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Jo Ann Barefoot explores how to create fair and inclusive consumer financial services through innovative ideas for industry and regulators

My learning hacks


My learning hacks

Mallory Kwiatkowski

I’m speaking this fall to thousands of people at conferences. When the audience is bankers, lawyers, regulators, or advocates, the most common question I hear is, how can I learn more about technology?  

No one lacks for interesting articles and whitepapers -- my laptop is practically smoking with them -- but people want the secrets to learning fast, or even just where to start. They need what techie people call a hack -- a trick, a shortcut, a method.

Here are my tech learning hacks. Apologies in advance to all the great sources I’m omitting. Dawn is brightening the window of my hotel room during a travel marathon this week that involves five speeches in four days in four cities. That’s my excuse for leaving out some favorites!

What to read?

Wired Magazine and Fast Company. Fintech is more tech than fin, in the forces that drive it. To understand them, the quick, easy, fun solution is reading Wired every month.

Online, try Engadget and The Verge.

Where to go?

Tech conferences. Tech content and style are seeping into banking events, but tech and nontech gatherings are still different animals. My first foray to a tech conference was Finovate New York, five years ago. In one day, I learned more -- consciously and probably subconsciously -- than I would have absorbed in a year of reading. Or maybe ever. Finovate runs in New York, San Francisco, London, Asia and the Middle East every year.

The single best conference for rapid learning is Money 2020. First-timers learn just by seeing it - how huge it is (11,000 people) - and feeling the pulsing energy. People who thought fintech was about kids with startups suddenly find all the world’s biggest banks, financial firms, tech firms and media, in an event that’s orders of magnitude bigger than their usual conferences.  Come this year-- it starts October 22 in Las Vegas -- and don’t skip Sunday, which has a special morning AI session, a speech by Steve Wozniak; and then yours-truly emceeing a terrific regulatory track
that includes a town hall with -- count them -- nine current and former regulators.

If you really want to immerse in exciting tech, go also to SouthBySouthwest (SXSX, called “South By”) in Austin in March. It’s even bigger than Money 2020 and is way broader than finance, but with great financial content included.

For tech aimed at financial inclusion, the must-event is the Center for Financial Services Innovation’s Emerge conference. For lending, all the LendIt events are wonderful.

If you’re in Asia, go the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s enormous fall Fintech Festival. There’s nothing like it. If you’re in London, well, you’re lucky. Fantastic events, all year. I'm speaking at two this fall, see below.

Source Media Regtech

I’m not saying these conferences are better than others. I’m saying, they are packed with fast learning about technology.

Who to follow?

Here is where I’ll really get in trouble for omitting fantastic people. I’ll just do three favorites.

Brett King’s radio show and everything he writes

Chris Skinner’s daily blog


Who to query?

Young techie people. I’ve learned more about tech from millennials than all my baby boomer peers combined.

Other reading?

I posted a blog on suggested books when I moved to Boston for my Harvard fellowship. They’re all still great.

What to try?

Personal technology! Be an early adopter. Don’t cling to old devices and software. Get Alexa or Google Home. Try new apps. Leave your comfort zone.

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This month’s photo is me with my Xbox gear. I’m not a gamer, but four years ago I began using an Xbox to control my home media activities -- with my voice. I had to dust off the controller to take this photo, instead of just talking to the TV.  Learning, all the time.

New podcasts

Upcoming events

This month’s must-reads:

Be sure to follow me on twitter and facebook.  As always, check the website for more updates. Most importantly, keep innovating!

Jo Ann