WST Basel Inspiring Talks Series with Friederike von Waldenfels – Jubilee Event Recap

We Shape Tech Basel is proud to announce its one-year anniversary, a moment we celebrated mid-November with Friederike von Waldenfels as our guest. Friederike is the co-founder and CEO of SwissCommerce. She runs multiple successful online shops and platforms including reitsport.ch and fischen.ch. Her guiding principle is: moving from the fear of making mistakes to the fear of missing opportunities. Our jubilee event was a huge success full of inspiration, networking and diversity.

After welcoming our participants, board member Aileen Zumstein led the interview with Friederike. While talking about her education (business informatics) and her professional background (IBM, Goodshine, Porsche), they soon got to programming – a skill that, according to Friederike, should be taught to every child. She says: “It’s a language everyone should learn, such as English.”. Leaving tech topics, Friederike shared that she decided to become an entrepreneur during an extended stay in the hospital. It was time in her life when she thought about what really drives her. She realized that she wanted to combine her two passions: technology and horseback riding.

Friederike sold her furniture, took her money and founded reitsport.ch. How did she cope with the challenges of having her own business? Friederike answered this question by sharing a piece of advice that she once received by a friend. Being an entrepreneur is like riding a rollercoaster, it’s got its ups and downs. The important part is not to live through these moments in an extreme way. Her message of being humble in the good times and not being too hard on yourself during the challenging times was great advice to take home.

What makes Friederike slightly nervous is the weather, it really affects her business. People spend less time on their devices and buy noticeably less when the sun is out. A more complex problem than the weather is web giants like Amazon and Alibaba. They are becoming stronger and stronger, even in the Swiss market. While these huge platforms stand for speed and convenience, SwissCommerce focuses on specialized segments, which is how they differentiate themselves from the big players.

The digital shift is naturally also a huge topic in Friederike’s company. To optimize the working process, there is a strict no e-mail policy. All the communication and filing happen through Google and Podio. She has also learned a lot about website maintenance from one or two bad experiences that led to losses in sales. Today, Friederike and her team always have a backup page when they’re activating new websites. This allows them to take down the new page and reactivate the old one immediately when they notice any problems.

But technology is not the only innovative part of Friederike’s business, her company is including refugees by employing them. This decision shows that as an entrepreneur she is also committed to diversity and social change.

Besides these facts and many others about her life, her job and her background, during her talk we learned about some of her more personal preferences such as dogs over cats, coffee over tea (although she also likes tea), that she has no bucket list and that her mother (who has always treated her the same way as her brothers) inspires her the most.

After the truly inspiring talk with Friederike, participants used the opportunity to exchange their thoughts and network while grabbing some treats from the buffet. In the end, everyone left the event with a lot of ideas, inspiration and memorable advice. One powerful piece of advice was also the best advice Friederike has ever received, “Stay true to yourself!”.

More photos on Facebook. 

 

Verena Oberholzer

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

Verena Oberholzer lately co-founded witty.works in Zurich to foster inclusion and diversity in teams and companies. The years ahead she worked in consulting and NGO`s. She majored in sociology/gender studies in Berlin & Paris. Verena was born in Munich, lived several years abroad. Today she lives with her family in Zurich.

Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a bit about you: Where are you from? What do you do? What are your current projects?

I was born in Munich, Bavaria. My parents were political refugees who fled Bulgaria. They arrived in Germany with a single suitcase and many dreams. They wanted to start a family and bring me into a so-called free world, being able to develop and articulate my own thoughts, speak my mind and fulfill my whole “potential” without having to be afraid of an oppressive system.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

It is not important where you are from, how people think of you or judge you, as long as you are an honest, kind and upright person keeping the laws of a democratic system at heart.

The people you are surrounding yourself with, the relationships you are fostering are your roots.

How did you become interested in tech?

Both my parents were engineers. In my childhood I have seen every household appliance taken apart, often repaired and then put back together. That was a lot of a fun for me, too. It made me really curious about how things really work.

On a broader scale I realized early on that tech changes society and the ways we live, work and interact with each other. But technical achievements, its adaption and devices are not per se democratic nor user-friendly. We have to make sure that they are.

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

The ways in which we collaborate with each other are key to a transparent and inclusive organizational culture. As a communication and collaboration specialist I always worked hard to make sure employees benefit and keep agency even if their whole working environment is turned upside down.

What drives you at work?

With witty.works we are providing services and products to ensure tech companies are inclusive and diversity-friendly. During our careers we have seen over and over again, that fostering a diverse and inclusive working environment for teams leads to better, innovative more useful products and services and happier people.

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

Translating and introducing new ways of collaborating with each other in elder care. Tech is often frowned upon or at least confronted with resistance in many “social” domains. There are a lot of biases towards working with “computers” or other technical interfaces. For example: Spending time to document, inform yourself or collaborate on those interfaces is often perceived as wasting precious time that might be better spent with the people you care for – your customers. That is an important concern and I am far from judging it.

Navigating the dynamics of virtual vs real-time interaction and finding a way of creating value for the users was challenging.

Still, elder care and other sectors in health-care and assisted living need to adapt new ways of collaborating, creating and providing services.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

Be bold, be brave and follow your own path. If you apply for a new job, choose your leaders wisely and make sure they are committed to your career goals.

WST Basel “Talk with tech entrepreneur Jonas Felix” Event Recap

A blog post about her experience by Ophélie Cabanero

‘An inspiring talk with tech entrepreneur Jonas Felix’ – I am curious what expects me at my first WE SHAPE TECH event. Melanie Kovacs, Founder & CEO of Master21 Academy and member of the board of WE SHAPE TECH Basel, interviews Jonas Felix, a young entrepreneur from Basel, more about him later. The evening takes place at the really cool Launchlabs in Basel, thanks to Postfinance.

A glass of prosecco in one hand, I find a spot at the top of the stairs. The interview starts with a presentation of Jonas and his amazing projects, followed by Melanie’s 10 non-tech questions so that everybody can understand including a non-techie, like me. It goes from: ‘What is the best advice you have ever received’ to ‘What is the best investment you made’ (to which he answers : ‘my wife’). Without further ado, this is what I got out of it, plus some post-interview snippets.

stage show on

The business owner/ writer/ programmer/ soon-to-be-dad Jonas Felix, started in the world of entrepreneurship at a really young age. His very first business had little to do with the world of tech though.At 9 years old, he found bags of seashells in his granddad’s basement and sold them for 1 CHF each on the streets of his village. He spent all the profits on candy! It was only later in life that he learnt about the concept of ‘saving money’. At the age of 14, he started working with computers and later at 17 he was doing some IT security stuff. His chaotic childhood woke up in him the urge to get independant and gave him the drive to thrive. He first wanted to do industrialised espionage but realised it’s easier to sell web development 😉 He liked the immediate feedback of coding.

Nowadays he does different things :

  • His current focus is Sidekicks, the online marketing ninjas, where they empower businesses to be successful online, with ads, social medias, content, analytics, processes, customer interaction, etc.
  • On the side, he has a SaS startup fossilo.com, where they want to help people to archive web content.
  • To share what he learnt, he founded a coding school for programmers who want to learn Javascript: letsboot.com.
  • Also he is part of the initiative Powercoders Basel where they teach refugees to code and help them find an internship after the course.
  • Last but not least : he writes fiction books like Ayden’s choice that I can’t wait to read! More goodness here : nelevonlanthen.com

When Jonas is not working, he likes to go skydiving or swimming. He spends 30 to 60 min per day learning about new things like innovation in science but also marketing, finances and machine learning, mostly watching Youtube und reading Medium articles.

When asked ‘What would you do with a 1 Million $?’ he replied : ‘Not much different, a lot of projects need time rather than more money’. He believes that it’s not about adding more things but about reducing and doing less. As a business owner he tries to always rethink things to go towards something that makes sense for everybody (his team, clients and business partners).

If he could meet anybody, he would want to meet JFK and ask him about the political system or an Egyptian Queen to know how pyramides were built.

In 5 years from now, he sees himself being a part-time-stay-at-home-Dad, coding more himself as well as writing more.

A couple interesting quotes and advices I took home :

  • A quote from Steve Jobs : ‘Real artists ship’
  • You have to be faster than the stream to decide where you are going.
  • There are 2 kinds of people in the world : the doers and the non-doers. BE A DOER !

As well as a couple of good books, in addition to the books written by Jonas :

While part of the magic happened during the interview and the Q&A session, the other big highlight of the evening is during the apéro, not only because of the delicious food sponsored by Adobe but because everyone shares about their own work/ life/ passion and we had the chance to ask more questions to Jonas.

I go home feeling energized, inspired and grateful for those kinds of outside-the-box-thinkers & visionnairy communities.

Thank you WE SHAPE TECH, I will be back for more!

 

Caitlin Krause

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

This month role model is Caitlin Krause. She is a globally-recognized learning expert, author, and keynote speaker. As founder of the MindWise consultancy, co-founder of the Center of Wise Leadership, and a virtual reality specialist, Caitlin contributes to building products and experiences that promote humanity, innovation and emotional intelligence.

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

Born in Boston, I have lived all over the world, and I feel as if I’m a true global citizen. I’ve lived in Duxbury, Moscow, Harvard, Durham, Washington, D.C., Providence, Brussels, and Zürich, among other places. My first memories of living by the ocean mean that being near the water always feels like home.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

My parents have given me a lot of valuable advice over the years, and the first thing that comes to mind is to express gratitude to them for that! We traveled a lot when I was growing up and spent a good amount of time in nature. They taught me to reflect and appreciate certain moments of wonder that appear out of nowhere—you often see these moments surprising you when you’re on a hike, or even when you’re at an art performance. It’s the moment of surprise, recognizing the beauty that appears. They also fostered in me a sense of caring, and appreciation for our own adaptive intelligence, as multi-dimensional humans. I didn’t feel labeled growing up. I felt I could try everything and embrace an array of potentials.

How did you become interested in tech?

I didn’t label it “tech” at the time. I was one of the first 10-year-olds in my area, I think, to go to computer camp during the summer. I liked CAD design and architecture at the time. I liked being able to manipulate variables, to experiment and to dream up fantasy worlds. While I was outside a lot, I also enjoyed games and quests with maps. Zelda and The Adventures of Link were games I couldn’t get enough of. I also liked books withmaps at the front. I think I liked tech best when it wasn’t completely abstract—an application is what excited me, coupled with some philosophical wonderings.

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

I’m genuinely uplifted by work that allows for connection and freedom. We live in an age that’s often disconnected, but if we use tech wisely, it can actually promote connections around us, and improve our ability to lead lives with greater presence and sense of purpose. This is liberating.

New leadership is asking for new forms of these creative ways to approach connection and freedom. I don’t think of freedom as “free will”—I think of freedom as honoring integrity and true identity. Who am I? What is the voice that speaks inside of me, and how do I choose to be in the world? What impact can I make, and how can a community gather in solidarity around vision and values?

What drives you at work?

Real human stories, on the ground. My work takes me to a lot of places with people doing great things every day. Their stories inspire me. I just spoke at an education conference, and I was able to lead mindfulness and story exercises for teachers and education leaders. Hearing the ways that they are bringing these practices to life in their communities is something that drives me. Also, questions drive me. Questioning assumptions—seeing how a true understanding of something can lead a group to ask revelatory, challenging questions. That’s a driver for meaningful change.

What has been the toughest challenge you’ve learnt while working in the tech scene?

I think one of the toughest aspects of tech is that people think it’s inhuman. It’s similar with “data”—we think, maybe, that data is sheer stats without a story, and I think this is dangerously misleading. There’s always an underlying story, and a scenario that involves the choice and intention underneath the way we approach the data itself. Addressing a broad point about humanity and tech, I think that I’ve been lucky to be given the chance to reframe mindfulness, showing the ways in which our awareness, compassion and insights can augment, inform and drive tech approaches to creativity and innovation. Technology, ultimately, is about improvement of the quality of life. It’s  time to focus on ways that we use technology, from VR-AR to AI, in order to emphasize connection.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

I would tell other women to live dangerously, to celebrate curiosity, to forget about tying themselves to a system, role or image that is part of an identity given to them by other people (per John O’Donahue’s writings). I’d tell them not to settle with that, because there’s something else inside that wants to voice itself. I’d tell them to celebrate their one wild and precious life, as the poet Mary Oliver says. There’s a voice that wants to live, to thrive, and blocking that voice is living at variance with the truth in each of us. I’d tell them, set it free.