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Speaker Bio

Future-of-work strategist Heather E. McGowan helps leaders prepare their people and organizations for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


The Third Industrial Revolution was marked by computerization and automation of physical labor, laying the foundation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will be notable for the rapid advancement of technology tools into the domain of human knowledge work.


In this world, humans must continuously learn and adapt, and with this transition comes information overload.


Heather gives lucidity to this topic through her illuminating graphic frameworks and powerful metaphors, all backed by deep research. In 2017, LinkedIn ranked her as its number one global voice for education.


Pulitzer Prize–winning NYT columnist Thomas Friedman frequently quotes Heather in his books and columns and describes her as “the oasis” when it comes to insights into the future of work. Heather’s sessions help employees and leaders alike prepare for and adapt to jobs that do not yet exist.


McGowan’s clients range from start-ups to publicly traded Fortune 500 companies, including AMP Financial, Autodesk, Biogen, Citi, Accor Hotels, AARP, The World Bank, and BD Medical. Often quoted in the media, notably in the New York Times, McGowan serves on the advisory board for Sparks & Honey, a New York–based culture-focused agency looking to the future for brands.


Her academic work has included roles at Rhode Island School of Design, Becker College, and Jefferson University, where she was the strategic architect of the first undergraduate college focused exclusively on innovation.


Heather advises and gives keynote addresses for organizations all over the world and, with her colleagues, provides bespoke consulting to help organizations adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


Her think tank is called Work to Learn because McGowan believes that in the Third Industrial Revolution, we learned (once) in order to work and now, in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will work in order to learn (continuously).


McGowan is the co-editor and author of the book Disrupt Together: How Teams Consistently Innovate and a Forbes contributor. She released her latest book on the future of work, The Adaptation Advantage, by Wiley in spring 2020.


In 2019 Heather was appointed to the faculty of the Centre for the New Workforce at Swinburne University.

Keynote Topic #1

Adaptation Advantage:

When Heather McGowan and Chris Shipley wrote The Adaptation Advantage (April 2020, Wiley) they did not realize how prescient their advice and predictions would become when the coronavirus global pandemic required an immediate and dramatic shift in work, learning, and leading. Predictions they made for the next three to five years, occurred over the following three to five weeks.

Overnight companies remapped supply chains, pivoted product lines, and transformed to distributed work-from-home organization. Entire university and school systems adopted virtual delivery exclusively, something many said they would never do. This new normal, or normal of now, requires a focus on culture, purpose, trust, psychological safety as we embark on the largest social experiment in human history.

The virus has accelerated our future of work, expedited our human transformation to digital creating, and placed an even greater burden on leaders to inspire and motivate human potential. Even when the virus subsides, many of our new ways of working will remain and we will be the better for this forced transformation.

Keynote Topic #2

Future of Work is Learning

We live in times of accelerated change driven by exponentially growing technologies and an increasingly hyperconnected and interdependent global market economy. As a result, work tasks as we knew them in the past have become atomized, broken into job fragments that can be done anywhere around the world; automated, achievable or solvable by computerized technologies; and augmented, technologies that extend the human physically or cognitively.


This reshaping of tasks requires that we rethink our systems of education and workforce development, our organization of work and workers, our process of talent attraction and retention (including learning and development), and even ourselves.

Keynote Topic #3

Leadership, Diversity, and the Identity Crisis

The only thing developing faster than technology is culture. The questions “Who are you?”, “What do you do for a living?” and “Where are you from?” are becoming unmoored and less dependable tethers to our core identity. Demographics and social norms are rapidly shifting worldwide, and our once reliable occupational identities, once spanning multiple generations, must now endure a much longer career arc due to increased human longevity.


In the developed world, we spend more than 50% of our time and attention online creating connections and community in areas different from our physical location. These shifts create friction and, for some, an identity crisis. Leadership through this crisis requires acknowledging and empathizing with individuals navigating these shifts to help them build the resilient and adaptive identities necessary to learn and thrive in the future of work.


The future of work requires learning and adaptation, which is not possible if the identity is not resilient.

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  • Wendy Dietzler
    07/21/2022 at 5:14 pm

    “Heather absolutely knocked it out of the park”

    Wendy Dietzler, Events & Production Manager, ASQ

    Keynote Talk - Live

  • Randy Swearer
    05/11/2022 at 4:07 pm

    “Heather is in a category of her own—a singularly gifted strategist who sees the future and communicates it with clarity.”

    Randy Swearer, Vice President, Autodesk

    Keynote Talk - Live

  • Charles Moore
    03/04/2022 at 7:26 am

    “In the war for talent, organizations must be able to offer employees a path that goes beyond typical career progression. Heather presents a compelling and thought provoking vision that focuses on lifelong learning and adaptability for employees, which the pace of technological change essentially requires. Her analysis is comprehensive, yet easily understood. She distills it into actionable steps to help organizations move towards creating an environment in which employees and organizations mutually benefit and are well positioned for an uncertain future.”

    Charles Moore, Managing Director, Alvarez and Marsal

    Keynote Talk - Live

  • Executive, Okta.com
    08/24/2021 at 12:25 pm

    “Engaging content. Articulate and personable. Well researched. Interactive and fun! Heather brought all of this and more. We needed a speaker who could address the future work, and Heather’s message about adaptation touched on a number of topics relevant to our workforce, such as learning, distributed work, collaboration and leadership. In this “new normal” of work from home and virtual meetings, Heather adapted her content to our needs in an interactive and meaningful way.”

    Executive, Okta.com

    Keynote Talk - Live

  • Denise Williams
    07/18/2021 at 12:23 pm

    “I knew within the first 60 seconds of speaking to Heather that she was the right fit for our executive leadership meeting which was centered around the future of work. Heather shared rich data and personal insights that most of our leaders had never seen before and brought it to life in a very real, digestible and credible way. Her presentation really opened our eyes and gave us a glimpse into what’s to come. She was, simply put, awe inspiring.”

    Denise Williams, Chief People Officer, FIS Global

    Keynote Talk - Live

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