Michal Mor featured

Inspirational Woman: Michal Mor | Co-Founder, Head of Science for Product, Lumen

Michal MorI was born in Palo Alto California, and relocated to Israel at age 2 where myself and my twin sister, Merav Mor, grew up. After serving in the Israeli army, we both studied at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

I hold a BSc in Medical Laboratory Sciences, an MSc in Physiology, and a PhD in Physiology, Cardiac Science. I also taught biology and physiology during my studies. In the final year of my PhD, we both relocated to Tel Aviv.

In 2014, I teamed up with 3 long-time friends and entrepreneurs to found Lumen, a company focused on bringing metabolic health to the general public. We spent 4 years on research and development to create a product that measures metabolism through the breath. In 2016, beta trials for the Lumen device began, and in 2018, Lumen was officially launched on Indiegogo.

I am an Ironman athlete and trained for many years, and in my spare time I do competitive pole acrobatics. I live with my husband, Daniel Tal Mor (the CEO of Lumen) and my three children in Tel Aviv. I have never lived more than 50 meters away from my twin sister.

I’m the Head of Science for Product at Lumen and my role is to take a complicated metric like metabolic flexibility and make it accessible to everyone through research, our technology and of course all the fascinating content within our app.

My latest groundbreaking project has been launching the monthly cycle feature. Through the breath, we’re able to tell women how their metabolism responds to each phase of their menstrual cycle. So many health products are geared to men and their physiology, and we wanted to use our tech to cater to the specific needs of women and their bodies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I’ve always wanted to work in the field of medicine, but found my strengths in the world of research and tech. I fell in love with the idea of tackling a problem and hypothesizing about it. All this while I was training for the Ironman and trying to understand how to better fuel my race together with my twin sister Merav, of course. Between training for the race and the world of research, I found a problem worth solving. Suddenly I found a gap between the science world of nutrition and our daily lives – how come we know so little about what fuels our bodies?

Ultimately, being an entrepreneur is like research, you need to dig and find the answers to find a problem worth solving for many.

The plan was always to be involved in research, I just didn’t imagine it would turn into a company run together with my sister and all the people we love and respect.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these? 

The challenges have mostly been related to balancing my role as a mother and an entrepreneur. I’ve had to learn how to give myself a place in both of these worlds of entrepreneurship and family life. Sometimes the two overlap, it’s hard to be totally present at work or with my kids. The big challenge is prioritizing and managing your time so that you can be present at work or with family.

I feel that the challenges I have at Lumen or work are exciting – all the bumps along the way are part of a process – we’re the first to build a device that measures your metabolism through the breath so we’re starting from scratch. It’s the challenge of making something complicated into something accessible and simplifying it. Our body is a complicated machine, so how do you create a personalized experience which is easy to use and understand?

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Introducing the metric of metabolic flexibility to the world has been my biggest achievement. The concept that our body innately understands how to switch between fuel sources like fats and carbs is new to most. People think they either have a fast or slow metabolism, but that is a misconception. We can actually train our body to burn fats and carbs more efficiently if we know what to eat and when. It’s really the key to all health – if you’re able to feed your body what it needs to fuel your workout properly or a day at the office, you can eventually train your metabolism to burn through carb stores and burn fat more easily when you wake up. Your capacity for carbs increases and yes, one day you can better process a piece of pie.

It’s true that metabolic flexibility exists in the academic literature and articles, but it doesn’t exist on a global stage and scale because of how hard it is to measure it. How do you bring a metric to the everyday lives of people? The fact that we can give you a tool to measure your metabolism and how flexible it is, it’s a changing and guiding variable which has a life of its own for people to use as a feedback tool every day.

Back in 2014 we started with our first prototype until we launched it on a global stage with a validation study from SFSU and today we are peer-reviewed. We made sure that it really measures your metabolism according to global standards and actually does what we claim.

The fact that today, we’re able to help our users lose an average of 1.5 kilos a week, increase their metabolic flexibility by 66% from month to month and sleep more hours (about an average of 7) is a huge accomplishment. We’ve made people live healthier lives in a sustainable way by helping them build habits in small steps without drastically altering their lives.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

Our team. Myself, our co-founders and my twin sister. Merav (my sister) and I worked on the initial prototyping of Lumen before our co-founders came on board. Lumen’s CEO is my partner, Daniel Tal Mor, who supports me daily. Most people might find it funny to work with their spouse, but the support it provides is amazing and he adds so much to our growth and the process of running a company like Lumen. Our other co-founders are friends of Daniel (Dror our CGO and Avi our CTO) and have experience working in tech together.

The most amazing part of our team is how we aren’t afraid of our knowledge gaps and we benefit from learning new things from one another. I have learned so many new skills beyond research from my team and they have learned a lot about research from me. I can confidently say without a good team you can’t go forward.

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What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology? 

Similar to my previous response, surround yourself with a team or a community of people who are like-minded thinkers. They’ll push you to get out of your comfort zone in terms of seeking knowledge in areas where you might be less knowledgeable or less comfortable.

All the things you don’t know should be seen as opportunities for growth. The fact that I don’t know something is an opportunity to improve, even if you won’t be the best at it. Because in the startup world you have to pick up so many skills on the way to creating something meaningful. It’s not about being the best at everything, but be good enough at it that you can work with your teammates and speak the same language.

My twin sister Merav learned python just to understand what language our developers were speaking, and she got support from the team to do so.  My partner and now CEO, started reading academic articles and filling his knowledge gaps in the nutrition world so that he could speak the same language and move forward with us on a research level.

So don’t be afraid to learn new things together with your team.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

My twin sister and I have had the privilege of ongoing support throughout our academic and tech careers from our peers and colleagues. However, at the beginning people weren’t sure what to think of us. The question of “what are these two sisters doing ? Are they doing this research as a hobby? Is this really going to be a career or a hobby”. Men of course will more easily be seen as ambitious for pursuing an invention from scratch.

So surround yourself with a supportive team, and if they’re doubting your motivation then just move on and protect your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a nice hobby.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

The biggest issue of women at the workplace is childcare. We have a constant time and moral dilemma. Are we good moms? Are we contributing to work enough? Companies need to provide support and infrastructure for women to have that home and work balance with that understanding in mind.

Recently at Lumen we had a day care for the summer with childminders to watch our children in the office. We also have rooms for women to breastfeed. Companies can follow through further also by accommodating different maternity leave time frames and being flexible with time off. For that reason we have started things like “family days” around the holidays in case you might need a half day off or more time with your kids if there’s a long break.

There are so many practical things companies can do that pay off in the end since it enables women to stay productive and focused at work , sometimes at a higher rate than men.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

It starts with supporting the concept of “the working mom in high tech”. Women need to feel they can be great mothers and great techies at the same time. We think of high tech as the all-consuming endless hours endeavor which doesn’t allow you to have a personal life, but it’s not true.
I would tell companies to give women the feeling they can be both and create programs or infrastructure for it.

From an education standpoint, we need to start when we’re very young in primary school for girls to be familiar with tech and science. Programs specifically designed for girls at a young age that teach them about tech and research in a way that relates to them. Currently early learning about tech or science is very male dominated and oriented. The language these programs use isn’t catered to women. I put my two girls in programs about science and tech in a way that relates to them more and gives them a greater motivation.

In fact most industries teach a certain thing in a very male-oriented way. We need programs that are catered to women , tailored to them and their needs.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

From my end, I do a lot of reading in my industry in terms of academia and research. THere are many really interesting podcasts for entrepreneurship generally such as “How I built this” , but I would advise for any woman to dig deep on the research and trends within the industry she is pursuing.

Also , I really recommend competitor analysis- it saves so much time when you see someone is already doing what you’re thinking about and then making it better. You don’t always have to invent the wheel. Your starting point is therefore a lot better and saves you time.

Charly Lester

Charly Lester | Lumen

Charly Lester

Charly Lester is the co-founder and CMO of Lumen, the leading dating app for over 50s.

Lumen is Charly’s third business. Previously she established international awards for the dating industry, and a learning platform for female entrepreneurs. Charly is regarded as one of the world's leading experts on dating apps and websites, having run the Dating Awards for four years, and judged and tested almost every mainstream app on the market.

Charly is the author of two business books. Charly has spoken at the Oxford Union, and was a judge on the final of The Apprentice. She regularly appears on TV, radio and in the press. Charly teaches classes in marketing and entrepreneurship for The Guardian. She is the former Global Head of Dating for Time Out.

Outside of work, Charly regularly competes in Ironman triathlons, runs marathons, and she recently ran Marathon des Sables – six marathons in six days across the Sahara Desert.

Charly Lester featured

Inspirational Woman: Charly Lester | Co-Founder & CMO, Lumen

Charly LesterCharly Lester is co-founder and CMO of Lumen.

Lumen is the first app-only dating platform for over 50s.

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

I'm co-founder and CMO at Lumen - the dating app for over 50s. We launched last September, and already have over 1.5 million users worldwide. Six years ago, I fell into working in the dating industry when my dating blog '30 Dates' went viral. I ended up working at The Guardian as their dating editor, then at Time Out as their Global Head of Dating. My first business - The Dating Awards - launched in 2014, an industry awards for the online dating industry. The Awards started in the UK, then spread to Europe and the US, making me one of the leading voices in the sector. After 4 years running it, I had tried and assessed most dating apps and websites out there, so when my co-founder suggested we launch a dating app for over 50s, I jumped at the chance to create a product which directly tackled the issues I knew consumers faced on other apps.

I run all of Lumen's marketing, and a huge part of that is tackling the way society views over 50s. It’s a demographic people haven't designed apps for before and they are extremely undervalued and misrepresented. I spend a lot of time trying to make our brand and our advertising as 'pro-age' as possible.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Haha, never! I did Law at university, a Masters in Broadcast Journalism and then I went into banking (after a few gap years travelling!).  What I love about my career is that it has shaped itself, and I have ended up designing a role for myself which suits me down to the ground. As I look back at what has got me to the position I'm currently in, there are so many skills I picked up from other jobs which are so useful to my role at Lumen. We've launched the app in five countries so far, and every time we launch, I have to do interviews on live TV. Who knew my TV journalism experience would come in so handy?

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

When I launched my first business I didn't have any female friends who ran companies. I didn't know anyone else who had taken on that risk, and I can genuinely remember really doubting my abilities.  There were lots of ups and downs involved with running a business for the first time, but I wouldn't change any of it because I learned so much along the way and realised what I'm capable of. Probably the biggest challenge was other peoples' preconceptions and fears. My own parents died when I was a teenager, but my friends' parents have often worried about my decision to step away from a 'traditional career path' and take risks. There have been many times when they haven't really understood what I was doing, and have told me as much. I had to learn to understand when to listen to other peoples' concerns, and when to take them with a pinch of salt.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Appearing as a judge on the final of The Apprentice when one of the candidates designed a dating app was a pretty big career high. I also spoke at the Oxford Union in a debate about the existence of true love (my debate partner was the creator of Love Island!) - probably the most daunting evening of my life! And thanks to Lumen at least three couples have already married, hundreds live together, and hundreds of thousands of people have met - that's a pretty amazing feeling to know you have quite literally changed someone's life.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I always break things down into small steps. In my spare time I run ultramarathons and Ironman triathlons, and a huge part of that is breaking something huge and unmanageable into small steps. I know how to pace myself, and I never let the final goal daunt me. That's the same attitude I apply to business. No matter how slowly I'm moving at times, I'm always moving forward.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Find mentors you admire and trust. When I first started working in the technology team at Time Out, Ellie Ford was Head of Innovation. She is one of the most inspiring women I know, and about 10 years older than me - Ellie is so intelligent and I learned so much from her. Knowing who to go to to ask vital questions - including what to do with my career when my role was made redundant - was a huge part of my career progression, and five years later I can still hear her words of advice.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

When I look at the teams at Magic Lab (Lumen's parent group) there are still departments which are heavily male, despite us trying to hire as equally as possible. Women and equality are really high on the agenda, however tech companies still need to have women in the hiring pool in order to employ them. Part of the issue is educating women that certain roles are for them just as much as they are for men. The barriers start right at ground level - treating little boys and little girls exactly the same. Making them understand no hobby is gender-specific, and neither is a specific career. And then helping women to ask for progression and the salaries they deserve when the time comes for that.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I was at a talk recently by Caroline Criado Perez and she was saying that it's not just a case of getting women to ask for the pay rises or promotion they deserve - if that's not the way most women behave, why not adapt the way pay structures and promotions work to better accommodate female ways, instead of accepting the 'male way' as the norm.

There needs to be total transparency in all companies about peoples' salaries - this is where our 'Britishness' has let us down - because the women still bear the brunt of our desire to be discreet and not talk openly about money.

I also think we need to be more flexible with work arrangements, not just to accommodate working parents returning to work - but also to get the best out of people. I for one know I get far more done working on my sofa at midnight, than I do sitting in an office at 8am.

There is currently on 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Teach coding to all children from age 11 - mandatory. My dad was a computer programmer and I am so gutted I didn't learn to code from him when I was a kid. It is such an incredibly valuable skill and would certainly change a lot of women's job options after school or university.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I've just finished reading 'Invisible Women' by Caroline Criado Perez. That, and 'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg, is impossible to read without stirring up your inner feminist! I used to try to attend a lot of Women in Tech events, but now I also try to encourage as many women to attend events for everyone.  There is nothing more depressing than turning up at a tech conference, and seeing a panel of all white men on a stage.