Learn the skills-first approach this CEO uses at every crossroads moment

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum./

Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Forum Agenda

  • Boom Supersonic founder and CEO Blake Scholl went from high-school dropout to software engineer, but his passion for aviation required him to develop a new skillset.He spent a year teaching himself the basics of aeroplane design and economics.Adopting a beginner’s mindset and taking a skills-first approach can help you overcome self-limiting beliefs.

Shoshin. The Japanese word means “beginner’s mind”, and the philosophy behind it is summed up by Buddhist monk Shunryū Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities … but in the expert’s there are few.”It also neatly sums up the approach that Boom Supersonic founder and CEO Blake Scholl has taken in his career.”It was very clear to me on day zero of Boom that I did not have what it takes to do this. I’d have to go get what it takes to do it,” he told the World Economic Forum’s Meet the Leader Podcast

Scholl dropped out of high school, but went on to join a special initiative at Carnegie Mellon for people who did not finish school. He graduated with a computer science degree, worked as a software engineer at Amazon and later set up his own mobile e-commerce apps business Kima Labs, which he sold to Groupon.

His passion for aviation (he’s a trained pilot) saw him ask a crucial “what if?” that has led to the development of the “son of Concorde” – a sustainable, supersonic jet called Overture, which will go into production at the Overture Superfactory in North Carolina in 2024.While the original, ill-fated Concorde cost around $12,000 a round-trip ticket and could transport you from New York to London in three-and-a-half hours (compared with six today), its successor will operate at costs similar to business-class travel initially and run on sustainable fuel.”It turns out we don’t have to choose fast or sustainable,” said Scholl. “We can actually have both at the same time. Overture is the first airliner designed from the ground up to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel on a net-zero carbon basis.”

Boom didn’t happen overnight. To get up to (supersonic) speed, Scholl spent a year upskilling himself – learning the fundamentals of aeroplane design and aeroplane economics.The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 finds that organizations across all industries identify skills gaps and an inability to attract talent as the key barriers preventing industry transformation. But a skills-first approach to hiring – which focuses on whether a person has the right skills and competencies for a particular role, rather than having the right degree, job history or previous job titles – could help to increase the talent pool for companies and level the playing field for prospective employees.

Skills and talent gaps block industry transformation
More than half of CEOs see skills gaps as a block to industry transformation. Image: World Economic Forum

Here are Scholl’s thoughts on how to adopt a skills-first approach to moving through your career.

1. Don’t limit yourself

“A lot of people have a very self-limiting mindset that’s normal in our culture: you go to school and pick your field and then you become an expert in something and then your expertise just gets more and more narrow. That’s certainly a model that can work. But my experience is that skills and capability are very changeable, knowledge is changeable, but passions are not. It’s much more powerful to follow your passions and let your knowledge and skills follow where your passion takes you.”

2. Work at your personal red line

“Work on the most ambitious thing that you can think of that motivates you. As an entrepreneur, no matter what I’m doing, I work at my personal red line. I’m giving whatever I’m doing everything I’ve got, and then a little bit. “With Boom, I wanted to work on the most motivating thing, the most impactful thing that was not impossible, because I never wanted to get up in the morning and think, ‘Why am I doing it?’ It’s that deep belief and mission that keeps me going, no matter what the challenges.”

3. Don’t think ‘if’ you’ll succeed, but how

“The only way to know what I can do is to just go all in. I don’t worry about whether I’m going to succeed, I worry about how to succeed. And if it works, then fantastic. And if it doesn’t work, then I found my limit.”

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