Expert Speak Digital Frontiers
Published on Oct 01, 2018
In the far corners of our world, jobs of the future are taking shape via people who are imagining new possibilities around customer problems and creating entire businesses around the solutions.
Jobs of the future: Deep freeze your digital memorabilia, don’t throw away the keys

Times Square — a series on jobs, automation and anxiety from the world's public square.

In 2015, Annette Adamska, got the call that nightmares are made of. Her mother, away on an overseas trip, was hurt badly in an accident; she lost control over all her limbs. As the shock sank in and the end neared, Annette launched into a last ditch scramble for her mother’s documents, insurance papers and bank accounts; many of her passwords were written in code in a journal. In those precise moments, Back Up Your Life was born.

“Too many of my days were spent being mired in the mess, rather than spending time with her or, later, having the emotional space to deal with my grief. I’ve been in the trenches, I don’t want anyone to go through what I did,” says Annette about her young company Back Up Your Life, which is barely a year old.

Back Up Your Life and its subset Back Up Your Business deal with the crucial questions in life and legacy planning: Which documents do you need hard copies of, what must loved ones know if you ever got into an accident and can’t speak for yourself, what about valuables in the house and your online accounts, passwords, social media and recurring subscriptions?

In far corners of our world, jobs of the future are taking shape via people who are imagining new possibilities around customer problems and creating entire businesses around the solutions. In this case, Annette is helping organise our cluttered digital lives to survive us. Back Up Your Life rides almost entirely on a digital ecosystem of machines, platforms and software to help customers progress beyond a frustrating and suboptimal construct. Most of Adamska’s clients are in their 30s or 40s, some are in their 60s, her seed capital is her mother’s insurance money and her staff is a lone virtual assistant, she has tech partners for different pieces of the backend and her husband, a software developer, doubles up as ‘chief technology officer.’

In her previous gigs, Annette, 35, worked as a stage manager for Off-Broadway theater shows and later as a professional organiser. Her mother’s passing made Annette bundle all her skills and ride it on a digital-first model: online payments, password managers, encryption, restricted access, real time editing, social media accounts, payment accounts and the collation of endless virtual memorabilia that live in the cloud, USB drives, dusty camera chips and personal computers.

As we explore the changing world of work and the people who populate it, we caught up with Annette Adamska.

“I’m 85% sure, I’m the only one doing this,” says Annette. About the other 15% or the possibility that others bigger than her startup will enter the business, Annette is cool: “I’m sure others will get into this business, but the fact that there is almost nobody else doing this now is because of the missing human connection.” Equally important, Annette ensures that your loved ones know how to access your digital debris when you’re gone, down to the smallest detail.

Annette Adamska talks with Nikhila Natarajan about how she turned a concept born in tragedy into a business innovation.

Listen to the customer.

Iterating. If something works, great but if it doesn’t, not being attached to it is okay! There are things that you think people need but they actually want something else. You need to talk to them to figure what they want. With this kind of work, people will have to want to do it. This is not a small task, it’s often overwhelming.

Some people need light coaching to progress beyond their narrative.

There’s a bunch of technologies and software available online but people are still not doing this work. That’s the human connection which is possibly missing. People want someone to talk to. There’s this couple I’m working with. The husband says I want to do this because my wife will likely outlive me and I want to leave this for her. In my opinion it’s the greatest way to say ‘I love you.’ However I have to raise the next issue which is that, well, if you’re both travelling and if something happens to one or both of you, you can’t have only one person have all that information. How do you make sure other people can get to it? You don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s one of the blessings and the curses. Some people need that light coaching to progress beyond the narrative they bring to the conversation.

Don’t make perfect the enemy of the good.

There is this misconception that even when you’re doing estate documents, that it’s one and done. You had your will and power of attorney but that may have been 20 years ago! Things change! You may not be married to that same person or maybe you don’t like that person so much anymore to leave everything to him or her. So, we have Back Up Your Life and Back Up Your Business — that’s for solopreneurs and small businesses because business owners are more willing to invest in their businesses than they are in their life. It’s not like I had all this planned out. Starting lean and not making ‘perfect’ the enemy of the ‘good’ has helped.

Startup capital.

With service based businesses, start up costs are lower. I used a small chunk of money from mom’s insurance policy as my seed capital.

As entrepreneurs, our greatest challenge is getting out of our own way.

Even when I was doing more traditional organising, I wasn’t comfortable being the face of the company and the marketing aspect. The biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is really getting out of your own way. Often, we hold ourselves back the most. Sometimes, I talk to people who’re not interested to work with me — that’s okay. How can I find the people I want to work with and who resonate. It’s not about me. People may listen more to me because I’ve been in the trenches but business is not about my pain points — it’s about my customers.

Help customers through the perspective shift.

Some people are like — you want me to plan for my death? I say no, not really. Maybe you’re travelling overseas and you’re stuck in an airport for a couple of days, maybe your house has a leak. Can you have the information for the plumbers so that someone else can start that for you and you don’t have to be there? Being in a new business, you have to be able to shift the user’s perspective from the traditional lens.

There are often no convenient labels for startups.

For right now, people don’t really have the language around this business. I’m not a realtor or a financial planner. There’s no reference point for what I’m doing. Twenty years ago, if you asked about a professional organiser, people would be like, “what’s that?” Some things just take longer to embrace a sales cycle.

Your staff?

You’re looking at her (laughs). Actually, It’s me and my virtual assistant.

Geek smarts?

I know just enough technology to be dangerous! I found most of my tech partners down the Google rabbit hole!

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