Role Model Isabella Gyr smiling at the camera in front of a gold-black background (square picture)

Role Model: Isabella Gyr

Role Model: Isabella Gyr

Every month we ask one individual in our network a few questions about their way into tech, their motivation and their lessons learned.

Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about where you’re from!

I grew up in Malters, just outside of Lucerne. I had a childhood with a lot of freedom, joy, and opportunities, which has shaped me. My parents supported me in thinking big and pursuing what brings me joy. The visionary thinking within the family certainly inspired me. For example, initiating a youth magazine and later pitching a concept for a magazine with friends to the local newspaper and it was actually implemented and published! This early experience confirmed for me that it pays to follow your passion, dare to do things, and be true to your values.

In high school, for example, it was clear to me that I definitely did not want to work in an office and only wanted to do something where I had a lot of freedom and could do something meaningful. That’s how I first became a teacher, which I enjoyed very much. Along the way, I continued to write occasionally for the Neue Luzerner Zeitung, until I wanted to give writing more space and found a job at the magazine Schweizer Familie. At the same time, I was able to train as a journalist at the renowned journalism school MAZ in Lucerne.

Later, after working for SRF and 20 Minuten, I shifted my superpower for the right topics at the right time to the field of innovation and realized something: I can combine everything that suits me and is fun, like developing strategies and new products, finding solutions and connecting people. Several times I have applied the whole range of innovative work for companies (e.g. Dätwyler Schweiz AG, Viseca Card Services SA, or Victorinox AG).

In addition to my professional career, I completed a Marketing Director degree as well as further training in General Management and Digital Facilitation.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

My parents have always given me the feeling that they trust me and my abilities. They always encouraged me and said, “Sure, it’s possible. Why don’t you give it a try? It’s great to be part of a visionary family.

How did you become interested in tech?

I’m interested in the impossible, in what hasn’t been told or done yet. That’s what drives me and ultimately shapes the way I work with people. I found the perfect field of activity in the innovation and tech sector because it requires interdisciplinary thinking – people who think in terms of possibilities and can channel the synergies from their background and use them for new projects. At Viseca Card Services SA, for example, I drove the development of a payment wearable even though I had never had anything to do with wearables before. Well, what can I say… I caught fire for the combination of innovation and tech. Today at the University of Zurich, I have the opportunity to help build a Digital Cluster in the area of innovation, and to generate radical innovations that researchers, students, and collaborators from business and society develop and drive forward.

What are your three most valuable lessons in innovation that you can share from your experience?

The pillars of success for true innovation in a company are the mindset across the firm, the sufficient budget for development, and the management support for testing or implementing ideas in the market.
Role Model Isabella Gyr smiling at the camera in front of a gold-black background
Isabella Gyr

From my experience as an innovation expert in consulting, industry, payment, and education, the most important thing for employees in innovation and tech is to have the confidence and freedom to take their ideas to market. Especially with the last point, shortly before market maturity, an idea may be shot down by internal politics, for example, because it no longer fits into the agenda of a department head. I have experienced this myself and it is very frustrating. It then shows that internal politics can be stronger than launching an innovative product for the good of the company and the customers.

But even if some products don’t make it to the market, a company as well as the employees benefit from the whole process. Above all, the culture changes – how things can be tackled and driven forward.

Especially now that the demand for new business models and technological capabilities is high, project teams can draw on the know-how they have built up in faster testing and validating ideas and concepts. Therefore, companies should invest in a good innovation culture, even if not all products make it to market.

Innovation and Tech – why does that match? Or does it not?

Innovation and tech go very well together. Especially now that the digital society is a reality, it’s a matter of making digitization concrete with innovations. Companies that invest in new business models and new technologies tend to have a high pressure to innovate.

What drives you at work?

I enjoy connecting people, asking questions, developing new things, and driving them forward together. This purpose characterizes me as a person, shapes how I collaborate, and accompanies me throughout my career as an expert in innovation.

What other decisive steps significantly influenced and shaped your career?

Because I do what interests me, I have fun at work. And because I enjoy my work, I learn a lot about industries, topics, and people – which in turn has the advantage that I can channel and use the synergies from my broad background for new projects. For example, I used to work as a teacher, teaching 5th and 6th graders. My facilitation skills still help me today when I put together or facilitate a program for an innovation workshop.

Equally helpful is my training and experience as a journalist and marketing director. I like to ask questions, am curious, and I’m also a good storyteller. This helps me when developing and communicating strategies or building communities. My experience as an innovation expert in different industries and functions such as industry, financial services, consumer goods, or events was valuable, too. I can establish a basis of trust with a wide variety of people and find allies for innovation projects.

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

In everything I do, I try to make a difference through my actions. In the field of innovation, people like to think about the product that they then see on the market. But what’s equally crucial is working on the processes and mindsets that change during innovation work. And that is the area where I can actively influence as an innovation expert, by activating people to experiment with new technologies or concepts and thus find a new way in digital reality.

What has been your toughest challenge you faced while working in tech?

The worst thing that can happen to you in the innovation and tech field is when people tell you that you are too innovative too fast – and that you are overwhelming everyone. On the one hand, you know that you’ve hit the bull’s eye and activated something, but that’s no use if no one follows suit. I had to learn that the hard way.

Today, I try to work primarily in environments with an eagerness to build. My favorite people to work with are those who need radical innovation or are under a lot of pressure to change and are past the stage of changing “just a little bit”.

How does digitization impact your and other women’s career opportunities?

As an innovation expert, the central pillars for a life full of opportunities for me are freedom, equality, and education.
Role Model Isabella Gyr smiling at the camera in front of a gold-black background
Isabella Gyr

Now that digitization is upending everything, it’s a matter of ensuring that these pillars remain strong and are not eroded. Privately and in society.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

Do what's important to you with joy and passion, find allies, and fearlessly follow through with a project.
Role Model Isabella Gyr smiling at the camera in front of a gold-black background
Isabella Gyr

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