIs, metrics. If I hear the word KPI one more time. But metrics and measurements, and this whole – I don't know when it happened, how it happened, but this whole notion that if there are no metrics and KPIs, and you can’t measure, and if you can't measure it, then it doesn't exist, or it's not real, or it's not worth it, or it's not good. There's a judgment around that. 

And it's gone so extreme that now everything is a checklist. And because everything is a checklist, now we're in school and in the workforce, we're now in this realm of it's not about critical thinking. It's not about challenging assumptions. It's about, “Well, I checked the boxes. I followed the steps.” Except that that doesn't give you anything. As we know, and it's been coming out quite a bit, is learning how to pass a test doesn't make you a good anything or prove your knowledge on that subject.

Uma Gopaldass: Which is interesting, because the US education system is built on test scores. I mean, they’re going through it right now, which is weird. And apparently, and I just found out this, you can opt out of the test. And a lot of kids have opted out of the test.

Alex Cullimore: Like the standardized ones? 

Uma Gopaldass: The CMAS. CMAS, yeah.

Alex Cullimore: It was CSAT when I was going through.

 Uma Gopaldass: I mean, which makes sense, because the rest of the world is not based on that test. And so, if I fail that – So the first question I ask the teachers was, “Well, do they not progress to the next level if they fail this?” They go, “Oh, no.” Like, “Okay.” So, what's the purpose? Where are we going with this testing? I don't know.

I don't know. It's a tough thing. Singapore has a lot of tests, right? Exams. They don't really test you. They do one hardcore exam, two of them, just to see whether your brain is in it, and your heart and soul is in it. And then you go to the next level. And then they try and figure out your aptitude is towards science, arts. It's the same. It's the same as the British system, right? Now, unfortunately, it’s got its drawback, right. So, a person who loves arts, but it's really great at business, and so being in business. 

Cristina Amigoni: People that have drawbacks. Also, because you don't really know what you're good at, or where you're passionate about when you're 10.

Uma Gopaldass: Exactly. 

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. Or 18, or 25, or 40. Like, it's okay to change that. But we don't really have that built in. We have a built-in like pick your thing and get good at it. Get really good at only that thing. That’s an interesting portion about the test, too, is that it is poorly incentivized. You create a test. You say the school is going to be now funded or not based on how students perform on this, which incentivizes the teacher to do nothing except teach to the test. Make sure you can pass this, because that'll make my score look good.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. And because of the way the tests are, they have nothing to do with critical thinking, and everything to do with mechanical memorization, or figuring out how to pass the test. Which again, nothing to do with critical thinking. 

Alex Cullimore: Or to your point, even the subject.

Cristina Amigoni: Or even the subject. You're not challenging anything. So, then it goes into the workforce. And you literally have these people like, “Well, I can't say that you don't do the work, because you've checked the boxes, except that the work is not usable.” Because there was no critical thinking behind it. Because it shouldn't have been done. That was the first test, is the fact that there were wrong assumptions, and then there was the wrong task list.

 Uma Gopaldass: The other thing that's missing in the education system is social intelligence and emotional intelligence, both of which is very critical to growing up and becoming a well-rounded.

Cristina Amigoni: Or a person even, but not well-rounded. A human that interacts with other – 

Alex Cullimore: Which, by the way, a lot of business ends up involving around talking to other people.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. 

Uma Gopaldass: Which is why emotional intelligence in company trainings are ranked number one. I mean, like why train people as an afterthought? It won't work if they're not brought up from day one.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. Unless they're actually curious about it, and then want to spend the time on it and learn something as abstract as emotional intelligence and situational understanding.

Cristina Amigoni: Which doesn't have KPIs.

Alex Cullimore: No.

Uma Gopaldass: And if you look at it in Italy, how did you get trained up in emotional intelligence and social intelligence?

Cristina Amigoni: Not at school. Definitely not at school.

Alex Cullimore: At least not at the curriculum. There were interactions with students.

Uma Gopaldass: It’s called parents and a belt. No, I'm kidding. These was back in the days. I’m a Gen-Xer.

Cristina Amigoni: Parents and a slipper in Italy.

Alex Cullimore: Parents and passive aggression. Millennial generation.

Cristina Amigoni: Oh, yeah, the millennial version of it is passive aggression.

Alex Cullimore: I mean, you often do that well, huh? 

Cristina Amigoni: That actually teaches something about critical thinking, because you have to interpret what that actually means and how to not get them the next time.

Uma Gopaldass: What’s that quote? Sticks and stones may break my bones. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. All of my healed up.

 Cristina Amigoni: Trial and error? As in do something and end up being casted out on the group. And you’re like, “Oh, maybe that didn't work. Maybe insulting people doesn't work to actually have friends. Okay. Learns that lesson.

Alex Cullimore: Noted. 

Cristina Amigoni: Noted.

Uma Gopaldass: Noted. I think, for us, we had social studies in school. Social studies. I just love the word, social studies. What are you studying? I'm studying to be social.

Cristina Amigoni: Which I'm assuming it's not the same as social studies in the US.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. Because that's really just geography and the government.

Uma Gopaldass: Which didn't make sense, because – And that's the funniest part. I was like, “Oh, social studies. You’re going to talk about civics. They're going to talk about courtesy. They're going to talk about how to be polite, how to debate politely and all that. That's what we do in social studies. And no. It was about geography. And I’m like, “That’s –”

Cristina Amigoni: That's geography. It’s not social studies. It’s geography. It has a name already. We don't need to change it.

Alex Cullimore: There's nothing more social than learning the capitals of countries you'll never visit.

Uma Gopaldass: Exactly. I’m like, “That's interesting. Social studies. Very social.”

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. And then even the classes that are civics, it's like, “Okay, this is how our government operates. There are 100 senators.” And like, “Great. Cool.” And then do they tell you how to vote? Nope.

Cristina Amigoni: Do they even tell you that voting is important? Oh, absolutely not.

Alex Cullimore: Nope. Do they tell you have a local school board that has more impact than your senator does over your life? No. They tell you about your senators. And they play the I'm just a bill video. 

Cristina Amigoni: We didn’t learn that actually. I don’t know that we had social studies in Italy. No, we didn't have social studies. 

Uma Gopaldass: You probably had a different version of it. 

Cristina Amigoni: We had history. We had geography. We had philosophy. We had physics. We had music. We had art, history. We had actual art drawing. We don't have social studies.

Uma Gopaldass: So, it's about the same. Social studies we had to have, because of the fact that it was for racist, official, in a country that's so diverse. So, you got to make that make a social. Anti-social. Anti-social studies.

Cristina Amigoni: Well, interestingly enough, and I don't know if it's all schools, or my kids happen to go to the one special school that does this, but they actually do a lot of emotional learning.

Uma Gopaldass: Which is awesome. 

Cristina Amigoni: They come home, and they'll have – My kids, my older son, favorite bookmark, it's actually a handwritten note laminated from his teacher that says something like, “I really appreciate who you are as a human. You're always polite. Thank you for being so attentive.” Actually, one of his teachers, I can't remember which one, I think it's the language arts teacher, actually explains emotions and emotional intelligence through the reading and writing that they do.

Uma Gopaldass: Wow! Now imagine if those teachers were managers? Oh, my God. Think about this, CEOs.

Cristina Amigoni: They definitely deserve to pay and the position of CEOs.

Uma Gopaldass: Absolutely. Yeah.

Alex Cullimore: I think that's why there is the request for so much emotional intelligence training. I think it's mostly people who have leaders who lack it. And they're like, “Yeah, this is causing problems.” It's hard at the organization level and the personal level. 

Cristina Amigoni: Which is a pandemic in itself.

Uma Gopaldass: When did this all – Do you remember the KPI journey? Because I remember one day waking up in one of my careers and suddenly, I have to do performance measures and reading. I have to measure myself. I'm like, “What am I measuring myself for?”

Cristina Amigoni: In the third person.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. Yeah. Like, “How good am I?”  Yeah. How am I doing well? I mean, like I just worked – 

Cristina Amigoni: Well, Uma doesn’t feel like writing this today. 

Uma Gopaldass: And I just worked 18 hours of my tush. So, I don't know how I'm doing.

Alex Cullimore: Alex has strong feelings about having to fill this out right now. 

Cristina Amigoni: Because he’s about to throw this in the trash. 

Alex Cullimore: Now questions the worth of this exercise.

Uma Gopaldass: Oh, my God. So, when I became a manager, and I to manage people who had to rate themselves and have the conversation. And I don't know why you have ratings 1 to 6.

Cristina Amigoni: Because then you can label people and say, “You’re a 2.”

Uma Gopaldass: Right. Here's the thing. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Exactly. And so, every one of my team, this was in ancient times, gave themselves six. So, then I had to train them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 meant. And in my conversion, I said, “If you're six, you better have written a white paper, or you're walking on water.”

Cristina Amigoni: Oh, yeah. Nobody can be a 6, or a 5 really.

Alex Cullimore: That's my favorite part about this is one through five, one through six. Nobody's a five or six.

Uma Gopaldass: Okay. So why do we have five or six? 

Cristina Amigoni: It's a complete financial reason. Because if you have a five, or if you are a five, because let's go back to this as your whole identity for the next six months or a year, depending how long performance results. If you are a five, then we actually have to pay you more for what you do. So that's why nobody is allowed to be a five. If you're below five, then now I can subjectively decide whether you get a pay raise or not.

Uma Gopaldass: That makes sense. And so, there was this whole thing about banding and rating in consulting work, right? Everybody can't be five. That's not enough money to give everybody the bonus. So, we had to squeeze people into various numbers so the budget would fit. That sounds like a perfect ideology for performance.

Alex Cullimore: Perfect meritocracy.

Cristina Amigoni: Oh, yes. There's so much motivation on that, that I just can't wait to go back to work.

Uma Gopaldass: And if you manage to hit all the marks on you, and you actually have exceeded beyond, yet the money wasn't there. There's this catch all called personal relationship, which you can be dinged on just so they can pull numbers down. And that's it. I was trained on those strategies to move people, which was a tough time. I was like just say yes, bonus. No bonus. Yes, they did a good job. No, they were crap. There’s that mixed – 

Cristina Amigoni: Or I don’t know. Or reduce the bonus for the C suite by a few million dollars and give other people an extra $10.

Uma Gopaldass: Nobody goes into working thinking I'm going to work less. I can vouch for you. Nobody goes into work and says I want that. I mean, genuinely, there are people who may not meet their terms, and then you just make sure they’re in the right goals.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. But there's one guarantee for motivating people to work less, which is to rate them on a scale from one to five. Give them all threes and fours or twos, because you can't afford to give them fives. And then after they've worked done, I don’t know, 60-hour weeks and worked their butts off, and then tell them like, “You got to do better.” Guess what's going to happen?

Alex Cullimore: They’ll leave. 

Cristina Amigoni: They’ll leave.

Uma Gopaldass: They'll become dog walkers, Uber drivers.

Cristina Amigoni: They'll stare at the walls all day long and pretend to work while they're being watched in the office because they can't be trusted to be anywhere else.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. You’re right. How did we work through that?

Alex Cullimore: If you got a three, you started to behave like a three. Like, again, “Well, then I'm going to give you my three efforts. Because I was giving you what I thought was a five and I got a three out of this,” which probably for budgetary reasons, probably for whatever else, or just – 

Cristina Amigoni: Subjectivity. 

Cristina Amigoni: You've just got an angry manager that day. Whatever happens. And then you end up, like you're like, “Oh, that's a three. I'm giving you a three.” Now you've just demotivated employees through your clever carrot of becoming a five.

Uma Gopaldass: So how do you motivate people? I mean, so here's the thing. The current workforce, have they been subjected to that at school? 

Alex Cullimore: Yes. And it's through grades. The generation I was growing up in, it became like the most competitive college application landscape. And college applications at the time – I think they’re finally letting go of this a little bit. You don't have to have like SATs scores. And they're not judging that anymore. Because it turns out not to correlate with people's success. 

Cristina Amigoni: Shocking. 

Alex Cullimore: Yeah, weird. 

Cristina Amigoni: Who became a billionaire over SAT scores?

Alex Cullimore: Yeah, go talk to the people who proctored that exam, because they're doing fine. Although they're scared now. But it was a game of great inflation. There are people who would purposely do things like take electives like over the summer so they could then pack it with AP classes because that got a weighted grade. You could have the better GPA. You could have the better class rank. Everything was a competition to get like within three decimal places after like a 4.3. And you start separating yourselves at that level. And then you do the SATs. And that became part of your college application, which of course, there's a new ranking of status. Did you get into an ivy? No, your dad didn't go to the ivy. So no, you didn't get into that Ivy.

Cristina Amigoni: Your parents didn't just do it at the new library. So, you're not going to get in.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. So, you won't be part of this. And so, it becomes like it was a cycle of being very judged on very specific metrics that meant like you got really good at taking tests. You got really good at being good at the tests, which is again, not actually super helpful. And then you get into the business world, and you have to work with people, and you have to work together. And it's not all cutthroats. And I mean, there are certainly cultures that have that. But you're trying to come up with collaborative solutions all the time. We spend all of school teaching kids to compete with each other, and we teach all of the careers being like why don't people collaborate?

Cristina Amigoni:  Please communicate. I couldn’t communicate before, because if I communicated, I wouldn't get into college, which means I wouldn't get this job.

Uma Gopaldass: Maybe we should change all of the employees’ name to numbers, like employee one, two, three. 

Cristina Amigoni: They’re resources, remember? They’re not humans. They’re resources. 

Uma Gopaldass: Exactly, yeah. Oh, that’s why they called it human capital.

Alex Cullimore: Human resources. Human capital.

Cristina Amigoni: We could just stick to humans. Don't need an extra word. It’s just humans.

Alex Cullimore: We can't even say the full thing anymore. We used to do HR, HCM. We can't even like – 

Uma Gopaldass: Well, we started using the word talent. So, it’s as if you're buying a brain. Without the human body, it's just the brain walking around.

Alex Cullimore: I’m renting your talent. If you could leave your feelings or throw that, that'd be great.

Cristina Amigoni: It’s like the national dog show. Let’s parade the talent and then put metals around their necks.

Alex Cullimore: Oh, that is so good. That is so good. Look at them balancing on that teeter totter. It’s incredible.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. Check out that tail movement.

Alex Cullimore: This is a classic for the breed. And the breed in this case is, I don't know, software engineering. This is fully indicative of all the things we look for in a software engineer. Like, eyeglasses.

Uma Gopaldass: A new specimen.

Cristina Amigoni: It makes a perfect view with your solution architects

Alex Cullimore: Oh, don't get them too close because then their children are not going to be at the dog show. Until the kennel club acknowledges that breed.

Cristina Amigoni: Oh, lordy. 

Cristina Amigoni: It’s like we have gotten so far from wanting to call humans humans, treat them like humans, that we just make up words.

Alex Cullimore: Or numbers.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah, exactly. Talent optimization. 

Cristina Amigoni: It’s almost like there's so much fear regarding like what if they're just humans? Oh, no, no, no. I don't know how to deal with humans.

Alex Cullimore: I think that's incredibly funny part.

Cristina Amigoni: People. People. Humans talk to each other. Humans have feelings.

Uma Gopaldass: Which brings us to another point. So, I'm opening up the can of worms here, right?

Alex Cullimore: I think we're in it. We just called people breeds of dogs.

Uma Gopaldass: We're drinking.

Alex Cullimore: slower now. 

Uma Gopaldass: So, workforce, human assets, capital, money, resources, whatever we are.

Cristina Amigoni: Tokens.

Uma Gopaldass: Tokens. In this hardcore worry to understand your human in your workplace, in your workforce, your labor force, whatever you want to call it. The people who are workers. Exactly. The workforce be with you. And not resign.

Cristina Amigoni:  a bunch of horses pulling Marie Antoinette's carriage.  The word workforce. Workforce. Again, nothing to do with humans.

Alex Cullimore: It’s the dark side of the workforce.

Uma Gopaldass: In a bit to understand these characters. I can just picture stick characters walking around an office. That's why management probably sees them, all these stick characters, walking around. 

Cristina Amigoni: In chairs.

Uma Gopaldass: Yes, employees, in chairs, squeaky chairs, typing away according to whatever they do. Now, this excessive need to understand these figures walking around, they're going to do all these assessments. 

Cristina Amigoni: Oh, yes. Yes. 

Uma Gopaldass: Let's talk about the disc insights. So, another can of worms, Myers Briggs. Yeah. So, because you want to understand a personality. So how do you make sure that they are in the right role, and they can communicate better? Succeed? It's good intention.

Cristina Amigoni: It is good intention. Especially the personality ones become labels. Again, it becomes who you are. You're now an INFG. I have no idea . You would never be anything else. It’s like when I was 10, or 11, or however old I was, and in Italy we did the assessment of what career I should pursue in my life. 

Uma Gopaldass: Like Hunger Games. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Like  the Hunger Games. And whatever came back and that age, and I can't remember. My mom remembers better than me because I clearly removed it from my memory. But apparently what came back was that the highest I could ever be in my career was whoever – I don't know the name of it. But whoever that person that cleans up here in a barber shop is. So that was going to be me my highest accomplishment as a human was that based on that assessment.

Uma Gopaldass: Was it that detailed? Like specific about.

Alex Cullimore: I was going to say, that’s hilariously specific.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. There was a specific name for it. But it wasn’t hairstylist, which I actually think they're geniuses. So, it wasn't as high as that. It was the cleaning person for the hairstylist. The shampoo person. 

Uma Gopaldass: The shampoo girl, boy. 

Alex Cullimore: It’s supposed to a metaphor where everything is a hair salon. Or they were very specific. This was every possible career. And we found this specific barber shop.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. And one thing that it did do is that it creates a huge amount of respect that I now have for anyone working in a hair salon no matter what they do. 

Uma Gopaldass: Did you work in a hair salon? 

Cristina Amigoni: I never did. No. But I do have a huge respect, because I'm sorry. But whether you are washing, cleaning, cutting, it is a hugely important job. And I am grateful that somebody's doing it. 

Uma Gopaldass: Absolutely. 

Cristina Amigoni: And to me, it's not the meaning. To the people reading out the assessment, to my mother, apparently, that was supposed to say your daughter is just not going to really accomplish anything. And she doesn't have the brains or intelligence to accomplish too much.

Uma Gopaldass: So, the analogy was this is a profession, which – 

Cristina Amigoni: Here's where you should go. Just stop studying now at the age of seven, because you're never going to be able to do any more than this. Might as well just take it on out.

Uma Gopaldass: Out of curiosity, what was your mom's reaction to that?

Cristina Amigoni: Oh, well, my mom is not Italia. She's American. She's a New Yorker. She hit the roof. My mom came home and was like, “That is the last time I will ever speak to anybody in the education system. Nobody gets to judge and label a seven-year-old like this, and basically lay out their entire destiny to basically say she will accomplish to nothing.”

Uma Gopaldass: Wow! That’s wild. 

Cristina Amigoni: So anyway, back to the Myers Briggs. I feel like some of those aspects have been used that way. I think like, well, if you're an INFG, you’re whatever, INFJ. I really don’t know what they are. Then – 

Alex Cullimore: INF good boy.

Uma Gopaldass: You know what she's saying.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. You're never going to not be those. Like that’s who you are. 

Uma Gopaldass: You can’t transcend to something else because – 

Cristina Amigoni: Exactly. You can be an extrovert. You're never going to run meetings, whatever the ripple effect of that label is.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. It's kind of funny, because most people are confused about whether I'm an introvert or an extrovert. And frankly, it really depends on what surroundings I’m in. So, when I did mine, and I didn't do it when I was young. We didn't have it in Asia. We just did horoscopes and astrology.  It was very accurate. Very accurate. I'll be a businessperson. Nobody can shut me up. Be a werewolf was the astrology told my mom. And my mom said, “Oh, God. She's a girl.” And then here comes trouble. Since then, I've been like that. 

But I did do – Through companies, I had to do it, my insights. I never did this predictive index and all of them. And you can manipulate them. And I've manipulated them based on the rules and all that. Because behavioral science was very common to me, and I studied it. And it’s not a real proof of what you're capable of. And you should be able to transcend. If you are an introvert, like you said, I don't know what the others. Introvert, extrovert. Yeah, I mean, but that's just one portion of creative. Like, how do you not be creative? 

 Uma Gopaldass: I know my blood type.

Alex Cullimore: That makes one of us. I do remember my blood type. It's fine. I think it's interesting that we have this impulse to like to try and slot people into roles. Like, first of all, obviously, it doesn’t help. 

Uma Gopaldass: Oh. You mean not really slap people.

Alex Cullimore: Slot. 

Alex Cullimore: Will Smith will be on the podcast next. 

Uma Gopaldass: Sorry. I don’t slap people. But I have the impulse to. 

Uma Gopaldass: Yes, yes. I have the impulse to slap people. 

Alex Cullimore: Which is the human impulse. We've all had an impulse to slap somebody at some point. But I think it's entertaining. Why do we – Entertaining is the wrong word. I think it's damaging to try and associate these things. But it's weird that we try and do it at like age seven. I mean, I don't know a single adult would be like, “Yeah, I could definitely see exactly who I was then.” And that was – And maybe it is easier in retrospect to be like, “Yeah, I can see kind of some of the things that were similar.” And then we like to believe that we can then tease that out of the new generation of seven-year-olds. We’re like, “We're going to figure out your potential. Like, it didn't work for my generation, but I'm pretty sure we got this dialed in now. We'll get it.” Like, why do we have the impulse to create these? And maybe it's just how we conceptualize the world. We have categories. We think of things in boxes. And so we just want to be able to work easier in those boxes. But couldn't we create a box that's a little more flexible? Couldn't we have a different system for this? 

Cristina Amigoni: Not controllable. 

Alex Cullimore: Can the box include the chance that you're not part of the same box in two years, in five years, that you do change over time?

Uma Gopaldass: I do. You do, actually. Everybody changes over time. I've changed so much over time. I mean, I hated people. And now I have to like them based on – 

Alex Cullimore: It definitely sounds like you’ve made it.

Uma Gopaldass: Based on the people business, I do. 

Cristina Amigoni: Huge transformation there. 

Uma Gopaldass: Huge transformation. 

Alex Cullimore: I used to not like people. Now I have to act like I like people. 

Uma Gopaldass: I do have to like people apparently. And I say it with a straight face.

Cristina Amigoni: And a glass of wine. Yeah. You don’t have to like people.

Uma Gopaldass: Oh, no, no. Stop saying that.

Cristina Amigoni: Oh, sorry. I’m kidding. 

Alex Cullimore: So, if we want to go to the KPI portion of it, there's the big five personality test where it's like openness, conscientiousness, et cetera, et cetera, the big five personality traits. And you rank yourself on some spectrum of these. They did a study where they had people take it, and they took it to 70 years later, whatever. And 98% of the people had changed, at least one of them, like to the different end of the spectrum, which makes sense. In anybody who has experienced anything, there's actually a fun principle, or I guess cognitive faulting called The End of History effect where we believe, like, “Oh, yeah, a ton change for me in the last five years. From here on out, though, it's going to be steady sailing. I can't see how it'd be different in the future.” And we think that all the time throughout life.

Cristina Amigoni: The scary part is that we actually treat people that way. As in like I hired you to be whatever, a data developer, and how dare you want to be anything else. 

Uma Gopaldass: And how dare you let COVID impact your emotional status.

Alex Cullimore: It’s not convenient for me.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. You're going to do something else when I tell you it's time to do something else. And it's only going to be fitting in the box that I choose you to be in in whatever middle management position I see you fit in, where sometimes you need critical thinking, and you need to speak up. But most of the times, you just need to be told you're doing what you're told to do.

Uma Gopaldass: Most of the time you just need critical. You just don't need thinking.

Alex Cullimore: You can get pretty far on that. That's true.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. Just be critical.

Alex Cullimore: That's a good point, though. Because this another portion of education that I feel like is generally unhelpful, regardless of generation at this point, is the idea of so much compliance. Like listen to the teacher. This person is a person of authority. And then we send you out into the real world and say come up with new things. Go be innovative. Also, do it in this box. Also, don't change. Also, you can't be a different person. I will tell you when you can be a different person. And when I tell you, you need to be more creative, I expect you to get there. How am I supposed to stay on top of this?

Cristina Amigoni: And I want you to speak up, but don't you dare speak up because I’m going to yell at you when you do.

Alex Cullimore: I want you to speak up when it's somebody that I disagree with that I want somebody else to say – But if you speak up against me, like, I was right.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. 

Uma Gopaldass: Hmm. Interesting. Did not solve anything, did we? 

Cristina Amigoni: No. 

Alex Cullimore: But I think we establish we all have a problem with authorities.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Hence, why we all work for ourselves. 

Uma Gopaldass: Well, here's the thing, I have no problem with authority because I came from an authoritarian society. Singapore is very – You can’t chew gum. You can chew gum. You can’t just buy it. You can’t spit. It’s a fine city. 

Cristina Amigoni: I need to move to Singapore. 

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. It’s very clean. It's prim and proper. And I think the understanding is being Asian, the culture has always been you give your eldest all the respect. You have to. It's karma and dharma, right? You go to hell. And we have six levels of hell. So don't even think about it. Just get crushed in each layer of hell. 

Alex Cullimore: It's kind of like a performance review.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, for disrespect. 

Uma Gopaldass: Exactly 

Cristina Amigoni: Level one. Write about yourself in the third person. Never give yourself more than a. Three level three – 

Alex Cullimore: At the time of death, you are forced. You’re going to that circle. So good luck.

Uma Gopaldass: Oh my God. That would be my worst nightmare. That'd be hell.

Cristina Amigoni: Well, writing by yourself as a third person.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. And doing performance rating and – Oh my God. Listening to someone tell me how bad you are. 

 Alex Cullimore: First supervisory I did was like it was a priority to that in a third person, which is the most awkward way to write about yourself. You’re like, “Alex did great in this order, I think.” It's really kind of hoping for some constructive feedback. But here we are. Let's talk about what I think about me so you can tell me I'm wrong.

Cristina Amigoni: Most of it you feel better, like giving yourself three because you know you could give yourself a four, you're going to have to defend yourself in front the Spanish Inquisition.

Alex Cullimore: Alex is a three. I hate that guy.

Uma Gopaldass: Be honest now.

Cristina Amigoni: There’s a lot of room for improvement.

Uma Gopaldass: Oh, gosh. So back to square one, which is education system, KPIs, intelligence as a human. I mean, whether we want to say social, emotional, psychological, cultural. Oh my God, cultural so huge. 

Cristina Amigoni: Human intelligence. 

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah, human intelligence. Yeah, just being, existence. Well, so that's the thing, right? So, we've gone through extra stuff, the last few years. Some of us have gone through a lot of stuff before that, like our boomers and – Is that the silent generation before the boomers? Or was it the great generation.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. 

Alex Cullimore: Greatest or silent. I can’t remember. 

Cristina Amigoni: They were great because they were silent. 

Alex Cullimore:  dang good at it.

Cristina Amigoni: They figured it out. Like if I actually don’t say anything, I can avoid all these. 

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah, exactly. They've seen the wars, two wars. There are plenty of wars that they've seen. They've seen diseases as well. And also, what is so new about this paradigm? And what is it doing to the human beings in companies? In businesses?

Alex Cullimore: It’s a good question. Because I always wonder if it was a different paradigm before, could you have had – Like, say, in some alternative history, you had human intelligence and emotional intelligence incorporated into how people learn centuries ago, let's say. Say that was just part of the how people were raised. Would it have been a different paradigm then? Was it just demands of the general industry at the time that led to being – I don’t know? Giving the characterizations we could give about generations? Or would it have been just as good to maybe do some things we would want to promote now then? I actually don’t know.

Cristina Amigoni: Well, I think you see the rise of purpose-driven companies. You see the rise of knowing that take you to the great resignation and the pandemic. You see the rise of having a job that pays you a paycheck while you feel miserable is not enough. And so, it's gotten to the point where, apparently, it's not really going to go away anytime soon, which is good, because it takes time to develop habits. Where you can't just treat people like they're less than humans and get away with it. And so, it's forcing a change within organizations because of survival. If you want to survive as an organization, you're going to have to learn how to be a kind person and have a lot of kind people in leadership position. 

And so, hopefully, that will not just be a post pandemic trend or a pandemic trend, but something that provides time enough for the millennials and the newer generation to then become the leaders and become the decision makers and establish that that's the way it is. There is no old way anymore. This is the way.

Uma Gopaldass: You’ve heard it here on this podcast?

Uma Gopaldass: The dark side of the workforce 

Uma Gopaldass: May the workforce stand with you.

Alex Cullimore: It is an interesting trend. Will it become something that becomes more common? And is it because we need it now? I mean, it's definitely happening because we need it now. But will it stay? Will it be something we always need? Will it become a habit? I hope so. 

Cristina Amigoni: I hope so.

Uma Gopaldass: And that's also an industry difference, right? If you look at the Silicon Valley tech industry, they're trying all sorts of experimental, weird stuff, trying to figure out what makes people love their brand. So now there's employee branding. Not only are you branding for external. You are branding for your internal people. And then there's the traditional ones like mining, which I came from, oil and gas, and old school consulting, which I call old school. They’re thought leaders, but still the way they deliver the projects are pretty – 

Cristina Amigoni: Or they’re thought something, all the leaders. 

Uma Gopaldass: They’re thoughtful. Full of thoughts. Yeah, thoughtful, thoughtful.

Alex Cullimore: Thoughtful, but not thought full.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah, because they are made of people, too, right? And experience builds their thoughtfulness. So, there’s a huge difference between companies scrambling to try this new age, employee experience. Versus I'm going to just throw benefits and see what sticks and what doesn't say take. And then it's massive. I see there are all these discombobulated strategies going on. So, can you to speak to what you're seeing out in the market?

Alex Cullimore: The purpose thing I think has kind of what’s driven it, because people want to feel connected to what they're doing. They're going to have to spend their eight hours a day here. They're going to want it to be worth something. So, I think it then became – It's become apparent, especially in since like the 70s. They showed wages have generally stagnated against inflation. You can't get by. So, you're going to have to be doing a lot of work. If you're going to be doing this, are you going to just grind out, which a lot of people growing up watch their parents do, watch them get laid off in the 2008 recession? It doesn't feel secure to do that. Why invest in this? Well, then the economy pushes enough where you’re like, “Well, I'm going to have to work all the time.” It feels like you have to do – You aim for purpose, because you know you're going to have to spend so much time at work.

Uma Gopaldass: So that brings a good point. Is this purpose? And then that's true purpose, right? As people were saying, we have a purpose and look at all these wonderful codes of conduct on purpose and value statement on our walls, like you said. And what truly is their purpose is what are they doing and giving and creating in society that creates the return on social impact, right?

Alex Cullimore: Really speaks to authenticity more than purpose. It's being genuine about what you're going for.

Uma Gopaldass: There you go. You nailed it.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it is. I mean, if your purpose is to make money, then say it. Because, honestly, we all know it is. We're just sick of the lies. 

 Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. And the people who are attracted to that would come and work for you. There's nothing wrong with saying we're all about greed. We’ll all about profit. Come work 18 hours, we’ll give you this, this, this, these benefits and –

Cristina Amigoni: We will destroy the Earth in order to make money so that we can use the money because the Earth will be destroyed.

Alex Cullimore: And I will pad by window, which is now too hot.

Cristina Amigoni: We’ll use $100 bills – 

Alex Cullimore: To wipe the sweat of – 

Cristina Amigoni: Because it’s all about perception of what everybody else thinks.

Uma Gopaldass: Use your money to fan yourself.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Fan yourself.

Alex Cullimore: That will be cool. Yeah.

Uma Gopaldass: And I strongly believe that you're right. So, authenticity. If you want to be a certain company, be that company. Brand yourself. So have those people walk into you. People are not schmucks, right? Employees are not schmucks. They don't believe in lip service. Yet a lot of corporations have lip service so much, I believe.

Cristina Amigoni: They don’t know how not to. It's like there's the top 10 values in 99% of company websites. Really? Do you know how many values are there to pick from the top 10? You couldn't be creative? 

Alex Cullimore: I like the saying. We’re going to be good. 

Cristina Amigoni: It’s all the same. It’s integrity, humility and I can’t remember what the other eight are.

Alex Cullimore: Oh, it’s excellent, professionalism and integrity. They come up over and over and over again.

Uma Gopaldass: Are they the top – No one has like money, money, money, money, money.

Cristina Amigoni: But that's the thing. If you lift the veil, that's what it is. It’s money for me, and money for me, and money for me, and money for me, and money for me. If there are shareholders.

Alex Cullimore: Which at this point, it becomes indicative if you haven't created values that are outside of those very regular, now standard values. It's like a red flag at this point. If you have those values, you're like, “Okay. So, you just throw up whatever sounds good.” And that has nothing to – It may be just money. It may be whatever else. But it's probably not that, because that's very generic, and that feels very not attached to what – How are you different? We ask people to fill out the resumes and make themselves be different, make themselves appear different, make themselves do have something that fans out. 

Cristina Amigoni: Within the box, though. Different within the box. 

Alex Cullimore: But I do want you to have exactly five years of experience in this.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Even though the software was invented six months ago.

Alex Cullimore: Could you have a five years’ experience in this? Also, I will pay you for one year of experience?

Uma Gopaldass: It sounds like a deal.

Alex Cullimore: We got a deal. Let's do this. So, what would you guys want to see? Let's say – What do you see as important things both you've seen in success in your careers, as well as things you would want to encourage a next generation? What should they know? What in either an ideal world or this world would they want to know?

Uma Gopaldass: And one of the greatest things I saw today was I have a close friend who's a professor in the Singapore University, and she does Eastern family business values, how these conglomerate, Eastern companies or Asian companies’ conglomerates, have been so successful as a family business. And what makes them successful? Are their family values, right? It is values, but still is family values. And she was talking about this, what’s called – It’s an article or a blog name Tycoon Trails. So, Tycoon being family business Tycoons, right? So, in Asia, it’s huge amount of money that they make. And how they are leaving their legacy behind. 

So, one of it is a great restaurant. It's a hole in the wall restaurant. Singapore is famous for good food. They make like the Indian pancake and everything. Now, in a world where you need too much variety on a menu, this multiple meanings it’s a flatbread, has kept the menu so small for centuries. It's kept it the same with just a couple of items that you can pick. And there's a long line to get into this place to get just these three items, per se. 

And for them, it's the value of making a product and making food that is so nutritious, and so valuable, and so tasty, that you don't really need to come out and create something more to create more money, and then make it all cumulated. You just feed people. Feed the poor. Feed everyone, because it's rightfully priced. And keep on becoming rich. 

 The becoming rich was a sight line, right? It’s byproduct. But feeding the people with great, what we call street food – Basically, street food is cheap food. It's not like an expensive restaurant thing. Was their goal. And they've been doing it for years. And in this case, less is more. You don't have to overdo it. And I think most of this today's paradigm is we need to do more, and then they end up achieving less.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it’s true.

Alex Cullimore: Yes. If you spread yourself too thin, you can actually support more. You could have been one thing really well. Or you can do five things terribly. So – 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, I mean, we just had a presentation at a conference. And I did have that kind of impostor syndrome as we were going through the conference, because our presentation was very streamlined into here's two basic skills that you're going to walk away with. We're going to talk about them and provide some context around them. But that's really what it is. It's like it's walking away with two skills, which – So for some people could be obvious, and not all that much. When we sat through some incredible enriching presentations and super insightful things, which were much richer, with lot of more concepts, a lot more thing to think about, to apply. 

And yet, when we were in the middle of presenting, and when we were done, I realized like that's exactly what people needed, especially at the end of the conference, when there was an overload of I can't fit in one more pieces of information. If you shove it down my throat – 

Alex Cullimore: One more.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. But it’s also like what if we did go back to basics? What if we just provide something that's simple to explain? Hard to do? And you can literally apply it the next minute with someone.

Uma Gopaldass: Nice.

Alex Cullimore: And I think that's what our businesses ended up becoming a lot more of. It's filling in the gaps, that it's the glue that holds all of these things together. Everybody eventually has to have relationships with people. But they're often rough and rocky, and we don't really think about it. And we just think that I have to figure out whatever the next skill is. But we can go back and fill in these gaps. And then we can apply the skills much better. Then we can apply this as a much more collaborative affair. We can do a lot more together than we ever were going to do apart. And we need those little basics filled in because we don't learn that in school. That's what we don't memorize. We don't memorize how to listen. We don't memorize how to like talk to people and not angry people. 

Uma Gopaldass: Yes. At people.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. We're going to talk about how to disagree. We're going to talk about how like it's healthy to disagree. Have some disagreements. Understand that people have different viewpoints. And that's not a bad thing. It's not about them personally. You shouldn't make it about them personally. Any of these things. Take a pick. Like any of these would be helpful in a relationship. And none of them are taught.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. Debate is a huge thing in Singapore. We are all in debate society, in classroom. We debate in English. And we are purposely given topics that we don't agree on. So, we have to debunk ourselves. And that's science, right? That's professors, everybody. You have to debunk yourself in order for your thesis to be proven correct. Simple as that.

Alex Cullimore: That was our main point with our presentation yesterday with data, was go back and fight by yourself. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, poke the holes.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. I mean, that's your education system in US. I'm looking at you.

Alex Cullimore: That feels like the right way to teach something like critical thinking. Teach people how to challenge their own beliefs. Teach people to like to listen to their own beliefs.

Cristina Amigoni: What am I missing? Look at something and think, “What am I missing? I am missing something. What am I missing?”

Uma Gopaldass: Well, I’m saying a lot about the US education system not being equipped to do that. But it's not only the education system right. These kids go back home. What are the parents doing?

Alex Cullimore: Well, they came out of the US education system. 

Uma Gopaldass: Oh God. 

Alex Cullimore: It’s kind of blind leading the blind after a while.

Uma Gopaldass: You got to find the pseudo parents, godparents. Not Americans. I think that the exposure – I find that the kids, like we have a huge American society in Singapore. American schools are huge, humongous campuses. And the kids who are there, they're so well-exposed to culture. And the crazy amount of travel they do around the region anyway, that a lot of them are not able to find the educational system here easy to fit into, because they have to conform into certain standards of thinking, versus being able to deviate either side and having a super fluent thinking level.

Alex Cullimore: That I think is a huge part of critical thinking. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, that’s huge. Yeah, it is a huge part of central thinking. Well, and having that, it’s interesting. Because I was thinking about diversity. If you start from the premise of, “I am not right all the time. I need an environment where my assumptions can be challenged, where whatever I'm missing is the automatic question after everything. Then you seek diversity, because you realize when it's missing. As opposed to going the opposite way, which is what's happening now, which is like, “Well, society is telling you, you should have diversity. So, hire diversity. But tell them to shut up and sit in a corner because you still have to be the one that's right and making all the decisions.” 

Once you're used to that way of thinking, that way of looking at something and being like, “Okay, I'm missing something. And I am not capable of knowing what it is that I'm missing, which means I need somebody else's perspective. That perspective has to be different than mine in order for us to get to a complete or near complete answer.” Therefore, I want diversity in the room.”

Uma Gopaldass: When you're not exposed to diversity, you do not know what you're missing out on. That, I felt painfully when I moved into a leadership position in corporate America and not be – I mean, I'm in leadership, but I'm not a leader. You know what I mean? I get the namesake title. But I’m not – 

Cristina Amigoni: Well, you’re a leader. Everybody else just has a title.

Uma Gopaldass: Exactly. Well, I got the title, too, but not allowed to be one. That’s two different versions of the same thing, actually. And the thing is, when you have not been exposed in school, fighting for that. It's paper chasing. Degree in everything. With multiracial kids. I mean, you have Indians and Chinese in Singapore. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, good luck. 

Uma Gopaldass: And not stereotyping. I'm Indian. And I have Chinese friends and relatives. And we are all mixed, right? So, we love each other a lot. Truly a Singaporean culture. But the rat race is extended to the fact that we are so gifted that we needed everyone to make us successful. And that exposure allows me to still lead my own life and that level of power and everything. But when I moved here, it's like you have to be one of someone, some group of people. Otherwise, your opinion has to be challenged. Your background needs to be challenged. It's not so much whether you're capable. I mean, your background is superb. But you are not the typical, for lack of a better word, the good old boys club, for example. You're not in that club. And so how would you transform yourself to fit into that club? Why would I want to fit into that club? I mean, is that the job role? Fit into a club? Okay. I mean, so those are the things. Like, you said, that diversity is a huge thing. Exposure is a key thing.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it is.

Alex Cullimore: I think it takes that moment where you find that value. You suddenly realize, “Oh, right. When I asked what I'm missing, I find that.” When I asked what I'm missing to the person that's exactly like me, we both say, “I don't know what's missing.” We both don’t know.

Cristina Amigoni: No. It’s even worse. Like nothing is missing. Because we are perfect. 

Alex Cullimore: You have agreed. I agreed. 

Cristina Amigoni: I agree. That’s it. It’s Perfection. 

Alex Cullimore: Let's go have a blind spot together, right?

Uma Gopaldass: Or 10.

Alex Cullimore: Or 10.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. Why fix it when it's not broken? Well, you don't even know it's broken.

Alex Cullimore: Exactly. Yeah.

Cristina Amigoni: It's absolutely not moving. But, sure.

Uma Gopaldass: Yes. Exactly.

Alex Cullimore: I think that's what is going to finally for some things to happen, is that we will not be able to achieve new value until we do this. And we really – I think that's one thing in American culture has really perfected. We will suck the value out of one idea for a long time until we just can't get anything else. And that’s I think we did with technology most recently. We piled through the 90s, crashed a little bit, came back and said, “No, we're going to do this in the cloud. We're going to do SaaS. It's all going to be data.”

Cristina Amigoni: That’s totally different.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah, totally different. 

Cristina Amigoni: This time is going to work.

Alex Cullimore: And everybody was like, “Whoo!”

Cristina Amigoni: Eliminate the humans the second time around. On to cloud instead of on-premises, because that's really the – 

Uma Gopaldass: Yes, exactly. 

Alex Cullimore: You know what I really hate about my current work environment, that the data is on my computer. If it’s in the cloud, it’d be so much better. 

Cristina Amigoni: And people will actually get it that this will actually work. Somewhere in the bottom of the ocean. 

Alex Cullimore: So we squeeze that rock and we said, “Is there anything left?” And we did not come up with anything. And now we're at a point where we're like, “Crap. Alright, let's bring the people in. Let's figure out what they need, because I don't know what we're doing anymore.” And now I think that's what's kind of forced it to come to this. And hopefully, that's enough to create a new generation of leaders that see that as a potential and it becomes the default of what they pass on and that can be more collaborative. Go find the value in a different way later. 

Cristina Amigoni: Let’s hope. 

Alex Cullimore: Fingers crossed. May the new workforce be with you.

Uma Gopaldass: Can you put people in the cloud, too? I mean, you don't need to have on-prem in people.

Cristina Amigoni: Most of the people are already on the cloud.

Alex Cullimore: That’s the cannabis industry

Uma Gopaldass: They're doing a great job. Good job.

Cristina Amigoni: I'm sure that will be the next achievement, is putting people on the cloud. 

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. If you shoot the date to the cloud. 

Cristina Amigoni: Download them when you need them. 

Alex Cullimore: It’s going to be a new debate. Hybrid workforces at home, in the office and in the cloud. 

Cristina Amigoni: Just like the customers on prime show upload. 

Uma Gopaldass: I mean, yeah, exactly. 

Cristina Amigoni: People are uploading, and then you download them.

Alex Cullimore: That's going to be the new future of hiring. So, watch out for that one. Somebody starts that company.

Cristina Amigoni: Well, good. Well, we could go on for hours. 

Uma Gopaldass: That's true. We need to have a wrap. Is it a wrap? 

Cristina Amigoni: It’s a wrap. 

Alex Cullimore: I think it’s a wrap. 

Cristina Amigoni: Well, glasses of wine are empty. So, I think it’s a wrap.

Alex Cullimore: We're going to have to refill the glasses.

Uma Gopaldass: Yeah. We can talk without this thing.

Alex Cullimore: Thank you guys so much for joining. And thank you, Uma, for joining us and having this wonderful conversation. I think we've solved all the world's problems at this point. And we can say that confidently. 

Cristina Amigoni: We just need wine and being live.

Uma Gopaldass: And the cloud.

Cristina Amigoni: And the cloud. 

Alex Cullimore: And this is now being recorded to the cloud. So that makes us..

Cristina Amigoni: it’s being recorded to my computer. So, we're old school.

Alex Cullimore: Well, thank you guys very much. Hope you enjoyed. And we'll talk to you next time.

Cristina Amigoni: Thank you. 

Uma Gopaldass: Cheers. 


Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast. 

Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood. 

Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. 

 Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast, or at our website,, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.

Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.


Uma Gopaldass Profile Photo

Uma Gopaldass

Executive Advisor, Board of Directors, Investment Council Member

Uma Gopaldass is a successful leader with over 30-years of field experience working in five continents for multiple Fortune 500 companies in the Petroleum, Mining, Manufacturing, and Technology sectors. She advises on stakeholder governance through her advisory firm and sits on several boards guiding management to make spot-on decisions. Uma is certified in Diversity and Inclusion and facilitates Anti-Discrimination Programs. She is also an expert in Talent Optimization partnered with Predictive Index.

Uma shares her personal experience as a 5-foot Asian working offshore on remote oil rigs, underground mines, industrial ports, as well as corporate headquarters, navigating burnouts and excelling in male-oriented industries.