Role Model Mureille Schreck

Role Model:
Murielle Schreck

Role Model:
Murielle Schreck

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 Lucerne, in one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland. People from Lucerne often do not want to leave. I was no exception. Even during my studies at ETH Zurich, I commuted for four years, before I finally moved to Zurich. Everything changed when I did my Master’s thesis at the Imperial College in London. I loved the multicultural vibe of the city, how many opportunities exist and wanted to recreate that when I got back to Switzerland. So, Zurich became my new home.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

There was no specific advice, but rather a way of thinking or living my life: the sky is the limit, and anything is possible. Of course, this is not entirely true, and I had to learn this the hard way too, but growing up with parents who believed in my potential got me where I am today.

How did you become interested in tech?

Looking back, I did not become interested in tech or STEM in general, I just always was. My childhood career aspirations were not being a princess or a pirate. I wanted to become an explorer or researcher, sometimes an astronaut or math teacher (okay… my father was a math teacher). Together with my sister, we built tree houses and wooden boats, melted ice cubes under a lamp (back then, there were only incandescent light bulbs in our house), dammed the nearby creek, explored the insects in our parents’ garden and played computer games with names such as “Physicus” or “Chemicus” (well, I guess this was our parents’ doing).

You studied materials science at the ETH Zurich – can you briefly describe what this is and why you were interested in this course of study?

The Materials Science curriculum combines all the subjects I always loved during high school: chemistry, biology, physics, and math. This is the reason why I wanted to study Materials Science. When I started my Bachelor at ETH Zurich, we had subjects such as “Metals”, “Ceramics”, “Polymers” or “The Physics of Materials”. We learned about the production and synthesis of these materials, what their properties are and how to characterize them.

Today, the Materials Science curriculum has evolved to reflect that materials can be more than just metals, ceramics, or polymers, but are often so-called hybrid materials. The lectures are now called “Synthesis of Materials”, “Characterization of Materials”, and “Processing of Materials” and cover all possible materials and material combinations. The Materials Science curriculum at ETH Zurich has become even more interdisciplinary and combines natural science and engineering in a unique way.

At your co-founded start-up qCella, you impregnate natural cellulose fibers with copper, and you have synthesized one of these “hybrid materials” that are no longer just metal or just polymer. What do you do with this new hybrid material and how can you specifically help people or the environment?

At qCella, we use our patent-pending copper inside cellulose fibers to fabricate the paper-thin qCella® heating mats. The unique combination of electrically conductive copper particles inside electrically insulating cellulose fibers provides the right electrical resistance for resistance heating across the entire structure of the mat so that they heat everywhere when connected to a power source (e.g., a battery). The homogeneous heating allows for more energy-efficient heating by eliminating the need for a heat-losing upholstery layer between the mat and the human body as it is required for today’s commercially available heating wires.

Our heating mats can be cut into almost any shape and size and are easily and cost-effectively integrated into the final heated products like heated car seats, car interiors, clothing, with focus on gloves, shoes and pain-relieving products. Our vision is to make personalized heating so attractive that it becomes the norm. By moving away from traditional methods that heat the whole environment, we are shaping a future, where personal comfort and energy efficiency go hand in hand.

You are currently CEO – how much tech do you still have in your day-to-day life, or are you only busy with admin tasks?

It is true, I am very busy with tasks that do not include tech on day-to-day bases. However, because I invented the technology that is at the core of our startup, I am still regulary discussing the material synthesis, our product – the qCella heating mats – and mainly our upscaling and industrialization strategies with qCella’s CTO. After having spent days and even weeks away from the lab and hands-on tech, I am sometimes surprised how at home I still feel helping out in the lab, when we have a deadline for a customer or an industry fair.

Have you ever had a role model that inspired you on your path?

I have never had one specific role model. However, I have been very fortunate to meet many amazing people along my life’s journey who have excelled in certain aspects of their lives, be it professionally or personally. So, I try to learn from them, and from how well they manage certain things. I believe the word “inspired” is key to this question. I do not try to be like others or compare myself constantly with other people. But when I observe someone with good leadership qualities, someone who balances work and life, or someone who handles stressful situations calmly, I ask them directly how they do it and try to learn from them.

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

Our team! We have a cool innovation, a great product and ambitious dreams. But without the right people to implement the innovation, to build and improve the product and mainly to celebrate successes and morn disappointments, the startup would not be where it is today.

What drives you at work?

Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster and being able to smoothen the ups and downs with my “the glass is half full” attitude makes me persevere and therefore drives me forward.
Role Model Mureille Schreck
Murielle Schreck

I simply love every aspect of my job, it is so diverse, every new day is completely different from the last and I am just enjoying the opportunity to live the work life of my dreams and to build a company that people love to work for as much as I do.

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

In terms of my entrepreneurial journey, the biggest challenge was finding the right team, or rather not to lose hope that I would find the right team eventually. It was hard to continue with the startup and do almost everything on my own until I had people with whom I could share the responsibility. Funny enough, as soon as I had the team, the next challenge was to then really share the responsibility, to start delegating and to trust. It took some time but it was really worth it. Facing the challenging times together is so helpful, but sharing the good times and successes is even more rewarding.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast?

To recharge my batteries, I prefer to spend time outdoors in nature. As a result, I rarely find or take the time to read a book or listen to a podcast that is not related to my work. But when I do take the time, I really like mystery novels. I love trying to race the author to solve the crime. In English, I like Simon Beckett‘s novels about forensic anthropologist Dr. David Hunter.

In German, it is fascinating to read the mystery novels published by Emons, which are set all over Switzerland. If you know the city or places, it is even more entertaining.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

In my opinion, it is difficult to give one general advice to women in tech. Everyone is different; everyone faces their own challenges but also everyone has different opportunities. My advice is therefore:

Don’t be afraid to ask for specific advice or help. Strength does not mean that you must do everything on your own, confidence does not mean that you are not allowed to ask for help and your success is not diminished by the fact that you have accepted help from others.
Role Model Mureille Schreck
Murielle Schreck

And what advice would you give women not yet working in tech that want to enter the field?

Do it! We need you; we need the different mindsets.

The best ideas originate from teams, not from individuals, and most importantly, from diverse teams. So, come and make tech more diverse, challenge us with your input, ask questions, give advice. Other perspectives are not only welcome but are a necessity!
Role Model Mureille Schreck
Murielle Schreck

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