"Why I Read" - Skyscanner Founder Gareth Williams
Reading for pleasure fuels curiosity and a willingness to learn, which can propel young people to future business success. Gareth Williams, co-founder and current Chair of Skyscanner, tells us how crucial reading has been to his own career, and how important it is to encourage this passion in young people, for our economy and our society as a whole.
Books and Business
I have lived the last 15 years too busy to do many things I wanted, because I started a business that I am passionate about with two friends. I focused heavily on that intense and all-consuming endeavour.
Yet another great love of mine remains as constant now as before starting that journey – a love of reading.
I feel that reading is essential to business success. Learning from others – their mistakes, their successes – was vital in the development and growth of Skyscanner. As a co-founder and then CEO, I’ve read voraciously the inside stories of software giants such as Microsoft, Alibaba and Amazon (The Everything Store by Brad Stone, The Alibaba Way by Ying Lowrey). I’ve learned valuable lessons from Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur and Ernst Malmsten’s Boo Hoo: A Dot.Com Story from Concept to Catastrophe. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
I also have a list of treasured internet articles and books that I love to share with other start-up founders. My reading list is ever-growing.
The access to the well thought-out ideas of others is a privilege. However, business reading material is in many ways more accessible than ever, especially via the internet: long-form essays, internet comics with incredible insights, informative podcasts and audible books are all but a click or two away.
If any of our young people want to start an internet economy business – an app – a service – they can do so, right here in Scotland. There is no need to be based in Silicon Valley to learn from the Silicon Valley greats. Books and the internet have democratised the knowledge required and the lessons learnt by others all over the world.
There’s a whole wealth of knowledge out there, ready to be digested. It’s telling when a young person with a love of reading enters the workplace.
They tend to have a constructive attitude and a willingness to learn and then excel. As a consequence of reading, they have had a deliberate exposure to the considered written thoughts of others from different places and times.
"It’s telling when a young person with a love of reading enters the workplace. They tend to have a constructive attitude and a willingness to learn."
That trait is at the heart of what makes someone employable, increasingly so in our knowledge-driven economy. Within Skyscanner we have a voracious appetite for sharing ideas and learnings, and reading is rife, from graduate to C-Suite level.
Again, this is essential: it would be arrogant – even dangerous – for any person (or business) to believe that they have nothing left to learn from others.
Reading for Enjoyment
Of course, it’s not all about reading for business. Reading for pleasure is a gift. Whilst I have read fiction all my life, the non-fiction topics I read have tended to wend their way across many areas over the years. I just follow my interests and assume they will prove useful to me in the end.
"Reading for pleasure is a gift."
And if they don’t – no matter, it was time enjoyably spent anyway. Presently I’m reading more on linguistic science.
Encouraging parents and a supportive society can do much to foster our national relationship with books and written material. I am fortunate to have my love of reading. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
I thank my parents, teachers and society for that, but I am also grateful to those who continue to encourage this passion in as many of the children and young adults in Scotland today as possible. The benefits are innumerable – not just for our economy or for individual development, but for our society as a whole.
Gareth Williams is supporting the First Minister's Reading Challenge, an initiative run by Scottish Book Trust, providing resources, guidance and support to schools, libraries and community groups to enable children and young people to discover the power of reading for pleasure.
To find out more, visit the website - readingchallenge.scot