marie francois featured

Inspirational Woman: Marie Francois | Tour Bus Manager, Memrise

 

Marie Francois, Memrise

Marie Francois, Tour Bus Manager for language app Memrise, is currently travelling across Europe as part of the app’s Membus project – a summer roadtrip adventure to collect micro-videos of locals across the continent using their language in context in order to compile the world’s largest video dictionary.

How did you get involved with this project?

I met Memrise’s CEO, Ed Cooke, at a concert. He told me he wanted to buy a double decker bus and go on a road trip around Europe to capture the diversity of languages (he didn’t have the bus yet, it was just bragging at this stage). I was not sure what he was on about exactly, but I knew I immediately wanted in, so I pitched myself for this job. I thought it was such a brilliant idea in terms of its innovative and fun approach to learning languages, and a great opportunity to work on a mission I would truly believe in.

What has been your biggest challenge along the way?

Definitely running a 1978 vintage double decker bus around Europe. You would not suspect the amount of things you have to look into, as well as not listening to the ‘non-dreamers’ who said this was an impossible mission. I quickly got acquainted with things such as European legislations and mechanical jargon, which are skills I never intended to develop.

This project also became the biggest problem-solving enterprise ever created. For instance, one week before starting the tour, the bus being too high for Europe, we got in touch with a crazy French guy in the Pyrenees who was supposed to remove the top deck of the bus, cut 5 inches, and then re-weld it back together.

Luckily we decided not to go with this option and took the risk to see how far it would go, and nine countries and 12 000 miles later, the bus is still standing! It was all worth it as it became our mascot, and got us a lot of attention on the continent.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Collecting 20,000 videos of native speakers, from 6,000 different people, with a team of 60 volunteers hopping on board. It has also been a privilege to get to know that many different people and places. We now have a great database of video content for the app for nine different languages, which I hope will motivate people to learn even more.

What has been your favourite place that you’ve visited during this tour?

Wow, Europe is full of gems so it’s a tough one, but Venice was a showstopper for me. One of our volunteers was a true Venetian (rare creatures) and showed us the local spots, which only made it more special.

Your bus is full of coders and scientists – what would you say to women or girls looking to get into these roles?

In fact, it just so happened that the Membus team has always consisted primarily of women so we’ve got to know quite a lot of female coders and linguists. I believe that tech is a fantastic progressive environment to work in, for whomever, and regardless of your role.

Memrise bus

Do you think that learning a language can help advance your career?

Absolutely. I think it shows a sense of curiosity, hard work (coz’ it ain’t easy) as well as open-mindedness. It also naturally opens more doors if you want to be sent on a mission or job abroad.

What tips would you give to women looking to learn a new language?

Having a goal helps me (a trip planned, a friend speaking that language, a desire to go live somewhere…) because the first thing you need to learn a language is motivation. I would say to use different methods to diversify your learning, such as movies, apps, books, and trips - obviously the most immersive the better. Every time you have an opportunity to practice, take it, and give yourself credit for trying. Everybody goes through the same frustrating feeling to sound dull and slow, but that’s the only way you’re going to improve.

Do you have any advice for our members with regards to their careers?

The thing I learnt on the back of this trip is to be spontaneous, take up challenges and take risks. When I first joined, I was not prepared for the grand scale of challenges and hurdles to cross to make this tour a success, but I learnt on the spot because I had to. It forges your character, so I’d recommend to anyone to put themselves in these kinds of situations. Although they may seem daunting at the beginning, they are highly rewarding in the end. And if you fail, fail fast.

To check up on the progress of the Membus tour, in the last leg of its journey, please visit the blog.


Ritu mahandru featured

Inspirational Woman: Ritu Mahandru | Vice President, Solution Sales, Agile Management, EMEA, CA Technologies

 

Ritu Mahandru is the Vice President of DevOps EMEA at CA Technologies.  Ritu’s responsibilities include designing and implementing the EMEA go-to-market strategy for application delivery.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?  Ritu

Not in a structured way, I knew I wanted financial independence and wanted to travel – that meant I needed to work!

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Looking back, there were several challenges, more so later in my career than earlier.  In the early stages of my career, I was just hungry for experience, I took every opportunity to enrich myself and learn different facets of a software business.  As I advanced more I needed to focus on other aspects of my self development, having the right experience and background was not always enough.  My way of dealing with them was to be brutally honest with myself about my shortcomings, and then work on them.  Living in denial is a challenge in itself.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Choose the timing, you have to be sure it is what you want to do and the time is right, invest time in your self-development and look for good role models and mentors who you can learn from, and always remain authentic.

 When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

People who show real passion and authenticity, they are key to building high performing teams with a common purpose.  People who show potential, and who want to really make a difference will always stand out, these would be key decision criteria for me.

 How do you manage your own boss?

I have 3 bosses!  My main boss is based in Switzerland, so the geographic distance does mean that we do not have the opportunity for impromptu discussions/meetings etc.  I have a monthly 1-1 with my boss and outside of that, we probably speak on the phone very 8-10 days, on an individual basis.  We have a number of scheduled ‘group’ touch points.  I make sure that he never gets any surprises, I keep him informed of key important changes/updates in my business. I also advise him early when I see a storm brewing, just to make sure he understands the rationale behind decisions I may take…so the key is regular communication.  I also try and make sure I provide my boss with an opportunity to gain insight into my team of direct reports, that is always important to build insight into my leadership style and also for succession planning.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

For the last 20+ years, my work day has always started with my husband bringing me a cup of tea while I get ready for work!  I deliberately leave my mobile phone in the downstairs office, so whilst getting ready, I have no idea of the deluge of emails I have had overnight, and can think through my day.  If possible, I always try and have breakfast with my daughters before heading out.  Of course there are exceptions, especially when I am traveling and leave the house at 5am, but when I am home, I make the most of it!  My day when I am at home always ends with me reading my favourite novel before going to sleep,  I am an avid reader and find escaping into someone else’s world helps me sleep much better!

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

I believe before raising your profile, you should decide what you want to be known for – is it that you are a direct, straight talking person, or that you are great at building teams etc…decide what you want your brand to be, then live and be the brand, even when no one is watching!  Ensure you know your stakeholders well, map out the people you need to interact with to ensure you can be successful in your role and set up a regular cadence with them…the best way to raise your profile is to know your brand,live it, communicate well and be visible.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Yes – I was surprisingly impressed by how useful this was for me.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbie networker?

External networking is very important – I would use the advice on raising your internal profile.  It is important to know what you want to achieve and want you want to present about yourself, otherwise a lot of time and energy can be spent without achieving any tangible goals.

What does the future hold for you?

I love working in the software world and seeing the change that technology brings to everyday lives.  I would love to see more women in tech and hope that events like these will encourage and make more young girls and women curious.  I would love to set up a social enterprise that does something for women in tech…that would be a great combination for me!


MEREDITH LYNCH FEATURED

Inspirational Woman: Meredith Lynch | Vice President, WE Communications UK

 

Meredith Lynch is the Vice President of WE Communications UK and is responsible for leading their UK technology practice. She is also the head of the technology sector in EMEA. 

Meredith Lynch

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role?

I’ve been with WE Communications for almost 17 years. When I moved to our London office in August 2012, I became a member of our EMEA board where we have a responsibility for shaping the agency’s direction in the region, with a focus on the experience our customers have. In my current role I lead our UK technology practice which has won awards for our work with clients like Aruba HPE and Microsoft Windows & 4Afrika.   More recently my role has expanded as head of our technology sector in EMEA which is a brilliant opportunity to continue our multi-market focus – especially as business becomes more and more global, and technology companies are (for the first time ever) considered more valuable than oil brands.

Originally from the United States, I grew up in the South which is a very conservative part of the world, not excluding my household. My family has been in North Carolina since the late 1800s and we have very deep roots in that part of the world. It was somewhat uncommon for a woman in our family history to have a university degree, or a formal career outside of the home or church. As the first woman in my family to earn a university degree and build a career from it, it’s an achievement I’m very proud of.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In my second year at university, I really started to think about what I wanted to do. I had some phenomenal professors who encouraged me to pursue a degree in communications given my strengths in argumentation and debate. So, yes – I did actively sit down and plan my career, and I’m so thankful for the advice of those brilliant professors. Communication is key to everything we do, it’s the most human thing in a very technical world, it can make or break a relationship of any size or scale, and there have never been more ways to communicate.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

The biggest challenges I’ve faced can all be connected to one thing – courage. Whether this is dealing with somebody who has more courage than they should, or struggling to find enough of my own, there has been a common theme. I’ve learnt that there is no one right or wrong answer to any challenge or opportunity in communications, we work in the grey area most of the time. Our field demands that we have the courage to trust our instincts every day. I don’t instinctively have the loudest voice in the room, so I’ve had to build the courage every day to articulate and stand behind my unique perspective.

How do you start your workday and how does it end?

In my dreams I’d wake up for a workout at 4:30, followed by a scan of the news and breakfast with my family. In reality, because we’re a global organisation with global clients, I start my day at about 5:00 with a review of what’s happened in the US overnight and my priorities for the day. With a mix of client and new business deadlines requiring organisational and people-focused needs, my day often consists of balancing those essentials. It’s important that I spend time on the things that make me a better leader and consultant as well, so I always make time to read and look for external trainings and events that can help me and my team connect more dots. My day can end anywhere between 19:00-22:00 – and when I make it home in time, I make the time to reconnect with my family and make sure I’m close to what’s happening at school and work.

Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?

I spent the first 12 years of my career with WE Communications (formerly Waggener Edstrom) at our Portland office in the US focused on one of our biggest partnerships, Microsoft. It was a phenomenal education in effective and impactful communications - no other brand invests more in their storytelling, influencer engagements and overall communications programme. In early 2012, after requesting an opportunity to take on an international role, the agency asked me to lead on our Microsoft work in EMEA. It was an easy “yes.”

After the first six months I took on the UK technology practice – and have been leading both for the last four years. In July 2016, my sector role expanded to head of technology for the region. With that I am responsible for making sure we’re known as experts in communications for technology brands in the UK, Germany and South Africa – and ensuring we have the right set of talent, services and perspective to help technology brands navigate the stories in motion within the technology space.

Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?

I’ve had not one but several people throughout my career whom I’ve learned from, but I’ve never had an official mentor or sponsor. Regardless of formality, we can learn from just about everyone. I’ve had some incredible managers who supported and coached me, and some who didn’t – and I learned, from both, what to do and not to do. Some of the most effective growth opportunities come from painful mistakes, and if you aren’t making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risk, and you’re likely not learning much.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I want women to have more courage in the workplace. Much of what gets in our way is us – not always, but in my experience, often enough. We need to be unapologetic and relentless in the pursuit of what’s possible.

How do you think we could encourage more girls into a career in STEM?  

The best way to encourage girls to consider a career in STEM is to give more of them hands on experience, guidance and support. There are some impressive programmes like AppsForGood which is (not coincidentally run by a remarkable woman) doing this incredibly well today, and which could be even more effective with more support and scale.

If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?

I would see the continued growth of our business in the region led by the extraordinary talented people (women and men) I have the fortune of working with every day. WE Communications will be the well-established brand in EMEA that it is in the US, and we’ll have more women in key leadership roles around the world.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

I’d love to open the next regional WE Communications office wherever it may be, and I am incredibly optimistic about our success as a company in motion. I look forward to watching my boys go to university and seeing them achieve the potential I see in them.

 

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Bethany Koby featured

Inspirational Woman: Bethany Koby | Co-Founder and CEO of Technology Will Save Us

 

bethany-koby

Bethany Koby is a mum, CEO, designer, art director and artist interested in creating brands, businesses and experiences that help imagine a more positive and collaborative future.

In 2012 Bethany co-founded Technology Will Save Us, a business that instigates 21st century learning - in the classroom and around the kitchen table - through its beautifully designed DIY Gadget Kits for every day life.

As the CEO, she is responsible for its strategic growth, partnerships and balancing R&D projects with retail relationships and the all-important educational agenda. Bethany’s goal is to grow Technology Will Save Us to create more impact with its products and services, while shaping a collaborative, creative, beautiful and fun business to work in.

Technology Will Save Us creates products to imagine a world where technology is more bespoke and more meaningful because people have the skills to be creative with it.

Bethany holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Rhode Island School of Design and a MSC in Responsibility and Business practice from Bath University and was a scholarship holder at Fabrica in Italy. She has been creating innovative relationships between brands and communities for well over 10 years both commercially and personally. Previously, she was a design director and social impact specialist at the international branding and innovation company Wolff Olins.

[modalsurvey id="80683050" width=50% align=center]

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am a mum, CEO, designer, art director and artist (and sometimes all five at once.) I create products and experiences for a more positive and collaborative future.

In 2012 I co-founded Technology Will Save Us with my husband Daniel Hirschmann. It was based on a radical premise: what if kids could build the technology they use, and learn more about technology in the process?

We created the (now iconic) kits and the most accessible, fun way for kids, families, and educators to learn, play, and invent with technology.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t really sit down and plan but I have always been interested in design and making even as a child. I grew up in California. I was always creative. My mother was a toy designer turned Montessori teacher and my dad was a photographer so making and creating were in my blood. Making was a part of everyday life - whether it was cooking, painting, pottery or more expansive projects like model airplanes, redecorating my room (which I did often) or planting a vegetable garden - I was never not making.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Investment is very male-orientated industry with very little diversity. It’s only recently that I’ve seen a shift towards different cultures and people. Most investors talk about these things but have not actually experienced it. I very quickly realised that VCs are mainly male, the tech industry is mainly male. If we can push to achieve more diversity in tech, this will result in more innovation and tech that caters to a wider range of responses and needs.

Raising a family and balancing a career is a challenging, but rewarding process. I’m very lucky to have such an amazing support network.

Finding an identity and being able to iterate my experience as a mom, wife and entrepreneur was crucial but hard.

On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?

I have a young son, so we get up early-ish, 6:30–7am. I start the day by drinking lemon water, taking vitamins and stretching. My husband and I alternate exercise mornings and preparing breakfast, getting our son dressed (he’s only 4 so needs to be reminded to get dressed and not play) and coffee.

Then we walk or ride bikes to school together. I have this theory that if you have kids and a business you need a triangle – your house, office and school and they all need to be a cycle or walking distance from each other.

We work very globally, so I’ve adopted a routine that fits in well with that. I leave the office around 7pm, have a meal with my family and talk about the day.

After my son is in bed, I usually check in on emails and plan out the following day before going to bed. We also have rituals like date night every week and Friday Shabbat dinner to create time for Daniel and I.

Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?

We started Technology Will Save Us in response to a couple of different things. We found a laptop in our garbage bin and thought it was crazy that someone would throw a working piece of technology away. It really highlighted the role that tech has in our everyday lives and our relationship with it. We don’t really understand it, yet it pervades everything. My co-founder Daniel and I were teaching at the time and were keenly aware of how long it takes for education to catch up with the pace of technology. The maker movement was growing and the world of creative tech tools was on the rise, so we felt there was a need for a business that would empower the creator generation and parents while inspiring kids to make and be productive with tech in a fun and hands-on way. We also had a baby and he was basically born with an iPad.

We started out as a workshop company but realized that by creating products or kits that give parents and kids the power, the knowledge, and most importantly the confidence to be able to do it themselves, at home around the kitchen table is equally, if not more, empowering.

As the CEO, I am responsible for the company’s strategic growth and partnerships. We created the company in 2012. It has since sparked the imagination of children in over 97 countries. We work closely with children to design our kits, engaging in large-scale research projects before beginning design and manufacture.

Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?

Advice can come freely and often but actual mentorship and collaboration is really special and important, the people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with have been fundamental at all stages of Technology Will Save Us.

Our advisors, Matt Webb, Tracy Doree are invaluable to me and our business. We share values, ambition and really love working together. They push me to be braver, bolder and stronger than I sometimes think I am.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I would say that always remember this is a journey not a destination. Make sure you surround yourself with examples, mentors, advisors that inspire you to be the kind of entrepreneur and person you want to be. Always keep learning. Also, don’t just aim to ‘balance’ all your responsibilities, blend them together, make it work with your daily routine.

If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?

Building and growing Technology Will Save Us with amazing and passionate people. Our East London Mini factory houses a team of 26 content creators, product specialists, sales gurus, production experts, educators, engineers, designers and developers. We’re passionately building the most accessible and entertaining brand for the creator generation.

We have sold over 80,000 award winning kits in more than 97 countries. So far. Our kits are available online & in shops all over the world. Some of our major retail partners include John Lewis in the UK, Barnes & Noble in the US and Myer in Australia.

We’ve also been awarded some pretty amazing recognitions, the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired our Gamer Kit for their permanent collection ‘Humble Masterpieces’. We were selected as part of the permanent collection displayed in the newly built London Design Museum. We’ve won Gold Parents’ Choice awards for 2 of our best selling kits, the Gamer and Electro Dough kits. Our newest kit, the Mover Kit, has already won a D&AD impact pencil and a Fast Company innovation by design award. Our company was also recognised as the ‘Best Hardware Startup of the year (2016)’ at the Europas.

Also, we were honoured to partner with the BBC to design the micro:bit, the most ambitious education product the BBC has created in over 30 years. A tech tool used to teach young people to make and code, the micro:bit was given to 1 million kids for free in 2016.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

I plan on growing Technology Will Save Us into the most accessible technology company in the toy industry. I hope to inspire and empower a generation of young problem-solvers with hands on technology, so that they understand how technology can help them creatively solve all the problems we face. Around 65% of children in school today will have a job that does not currently exist, we want to equip them with all the tools they need to be prepared for these roles.


Emily Webb featured

Inspirational Woman: Emily Webb | CEO of MyLücke

 

Emily Webb, CEO of MyLücke, shares her entrepreneurial journey of launching a parking app after her frustration of trying to find pubic parking in Los Angeles.

What inspired you to start your business?

inspirational-woman-emily-webb

My inspiration to create change in the parking industry stemmed from my own frustrations as a new Angeleno. Daily routines were no longer simple tasks; it was an exercise in itself to find consistent and reliable public parking. As my life began to revolve around parking regulations in Los Angeles, empty driveways were calling out to me, and it seemed so intuitive to be able to park in the abundance of underutilized spaces while allowing people to generate passive income.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward of being your own boss?

The greatest challenge of being my own boss lies within myself. The passion, drive and expectations to build a great company is continuous, which is also the most rewarding aspect of being my own boss. I love the eagerness and hunger to succeed. It’s an incredible opportunity to be challenged by my own vision and be able to create opportunities and deploy executions while being surrounded by a team whose beliefs are aligned with mine.

What motivational tips can you give to our readers about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

I’m not a fan of the word ‘failure’. I think everything in life is a learning experience, and there’s a simple quote that helps me through my experiences: “you don’t know what you don’t know”. It’s not fair for oneself to feel failure when there is so much we don’t know about executing our visions. Every endeavor is unique in itself, and the sooner you can realize there is no universal formula for entrepreneurs to rely on, the sooner you can learn to stay focused on discovering and implementing the successes of a business model and feel confident about discarding the tactics that weren’t as effective.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

As co-founder of a startup, patience and execution has been the biggest challenge. There are so many aspects to building a business and sometimes, hard work doesn’t equate to immediate results. My passion and desire to build a great company are sometimes stronger than the reality we face in executing an incredible idea. Creating a strategic roadmap to lay the foundation and learn about our user base takes time. I have to remain stubbornly persistent throughout our execution, while bringing in the right talent at the right time.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

Mentoring the kids at Camp Start-Up has been an incredible experience emotionally. Providing a support system and helping kids believe in themselves and their visions reminds me of when I was younger and how grateful I was when I found people who believed in me. I feel so lucky to be a part of an entrepreneur’s revelation; that moment when they realize ‘yes, I can do this’ is priceless.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

At the end of the day, it’s all about people. Your family, friends, colleagues, associates, acquaintances. Be the best version of you, every day. Help people and don’t expect anything back. Network for the love of meeting people and wanting to be a positive contribution to society and along the way, surround yourself with people who believe in you and whose visions are aligned with yours. Ultimately, your dreams will come to fruition because of the people in your life.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

If you plan to scale a business, make certain all facets of technology and human resources are prepared. Also, find your traction channel and understand your users! Cash flow and human capital are key aspects to managing the growth of a business.

What does the future hold for you?

My future is this business; continuing to listen to our users and build a great company. I am so passionate about what we’ve built, every day is a blessing. Outside of business, I plan to live life and enjoy all that this world has to offer


Victoria Bastide featured

Inspirational Woman: Victoria Bastide | CTO, Lifesum

 

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Inspirational Woman- Victoria Bastide | CTO, LifesumI am Victoria, CTO at Lifesum, one of the world’s leading health apps with over 16 million users, ba-sed in Stockholm Sweden.

I spent the last 20 years in tech companies, in various roles within the engineering organisations, as I hold a computer science degree. The companies were mainly located in the US, but I returned to my home city, Stockholm, in 2014. I spent 1998 to 2014 in Silicon Valley at startups, both big and small.

I’ve had a range of leadership roles within engineering organisations: product development, release engineering, building & operating large-scale infrastructure, quality engineering, and opening a branch office in Bangalore.

Currently, I hold the CTO position at Lifesum and as the CTO I lead the tech team at Lifesum, and am part of the company’s executive team.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, but maybe not in the same way that you would expect. I did not sit down and decide that my goal is that I will be a CTO of a tech company one day.

I have always been driven by learning new things, so the plan I had was to always take steps in my career that stretch and challenge me - as that is when I thrive.

What that meant in practice is that if I ever found myself at a crossroads, my strategy was to choose the things that I was not (yet) fully fluient in – even if that would have resulted in a ”lateral” move into the unknown, rather than a ”move up” in an area which I was already comfortable in. For ex-ample, taking the step from quality assurance, to managing infrastructure, to leading backend deve-lopers, to shifting to frontend, then from enterprise industry to consumer industry, and from web app development to a mobile development.

Also, I have very deliberately tried to move within the tech sector, managing teams that contribute to different elements. (Infrastrucure, DevOps, Backend, Front end, UX, Mobile, Web).

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Yes, many challenges, all the time. Life at a startup is full of challenges, big and small, but I love them. I see a challenge as an opportunity to grow. As a former athlete I really believe in the “no pain no gain” approach.

If I am not facing challenges, or feeling at least some sense of “discomfort”, that is when I get worried. My biggest fear in life is to become complacent.

So basically, I will take any challenge, and think of it as a springboard for growth - that also helps me mentally deal with the stresses of the challenge.

For example, while I was at VMware we grew from 70 people to over 10,000. That was a tremendous challenge, the amount of people we hired and trained, while also writing and shipping pro-ducts in the meantime. I loved every part of that challenge.

Another challenge was when in my mid 20s I spent just over half a year in Bangalore, India, setting up the VMware Office. I was doing anything from racking up the servers, to setting up our test lab, to hiring and training the engineers, as a young woman from the US headquarters, in a completely new country and culture. That was a tough and super fun challenge.

Challenges can come in many shapes and sizes, but believe it or not, my switch from an Apple iPhone to an Andriod phone was the most challenging! It took me several weeks before I started to feel comfortable using an Android. But oh so fun.

When I tackle challenges I try to do it in a pragmatic and methodical way. First, I think of the worst case scenario - once you form that mental picture, you often realise that the worst case maybe isn’t even that bad. You basically give yourself a mental hook for the worst outcome, and once it’s defined, you stop worrying about it as much. And then you start working from the other end.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I am a morning person, up before 6 AM, and most days I start with 3 things: a big glass of water, strong coffee (like a true Swede), and a run. Running is my thinking and reflection time. And if I don't get a run in in the morning, I know I will have a hard time motivating myself to get out later in the day.

My day ends with doing a quick check of the calendar and the next day, what’s going on, and the important things I need to get done. Sounds so simple, but doing a checklist of the coming day really helps keep my stress levels low. (Then always just before going to bed, I take a quick peek at my 2 sleeping boys, that, if anything makes me appreciate life.)

Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?

As I mentioned, I am currently the CTO, Chief technology Officer, at Lifesum, a digital health startup. As the CTO I lead the tech team at Lifesum, and also part of the company’s executive team.

Following my years in Silicon Valley I moved back to Stockholm, where I was craving to work at a startup again. I wanted to work for a company that was creating something that I was really passionate about.

So when I got the opportunity to join the Lifesum team as the CTO in December 2015, the choice was one of the easiest ones in my career. A tech company, doing interesting things, and with a miss-ion to help people become healthier and happier.

Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?

I had several mentors, of various types. None of them through official mentor programs.

The first mentor I had was Thuan Pham, now CTO at Uber. We worked together at VMware. He took me under his wing, and we met every other week for quite some time. He helped me navigate through a lot of my early years as a manager. Having a soundboard that I could bounce ideas from was extremely valuable.

Then, during the years, I have had a lot of bosses, peers, and friends that I had great conversations with, both in terms of feedback and having very open discussions about my work situation, career, next steps, etc. I view those as mentorships too. Being open when asking for help and advice, and also giving that back to others.

Last but not least, I learned a TONNE from the members of my teams and they help my career as much as the ones mentioned above. Getting their insights, input, questions, and having open discuss-ions has really helped my career, as I get insight into other generations, other personalities, and other approaches.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

A good balance between the number men and women in the tech workplace, so that there is no longer a discussion about being a woman in the work space.

(And by the way, amazingly at Lifesum we are over 40% women)

Tell us about your plans for the future?

Help building a great digital health company, that uses technology to help everyday people become healthier and happier.

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Michelle Hua featured

Inspirational Women: Michelle Hua & Marija Butkovic | Co-Founders of Women of Wearables

 

Michelle Hua - co-founder of Women of Wearables and founder and CEO of Made With Glove and Marija Butkovic, co-founder of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella share their career journeys and why they decided to launch Women of Wearables (WOW).

What inspired you to start a business?

Michelle Hua Women of Wearables
Michelle Hua

Michelle: When I was working remotely as a lawyer for the Western Australian Government in Manchester, I rented a hot desk at a co-working space. I was surrounded by other entrepreneurs and their passion for their business, their self determination and motivation inspired me to resign from my job and start my own wearable technology company, Made With Glove.

After 2 years, I met Marija at the Wearable Tech Show in London in 2016 (who is also in the wearable tech industry) and we co-founded WoW.

Marija: Same as my co-founder Michelle, I was working as a lawyer for 8 years, before tapping into startup world. It all started as becoming a startup mentor, tech journalist and when I started organising hackathons for Croatian startup community. I soon realised it offers me much more creativity and independence than working 9-5 in a stuffy office, so when I moved to London in 2014 I just knew I had to have my own business. It all started by co-founding Kisha, world’s smartest fashion tech umbrella and until today our umbrellas have been sold and shipped to more than 40 different countries. After realising potential of wearable tech industry and lack of women in it, my co-founder Michelle and I decided to start WoW and empower and support women who already are in this industry, but also those who still struggle where to start.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

Michelle: The greatest challenge in being my own boss is finding the time to do everything and be everywhere. Being a sole founder and CEO means you are the Chief Everything Officer. The greatest reward is meeting inspiring people every day, seeking new opportunities and being a STEM Ambassador especially to young girls. I have the freedom to make decisions according to my goals for the business and for the wider community.

Marija: Greatest challenge is wearing multiple hats all the time and managing my time effectively. Having multiple businesses and projects requires me to be super organised. The greatest reward is having my own freedom to do things when I want and how I want, being able to travel and work at the same time, which is a commodity not many people today have, and also making more impact now I have my own business.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

Marija Butkovic Women of Wearables
Marija Butkovic

Michelle: It is so easy to work “in” your business every day that sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back to work “on” your business. Every week, writing down your to do list and ticking them off as you go along helps you look back and recognize your achievements. This is a reminder that when there are failures, these achievements are little successes that will help you get to your end goal. They might be just enough to keep you going because running a business is hard. It’s difficult to see the successes when all you’re focusing on is getting to the end goal and questioning why you aren’t there yet.

Marija: I used to stress out a lot if I wouldn’t tick off all the boxes on my to-do list before. Not any more. Now I have more smaller goals and focus on not more than 3 things in a day. I also try to dedicate at least two days per week on actual working, which means no meetings, no events, just me and my laptop. Learning to say ‘no’ is very important, too. Not every opportunity is the right opportunity. When it comes to failures, I see them as part of my learning process, so I always try to understand what could be improved for the next time. Failures are okay if they make you stronger and bring you useful experience which can help you in the future.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

Michelle: Saying no is difficult because I don’t want to miss out on any opportunities or let anyone down. However, I’ve learnt that saying no means I can focus on my goals and vision for my business Made With Glove and for WoW.

Marija: I would say that finding a good team, especially co-founder, is crucial. There’s nothing worse than sharing your everyday office life and your work with the wrong people, and nothing better than knowing you can rely on your co-founder when it gets tough.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

Michelle: Being a sole founder and constantly making decisions is tiring. My mentor helps me gain perspective when I’m overwhelmed with so many things to do. I can build my own relationships and networks in the industry. The tech industry is male dominated so having a female mentor to guide me as I navigate this new industry is really helpful.

Marija: Although I don’t have a mentor, I have mentored many startups and individuals over the last few years and that experience actually helped me figure out what are do’s and dont’s in entrepreneurial world. I also read a lot, mostly business books which proved to be really helpful, too.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Michelle: Networking comes in many ways both formal and informal so always be ready to seek opportunities and make connections at any given time.

Marija: I always say that my biggest and most important asset is my network. Whenever you can, try to meet someone new and even if that person is not directly connected with what you do, there is always something you can learn from them.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

Michelle: Having a great support network is crucial as well as a great team who can help me scale and grow my business. It is only by having a great co-founder for WoW and staff that I can rely on to allow me the time to do the things that I’m better at. The real value is having a great team that I can trust to help me achieve my goals. Growth takes time and being patient and organized is key to planning for growth.

Marija: Scaling a business is harder than people usually think. We all read about those big business successes, but what people forgive is that overnight success usually comes after ten years. It’s better to go at slower pace and have a constant growth, than rush and then drain yourself. Prioritizing is very important, so finding the best team and then growing gradually is the best option, I think. Growth brings experience and wisdom, and we all must remember that business is something that never stops growing, and we never stop learning.

What does the future hold for you?

Michelle: I’m very excited about the future in particular for the wearables industry. It’s a new industry and being a part of that is very rewarding. I also have the opportunity to help shape its future through WoW because we are inspiring, supporting and connecting the current and the next generation women in wearables, IoT and AR/VR. Sharing it with my WoW co-founder Marija and my wearable tech assistant, Rachael makes the journey more exciting.

Marija: Many beautiful things, I hope. Wearable Tech, Fashion Tech, IoT and VR industry will grow a lot over the next few years, and being part of those industries enables me to shape not only my own future but also have impact on them. I’m a big advocate for getting more women into tech, which is the very reason I started WoW. My big passion is travelling, which I try to do whenever I can, together with my husband. Being an entrepreneur offers me that freedom, so taking the best from both worlds is what makes me truly happy.

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Charlotte Finn

Inspirational Woman: Charlotte Finn | VP, Programs - EMEA, Salesforce.org

 

Inspirational Woman Charlotte Finn EMEA director SalesforceorgCharlotte supports employee volunteerism and directs funding to areas like STEM education as well as helping non-profit organisations access technology.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I worked my way up the corporate technology ladder but I didn’t join the non-profit sector until a couple of years ago after I spent time working in South Africa. Both the organisation I worked for and the social and economic situation in South Africa were very different to anything I had experienced previously in the UK. The lessons I learned whilst I was there made me realised I wanted to work for an ethical organisation and to follow my passion for ethics and governance. So, upon my return to the UK I shifted my career to do just that.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a leadership position for the first time?

The best thing you can do is listen. It’s incredibly important to listen to what’s on the minds of your colleagues and customers and to get an idea of their goals and challenges. If you can help them to succeed, then you will succeed too.

I also believe it’s incredibly important to create a transparent work environment – something which Salesforce as a whole is great at delivering. As a leader, it’s your role to develop a team environment where people feel comfortable speaking openly and challenging each other. By having a positive, communicative environment you’ll be surrounded by people who want to work hard and be successful.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

People often say that this is a great problem to have but it doesn’t make the decision any easier – it’s horrible letting someone down when you know they’re just as capable as the other person. However there are a couple of steps I’ve taken in the past to help make that all important decision.

The first is to focus on the mission critical skills that are part of the job description. Although equally qualified, both candidates are likely to have a different balance of skills, meaning that after a closer look one candidate may be better suited to the role than the other, without detracting from the more poorly suited candidate’s individual skills. Secondly, gauge their enthusiasm. Which candidate appears more willing and prepared to move mountains to attend the interviews and find out more about the job and the team? It may soon become clear that one candidate is much keener than the other on the opportunity.

How do you manage your own boss?

Communication is key – you both need to understand how the other person works. If the relationship isn’t one of mutual respect and understanding then it just won’t be productive. Also, every boss is different so it’s important to understand which method of communication and discussion is the best for them.

This is one of the reasons why I think it’s important to meet on a regular basis. Not only does it help to strengthen your working relationship, but if any issues need to be discussed, it is much easier to sort them out in an open and honest way when you’re face-to-face with someone.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I’m an early-riser and usually get up at around 5.45am. If I’m working abroad and staying in a hotel I’ll normally try and squeeze in a 5km run before the day properly starts. Or, if I’m at home, I’ll be busy getting my son ready for school.

A day out in the field could involve a meeting with a voluntary partner like the Red Cross, or visiting one of the projects. I absolutely love to work with local communities. For example, I’m heavily involved in the BizAcademy programme which works with youth from under-resourced and low-income communities who want to learn about entrepreneurship. There have been instances where kids have walked in at the start of the week without talking or making eye contact, only to walk out at the end having come up with a sterling business idea and the confidence to articulate that idea with a winning smile.

If I’m in the office, I’ll sit down with the team to review which organisations are getting what funding, and why. It’s incredibly important that any grant I approve has a clear programme associated with it, with agreed objectives, activities and target impact.

A typical evening could involve playing catch up on emails, spending time with my son, or hosting a gala event. We hosted one last year where, instead of giving away goody bags, Salesforce made a donation per attendee to CoderDojo.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

In today’s competitive market, simply being good at your job isn’t enough to help you get ahead in your career – you need to be visible. If key, senior people aren’t aware of you and your work then the reality is that you’ll miss out on getting involved in interesting projects – despite your capabilities and performance.

One thing that everyone can do is to speak up in meetings and put yourself forward for opportunities. It’s so important to find your voice as not only will it raise your profile, it will help to develop your self-confidence and get you feeling more comfortable at being the centre of attention. Women also need to challenge themselves more and remember that they don’t need to tick 100% of the boxes all the time.

Another tip is to find yourself a mentor. Mentors can offer invaluable advice on how you can get ahead in your career and get yourself noticed.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbie networker

Networking is incredibly important – you never know who you’re going to meet and how they may influence your career later down the line. If you’re new to networking I sympathise with the fact that it can be a daunting experience but hopefully these three tips will help you to be successful:

Do your research – Learn about the community you will be meeting by researching them on blogs, websites and through social media. Also, try and get a hold of the guest list in advance and make a note of who you’d like to meet at the event along with who they work for, what they do and their accomplishments. Doing this in advance will provide you with some great conversation fodder and will make you look really switched on.

Work the room – one of the biggest mistakes people make when they first attend a networking event is sticking to the same group of people for the entire duration. It’s much better to try and have several warm interactions than being monopolised by one person. If you do need to get away then do so politely by saying something along the lines of: “That sounds like a really interesting project, I’m sure you’ll be highly successful. Anyway I mustn’t keep you as I’m sure you want to circulate the room.”

Set yourself goals – your networking experience will be much more productive if you go into it knowing what you want to achieve. Whether it’s connecting with a new business prospect, developing a customer relationship or simply making new friends you’ll feel a lot more focused when you arrive.

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June Felix featured

Inspirational Woman: June Felix | President of Verifone Europe

 

June Felix has had an illustrious career in banking, fintech and payments technology.

Inspirational Woman- June Felix
June Felix, President of Verifone Europe

As President of Verifone Europe, she has day-to-day responsibility for more than 2,000 employees across 28 territories.

Her achievements include the 2013 Top Innovator Award by American Banker for Money2 for Health; recipient of the Edison Award for Innovation; Elected into the Innovators Hall of Fame for Banking Technology News; ranked 12th nationally (in the US) in Innovation by Banking Technology News; listed inventor on several e-commerce patents and on patent pending application for Money2 for Health.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, once I decided what I really wanted to do. I started out as studying chemical engineering and medicine but I was lucky enough to work for Proctor & Gamble over the summer and saw and worked in many different parts of that company. During that process I learned how the orchestration of all these aspects was key to running a successful business. So I got into brand management, which is the business management function that brings all the elements of business together around filling market and client needs from research, manufacturing, branding, marketing etc. This experience encouraged me to seek out roles with driving P&L.

Have you faced any significant challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

One of the most significant challenges has been being taken seriously as a woman – especially a young woman. The industries I have worked in – fintech, pharma, finance etc – have all been very heavily male dominated. One of the most important things I discovered was to find a sponsor, somebody who would mentor and guide you in your career.

So work on building relationships – friends, partners, colleagues – who can help you get things done. Only a part of the job is how capable you are – the rest is all about how you get things done.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a leadership position for the first time?

A leadership position could be on a project or in a new role and it really helps to have a couple of points of expertise in that position that you can rely on. Then you need to find partners or sponsors who are willing to help you in your role to develop those skills you have never done before.

When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how do you decide which one is best suited for the role?

It would come down to drive and ambition; are they going to do what it takes to get the job done? It also comes down to an assessment of their values; who are they really as individuals? You want somebody with the right integrity, somebody who will make the right call at all costs.

How do you manage you own boss?

Communications is key. Part of any relationship is building trust. That means being clear on expectations, objectives and a shared understanding of what the challenges and trade-offs are. I think that, especially when starting out, what bosses are looking for is somebody who is going to come with ideas and solutions, as much as the problems. It sounds like common sense but sometimes you learn that common sense after doing it wrong.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I always try to exercise first thing in the morning. If you look at really successful people, they are actually quite fit because the job is really challenging. You need something that gives you the energy, that gives you the health to do the job.

The early starts also give me ‘me time’, giving me the space to think.

In terms of work, I live by my lists, both personal and private objectives for the days and weeks ahead. My A1 priorities are my ‘must-do’ list and this is non-negotiable. Even with disruptions throughout my day, I know that I’ll get through my A1 list, whatever happens.

What advice can you give to members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Do outstanding work. At the end of the day, that has to be at the foundation. When I was at IBM, you were only as good as your last quarter ̶ it was what made the company stand out. Also, you have to find something that defines you. It depends on what your personal objective or brand is. If you want to become known as a leader in innovation, for getting things done, or for being highly effective with clients or analysis etc, then you have to focus on that skill. Ask yourself, what is it that I do exceptionally well?

How have you benefitted from coaching or mentoring?

I think coaching is so important – it’s a really valuable activity. It gives you a sounding board. The more senior you get, the less people you can talk to that really understand the challenges you face and that you are able to share anything with. If you trust that person’s judgment and their strengths and weaknesses, they can remind you that you have done it before and can achieve your objectives.

I believe that people should try as well to be mentors and coaches. It is a useful way for you to pass on what you have learned, but also can provide a useful mechanism for self-reflection.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what tips would you give to a newbie networker?

Find a way to be valuable to the other person. When you are networking you are trying to build a relationship with another person, so it’s not about having a one-way relationship. You are trying to create something that is mutually beneficial. You also need to try and create multiple connections, so you have a number of reasons to stay in touch.

There are also different levels of networking; I’ve helped people to get their kids into their choice of college or get work experience. That’s quite a personal connection – otherwise networking can be so transactional in nature. Whilst that is OK, it means your calls won’t be answered quite so quickly as if you have connected on a more personal level.

What does the future hold for you?

I love what I do. I am a president of Europe for a NYSE-listed company in the center of the digitalisation of money; I am a non-executive director of a global FTSE 130 company and I enjoy immensely the fact that I am working across Europe. I have a management team that I have a lot of respect for. I’m on a fantastic journey, so I hope to be doing more of the same.

If I am in the same position in five to 10 years’ time, I’d hope to do more in terms of giving back. I’ve always tried to do some kind of charity work or something I’m passionate about. It could focus on women in fintech or education – I’m working through my portfolio now. For me it’s an important piece of feeling well-rounded that you can contribute something not only in your business life, but your personal life too.

Read more Inspirational Woman profiles here.


Inspirational Woman: Katy Keim | CMO, Lithium

Katy KeimKaty Keim is the Chief Marketing Officer and GM of Lithium Reach and Response, Katy is responsible for all strategic marketing activities for the company including branding, positioning, communications, go-to-market strategy and customer acquisition programs. She also leads Lithium’s overall product marketing group and product strategy for Lithium's Reach and Response business.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, not when I was younger. I started out in high-tech finance and then learned that I loved the entrepreneurship and nurturing that goes with building tech companies. I knew I was more creative than linear and that’s when marketing started to make more intuitive sense as a career.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I’ve faced challenges communicating a concise, assertive way that’s going to ensure I have the most impact. I’m a passionate person and get easily excited about my point-of-view. I’ve needed to learn how to articulate it in the context of the business. Working with a lot of men, I’ve also had to adjust my communication to be more pointed and brief. Less noise, more signal.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Be very clear about what you stand for. Employees can easily spot discrepancies between what you say and what you do. Know what is important to you because there are many tricky situations in business that aren’t always cut and try—so having a consistent true north on your values is key.

Be decisive at the right times. New leaders often have trouble communicating what is a decision and what is collaboration. Sometimes you need a lot of input, sometimes you have to make the call. Just be clear on context with your team.

Ask for feedback. There’s always room for improvement and the more you move into a leadership position, people are more fearful about sharing feedback—especially constructive comments. You have to hunt for it.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

Potential typically trumps experience. Some leaders want a proven track record of doing that exact role. I am looking for people who are motivated to tackle new challenges and people that continue to grow rather than just mastering the same tasks. Smarts, hunger and hustle can’t be taught.

How do you manage your own boss?

My job isn’t to manage my boss, but to work together to drive the direction of the company. I am trying not to die on every mountain. There are always challenges in a business, but picking the ones to solve—that will have the most impact—is my focus. This sometimes means tackling big issues one-on-one. I want to continue to be more effective on picking a few strategic issues and influencing direction with my point-of-view.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I review my calendar, figure out my must-dos, lay out what needs to happen the next day, and always clean out my inbox at the end of each day. I have official opening and closing “ceremony” of my day.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Invest in public speaking and be a 10x communicator. Regardless of the audience, having complete command of your message always delivers better results. Also, don’t shy away from your successes. Women often downplay their accomplishments. Own it. Say thank you. Don’t always defer your successes to others.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I’m a big believer in coaching. Role playing is especially important when you’re in a high stakes situation because an objective observer can help you practice and tackle a tough situation before you handle it in real life. Everything is better with practice, and good results don’t come without hard work. We tend to have a distorted view of ourselves and need another perspective from someone else.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker?

It’s totally important – what goes around comes around. Naturally, it feels good to help people. But people often think of networking in terms of how it’s going to help in their next job. Why not think of it in terms of how it helps in your current job? Some of my best ideas as CMO were from networking with my peers. People outside your organisation can be inherently creative about your situation. I also use networking to find talent.

What does the future hold for you?

I want to evolve to lead a more meaningful role in the culture of the company. My leadership principles are definitely grounded in the belief that there is a certain X-factor in people. People can accomplish so much more when you set a clear, empower them to act and create an environment of joy (yes, joy—humor, satisfaction, price). I want to build a company where the culture is its primary competitive advantage.

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